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Season 02/03 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 2
Mansfield Town  
4 - 0
Christie 9, Lawrence 56<BR>Larkin 74, 76
Attendance: 4,001 (522 from Blackpool)
Date: 14th December 2002

The Stags made several changes from the side beaten at Crewe last weekend. Bobby Hassell returned at right back with new loan signing Adam Eaton at left back, Keith Curle also made his debut alongside Rhys Day in a new look back four. With Lee Williamson still suspended Neil Mackenzie joined Craig Disley in the centre of midfield, with Liam Lawrence, having recovered from tonsilitis and Wayne Corden as the wide men. Andy White, having returned from his loan spell at Crewe, partnered in form striker Iyseden Christie in attack.

The Stags began the game well, looking very solid at the back and creative in midfield, most of the early moves coming through former Blackpool man Neil Mackenzie. It was important the Stags capitalised on their early dominance and in the 9th minute the home side deservedly took the lead. From the left Eaton swung the ball towards goal where both White and Christie converged, Christie beating 'Pool keeper Theoklitos to the ball and heading home his 14th of the season. The Stags pressed the ball and were constantly winning the midfield battle, Lawrence broke through from a fine Mackenzie pass but his low drive was hit straight at the keeper when perhaps a cross to Corden on the left would have been a better option. A foul by Clarke, which should have seen him booked, on Christie resulted in a free kick 20 yards out. The ball was tapped to Mackenzie whose right foot shot curled just wide. At the other end Stags keeper Pilkington was having a quiet afternoon for a change, though he was grateful for some fine defending by Curle has he slid in a perfectly timed challenge by the bye-line to prevent Dalglish getting a cross in and Pilkington had a clearance charged down but thankfully the ball flew wide for a goal kick. At half time Stags fans reflected on what had been defensively the most solid 45 minutes of the season.

Half Time: 1-0

Having probably had a half-time rollocking the Seasiders began with more purpose at the start of the 2nd half. Taylor forced a low save from Pilkington just a couple of minutes after the restart and it looked like the pressure was going to be on the home side. However, the game was to change in a 2 minute spell either side of the 50 minute mark. Christie fouled Clarke but the defenders reaction earned him a booking. Just two minutes later Christie latched on to a through ball and was tripped by Clarke just outside the area. Christie was clean through and the straight red card handed out to Clarke had to be the right decision. Initially the referee had pointed to the spot, but on advice from his Assistant, changed his mind to give the Stags a free kick on the edge of the area, the correct decision as the initial foul on Christie was outside the box. Mackenzie fired the free kick towards the top right hand corner but could only turn away in despair as the ball rocketed off the keepers left hand post and out for a throw. However, the Stags didn't have to wait long for a 2nd goal and when it came it was a superb move. Corden was given the ball on the left, he twisted and turned the two defenders marking him, leaving both for dead, then fired in a low cross which Lawrence brilliantly finished from 15 yards. Had you not witness the Bristol City game, the game was over, the Stags were totally dominant and looking very comfortable at the back. On 69 minutes Colin Larkin replaced Andy White. His pace immediately unsettled the Seasiders defence and he broke through from an excellent Disley pass and fired high past Theoklitos. Two minutes later it was 4-0 and Larkin again the man doing the damage - this time it was Hassell from the right with the through ball and once more Larkin's finish was exceptional. The Stags almost had a 5th when Christie's looping header from the far post hit the bar and then Larkin almost completed an incredible hat-trick, bursting through on goal but firing his shot well over the bar. The final whistle saw the Stags players rightly given a standing ovation and relief that at last fans had witnessed the first home clean sheet of the season.

This was a fine performance, from front to back. Christie was his usual mennacing self in attack, the two wide players were able to attack more, the midfield were tireless with Mackenzie adding that bit of class. However, it was at the back where the most noticeable improvement had been made. Player-Manager Keith Curle marshalled his back four superbly and all four had splendid games. However, for me Curle was just over-shadowed by the other debutant, Adam Eaton, who had a superb debut.

Man of the Match: Adam Eaton

Report by: Rob Wheldon

Line Up:
Pilkington - 7 - Had little to do, but what he did (apart from the odd kick) was excellent
Hassell - 8 - Very solid and great to have him back
Curle - 9 - Organised the defence and lead by example - quality.
Day - 9 - Must be great for him to be alongside Curle and looked very assured and comfortable.
Eaton - 9 - One of the better debuts you'll ever see - passed well, tackled well and defended well - a fine, fine start.
Lawrence - 8 - Perhaps not fully over his illness, but some fine touches & passing & a great goal
Mackenzie - 9 - Pulled the strings in the Stags midfield.
Disley - 8 - The workhorse of the midfield, ran everywhere.
Corden - 8 - Quiet in the 1st half, electric in the 2nd, his skill for the crucial 2nd goal was stunning
Christie - 8 - Another goal and another all action display.
White - 6 - Let down by a poor 1st touch.
Sub Line Up:
Larkin (for White) - 8 - Scored two quality goals and almost netted a hat-trick - looked a different player and showed real pace.
Subs Not Used: Bacon, White (J), Clarke, Gadsby
Opposition Line Up:
Theoklitos , Grayson, Wellens, Chris Clarke, Coid, Bullock, Gulliver, Southern, Dalglish, Murphy, Taylor. Subs: O'Kane, Collins, Walker, Blinkhorn, Herzig.
M Thorpe (Suffolk) - 6 - Got the vital decisions right but a bit fussy

Season 02/03 Reports