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Observer report by Steve Hartshorn
UNBEATEN RUN COMES TO AN END AT RAINY BRISTOL
Bristol Rovers 2 Mansfield Town 0
Igoe 13, Walker 16.
Attendance – 5, 253 Visitors - 277
The Stags suffered their first defeat in nine games when two goals in 3 minutes at a rain-soaked Bristol Rovers proved too much of a hurdle to overcome.
The first half display left a lot to be desired and although the 2nd half showing was slightly better fair, it was still a disappointing end to what had been a fine and impressive unbeaten run.
There was just one change to the side who had nailed the Cobblers seven days previous, Rhys Day making a welcome return in place of the injured Alex John-Baptiste who as absent through tendonitis. Rundle coming back into the sixteen in place of Day.
The afternoon had started with heavy rain and it soon became obvious that both sides would not be turning on the style due to the condition of the muddy and soaked pitch.
Stags had not even ventured towards the home sides goal when on 13 minutes, Rovers took the lead. A ball was sent into the middle from the right hand side, where Hjelde could not get any distance with his clearance. Sammy Igoe standing unmarked 15 yards out had time to pick his spot with a powerful drive into the top left hand corner of the net, despite Pressman getting a hand to the ball.
Within three minutes, the home side had doubled their lead. A through ball to Walker found the Stags defence motionless and appealing for offside. Walker ran forward, took the ball around Pressman and fired into the net, despite a desperate attempt to clear the ball off the line by Rhys Day.
The home side were playing with confidence and came at Stags again, this time Pressman saved from Haldane as Rovers pushed for a third.
Stags had an opportunity of getting back into the game when on 22 minutes, a free kick awarded for a foul on Uhlenbeek presented Barker with the chance of having a strike at goal. Instead, Barker chose to play the ball wide to Jelleyman but the Rovers defence were alive to the danger and quickly closed him down.
On 25 minutes, Rhys Day was booked; fortunately the free kick for Rovers came to nothing.
Stags were creating nothing going forward and were destined to end the first 45 minutes without an attempt on the Rovers goal.
Just before the half time break, Rovers could have added a third; D'Laryea's back pass was fluffed by Pressman straight to the feet of Haldane who just 6 yards away from goal and with Pressman decked on the muddy surface could only fire the ball straight at Pressman's leg. It was a remarkable escape.
Things could only get better in the 2nd half for Mansfield and so it proved with Wilson having Stags first attempt on goal on 47 minutes, unfortunately his shot was wide of the mark.
Agogo was causing problems with his pace and on 49 minutes he got the better of Buxton but could only fire weakly at Pressman.
On the hour mark, the expected change was made by Stags boss, Peter Shirtliff when Brown came on for Reet. Uhlenbeek also came off for Coke as Stags tried to get a foothold in a game that was like the conditions, sliding away from them.
Agogo again had plenty of opportunities to get the home side a further goal, but on several occasions, his finishing let him down.
The Stags best opportunity came to top goalscorer, Richard Barker, but his shot was well saved by Shearer in the Rovers goal.
Stags were getting frustrated by their lack of chances and on 69 minutes, Simon Brown was rightly booked for a loss of temper lunge at former Stags midfielder, Craig Disley.
On 76 minutes, Agogo raced down the left and crossed perfectly for Richard Walker, who's header went wide of the Mansfield goal.
Four minutes from time, a Dawson corner was headed wide by Barker as any remote hope of a Stags comeback was ended. The last chance of the game for either side came when Haldane's shot was parried by Pressman, the ball dropping towards Gibb who could only shoot wide of the left hand post from 18 yards.
It was a disappointing end to a run that had seen Peter Shirtliff's men climb to their highest position of the season in League 2. Although the league is still wide open, it is possibly too late following this defeat for The Stags to mount a late play off challenge.
This weekend Stags take on a resurgent Oxford United. The U's were sold last week and the new owners were quick to install former manager, Jim Smith into the hot seat. The new regime got off to a cracking start with a fine 1-0 home win over promotion hunting, Peterborough United. Stags in the meantime will be hoping to get back to winning ways and will be eager to prove that the defeat at Bristol Rovers was nothing more than a bad day at the office.
Shearer, Carruthers, Elliott, Hinton, Lescott, Igoe, Hunt, Disley, Haldane, Walker, Agogo (Gibb 82).
Subs not used; Edwards, Lines, Horsell, Bass.
Pressman, Jelleyman, D'Laryea, Day, Dawson, Uhlenbeek (Coke 60), Barker, Buxton, Hjelde, Wilson (Birchall 76), Reet (Brown 60).
Subs not used; White, Rundle.
Referee – Mick Russell.
Observer Man of the match – Rhys Day.
Mansfield - Gasheads Talk Back
Written by Robin-Mark Schols and Andy Davies
With the loan transfer window closing this week and nobody coming in, it is clear our management team are content to make do with what they have and prune and add where neccessary ready for next season. Any moves for short term fixes seem to be off the agenda of the Rovers management duo as they look at the bigger picture and the longer game.
This week also saw Jamie Forrester go out on loan to Lincoln, a rather strange decision as Lincoln are still our play off rivals. On the one hand, it is good to get those wages off our wage bill, but it does beg the question why have we left ourselves short of cover in that area? We have to have faith in our management to make the right decisions and we all hope this is one of them.
Players glad to leave the pitch at the end on a day better spent in the dry
After poor form from Rovers in the last three weeks, the improbable but not impossible play off hopes received a jump start with a comfortable home win against Mansfield yesterday. The home side welcomed Agogo back after his three match ban and Rovers looked a different side for it. Was it because the three back to back losses made play offs look unlikely and thus reduced the pressure? Was it that the return of Agogo was all that was needed to inspire the players and re-install the confidence they have so obviously been lacking of late? Or maybe Lennie and Trollope read their players the riot act after the below par performances of the last week in an effort to get more from their team. The Rovers side fielded revealed few changes, save for missing Campbell who was too ill to play.
The home side were quick to set about their business, and it was clear from the way Rovers went at the visitors that they meant business. In the opening minutes a chance fell to Agogo, but the ball slipped away from him to safety to the releif of the Stags defence. Rovers continued to pile on the pressure and got their reward, when on 14 minutes Igoe picked up on a loose ball on the edge of the area, turned the ball onot his right foot and slotted home into 'keeper Pressman's top left corner to give Rovers the lead and net his first goal for the club. Within 3 minutes, the advantage was doubled as Igoe played a lovely through ball to Walker who ran on to it, pushed it past the keeper and gave the home side a 2-0 lead, his 18th of the season.
Rovers continued to press and went through a real purple patch where they looked likely to score every time they came forward, with Disley and Elliott going close and Hinton going on some mazey runs forward. Confidence was high now, with Igoe and Haldane working both flanks well. Moments before half time Rovers so very nearly made it three. Haldane picked up a loose ball from a poorly struck clearance, but was unable to beat the experienced Pressman when it all looked so easy from the stands. Agogo was clear and only needed a sideways pass, but with the goal looming Haldane saw his second goal of the season right in front of him.
Half time was scheduled to have a martial arts demonstration but sadly due to the ever worsening conditions it was decided to postpone this for safety reasons. We hope to see it soon.
After the break, it was more action, though the visitors seemed to have a bit more purpose about them now. They started to get quite a bit of ball, something Rovers denied them the first half, and were able to put some moves together to challenge Rover's authority on the match. Even though they were enjoying much more posession now, Scott Shearer was rarely called upon to make any kind of a save and the Pirate's defence looked comfortable. James Hunt picked up a yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Barker. Shearer did get called on to push away a Barker effort, but in the main could have brought a good book out with him to keep him amused for most of the game.
As the match wore on, so the Mansfield attack withered and Rovers started to play themselves back into the ascendancy, with some smart passing and moving. They seemed to win corner after corner and efforts went close from Igoe, Disley and Haldane. Agogo had a golden chance with Pressman stranded 15 yards off his line but just blasted it high, wide and not so handsomely over the corner of the upright. Substitute Ali Gibb had a chance to seal the match near the end as a rebound from a Haldane shot came to him, but he hit the shot just off target to the relief of the Stag's defence.
On a terrible surface worsened by the relentless overnight rain, both teams struggled to get a grip on the pitch let alone on the match itself, though it was entertaining and well managed by the officials. Sammy Igoe was voted man of the match, but in truth there were a number of players who were equally deserving of the award.
277 Mansfield fans maybe deserved better than they saw, but it was a tonic to Rovers to beat a team who have not lost in 8 matches. Only time will tell if it is too late to help get them into the play offs this season.
Gasheads Talk Back
After the match I spoke with Gasheads to get their views on what Rovers did well, what they could improve on and what nominations for man of the match.
Simon from Fishponds said:
I though we looked the stronger side by far today. We went at them at the off and looked like scoring a hatful today. I dont think 6-0 would have flattered us. Sammy Igoe was massive for us and at the heart of many of the good moves forward, chipping in with a brilliant goal and a great pass for Walker. Definitely my man of the match.
Steve from Gloucester Road said:
Igoe was the main man today and showed the doubters exactly why our management wanted him. He was the centre of all the intelligent forward play and even chipped inat the back when needed. Haldane also showed a great attitude today and deserved a goal, though he has to be more aware of when his colleagues are in good goal scoring positions. Hinton impressed with some of his runs deep into their defence too. Igoe man of the match for me, though Haldane a close second.
John from Staple Hill saw it like this:
After a week with decent weather, it was typical that on a day off we would have such a miserable wet rainy day today. I though both teams coped well with the conditions and it was good to see Rovers keep a clean sheet at home. Shearer had little to do, but when called upon made good saves to protect his goal. Aaron Lescott used his pace to good effect today and supported the attack well. He let nothing pass and got Haldane away time after time with good early balls out of defence. As we have come to expect, Hinton and Elliott stood firm in defence, but for me the star man was Igoe who had such great vision today.
Western Daily Press, 27 March 2006
AGOGO SPARKS ROVERS REVIVAL
Bristol Rovers 2 v 0 Mansfield Town
RICHARD Walker hopes normal service has been resumed after Junior Agogo's return for Bristol Rovers.
Forced to operate without his suspended strike partner for the three previous games, leading scorer Walker and his team-mates had found goals at a premium during a trio of successive defeats.
Though Agogo was not to mark his comeback by getting on the scoresheet himself, Walker believes it's more than just coincidental that the Pirates look a much more potent attacking force with him back.
The proof came with a much-needed home win as in-form Mansfield were seen off with a degree of relative comfort, and it's not often Rovers have been able to say that on their own soil this season.
This was the first time they have won by a two-goal margin at the Memorial Stadium in the current campaign - and the only time they did it away was when Carlisle chipped in with two own goals at Brunton Park back in October.
"We did miss Junior and although I don't think we deserved to lose three games in a row while he was out, that's the way it worked out, " reflected Walker.
"Although you work with other people in training, it does take a bit of a while to get used to someone else in there and with him back, it felt familiar again. We've got used to playing alongside each other and it's worked well for us. I was really pleased to score because it had been a while since my last one and Junior had one or two chances as well.
"Maybe he's a bit rusty after being out for a while but he wasn't happy in the dressing room afterwards! I think he was a bit tired towards the end because he's been short of games, but it was good to have him back." Agogo should have been an early beneficiary from Mansfield's defensive uncertainties when Rhys Day missed a fourth-minute Walker cross, but the striker's momentary hesitation as he tried to get the ball out of his feet allowed Jake Buxton enough time to intervene and thwart the close-range opening.
Yet Agogo did play a part in Rovers' 14th-minute opener with a fine crossfield pass which allowed Lewis Haldane the chance to advance down the right. He cut back onto his left foot to deliver a cross which was only half-cleared, and Sammy Igoe drilled in a shot from 20 yards which keeper Kevin Pressman got his hands to but could not keep out of the net.
Having notched his first goal for the club, the on-loan Millwall midfielder turned provider three minutes later. Agogo was struggling to stay onside as Igoe looked to make his pass forward, but Walker was not and broke away to round Pressman before finding the target with an angled finish.
Rovers looked to build on their advantage with Haldane drawing an unconvincing block from Pressman with an angled 20-yarder while Igoe was not far away from a free-kick.
But for all their dominance, it was not until just before the interval that Rovers almost broke through again. This time, Pressman miscued a clearance straight to Haldane four yards out, but the surprised youngster succeeded only in practically walking the ball to the relieved keeper.
It seemed unlikely Rovers would continue to get things all their own way, and Mansfield had their most promising spell either side of the hour mark. But Craig Hinton pulled off a splendid block to foil Stephen Dawson and Scott Shearer reacted smartly to grap Richie Barker's strike.
Agogo, who had tested Pressman twice with shots soon after the interval, glimpsed another good opportunity after 66 minutes but fired wide from 22 yards.
By then, much of the central area of the pitch resembled a swamp as the rain continued, yet Rovers adapted better to the conditions and though content to see out the win, they could have made it three at the death. Haldane's reward for chasing what looked a lost cause was a chance which Pressman beat out, substitute Ali Gibb latching onto the rebound but firing wide from 20 yards.
With four of their remaining seven games at home, the Pirates know they have to deliver more of the same in Horfield to remain in any sort of play-off contention. And two of their next three outings are against sides targeting automatic promotion.
"We seem to raise our game against the better sides and we are going to have to do that to get anything off Wycombe and Carlisle, " Walker acknowledged.
Rovers grabbed an early two-goal cushion and then saw out the rest of a game badly affected by the heavy rain without too many alarms.
Fans View by Mark Thompson
I'VE played a few Sunday parks games in conditions like that but you don't expect to see it too often at professional level!
The pitch was destroyed by the end but we came through the mud with three badly-needed points and a long-awaited home win under our belts.
I don't think there was any doubt we deserved the victory because I thought we looked the better team pretty much throughout.
Mansfield were not really in the game in the first half and the goals came at the right time for us.
Although Mansfield got into it a bit more in the second half, they didn't really look like hurting us.
In fact, I can only really remember Scott Shearer having to make one real save because our defenders got in some good blocks when they had to.
To be honest, I'm getting a bit fed up with all this talk about whether we will or won't make the play-offs.
All we can do is our best and it's still possible for us, but we need a really good run and some other results to go for us.
Sorry Stags' run comes to an end at soggy Rovers
Bristol Rovers 2 Mansfield Town 0
STAGS' slim hopes of gate-crashing the play-off party suffered a setback this afternoon as they crashed to a 2-0 defeat at a muddy Memorial Ground.
Two goals in quick succession from Sammy Igoe and Richard Walker in the opening 17 minutes condemned Peter Shirtliff's men to their first defeat in nine matches.
But the visitors' hopes of stretching their run were dealt a huge blow before a ball had even been kicked when Shirtliff was forced to draft in Rhys Day into the heart of defence in place of Alex Baptiste, who had picked up a knee injury.
Rovers fielded former yellow Craig Disley in their starting 11, which also featured the return of 15-goal striker Junior Agogo from a three-match suspension.
Despite his potency in front of the goal, the Stags went into the game with confidence sky high on the back of their best sequence of results for eight years - and against a Rovers outfit that had lost its previous three matches.
The match began in driving rain but it didn't stop Rovers, with the strong wind behind them, from taking control with Agogo and 17-goal man Walker causing all sorts of problems.
In the fourth minute only a last gasp challenge from Buxton stopped Agogo from slotting home a Walker cross from the right.
Two minutes later Rovers' burly central defender Steve Elliott headed well wide from a Sammy Igoe corner.
And it was the lively Igoe who broke the deadlock in the 14th minute when he had time and space just inside the box to drill home past Kevin Pressman, who could only palm the ball into the roof of the net.
Then just three minutes later things went from bad to worse for the Stags as Walker beat the offside trap to race onto a perfectly weighted Igoe through ball and evade the advancing Pressman to slot the ball home.
An off-balanced Pressman was forced to pull off a reflex save in the 18th minute when, off-balance, he somehow managed to push behind a fierce Igoe drive.
In the 23rd minute Hunt was booked for a late challenge on Uhlenbeek, while just two minutes later Day was shown a yellow card for tripping Agogo on the left edge of the box. From the resulting free kick Igoe flashed a fizzing shot just wide of Pressman's upright.
On the stroke of half-time Lewis Haldane should have put the game out of reach after Pressman kicked D'Laryea's short back pass to him, but the Rovers' winger could only shoot straight at the Stags' keeper from inside the six-yard box.
Buxton completed a miserable opening 45 minutes for Mansfield when he was booked in first half injury time for a foul on Igoe on the left wing.
Four minutes after the break Stags created their first effort when Laurence Wilson's rasping 25-yard drive went wide of Shearer's goal from Uhlenbeek's short free kick.
But Rovers continued to look threatening on the break and the pacey Agogo could have made it three just two minutes later, but shot straight at Pressman after breaking clear of the Mansfield defence.
Stags were showing more purpose in the second half, with Buxton curling a left-foot shot wide on 53 minutes while on 64 substitute Brown was denied by a last gasp tackle as he tried to connect with a Dawson right wing cross.
In the 66th minute Shearer saved a close range effort from 22-goal man Barker, whose eye for goal was once again evident when he quickly latched onto a loose ball following a D'Laryea shot.
Just 60 seconds later referee Mick Russell waved away Agogo's claims for a penalty after falling in the box, while on 68 the Rovers hitman blasted wide from 20 yards.
Brown was booked in the 70th minute for a tackle from behind on ex-Stags man Disley, who was among the few Rovers players that failed to impress.
On 87 Hjelde headed wide from a Dawson corner on the right, while just 60 seconds later Pressman did well to beat out Haldane's fierce drive.
Brown had a rare Stags shot on target well saved by Shearer in the last minute, but the tame nature of his looping effort perfectly summed up a frustrating day at the office for Shirtliff and his men.
ROVERS: Shearer, Carruthers, Elliott, Hinton, Lescott, Igoe, Hunt ©, Disley, Haldane, Walker, Agogo (Gibb 84).
Subs: Edwards, Gibb, Lines, Horsell, Bass.
STAGS: Pressman, Buxton, Uhlenbeek (Coke 61), Day, Jelleyman, Hjelde, Dawson, Wilson (Birchill 77), D'Lareya, Reet (Brown), Barker ©.
Subs: Birchill, White, Coke, Rundle, Brown.
Att 5,253 (277 Stags fans)
Latest | March 2006