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Season 02/03 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 2
Notts County  
2 - 2
 Mansfield Town
Liburd 63, Caskey 85
 Lawrence 43, Christie 90
Attendance: 10, 302 (3,083 from Mansfield)
Date: 9th November 2002

Martin Shaw at Meadow Lane

This was a pulsating, action-packed and highly controversial local derby at Meadow Lane today, as Stags turned in a top-drawer display but again failed to come away with a victory. Stags dominated much of the game and created lots of guilt-edged chances but more poor finishing nearly led to a defeat, until Iyseden Christie came up with a last-gasp equaliser.

With the largest following of Stags fans (3,083) at a game away from Field Mill since Wembley in 1987 (I believe), Stags were hoping for a victory to pull themselves off the bottom of the table and level with their local rivals. Stags brought in new signing Matt Gadsby for the suspended Neil Moore, whilst Jamie Clarke was surprisingly preferred to Neil MacKenzie on the right side of midfield. Presumably MacKenzie's recent defensive howlers contributed to this decision. On the bench, Dion Scott was a welcome addition after 4 months out with an injury.

The first half was fairly even though Stags had the territorial advantage and played the higher quality football. However Notts had the best chance when Heffernan shot into the side netting when it seemed easier to score. Stags had several chances with Christie having a shot blocked when clean through, and having a header cleared away.

But Stags took the lead two minutes before half-time. Lawrence, 12 yards out, fired in a low shot with his right foot. It took a deflection off a defender and beat Notts keeper Garden.

Half time 0-1

If the first half was fairly even, the Stags were to totally dominate the second half and poured forward with wave after wave of attacks, leading to numerous great chances. Early in the half, Jamie Clarke, made a rare foray into the box and did really well to beat a defender and give himself room for a left-footed shot. His shot was well struck but the keeper saved it with his legs when it seemed a certain goal. Then 50p-head Craig Disley lived up to his name with a terrible header over the bar, when he met a beautiful Corden cross, totally unmarked just six yards out.

Then the real controversy started. First on-loan Colin Little rounded the keeper and was clearly brought down. However referee Winter waived away Stags appeals and proceeded to book the protesting Lawrence. After the game, Lawrence said he merely asked the ref why he hadn't given the penalty. Stags manager Watkiss complained after the game that Little shouldn't have been booked, but from our position just yards away, it actually did not look as though he was booked. It was an amazing thing that this was the third consecutive game when Little has been blatantly fouled by the keeper and each time the referee has waved away appeals.

Stags fans were outraged even further later on when Williamson was clearly pushed in the box and again Jeff Winter did not give a penalty. Earlier in the day I heard that a Radio 5 commentator had described Winter as a referee who never gives penalties, unless a player has been shot in the box! After the game both Watkiss and Billy Dearden thought Stags should have had the 2 penalties. Stags had a third claim for a penalty when Christie went down, but it did not look a penalty to me.

On 63 minutes, Notts levelled completely out of the blue. Marcel Cas got behind the Stags defence in the box, and crossed. In a scramble on the line, Vaughan tried to clear but somehow the ball went in off Liburd. It was a terrible blow for the Stags but re-enforced that you have to take your chances when you are completely on top.

Stags continued to pour forward but 5 minutes from time Stags were the victim of another controversial moment. Substitute Allsop broke clear of the Stags defence, but Vaughan got in a great tackle and played the ball away. But referee Winter gave a foul, right on the edge of the box. After the game Watkiss said all his players were convinced it was a fair tackle. But you just knew with the way that this season has gone that the Stags would be punished. I said at the time that County would score from the free-kick and so it was that substitute Darren Caskey curled in a great shot that gave Pilkington no chance.

Stags's heads didn't go down on the pitch (though mine did) and the players just kept going. Just as the 4th official signalled 3 minutes of injury time, Christie was presented with a great chance from a super Corden cross. But Christie flashed the chance of the bar, in a similar, though slightly harder chance to his last minute miss at Peterborough. Earlier Christie had had another chance, and it seemed the last chance had gone. But in the fourth minute of injury time, Gadsby smacked a long ball forward. The ball took a deflection off Caskey and fell at the feet of Christie who was still coming back from a previous attack. Christie was clearly offside, but the flag stayed down. Christie controlled the ball, turned, and smacked the ball past Notts keeper Garden, in a similar way to his second goal against Tranmere. Stags players and fans went into bedlam, while Notts players sunk to the ground. It was a real stroke of luck for the Stags but on balance it was more than deserved taking into account the 2 penalty appeals turned down. It would also have been a travesty of justice had the Stags lost.

It was also a sweet revenge for Christie on Notts keeper Garden, as the 2 players had been involved in a furious exchange just before the 90 minute mark. Garden clearly said something to Christie, Christie went beserk and complained to the referee that the keeper had called him a “black w**nker”. Christie was booked whilst the keeper escaped punishment. At the end of the game, Christie ran towards the Mansfield fans to celebrate, and referee Winter ran over to intervene as he thought Christie wads about to continue discussions with Garden, but actually he wasn't going to.

All in all, this was a fantastic occasion for a massive Stags following. Defeat would have been more than we could have borne and at least we got a point with a sweet equaliser in controversial circumstances to partially make up for the pain of Gary Martindale's offside goal which beat the Stags at Meadow Lane in the last league encounter between the two sides. However as Watkiss said after the game, in the cold light of day this will be seen as two points lost for the Stags against poor opposition, and given the Stags domination of the game. Failure to win other such games this season against Peterborough, Stockport and Northampton (to name just three) could cost the side dear in the final points tally at the end of the season.

Man of the Match: Tony Vaughan.
[This was an all round good team display, and it was difficult to separate Gadsby, Lever, Vaughan, Clarke, Lawrence and Little.]

Report by: Martin Shaw at Meadow Lane

Line Up:
Pilkington 6 Competent performance. Few saves to make, but dealt well with crosses.
Gadsby 8 Fine debut. Good distribution. Quick. A great signing.
Lever 8 Dominant in the air again.
Vaughan 8 Strong at the back. Good distribution. Unlucky to give away a free-kick for their second goal.
JClarke 8 Fine game, out of position on the right side of midfield. Distribution was slightly better than previous games.
Williamson 7 Starting to perform consistently well.
Disley 7 Industrious again.
Lawrence 8 In a purple patch at the moment. Another great performance. Was everywhere; always wanted the ball.
Corden 7 Very positive going forward.
Little 8 Superb outside the box, but missed more great chances. Again unlucky not to be given a penalty. We can't afford all these missed chances.
Christie 7 Created lots of problems for the defence. Missed several good chances but finally stuck one in.
Sub Line Up:
MacKenzie (for Vaughan, 90 mins) - On for the final few dramatic minutes.
Subs not used: JWhite, Scott, Holyoak, Bacon.
Opposition Line Up:
Garden , Ramsden , Ashton , Stone , Nicholson , Cas , Brough , Whitley , Bolland , Heffernan , Stallard
Subs: Mildenhall , Allsopp , Liburd , Jupp , Caskey
Jeff Winter: 3 Premiership referee who had an absolute shocker. He should review the match video and consider his own competence.

Season 02/03 Reports