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Archived News from February 2005

14th February 2005 22:25

Evening Post, 14 February 2005
Colin Larkin was delighted to score his first goal in almost four months - but admitted he was not desperate to take the penalty.

His last goal came against Notts County on October 16 but he was pleased to get back on the score sheet.

He said: "I was looking round to see who was running for the ball and then Tommy Curtis said are you going to have it.

"It has been a long while and I thought against the wind I am not going to place it, just go for power. I messed it a little and the keeper got a touch but it went in and they all count.

It does me good and the most important thing was I was able to get up and down pitch for 90 minutes and I have not done that since the start of January.

"I have not scored for so long so it was pleasing and for me individually; it was a good performance."

Larkin said the conditions made it difficult to play but said the performance was not up to the standard of recent matches.

He said: "We did not play the way we have been playing in the last two games. I think the hard work was there but the performance was not. We did not get the ball down and pass and stick to the game plan. It has cost us.

"They scored two good goals and to be fair to Pilks there is nothing he could have done about them.

"It was difficult in those conditions, even with the wind it is hard to judge the flight of the ball sometimes. There were times when we could not get hold of the ball.

"Even in the second half, that is what cost us. If it had been a normal weather day they would not have scored those goals because the wind carried the ball into the net for them. They used the wind better than us. We did not use the advantage in the first half.''

Evening Post, 14 February 2005
Carlton Palmer admitted his side got what they deserved against Cheltenham on Saturday.

But the Stags' caretaker-manager refused to be too hard on his players because he said it had been a difficult week for them.

"Over 90 minutes I did not think we deserved anything from the game," said Palmer.

"We got the goal back and for 20 minutes we had the ascendancy.

"But you look at it and Pilks (Kevin Pilkington) had to make two or three outstanding saves.

"It could have been a fortuitous point for us but that is all it would have been. I was disappointed with the whole day.

"The conditions were difficult but I was always concerned about the game on the basis of the effort we had put into the previous two games.

"We have to be honest, we did not play well and it looked like we had a few tired bodies out there.

"They were the better side without really playing well.

"And without being disrespectful, they were not the best team we have played against this season by any stretch of the imagination.

"But I said to the players, before the start of the last week, I would have taken seven points out of nine.

"So we are a point down on that but it has been a difficult week and the boys have been magnificent.

"You can go round and round in circles but the fact is we did not play well, we did not compete in certain areas of the pitch and we have got to put that one in the drawer and get on with it.

"We are only a point off what we were looking for and it is not all doom and gloom. But I am disappointed because I felt it was a great opportunity for us."

Palmer made two changes, replacing the suspended Simon Brown with debutant Goma Lambu and replacing Derek Asamoah with Colin Larkin.

He was pleased with Larkin but upset that Asamoah had phoned in sick at the end of the week.

Palmer said: "The goal will do Larks some good.

"His fitness will come and his attitude was a lot better. But I'm disappointed in Derek Asamoah.

"He was ill last week and his fitness levels have dropped.

"But in terms of games, it does not matter who you play or where they are in the league.

"If you do not do the basic things well, starting with working hard, you won't win football matches.

"And we did not do that on Saturday."

Evening Post, 14 February 2005
Cheltenham boss John Ward said his side won the game by winning the battle throughout the middle of the pitch.

He said: "There was a lot of good performances but particularly down the middle. My two centre halves, two central midfield players and two strikers I thought worked very hard. We thought that was an area that we had to try to win and we did.

"It was difficult for both sides. Both teams tried really hard to put a game on for people but it probably was not as entertaining as we would have liked.

"From my point of view it is nice to have won the game in difficult conditions like that. We played both the conditions and Mansfield Town well throughout the afternoon.

"We said at half-time we had done well against the strong wind. And we knew if we could get that bit of quality in the second half we could unlock them."

Evening Post, 14 February 2005
Mansfield Town 1 v 2 Cheltenham Town

In any occupation, if you were to perform well and do a lot of hard work all week only to have to throw it all away at the end, you would almost certainly feel the wrath of your boss.

Knowing you would have to start again the following week, putting yourself a further week behind schedule, your job would be on the line. The hard work and dedication from the previous few days would count for nothing.

At Field Mill, this is not a rare problem. It happens regularly.

Luckily for footballers, there is no such comeback. The pay cheque is still the same at the end of the week, minus a bonus, and job security is not even an issue.

There may be many different faces in terms of personnel, but the problem is still the same. The fact the club has not won three games in a row this season and only managed it once last year highlights a problem.

A fine victory against Notts County a week earlier was further built on with a hard-fought win against Swansea in midweek.

Six points from six, the play-offs suddenly in reach and the chance to cap it off with another win against Cheltenham, on paper the easiest of the three fixtures.

The Stags were in good form, winning their previous two games and not conceding, but on Saturday they were not at their best. The Robins were there for the taking, yet Mansfield failed to show any kind of killer instinct.

Defender Jake Buxton had said after the Swansea win that it was paramount the Stags started beating the likes of Cheltenham and Bury - the teams they have a history of failing against despite defeating the top sides .

He said there was a stigma attached to Mansfield with such matches and it needed to be ended. And the 19-year-old declared Mansfield were a changed squad and ready to prove the doubters wrong.

The teenager himself, along with fellow young centre-half Alex John-Baptiste, played well and was not to blame.

But as a team the Stags were not ruthless enough and although unlucky not to have snatched a point, they did not deserve a win.

The game was played in blustery conditions, on a soggy pitch and at times into driving hail. But both teams had to adapt to what nature threw at them and the visitors mastered it better.

Caretaker-manager Carlton Palmer was the first to admit that.

With the wind behind them, Cheltenham scored two goals from the edge of the box and created a string of chances - a feat Mansfield could not achieve in the first half when in the same position.

The Stags had Kevin Pilkington to thank for keeping them in the game, as he pulled off two stunning second-half saves.

The first came from Grant McCann's 20-yard drive, which he got down to his right to get a strong hand to the ball. And soon after he displayed great reactions to parry Brian Wilson's close-range volley at the back post out of play.

But Pilkington could not stop Martin Devaney's 62nd-minute strike. He cut inside on the left-hand side of the Stags box and with his right foot drilled a low shot in off the near post.

Mansfield hit back ten minutes later when substitute Derek Asamoah was fouled in the box by Jamie Victory.

It gave the Stags their first real chance of the match, the only others coming through Richie Barker, who put a close-range header wide just before half-time, and Buxton's long-range effort, which went wide after the break.

But from the spot Mansfield striker Colin Larkin, on his return to the starting 11, stepped up and scored.

Not only did it give Mansfield the equaliser, it gave the Irishman his first goal in almost four months.

It looked enough to earn a point, but in the last minute a cruel blow was dealt. Cheltenham worked the ball well from the corner flag against the wind and it was played into the path of John Finnigan.

From just inside the box he struck a fierce drive which lifted and flew into Pilkington's far corner to give the Robins the victory. Six points from nine would have been a nice return if Stags fans had been asked what they wanted before the last three matches.

But to lose after two wins was hard to take. The play-off talk that started to sneak in at Field Mill has suddenly disappeared.

It is still a possibility, but games against the likes of Cheltenham at home have to be won. Stags are now five points off the top seven and have played a game more than most.

Stevie Roden's man-of-the-match: Kevin Pilkington
Western Daily Press, 14 February 2005
Mansfield Town 1 Cheltenham Town 2
CAPTAIN John Finnigan netted Cheltenham Town's 89th-minute winner and then joked it was about time, having waited six months to score his first league goal of the season.

But the midfielder's timing was impeccable as he catapulted the Robins up to eighth place and the brink of the League Two play-off places.

Finnigan's sweet strike from the edge of the box was his second of the season - his other goal was in a 5-1 hammering of Dagenham and Redbridge in the LDV Vans Trophy.

The 28-year-old finished off a move that saw Damian Spencer collect a throw and supply strike partner Kayode Odejayi who then teed up the midfielder.

He said: "Kay did really well for me. He has controlled the ball well in the box, got his head up and seen me and I have hit it and for once it has gone in the back of the net!

"I am really pleased with that and it was another good three points for the lads.

"I had a decent chance in the first half and I totally mis-hit it so I was pleased to see that one go in."

Manager John Ward added that he felt the goal showed the new-found confidence running through a team whose success has been built on solid defence.

He said: "John Finnigan is probably an unexpected source to get a winner but I think that just shows the confidence in the team that even in the last few minutes away from home we are pushing people on and trying to win the game.

"We put another striker on and Kayode has gone in there.

"I send that message out to be positive and it is nice to see the players respect that and respond to it and John has taken his strike very, very well."

The work of Finnigan and the recalled Grant McCann in the heart of the midfield was central to Cheltenham taking a grip of the game when playing with the aid of a fierce wind in the second half.

After a tough opening period into the elements, the Robins created nine chances after the break and deservedly took the points.

The in-form Martin Devaney opened the scoring on 62 minutes with a characteristic long range curler - his eighth of the season.

Once again good work from the returning Spencer was at the heart of the move, helping to supply the former Coventry youngster on the left edge of the box.

Finnigan later admitted: "He (Devaney) has cut inside and I think almost everybody in the ground has thought he is going to whizz a cross over and he has bent it into the near post so all credit to Martin for that. He has been superb - he is in great form."

Ward said the goal was another example of why he has asked the club's board to improve its contract offer to Devaney, but also praised the work of Spencer who completed his first full game since September.

"I am delighted with Damian," said Ward.

"I think his work rate and desire have been absolutely fantastic. He chased and harried everybody and everything all afternoon.

"They were difficult conditions but as a centre forward you have got to chase and see what you can create and Damian has been a major part in that performance and victory.

"I am really pleased pleased for him."

Cheltenham's opener came after two fine saves from Stags keeper Kevin Pilkington. First he got down well to push aside a low drive from McCann and then he reacted brilliantly to deny a point-blank Brian Wilson volley following good work from Steve Guinan and Spencer.

But after going behind Mansfield hit back and McCann had to clear a Richie Barker shot off the line before they drew level on 72 minutes when Jamie Victory tripped Derek Asamoah inside the box.

Goalkeeper Shane Higgs guessed correctly and got a hand to Colin Larkin's penalty but could not prevent the Stags from scoring their first spot-kick of the season.

Nevertheless after Finnigan's winner Cheltenham can now target a play-off place.

Northampton and Lincoln, the two teams immediately above them, play games in hand away from home this week.

Ward was reluctant to talk up his side's promotion chances.

"What we have said is that each time we can win a game or gain points the next game becomes bigger," he said.

"Oxford (on Saturday) becomes bigger than this one because it is the next one.

"But I have got a group of players who are playing well and with confidence so we look forward to the next game."

Mansfield Town (4-4-2): Pilkington; Neil, John-Baptiste, Buxton, Jelleyman; Lambu (Asamoah 46), Curtis, Murray, Rundle; Larkin, Barker. Subs not used: White, Smeltz, McLachlan, McIntosh.

Cheltenham Town (4-4-2): Higgs; Gill, Caines, Duff, Victory; Wilson, Finnigan, McCann, Devaney; Guinan (Odejayi 82), Spencer. Subs not used: Brown, Taylor, Bird, Vincent.


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