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Season 05/06 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca Cola League 2
Mansfield Town  
1 - 0
 Northampton Town
Barker 64.
Attendance: 3,985 (945 from Northampton)
Date: 18 March 2006


Martin Shaw at Field Mill

He started the week as Richie Barker. He became Super Richie Barker thanks to that song on Mansfield 103.2. Then he announced that he wanted to be known as Richard Barker from now on. And he ended the week as King Richard as he scored the goal that propelled the Stags into the top half of the table for the first time this season. It was rough justice on Colin Calderwood’s Cobblers who had torn Mansfield to shreds in a one-sided first half, and been denied a clear goal when a shot hit the underside of the bar and came down over the line. But Mansfield rode their luck and Gus Uhlenbeek’s excellent cross was headed home by Barker on 64 minutes, as the Stags had the better of the second half.

The win stretched Mansfield’s unbeaten run to 8 games, 4 won and 4 drawn, the best run since 1998. The Stags have 8 games left; 7 wins would probably secure a play-off place. After 12 games this season, following a defeat at Leyton Orient, the Stags were rock bottom of the Football League. Quite a turnaround in position under Peter Shirtliff. In fact, since Shirtliff took over, the Stags have picked up 42 points from 29 games. Averaged over 46 games, that equates to 67 points, which would normally come very close to achieving a play-off place. Well done Peter Shirtliff!

The Stags were unchanged from the side that bashed Boston 5-0 last Saturday, and the bench was the same as well. Meanwhile Northampton amazingly dropped leading scorer Scott McGleish.

The game was played in a fierce, freezing cold, swirling wind. Are we really in mid-March?

The Stags were unable to get out of their own half in the opening 5 minutes. And on 8 minutes, Dawson made a dreadful back-pass from just inside his own half. Northern Ireland international Andy Kirk latched on it and instead of trying to take the ball around Pressman, shot at goal from 20 yards. Pressman did supremely well to save the shot having come out of his six-yard box, and Hjelde cleared the loose ball just past his own post.

From the resulting corner, Pressman blotted his copybook with a horrible flap, and it needed the alert Jelleyman to clear the loose ball. Four minutes later, Pressman came for a high ball, it seemed to get caught in the swirling wind, and floated over him but the ball was cleared. Two strokes of luck for the Stags keeper in quick succession.

On 14 minutes, the Stags had their first meaningful attack, when Wilson cut inside from the left, and curled a right-footed shot towards the top right hand corner of the net, but keeper Lee Harper saved easily. A minute later, the impressive Martin Smith, a scorer against the Stags last season, and in the play-off game at Field Mill, had a rasping drive blocked by one of his own players, and held his head in his hands indicating that it may have been on target.

On 26 minutes, the Stags had a rare break when Wilson made a great run down the left and crossed just over the head of Barker, while Reet went down too easily in the box and never had a chance of earning a penalty.

On 33 minutes, with the Stags at sixes and sevens and under near constant pressure, I spotted Hjedle and Dawson have a big argument after a Cobblers free shot flew over the bar. A minute later, the dangerous Kirk was put through by Jess and outpaced Buxton and Hjelde before firing in a shot that Pressman did superbly to save.

On 39 minutes came a defining moment in the game. A Northampton corner from the right corner bounced around in the Stags box, and former Spireite Sean Dyche smashed a left-footed shot that smacked against the underside of the bar, bounced down and was clearly over the line, before Pressman claimed it as it bounced up again. The Northampton players, to a man, claimed the goal, while Stags players hung their heads as if to concede it, but the referee looked to his assistant who signaled that it had not crossed the line. A truly massive let-off for the Stags. A minute later, with the Stags still all over the place, Hjelde cleared off the line.

At half-time we reflected that Mansfield should have been three goals adrift, and were getting luck that teams on a good run seem to get, whereas teams at the wrong end of the table tend not to.

Half time 0-0

The Stags started the second half much more brightly, and it was immediately obvious that this would now be a closer game. On 48 minutes, Wilson sent a right-footed shot over the bar, and on 54 minutes the Stags put together a terrific move involving Barker, Uhlenbeek and Buxton, that ended with a weak shot from Dawson straight at the keeper.

On 57 minutes, Baptiste made an amazing run from his own penalty box into the Cobblers penalty box, though it ended with a blocked shot. Two minutes later, Wilson made another great run, and played a ball across to Barker, who dragged his shot wide of the left post. A minute after that, Brown made his expected entrance in place of Reet, while the disappointing Dawson was replaced by Coke.

On 64 minutes, the Stags scored the only goal of the game. Coke made a fine run through the middle, played the ball out to Uhlenbeek on the right. Uhlenbeek took the ball to the byeline and put in a perfect cross which King Richard Barker attacked and headed into the right of the net from 6 yards. In truth the Cobblers defender probably should have headed the ball away, but Barker was determined to get there first when it mattered.

The Stags looked more confident now and another Uhlenbeek cross was cleared by Dyche, and then the impressive D’Laryea sent a left-footed shot wide of the left post.

McGleish came on for Northampton. Then on 72 minutes, Martin Smith sent a great volley just over the bar for the Cobblers. On 77 minutes Brown did super work to earn a corner that he had no right to earn, and from the short corner, Wilson fired wide.

On 80 minutes, the Stags played “keep-ball” for around 10-15 passes, in similar fashion to how they finished the Boston game, to cheers from the home fans, but Cobblers boss Calderwood was incandescent with rage on the touchline, probably at his own players for not putting in a challenge.

On 87 minutes, McGleish headed just wide of the post, and soon afterwards he headed wide again.

After three minutes of stoppage time, in which Northampton failed to get near the Stags goal, the referee brought the game to an end to huge cheers from the home fans.

This was a very good second half performance but in truth Northampton were very unlucky to lose over the full 90 minutes.

Meanwhile my own run of good fortune continues. This was the eighth consecutive game that I have commentated on (for either Mansfield 103.2 or Stagsworld) that the Stags have won: all four of the Stags away wins, plus Barnet, Stockport, Boston and now Northampton at home. And so onto Bristol Rovers, where the Stags will be looking to win at last against the Pirates, after somehow throwing away a lead in stoppage time at Christmas after Uhlenbeek’s disastrous attempt to nutmeg Ryan Williams led to an equaliser, and last season’s ridiculous 4-4 draw at the Memorial Ground when the Stags should have won by at least two goals but were robbed by two absurd penalty decisions. Come on Stags.

Man of the match: Alex John-Baptiste

Report by: Martin Shaw at Field Mill

Line Up:
Pressman 6 Two fine saves in the first half, but also some poor handling nearly cost the Stags dear.
Buxton 7 Good game.
Baptiste 8 Some great tackles and blocks. Even made one outstanding run from his own box to the opponents’ box.
Hjelde 7 Another very solid game, handled old pineapple head Jason Lee superbly.
Jelleyman 7 Good game.
Uhlenbeek 7 Didn’t do too much but his excellent cross for the goal was a defining moment in the game.
D'Laryea 8 The pick of the midfield.
Dawson 5 One awful backpass summed up an uncharacteristically poor display.
Wilson 8 Another all action performance. Several fine runs.
Barker 8 Another great goal, and another all-round great display. Led the line well.
Reet 6 Did ok and didn’t deserve grumbles of discontent from home fans.
Sub Line Up:
Coke (for Dawson, 60) 7 Look sharp just as he did as sub against Boston. Some great runs, and played a significant part in the goal.
Brown (for Reet, 60) 7 Did well for his customary 30 minutes. What a weapon for the Stags to have!
Subs Not Used: White, Day, Birchall.
Opposition Line Up:
Harper, Doig, Dyche, Chambers, Crowe, Low (McGleish 68), Hand (Hunt 69), Smith (Bojic 75), Lee, Jess, Kirk. Subs Not Used: Bunn, Gilligan.
P Armstrong (Berkshire) 8 Handled the game superbly, though his assistant did the Stags a huge favour by wrongly deciding that that shot had not crossed the line.

Season 05/06 Reports