Friio 85    

Saturday 9th February 2002 - Kick-off 3.15pm

Nationwide League Division 3

Attendance:  14, 716

Over 500 Stags fans made the long trip to Plymouth as the Stags hoped to take something away from what has become an almost impregnablePhoto by Paul Taylor fortress.  Indeed Home Park has undergone a massive transformation since the two sides last met in August 2000, with three sides now covered by a new stand.  The game was also watched by the highest crowd in the 3rd Division this season, a gate helped by the fact that Argyle had introduced a kids for a quid scheme to boost the attendance for this vital top of the table clash, indeed the offer was so successful that kick off was delayed 15 minutes to allow all fans entry to the ground.  Sadly the behaviour of a minority of home fans did not befit their surroundings, Stags fans subjected to a hail of coins and bottles and, at the end of the game, stones.

The Stags were without the suspended Shayne Bradley and injured trio captain Les Robinson, Craig Disley and Danny Bacon.  David Kelly, as expected, made his full Stags debut alongside Chris Greenacre.  One look at the Stags bench made fans realise that the side were now down to the bare bones.  Adam Barrett played his first game back at Home Park since his transfer to the Stags in October 2000.  The Stags were buoyed on by a following of over 500 Stags fans who had made the 270 mile trip and were intent on giving their side full vocal backing.

The opening half was evenly balanced, with the Stags enjoying the majority of possession but rarely looking like breaching a strong Argyle defence.  The closest the visitors came to a goal was when Argyle keeper Larrieu flapped at a cross and the ball ricocheted around the area before deflecting wide for a corner.  Barrett was then cautioned for a strong challenge in the centre of the pitch, the defender clearly won the ball but the referee must have deemed the challenge dangerous.  Probably realising his error the referee then booked Adams for Argyle for the next challenge in the game.  Argyle's only chance of the half came just after the Adams booking, Pilkington was forced into an excellent save low to his right, tipping a Friio header from Worrell's cross past the post.  For all the neat football the Stags played the service to the strikers was limited, Hassell tried to remedy this with a trademark run through the midfield area and towards the box only to be stopped at the edge of the area by the solid Coughlin.

Half-time 0-0

The home side stepped up the pressure in the 2nd half and Stags attacks became more infrequent.  However, the Stags cause was not helped by a series of refereeing decisions which can only be described as the sort home sides playing in front of 15,000 fans tend to get!!  The Stags were put under pressure by a series of free kicks, but the shooting was rather erratic and Pilkington remained untroubled.  However, the keeper was again called upon on the hour and again it was French midfielder Friio causing the danger, heading goalwards at the near post only to see Pilkington, quickly moving to his right, palm the ball away.  The Stags only second half attempt of note came when Pemberton broke through the midfield area but with Greenacre well placed to his left he chose to shoot and Larrieu saved with ease.  Argyle boss Paul Sturrock made two changes as he introduced his son Blair Sturrock and Ian Stonebridge.  This had little effect as despite now being on top Pilkington had no further saves to make until 5 minutes from time.  The ball was needlessly given away by the experienced Kelly on the half way line, Argyle broke down the left and forced a corner.  From the corner Friio headed past a flapping Pilkington.  The Stags players and fans were devastated, some sinking to their knees.  Argyle played out the last 5 minutes running the ball into the corner at every opportunity and the game was lost.

The Stags probably just shaded the first half but created very little in front of goal, however, the side were under more pressure 2nd half but defended well, Barrett and Reddington again impressing.  It looked as though the Stags efforts were to be rewarded with a point when one piece of poor marking and keeping lead to a late winner.  Home Park is a very impressive venue and will be even more so when the main stand is replaced.  However, the whole day was marred by the idiotic minority who threw coins and bottles at the Stags fans with police and stewards simply watching.  The violence continued after the game as Argyle fans chose to express their delight at victory by throwing stones at the Mansfield fans as they walked to their cars.  These were clearly the actions of a small minority of Argyle followers (they are not football fans) but most disturbing was the lack of action from the authorities.  Back to events on the field, Pemberton and Williamson held their own in midfield with Corden the only real threat in attack.  Defensive the Stags were solid though Tankard was occasionally caught out by a lack of pace.  Pilkington had a fine game which was then marred by a late error.  Man of the match is tough but once again is between Barrett and Reddington, with Reddington just about the pick of the two.

Man of the Match:  Stuart Reddington

Pilkington 7 One mistake marred a superb performance
Hassell  7 Defended well but forward runs restricted 2nd half
Tankard 6 Caught out for pace a couple of times 2nd half.
Barrett 8 Defended well under increased 2nd half pressure.
Reddington 8 Competed for everything.
Lawrence 5 Careless in possession.
Corden 7 Our only real threat in attacking areas without ever producing the end product.
Pemberton 7 Battled well and broke to good effect a couple of times - seems happier on the left though.
Williamson 7 Excellent 1st half but more defensive role 2nd half.
Greenacre 6 Very quiet again, though it has to be said didn't get too much service.
Kelly  5 Very disappointing - didn't hold the ball up to relieve pressure.
Subs Not Used: Asher, Clarke, White, Bingham, Jervis.