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Season 02/03 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 2
Cheltenham Town  
3 - 1
 Mansfield Town
Devaney 1, Brown 38, Spencer 90+3.
 Lawrence 82
Attendance: 3,881 (703 from Mansfield, plus another 100 let in free)
Date: 8th March 2003

Stags produced a woeful first half display here at Cheltenham Town this afternoon and crashed to a disastrous defeat against the bottom-of-the-table side. The scene was set after just a minute when Keith Welch made a terrible mistake to allow a shot from Devaney to go straight through him and into the net. This gave the home side confidence and in truth the Stags never recovered.

Stags made 3 changes from the team that started against Luton. Jamie Clarke replaced the injured Bobby Hassell, while Matt Gadsby replaced the suspended Curle. Lawrence replaced the injured Mitchell, with Mendes returning to centre forward. Disley, a player who home manager Bobby Gould drooled over last season on the ITV Sport Channel, was still out injured and Lee Williamson kept his place in midfield.

The home side were without tall striker Julian Alsop and various other players due to injury, and pressed centre-half John Brough into the centre-forward position. They also brought in keeper Higgs for his first start since 1999 and he was to make some good first half saves.

The key moment of the game came after just a minute and 15 seconds. Devaney received a ball on the right and powered his way clear of Eaton, before unleashing a powerful low shot from 15 yards, but it was straight at Welch down by his near post. Somehow the ball squirmed it’s way into the net, despite Welch seemingly getting his hands on it. It was a massive early blow for the Stags, and a personal catastrophe for Welch, who has played so well since he joined the club.

The home side played with confidence provided by the early goal and Stags were not defending well. Brough, Finnigan and Brown all had chances but fortunately two of them were straight at Welch. At the other end, an early chance fell to Christie but his shot was well-saved. Then Lawrence had a great snap-shot from the edge of the box and the reserve keeper made a superlative to save. Then Christie sneaked into the box but shot wide when he should have at least been on target. Stags had been playing the offside trap and in general just getting away with it, but it went horribly wrong on 38 minutes. A ball was played through and quick striker Brown raced onto it in acres of space. He moved forward and placed a perfect shot wide of Welch into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

The Stags needed a goal back and nearly got it when Lawrence did superbly to find Corden on the left. Corden jinked inside his defender and shot low and hard, but keeper Higgs made another excellent save to block the shot.

Half time 2-0

Half time was depressing for Stags fans as it had been a poor show from the visitors against a depleted bottom-of-the-table home team.

MacKenzie replaced the very poor Williamson at the start of the second half. It was nearly 3-0 in the opening minute as Brown waltzed past Gadsby and Day as though they weren’t there before blasting over the bar. Then Andy White came on for the equally dreadful Mendes.

Cheltenham soon had a goal disallowed as Welch was tripped in the six-yard box as a corner was headed into the empty net. But at the other end, Day had a great chance to pull a goal back as the home defence went missing allowing him a free header from a free kick, but he got no direction on it. The half was proving to be very even, and Stags finally found a way back 8 minutes from time. Christie was fouled 22 yards from goal, and Lawrence stepped up to bend a beauty into the net giving the Higgs no chance.

Stags should have been on the charge now, but in truth didn’t get close to an equaliser. Instead the home side made it 3-1 in the final minute of injury time. It shouldn’t have stood however, as from our position amongst the 200 Stags fans seated along the side of the penalty area, we had a perfect view of a Cheltenham player 2 yards offside. The assistant referee was hopelessly out of position and missed it. The ball was crossed into the box from the right and substitute Damien Spencer was unmarked to head into the net from 6 yards.

There was barely time to re-start the game and the despondent Stags players trooped off the field, whilst the home side had their first double of the season.

This was an awful result for the Stags, particularly with some other sides around them doing well. Stags were a bit unfortunate that the wind which helped the home side in the first half, suddenly dropped at half time. But in truth the Stags deserved nothing for a poor defensive display and no creativity from central midfield. Special mention should go to young Jamie Clarke, who came back very strongly from a dire first half display, to play very well in the second half. However my man of the match, for being the player who was behind everything that the Stags did well, was Liam Lawrence.

Man of the Match: Liam Lawrence.

Report by: Martin Shaw at Whaddon Road

Line Up:
Welch 5 Dreadful howler to gift the Robins a crucial early goal.
JClarke 6 Awful first half, especially his distribution, but played very well in the second half.
Day 5 His worst game for the Stags.
Gadsby 5 Didn’t look comfortable.
Eaton 6 Defended well.
Lawrence 7 At the heart of the little positive play that Stags made, and scored a terrific goal.
Curtis 6 Poor in the first half; did a little better in the second.
Williamson 5 Poor performance. Second to all the loose balls.
Corden 6 Some good wing-play in the first half and unlucky with one shot well-saved.
Mendes 5 Awful display. Never looked like doing anything.
Christie 6 Not given enough support.
Sub Line Up:
MacKenzie (for Williamson, 46 mins) 6 Barely got into the game.
AWhite (for Mendes, 55 mins) 7 Did more in the first five minutes of coming on than Mendes did in total. Won some good headers in the air.
Subs not used: JWhite, Buxton, Beardsley.
Opposition Line Up:
Not used:
S.Mathieson, Cheshire 7 Not helped by several dubious decisions from his assistants. No yellow or red cards made a pleasant change.

Season 02/03 Reports