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Season 02/03 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 2
Mansfield Town  
3 - 2
 Luton Town
Day 9, Christie 29, Corden 79
 Thorpe 13, 82
Attendance: 4,829 (722 from Luton)
Date: 4th March 2003

Stags picked up their first double of the season with a well-deserved 3-2 win over Luton at Field Mill tonight.

Stags made three changes from the side that lost at home to Oldham as Hassell replaced Doane at right back and Williamson replaced the injured Disley in central midfield. Mitchell came in for Lawrence, and both Mitchell and Mendes played up front, with Mendes on the right side, in an attacking 4-3-3 formation. Luton were without the ever-dangerous Steven Howard in attack.

Stags opened brightly and nearly got a freak goal early on when the Luton keeper hurried a clearance which just evaded Mitchell, who would have had an easy chance. But Stags were soon ahead with Rhys Day’s first goal for the club. Following a throw-in, Hassell swept in a low cross which Day connected with his right boot to fire the ball home from 8 yards giving the keeper no chance. Day celebrated in extravagant style with the West Stand fans.

But Day’s joy turned to anguish within 4 minutes when a through-ball evaded him leaving the nippy Thorpe clear to round Welch for a tap-in. Luton had next chance of note when Thorpe burst into the box beating defenders on the way and his low shot was really well saved by Welch down by the post.

Stags regained the lead on 29 minutes with a great piece of finishing from Christie, who used his body strength to hold off a defender 12 yards out, with his back to goal, before swiveling to his left, turning, and firing wide of the keeper inside the far post. A few minutes later, Christie nearly scored again when he dispossessed the left back on the touchline, cut into the box and fired just wide of the far post with Mitchell sliding in and just failing to make contact. Then Stags won a free-kick in a dangerous position but Corden amazingly sliced the kick so badly that it went for a throw-in.

Stags had played well in the first half and looked comfortable apart from the occasional quick break by the ever dangerous Thorpe.

Half time 2-1

Stags started the second very positively with Corden pushing forward in a more attacking role with his trade mark jinking runs. In fact, it was effectively a 4-2-4 formation, and it was noticeable that when attacks broke down the Luton keeper was throwing the ball out quickly in an attempt to miss-out Stags 2-man midfield, putting quick pressure on the back 4. This was where Hassell and Eaton came in to their own and showed great skill to often intercept dangerous forward balls.

Stags were looking menacing and Mitchell put a cross out of play when Stags were well-placed. Then Mendes showed tremendous pace to outrun a defender and was fouled firstly outside the box and then again just inside the box, but unfortunately for the Stags the referee gave the first foul and a free kick right on the edge of the box, which came to nothing. It was hard lines on Mendes and was a cast-iron penalty. Luton had a penalty appeal of their own when Nicholls went down in the box but it was a blatant dive and the referee waved away the appeals, but failed to book the Luton midfielder for the dive.

Hassell blasted a 25 yard free kick into the wall, and then in a good break Corden show wide when off balance. But Corden was not to denied on 79 minutes when he scored a beauty. He picked up a loose ball after a goalmouth scramble, and curled a perfectly placed shot just inside the angle of right hand post and bar. His extended celebrations may have reflected frustrations from the previous two games where he was sacrificed in tactical substitutions.

Stags immediately brought on Gadsby for the impressive but tiring Hassell, but again gifted the visitors a soft goal straight after scoring themselves. This time, it was Curle at fault as he dallied on a clearance and Spring nipped in to chip the ball forward for Thorpe again to nip around Welch and place the ball into the empty net. With 8 minutes left Stags fans hearts were now in their mouths.

Five minutes later Welch produced the save of the season when he somehow clawed away a shot that was heading for the top right hand corner of the net. It was superlative and earned a standing ovation from the West Stand who had a perfect view of the incident. The tension was almost unbearable as the Stags defended too deeply and were unable to keep the ball in the Luton half. The game went into three minutes of stoppage time, but after 2 substitutions and the Luton physio on the pitch, Luton won a corner in the 95th minute, which thankfully was headed over. We reflected that it was just as well that Luton were missing their giant top scorer Howard, who would surely have made it 3-3 from the corner and continued the Stags habit of giving away late goals. That was the last chance and the final whistle was greeted with a tremendous roar from the home fans who were delighted with the result.

It was tense in the final 10 minutes but there is no doubt that Stags were worthy winners with a positive display of attacking football, living up to Joe Kinnear’s pre-match assessment that Stags are the most attack-minded team in the division. At the other end, Stags did indeed catch Luton offside time and again, as Kinnear had predicted before the game that Curle would use this tactic.

Stags generally passed the ball very well tonight and showed more fight that Luton, two qualities that will be needed in abundance to dig us out of trouble in the remaining 11 games of the season. Overall a tremendous win that will boost confidence prior to Saturday’s huge game at bottom club Cheltenham.

Man of the Match: Bobby Hassell.

Report by: Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes at Field Mill

Line Up:
Welch 8 Made a superlative match-winning towards the end, and showed immaculate handling throughout.
Hassell 8 Relished his comeback at right back. Showed great timing and great distribution.
Day 6 Took his first goal for the club very well. At fault for Luton’s first goal. Untroubled in the air by a short Luton side.
Curle 6 At fault for Luton’s second goal. Caught in possession a few times in the first half.
Eaton 8 Mirror image of Hassell on the night - cut out some dangerous balls down the right wing. Great performance.
Curtis 7 Fought for everything and ratted well.
Williamson 7 Tenacious tackling and covered a lot of ground.
Corden 8 Caused plenty of danger down the left wing, especially in the second half. Thrilled the crowd with great ball skills and a stunning goal.
Mendes 6 Showed tremendous on 2 or 3 occasions and unlucky not to earn a penalty. Didn’t contribute much else.
Christie 7 Took his goal very well. Strong on the ball and won some good flicked headers.
Mitchell 6 Tried hard with little direct success.
Sub Line Up:
Gadsby (for Hassell, 81 mins) -
Lawrence (for Corden, 85 mins) -
AWhite (for Mitchell, 90+3 mins) -
Subs not used: JWhite, MacKenzie.
Opposition Line Up:
Hirschfeld Coyne Willmott Davis Jupp Hughes Nicholls Spring Brkovic Crowe Thorpe . Substitutes Perrett (90) Holmes (74). Not used: Kimble Leary Emberson
C.Wilkes ,Gloucestershire 8 Handled the game so well and sensibly. Should have booked Nicholls when he dived looking for a penalty.

Season 02/03 Reports