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Season 07/08 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
3 - 1
 Mansfield Town
White OG 5, Stanley 44, Baker 51 (pen).
 Boulding 40
Attendance: 2980 (577 from Mansfield)
Date: 25 August 2007

Luke Mawbey at Christie Park

An exceptionally friendly welcome greeted Mansfield Town for their first ever league visit to Christie Park at the beginning of the August Bank Holiday weekend.

However, the journey to the North West did not remotely turn out as Stags fans had anticipated, as they sunk to an embarrasing 3-1 defeat, handing Morecambe their first ever and historic Football League victory. It was not only the manner of defeat, but particularly the unacceptable performance which will keep all Mansfield fans very worried about what lies ahead in the coming months.

Stags made enforced changes from last weekend's defeat to Lincoln. Mullins, as predicted in for the injured Baptiste, whilst Martin was replaced by Danny Sleath on the left hand side of midfield. Morecambe included former Stag defender David Artell in their starting line-up.

Ironically the first shot of the match did in fact come the Stags way. Mullins managed to scuff over a cross from the right, which after having ricoched off two Morecambe defenders, spun up into the air and fell to Dawson, who on his weaker right foot could only hammer a volley well wide of the target.

It was however on five minutes that disaster struck which was to set the tone for much of the game. Thompson, who was to provide a thorn in the Stags's side all afternoon was unchallenged to put a good cross into the danger zone. However with no apparent danger, Jason White came out to claim a ball, there for the taking, only to let it slip completely through his grasp under no pressure. The ball then spun agonisingly towards goal and against the post. With some fans claiming the ball hadn't crossed the line, the linesman clearly made the right decision in raising his flag to allow the goal.

The early goal seemed to at least give the home side a momentary lift as Thompson shot wide, before Mansfield mounted their first serious attack with Michael Boulding and Sleath playing a tidy one-two, before the latter's shot was deflected comfortably into the arms of Lewis.

Sleath was involved in the next attack of note when he combined with Dawson, who again forced Lewis into action, but as previously Lewis was untested.

As the next stage of the game progressed it was becoming apparent Morecambe's two wide men, former Chester prodigy Michael Twiss and Gary Thompson were becoming a real test for Jelleyman and Mullins. It came as no surprise when White was forced into a save when the two combined to then find former Southport and Prescot Cables striker Carl Baker in yards of space, however it was to the relief of all when the Morecambe front man feebly shot into White's arms.

On 24 minutes Mansfield had a somewhat tame claim for a penalty when Dawson fell inside the box, but once again Mr. Oliver made what appeared to be the correct decision in denying the Stags a spot kick.

With the game approaching half time, the similar lack of quality which has been apparent in the first two games was showing once more as balls from wide areas were consistently wasted, and possession regularly lost in midfield. Bell and Dawson seem to have a major lack of understanding which is giving opponents and certainly today gave Morecambe impetus to build attacks.

With half time approaching, Morecambe keeper Lewis livened a somewhat dull half up and gave Stags hope by completely mis-cuing a backpass, only to escape with the ball looping to safety. But, just as nobody could quite believe lightening could not strike so quickly, within sixty seconds Lewis once again totally misjudged a backpass, however on this occasion Michael Boulding was only a couple of yards ahead of him, forcing the ball to rebound into an empty net. Via the most unexpected, and arguably undeserved channels, the Stags were level.

Lightning strking twice is unusual, but three times in a week is almost absurd. Within 2 minutes Morecambe had thrown big men forward, and the ball broke to the man of the match Craig Stanley who hit a speculative shot which Jason White inexplicably allowed to spin under his body and hand Morecambe the lead so soon again. It was quite frankly a desperately poor piece of goalkeeping which the home fans could not believe. With so little time left prior to the interval, the first half drew to a close.

The half time whistle was greeted with a crescendo of boos, many of which were aimed at Jason White.

Half time score : 2-1

To our disbelief not a single change was made at half time by Billy Dearden.

On 49 minutes the game was as good as lost, as Thompson for the umpteenth time skinned Gareth Jelleyman for pace and skill. Thompson was fouled by the touchline with the linesman flagging, however Mr. Oliver played what seemed a fair advantage. Then, as would only happen in a side totally devoid of confidence, Jelleyman having got to his feet then fouled Thompson again, giving the referee no option but to award a penalty. New recruit Baker stepped up with real aplomb, and placed the ball into the stanchion of the bottom left hand corner.

Thompson and Twiss continued to prove a threat out wide, with Baker looking a tidy threat alongside Curtis up front. The Stags on the other hand were lacking ideas, coordination, and any sense of understanding as Morecambe made as many chances from losing posession as from their own build up.

Hamshaw and Dawson combined for the Irishman to drive wide, whilst Martin McIntosh wasted a good opportunity with his free kick lacking any power to divert around the wall. McAliskey was taken off for Boulding junior on 55 minutes, although the big man can consider himself unfortunate given he was starved of any reasonable service,

The Stags then wasted their best chance to get back into the game on 65 minutes. Hamshaw, Bell and Dawson combined, with Dawson then running through and instead of deciding to drive his shot with power, tried a cheeky right footed chip, which Lewis was equal to, and tipped onto the top of the net.

This forced Dearden into his second change, Sleath, who was largely anonymous, replaced by Reet. This was a big chance for Danny and he showed some initial hunger and desire, but like McAliskey was starved of any reasonable balls in the right area.

With the Stags back four resorting to long, direct and power balls, Morecambe began to show signs of a team believing their first win was under way. Thompson once more beat Jelleyman out wide, before forcing McIntosh to head behind. The final substitution of Arnold for Jelleyman was greeted with further ironic cheers from the Stags faithful.

Arnold was given little if any time to impress, and the final ten minutes petered out into something of a damp squib before Mr. Oliver put the 577 travelling fans out of their misery by blowing the whistle. In 25 years of following Mansfield Town, I have never known such a wild reaction at the end of a game, with fury vented to every single individual who remained on the park.

All in all, this was simply not acceptable. A goalkeeper who is not up to the required standard automatically will mean his back four have a lack of respect. Two slow full backs will always give the opposition a chance. A midfield devoid of power, skill, quality or understanding, will allow the opposition to win that particular "battle". Players out of position and changes in selection upset what rhythm can be built up. In reality, previous season's sides have given enough fans confidence to believe even with a poor start the situation can be reversed. The general consensus of opinion is that unless serious changes to personnel are introduced, and quickly, not only does a battle, but an inevitable relegation seem little but a reality.

Report by: Luke Mawbey at Christie Park

Line Up:
White 3 Dreadful handling. At fault for the first two goals.
Mullins 5 Given a difficult time by Twiss on the Morecambe left.
Buxton 5 Poor distribution and regularly caught out in possession.
McIntosh 6 Best of a bad bunch in defence.
Jelleyman 4 Beaten by Thompson a dozen times plus. Conceded the penalty.
Hamshaw 6 Reasonable crossing but still reluctant to take players on.
Bell 5 Largly anonymous, but poor when in possession.
Dawson 6 Tried hard, usual commitment, but not helped by teammates.
Sleath 6 Plenty of effort but looked too lightweight to play at this level.
M.Boulding 5 Looked totally out of sorts.
McAliskey 6 Won several balls, perhaps unfairly substituted.
Sub Line Up:
R.Boulding (for McAliskey, 56) 5 Saw very little of the ball.
Reet (for Sleath, 67) 6 Had little chance to make an impact but looked hungrier than previously.
Arnold (for Jelleyman, 83) - No time to make any impact.
Subs not used: Muggleton, Wood.
Opposition Line Up:
Lewis, Yates, Artell, Bentley, Adams, Thompson, Sorvel, Stanley (Hunter 82), Twiss (Allen 69), Baker (Newby 86), Curtis. Subs Not Used: Drench, Howard.
Clive Oliver 7 Not a difficult game to ref, but when there were decisions to be made, he made the correct ones.

Season 07/08 Reports