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Season 02/03 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 2
Mansfield Town  
1 - 5
 Peterborough United
Corden 17 (pen)
 Rea 8, McKenzie 37, Hendon 44, Clarke 82, Fotiadis 90
Attendance: 5,653 (735 from Peterborough)
Date: 29th March 2003

Rubbish. Absolute rubbish.
The team selection, the tactics, the performance, the lack of fighting spirit, and especially the result.

This was a game the Stags needed to win against a poor Peterborough United side who were hopeless in the game at London Road earlier in the season. The Stags included Rhys Day who had captained the Wales under-21 side only 20 hours earlier although he’d only played 29 minutes before being sent off. But I was amazed by some of the other team selections. Firstly Liam Lawrence, so often the Stags play-maker in games this season, was dropped to the bench. Lawrence is suspended for the next two games so we should have been making the most of him now. Secondly, Keith Curle, who has missed the last 4 games through suspension, did not bring himself back into the side, and this was to cost us in a big way in the first half. It was unfortunate for the Stags that Colin Larkin had suffered a recurrence of his injury and this meant a chance in the starting line up for Craig Mitchell.

The Stags started badly, but little could we have imagined just how bad it would get. Peterborough had already missed a good chance when Doane, playing at left back, inexplicably simply allowed Leon McKenzie a free shot from a tight angle in the hope that the Posh striker could not score from that angle. Even though McKenzie did fire over the bar, this was not the sort of defending we wanted to see.

But, on 8 minutes, the Stags were behind to the sort of goal we saw time and again earlier in the season. From a right wing corner, Posh number 5 Simon Rea eluded his marker Iyseden Christie and had a free header from just 3 yards which he couldn’t miss.

The Stags had an incredible stroke of luck less than ten minutes later - in an innocuous incident, the referee surprised everyone by judging that Rea had handled in the box after a Hassell cross. The Peterborough players went mad surrounding the referee but it didn’t unnerve Corden who coolly slotted the ball low, slightly to the right of the centre of the goal, as keeper Tyler dived the other way. As Corden celebrated (his third penalty in four games) in front of the Posh fans, Stags fans felt: “right, we’ve had a bit of luck, let’s now capitalise on it”. For a short while, Stags were on top. Corden put a free-kick from wide out on the right just over the bar and Mendes had one good run to the bye-line.

But, 8 minutes before half time, Posh got their crucial second goal. It was the result of more dreadful defending in the six yard box as Leon McKenzie escaped his marker and had a free header which he couldn’t miss afetr a cross from the bye-line. Posh got on top and we commented that Stags would do well to go in at half time just 2-1 down. But, it wasn’t to be as the visitors grabbed a crucial, though very lucky, third goal just before the break. Former Notts County man Ian Hendon broke down the right wing and, from a very tight angle, crossed the ball but it seemed to take a deflection off Doane, and to the surprise of everybody in the ground, somehow looped over Keith Welch and into the net.

It seemed that Stags had missed the defensive organisation of Keith Curle, as the defending ion the box had been dreaddful.

Half time 1-3

At the start of the second half, Curle brought himself for Hassell, though he should’ve removed Doane in my opinion, while Lawrence replaced Mitchell. Stags needed attacking flair, and the right-sided combination of Hassell and Lawrence might have given them the best chance.

Stags started to play a little bit better and, for a short period, started to pass the ball around thanks to the influence of Lawrence. But they didn’t create any cast-iron chances and started to resort to punting long balls forward which were easily repelled time and time and time again by number 5 Rea and his tall defensive colleagues. It was clearly playing into Posh’s hands and the Stags fans were becoming more and more disillusioned at the home side’s tactics.

Indeed Posh looked more likely to score again and, after an outrageous dive by Andy Clarke in the penalty area for which he should have been booked, and one tremendous challenge by Day to deny Clarke, Andrew Fotiadis missed a sitter as he was completely unmarked but shot wide of the far post.

However, 7 minutes from time, Andy Clarke provided a great finish as he raced clear of the defence and fired a shot just inside the far post giving Welch no chance. Moments later, it was nearly 5-1 as an outrageous deflection from a shot nearly caught out Welch but he just managed to stop the ball from crossing the line, smacking his face against the post in the process. But, as the game entered injury time, it was 5-1 when the Stags, now playing with about two at the back, were hopelessly exposed as Farrell crossed from the left and Fotiadis was unmarked to side foot home from 2 yards. Stags were by now playing with ten men after Rhys Day had gone in for a crunching 50-50 challenge and had stayed down, clearly in trouble. He was stretchered off with what turned out to be a knee injury and we’ll have to wait until Monday to find out how serious it is.

So, a disastrous result from an absolutely appalling performance. In my opinion, the Stags management team need to look hard at the tactics employed. The long ball towards the Peterborough defence today was so easily repelled time and again. The Stags are at their best when they play a passing game and get the ball down the wing and to the by-line. They didn’t even attempt this today. There was no fighting spirit today and no players, with the exception of Day, can be happy with their performance.

Stuart Watkiss was in the West Stand today, apparently doing some scouting for Wigan. It was ironic, given that the defending was as shambolic as when he had been in charge. However what was different, was that the team played no attacking football.

Six games left and at least 3 victories needed and this must start with Port Vale at Field Mill next Saturday. Come on Stags!

Man of the Match: Rhys Day.

Footnote: an interesting comparison with the same stage last season. Almost a year ago to the day (30 March 2002), Stags again had four home games left and again were 10 points short of the points target the manager had set; Stags were then on 70 points and were targeting 80. That day the Stags were hammered 4-1 at Field Mill by Rushden. Of course we all know that Stags won their final 3 home games whilst losing both away games and 79 points turned out to be enough. This season we have an extra away game left, and it remains to be seen whether winning the final 3 home games and losing the away games, to end up with 49 points, would be enough to escape relegation.

Report by: Martin Shaw

Line Up:
Welch 6 Wasn’t really to blame for the 5 goal hammering.
Hassell 6 Not at his best but surprisingly substituted.
Day 7 Man of the match, hopefully his knee injury won’t be as bad as it looked.
Eaton 6 Also not at his best.
Doane 5 Unlucky with the deflection to concede the third goal but had a poor game generally.
Mendes 5 Did a lot of running but never looked like creating anything.
Curtis 5 Terrible.
Disley 5 Terrible.
Corden 6 Kept his composure to score the penalty but otherwise didn’t even show a semblance of his magic.
Christie 5 Couldn’t get the ball under control, clearly out of form at the moment. However wasn’t given any service at all.
Mitchell 5 Showed fight and commitment but created no danger.
Sub Line Up:
Lawrence (for Mitchell, 46) 6 Should have been on from the start; at least tried to get the side passing the ball.
Curle (for Hassell, 46) 6 Should have been on the pitch when he was needed to defend first half corners.
White (for Mendes, 65) 6 Wasn’t given any service.
Not used: Pilkington, Williamson.
Opposition Line Up:
Tyler, Rea, Arber, Burton, Hendon, Shields, Gill, Scott, Jelleyman, Clarke, McKenzie. Subs: Farrell, Lee, Fotiadis, Scully, Boucaud.
A Kaye (W Yorkshire) 7 Generous penalty awarded to the Stags, otherwise was hardly noticed and hence had a good game.

Season 02/03 Reports