EVENING POST REPORT AND REACTION
GANNON IS HAPPY TO TAKE POINTS
Evening Post, 12 January 2004
Mansfield assistant manager John Gannon said he was delighted to pick up all three points - but admitted his players were far from at their best.
He said that he, along with manager Keith Curle, had asked the players after the game to think about why the performance was not up to scratch.
And he added that everyone would be back in training this week looking to turn the negatives from the game into positives.
Gannon said: "It was difficult for us. I'm absolutely delighted with the three points but we were not on our best form by a long stretch.
"We showed some good things in our defending to make sure we did not let in a late goal, so there were some good things to come out of it.
"There is a lot of anticipation at home games and people expect to come to Field Mill and see the team perform.
"But there are games when we need to pick up points and that is more important than performance at times.
"We have asked the players why they flapped, but the first thing we did was to discuss the game and ask if we got it right from a management point of view.
"Then we asked the players to put some thought into how they felt about the game.
"Teams will come here and put a lot of men behind the ball and stop us playing because they know how dangerous we can be.
"But that is no excuse. It is up to us to be bright enough to break them down.
"I thought Kidderminster were a much-improved team to the one that beat us on the opening day of the season, so we did well to get the points."
Gannon was also full of praise for Kevin Pilkington, whose penalty heroics kept his side in the game.
He added: "Kevin is a very good professional and he leads by example.
"He was absolutely superb in this match."
The suspensions that will follow as a result of bookings to Liam Lawrence, Lee Williamson, Bobby Hassell and Tom Curtis will pose a problem for Mansfield, but Gannon is still upbeat.
He said: "We are disappointed about it but we will have to see what happens.
"We have a good squad of players and we will take it on the chin and we will cope.
"When that day arrives I know the team that goes out will give a very good account of themselves."
PILKINGTON SAVES THE DAY FOR STAGS
12:00 - 12 January 2004
Mansfield Town 1 v 0 Kidderminster Harriers
Kevin Pilkington's ability in goal has never been in question, although his kicking at times has been a topic of debate among Mansfield fans.
He admits he has made a couple of mistakes that have cost his side goals, but like a true captain and professional he has got on with it and been an important figure behind the club's success.
On Saturday, it could be argued that he single-handedly helped Mansfield win the game with his penalty save on 22 minutes.
He does not want to take the credit, but with the game opening in a dire fashion, it looked as if it was going to be a day to forget for Mansfield.
Both sides had failed to create any chances until former Stag Adam Murray went down in the box under a challenge from Lee Williamson.
Suddenly, it did not look good at Field Mill. But Pilkington dived to his left and held on to Graham Ward's poor spot-kick. Mansfield then suddenly found an extra gear and Rhys Day scored what proved to be the winning goal just four minutes later.
The save was a massive moment in an uninspiring game. It changed the course of the match and gave Mansfield all three points.
Three points that at the end of the season could be vital in whether the club goes up or not because it is so tight at the top.
Pilkington also pulled off a penalty save in the game against Cambridge, which the Stags won 2-1 despite playing for more than half the game with nine men.
Nobody should forget the importance of those six points that the keeper has helped the club earn.
Pilkington admits he knew it was a big moment in Saturday's game and would provide a turning point, but he had a feeling he was going to pull off a save.
He said: "The game was flat to say the least and I knew it was a very important time because of the way the game was going. If they were to go 1-0 up, it would have been difficult for us.
"But I just looked at him before he struck it and I knew where he was going to put it. I thought 'if I stop this we are in it' and that was what happened, although he did not strike it very well.
"That's three I've saved this season and from one we scored on the rebound and I'm very happy about that. I know I have made some mistakes in the past but I feel I'm doing well and was delighted with my contribution."
Pilkington's save gave everyone a lift but once Mansfield took the lead the game fell flat once again.
It was a real non-event and the management and the players themselves were not happy with the performance.
Mansfield have not played their best football in recent weeks and are not scoring as freely as a few months ago.
But while the Stags may have only scored four in their last four matches, they have kept three clean sheets and still taken ten points from a possible 12.
That makes good reading even if the football isn't pretty and it means if the Stags win their game in hand they will be on the same points as Doncaster and Oxford in joint second and have a further game in hand over Hull, who are one point clear.
Last season, Mansfield were conceding late goals and letting vital points slip in games like Saturday's, but now that is not happening.
A sub-plot from the Kidderminster game saw Liam Lawrence booked for dissent, Tom Curtis for a handball, Bobby Hassell for time-wasting and Lee Williamson for a foul.
All minor incidents, some a little petulant and others maybe down to poor judgement by referee Mark Clattenburg.
But it means all four have now picked up five bookings and will all miss the same match through suspension, along with Jamie Clarke who was sent off against Burnley.
It will give the manager a selection headache, with the likes of Neil Mackenzie, Adam Eaton and Tony Vaughan injured, but they will have to wait and see whether the bans are in place for the Southend or Swansea game at Field Mill.
But away from the bookings there were few talking points from Saturday's match.
Rhys Day's goal was the first real chance of the game bar the penalty and he rose at the back post, 12-yards-out, to meet Lawrence's free-kick from the right, heading it into the roof of the net.
Kidderminster's Dean Bennett hit the outside of the post with a half chance before the break and Day had a similar, but less powerful, header saved by Stuart Brock in the Kidderminster goal.
Bennett had the visitors' best chance on 74 minutes but his volley from the edge of the box went inches wide of Pilkington's top left-hand corner.
Junior Mendes then fired a shot over the bar for Mansfield before the Stags soaked up some late pressure from Kidderminster to wrap up the game, with Bobby Hassell twice blocking good efforts from John Williams and Bennett.
It was not the most inspiring match, but three points are three points and if they pick them up by playing in such an average fashion, who knows what will happen when they start to turn it on again.
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