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Season 02/03 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 2
1 - 0
 Mansfield Town
O'Connor 58
Attendance: Att. 5,844 (approx 550 from Mansfield, my estimate)
Date: 28th December 2002

Stags were beaten 1-0 in a poor encounter at Griffin Park this afternoon. The first half was dire and the second half little better. The only goal came following a long throw after 58 minutes, and Stags only started to play in the last 20 minutes but it was too little too late. Stags were very disappointing overall.

There were no surprises in the Stags side as Larkin replaced the injured Andy White in the only change from the starting line-up on Boxing Day.

The first 45 minutes was the worst half of football I have seen this season. Both sides were dire. The only incidents of note were two Brentford corners which were headed wide. Stags did seem vulnerable from the set pieces as Brentford's two giants, 6 foot five striker Mark McCammon and Senegalese defender Ibrahima Sonko, caused all sorts of problems and each headed wide when unmarked. Brentford had one other half chance when the lively Hunt fired into the side netting from a tight angle. Stags themselves offered nothing in midfield or going forward.

Half time 0-0

Early in the second half Brentford went close when Hunt turned the defence inside out and then shot just over the bar.

It came as no surprise that the only goal of the game came from a long throw after 58 minutes. The tall McCammon flicked the ball on, and Kevin O'Connor headed the ball goalwards from 10 yards. It took a couple of deflections on the way and wrong-footed Pilkington, who could only parry the ball up in the air. The ball had already crossed the line when McCammon smacked it into the back of the net.

The Stags could no longer play for a 0-0 draw and picked up the pace for the final 20 minutes. They started to put together some decent football and caused the home side some problems. Christie headed just over from a great Lawrence cross after 70 minutes. He only had to keep the header down and it would surely have found the net. Then Disley flashed a shot inches wide following a scramble after a long Hassell throw. Finally Christie had a shot blocked as he burst through. But in the end it came to nothing.

In the 88th minute, Brentford had Vine sent off for a second yellow card offence, as both he and Day were booked following a brawl involving 20 players (in fact, everyone except Beadsley and the Brentford keeper). But it came too late to make a difference, and in fact just brought the home crowd to life and urge their team to hold out for the 3 points. Day's yellow card came for a lunging tackle that probably caused the brawl.

It was noticeable that the Stags were playing the offside trap quite a lot today, and largely it was successful, though not pretty to watch.

A word on the referee and linesmen, who were very poor today. I lost count of the number of incorrect decisions, though none ultimately affected the course of the game. Disley was unlucky to be booked for an innocuous challenge. There were several wrong offside calls (against both sides). While Lawrence took some rough treatment in the second half in front of the Stags fans and the referee didn’t even spot it.

If only Stags had started playing earlier, they might have got something out of the game. It was so disappointing to see the same players who were so dynamic on Boxing Day, produce so little. Perhaps the game came too soon, just 48 hours after the lively display on a heavy pitch against Stockport. But it was the same for both sides.

Chris Beardsley replaced the disappointing Larkin after 57 minutes for his first team debut. Larkin had picked up a leg injury. Beardsley showed pace and held onto the ball well and may well be in line for a full debut at Crewe on Wednesday. One thing is for sure, Stags will need to play much better than this to have any chance of securing a point at Gresty Road. But at least the Stags defence is looking much more organised now and Stags should be well capable of avoiding another mauling.

Man of the Match: Difficult to pick anyone out in a poor display. Eaton, Lawrence (in the second half) and substitute Beardsley were the best players. Eaton did quite well at left back and shades man of the match for me.

Report by: Martin Shaw at Griffin Park

Line Up:
Pilkington 6 Two good saves after the goal. Little to do apart from that.
Hassell 6 Not at his best early on, but solid in the second half.
Curle 6 Beaten in the air too easily by Brentford's giants, but showed good experience.
Day 6 Did ok, but a tough afternoon against Brentford's giants.
Eaton 7 Pick of the defence. Showed some class.
Lawrence 7 Quite first half, but looked the most likely source of danger for the Stags in the second half.
Curtis 6 Quiet game, though didn’t give away possession.
Disley 6 Missed a good chance late on. Not at his best.
Corden 6 Didn't get any joy on the wing. Couldn’t reproduce his wizardry from Boxing Day.
Christie 6 Quieter than normal. Caught offside too often. Went close twice in final 20 minutes.
Larkin 5 Poor. Seemed unable to keep hold of the ball, and created nothing. Went off injured.
Sub Line Up:
Beardsley (for Larkin, 57) 7 Promising debut. Showed pace and held onto the ball well.
Williamson (for Corden, 64) 6 Unable to establish authority in midfield.
Bacon (for Curtis, 84) 6 No time to get into the game.
Subs not used: JWhite, Gadsby.
Opposition Line Up:
Julian, Dobson, Sonko, Marshall, Somner, Evans, O'Connor, Fullarton, Hunt, McCammon, Vine.
Subs: Marchena, Jay Smith, Williams, Tabb, Hughes.
Referee: G Hegley, Hertfordshire: 5 Poor

Season 02/03 Reports