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Season 02/03 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 2
Mansfield Town  
0 - 1
 Port Vale
 Durnin 45
Attendance: 4,538 (859 from Port Vale)
Date: 5th April 2003

Stags fell to their second home defeat in a week despite an improved performance and dominating possession for long spells. Port Vale claimed a crucial victory thanks to a lucky deflected goal, though will claim they had been unlucky with two earlier shots against the post. The result is a hammer-blow to the Stags chances of survival and was further compounded by wins for Stockport and Huddersfield.

Stags made several changes to the starting line-up with Pilkington replacing Welch in goal, Curle replacing Doane in the defence, and Williamson replacing Mitchell. Mendes moved to centre forward, with Williamson on the right side of midfield. There was a return to bench for Neil MacKenzie.

Stags started the game very brightly and after the opening 15 minutes we commented that they already done more than in the entire 90 minutes against Peterborough. Christie was involved in the early action as Stags dominated the possession in the first 25 minutes. Despite only getting into the Stags half on rare occasions, Vale went close to scoring twice. First, on 5 minutes, Bridge-Wilkinson spun on a sixpence and shot brilliantly against the inside of the post, with Pilkington not able to get anywhere near it. Luckily for Stags, the ball rebounded to safety. Then on 20 minutes, the same player cut inside on the edge of the penalty area and curled a superb effort against the far post.

But it was the Stags very much on top, and you got the feeling that they needed to score to take advantage of it. Despite plenty of possession in and around the box, Mansfield were unable to get good clean shots on target. Too often when a shot was needed, Stags tried to work the ball into a better position and play broke down. Stags came closest to scoring with a brilliant 25 yard effort from Eaton, which was tipped around the post by Vale keeper Goodlad. It was a similar effort to Eaton’s shot at Colchester.

Near the end of the half, slack defending in the Stags box, reminiscent of seven days earlier, left Littlejohn unmarked 6 yards out. Fortunately for Stags, his header floated harmlessly wide.

But after 44 and a half minutes, Vale took the lead in fortunate circumstances. A ball from the right wing was played into the path of Durnin 22 yards out. As he was about to shoot, Williamson slid in to the try to block the effort, but Durnin still managed to get his shot in. The shot seemed to be heading towards Pilkington but it deflected off Curle and looped over Pilkington into the net. It was a terrible time for Stags to concede as the half time whistle blew within a minute.

Half time 0-1

Early in the second half, Vale nearly scored from a quick break. McPhee looked well offside, but having taken the ball around Pilkington, Curle blocked the shot. Then Stags had a good chance after Christie played Disley through in the box. At last a Stags player made a clean connection with the shot but Disley’s effort was well parried by the Vale keeper. Then Corden took a free kick from 20 yards which was turned around the post by the keeper, though was probably going just wide anyway. At the other end, Littlejohn broke clear but shot into the side netting.

MacKenzie was brought on for Curtis and this brought the loudest cheer of the afternoon. He immediately livened Stags up and looked like the creative midfielder that Mansfield had lacked. He showed some nice touches in midfield though his impact didn’t last long.

Possibly the best chance of the second half came when substitute Mitchell headed tamely into the arms of Goodlad from the edge of the six yard box after a Corden cross had found him unmarked.

As the game drew to a close, Stags huffed and puffed but didn’t look like equalizing and Vale emerged relatively comfortable winners in the end.

As Stags fans trooped disconsolately from Field Mill there was a feeling that the chance of avoiding relegation has gone, and that the Stags would now need a miracle to stay up, and based on the two performances in the last seven days that is not going to happen.

Nevertheless there are still 5 games left and a win at Bristol City next week would put the Stags back in the frame. Stags have already beaten 3 of the 5 teams left to play earlier in the season but it will now require an immense effort to avoid the drop.

Man of the Match: Tom Curtis.

Report by: Martin Shaw and Neil Shaw at Field Mill

Line Up:
Pilkington 6 Little to do, though made a couple of good saves in second half. No chance with the goal
Hassell 6 Defended well but gave the ball away too often and distribution going forward was often wayward.
Day 7 Won everything in the air. Very solid performance.
Curle 6 Solid.
Eaton 7 Defended well.
Curtis 7 Very strong first half, frequently breaking up Vale attacks. Unfortunate to be subbed.
Williamson 6 Started excellently in combination with Hassell but faded in second half. Poor crossing when in good positions.
Disley 6 Quiet game. Had a good chance in the second half.
Corden 5 Didn’t get much of the ball but didn’t use it well when he did.
Mendes 5 Got plenty of the ball and did absolutely nothing with it. Never even looked like getting a shot on goal. Should have been substituted.
Christie 5 Poor control let him down on occasions. Lacked sparkle once again.
Sub Line Up:
MacKenzie (for Curtis, 61) 6 Showed some nice touches and looked likely to create something, but actually didn’t.
Mitchell (for Christie, 66) 6 Ineffective. Very tame header from a good position.
AWhite (for Eaton, 76) 6 Didn’t make an impression.
Not used: Welch, Doane.
Opposition Line Up:
Mark Goodlad, Matt Carragher, Michael Walsh, Sam Collins, Neil Brisco, Michael Cummins, Steve McPhee, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, John Durnin, Peter Clarke, Adrian Littlejohn
Subs:Joe Molloy, Ian Armstrong, Billy Paynter, Ian Brightwell, Steve Brooker
P Danson (Leicester) 7 Handled the game well.

Season 02/03 Reports