Top ten league games in the Stags history

A personal list by Martin Shaw

 

The Stags recent game at Notts County was the 3,000th game in their league history. Here Martin Shaw gives his personal list of the ten best league games in the Stags history, counting down from 10 to 1.  

 

10. 17th April 1965

Hull City, Home, Won 2-1

This game saw the highest league crowd ever at Field Mill: 19,500. Mind you there has been a bigger crowd at Field Mill when over 24,000 saw a cup game against Nottingham Forest in 1953. The Stags won the game against Hull 2-1. It was the penultimate home game of the season, and Harry Middleton scored both of the Stags goals. Middleton had only joined the club in November of the same season, and ended the season with 16 goals from 24 games. But the Stags were to miss out on promotion to Bristol City on goal average: the Stags’ goal average was 1.56, compared to Bristol City’s 1.67.

 

9. 20th May 1963

Stockport County, Away, Drew 1-1

The Stags are promoted on goal average, by 0.118 of  a goal, thanks to a draw away to Stockport on the final day of the season. It was the Mansfield Town's first promotion in the football league. Before the game, the Stags were sitting in fourth place but were just a point ahead of Gillingham. The Stags’ final game was away to Stockport County whilst Gillingham were at home to Oxford, but, in a situation which would not be allowed to happen today, the Gillingham match kicked off an hour before Mansfield’s game. At half time there were no goals at Stockport, but the news came through that Gillingham had beaten Oxford 2-1. The Stags knew that a draw would be good enough to achieve promotion on goal average. Stockport took the lead after 54 minutes, but Mansfield got the all important equaliser after 64 minutes from Sammy Chapman after a crisp pass by Ken Wagstaff cut open the way. The Stags comfortably held on to get a 1-1 draw. And so Stags made it … by a little more than a tenth of a goal. The Stags’ goal average was finally 1.567, Gillingham’s was 1.449.

 

8. 22nd April 1986

Hartlepool United, Home, Won 4-0

The Stags clinch promotion from Division 4 with a thumping 4-0 win over Hartlepool at Field Mill. It ended six years of exile in the bottom division. The hero of the night was striker Keith Cassells who scored two of the goals and created the other two. Cassells stooped to head in the first on 18 minutes. It was 2-0 after 29 minutes when Cassells’ attempted cross was deflected in off Hartlepool defender David Linighan. Cassells made it 3-0 on 68 minutes with a back header from Kevin Kent’s cross and Neville Chamberlain made it 4-0 on 81 minutes, burying a powerful header from Cassells’ cross. Manager Ian Greaves (the club's longest serving manager) declared: “The sky’s the limit. We could go on to great things if everyone gives us the backing. But we need the income from a new stadium to give the club financial security.” A year later, the Stags were to win at Wembley in front of over 58,000 fans.

 

7. 27th December 1932

Rotherham United, Home, Won 9-2

Mansfield set their record league win, over the Millers in 1932 in Football League Division 3 North - their second season in the Football League. Three players scored hat-tricks in the game: Joe Readman, Walter Hoyland and George Bowater.

 

6. 31st May 2004                 

Huddersfield Town, at Millenium Stadium Cardiff, Drew 0-0, Stags lost on penalties.

The club’s first ever appearance in a Play-off final. The Stags were denied promotion by a bad decision by the assistant referee in the very last minute as Colin Larkin's goal was wrongly ruled out, and then the Stags were beaten in the penalty shoot out. This one still hurts, and I can’t bring myself to write any more about it.

 

5. 25th March 1978

Tottenham Hotspur, Home, Drew 3-3

The most memorable game from the Stags’ only season in the old Division 2 (now the Championship).

Mansfield may have been bottom of the division, but they gained a plucky 3-3 draw with Spurs at Field Mill in muddy conditions and were unlucky not to win the game. No-one who was there will ever forget it, especially as the scenes were captured for ever by the ATV Midlands TV cameras. Writing in the CHAD, Stan Searl wrote: "Mansfield Town may well regret several aspects of their first-ever season in Division 2, not least of which must be their inability to stick away vital penalty awards. Pat Sharkey was the villain at White Hart Lane at Christmas when Stags had to settle for a 1-1 draw, and this time it was Dennis Martin who missed. Nevertheless what a great game despite the appalling conditions. A good gate in view of the downpour just before kick-off, and I'll bet that not one of the 12,106 at the game regretted the soaking."  It was Dave Syrett who scored all 3 Stags goals. The last goal after 85 minutes followed a terrible missed kick by Spurs keeper Barry Daines, who later became a Mansfield player. But in the very last minute, Glenn Hoddle chipped a free-kick over the defensive wall to claim an undeserved equaliser for Spurs.

 

4. 14th May 1977

Wrexham, Away, Won 1-0

The Stags win 1-0 at Wrexham to clinch the Division 3 championship in 1977. Wrexham themselves needed a win to claim a promotion place, but the Stags won it with Ernie Moss’s goal in the 89th minute as the Stags finished ahead of everyone's favourites for the title: Brighton and Crystal Palace. It was an afternoon for the 3,500 Mansfield Town fans, and every member of the team and officials at the Wrexham game, to remember for a lifetime - yet one member of the side would have to rely on newspaper cuttings and gossip for his memories of the historic occasion. Stags keeper Rod Arnold was knocked cold right on the half-time whistle, and he could recall little of the preceding 90 minutes as he changed at the end of the game - except that Mansfield had won and were champions, and Ernie Moss scored the winner. It was a super save from Arnold which kept out a Billy Ashcroft header in the 33rd minute. It was left to the old firm of Ernie Moss and Kevin Randall to kill-off Wrexham's hopes of promotion a minute from full-time. Randall eeled his way past his covering defender right on the bye-line, and chipped the ball in for Moss to collect his 20th goal of the season and send the Mansfield contingent of fans behind the goal, wild with delight. Scenes of great emotion after the final whistle as the Mansfield players and fans celebrated their second league title in three seasons.

 

3. 2nd May 1992

Rochdale, Home, Won 2-1

The Stags are promoted from Division 4, on the final day of the season. With one game left, Mansfield were lying one place beneath an automatic promotion spot, two points behind Rotherham and Blackpool. The Stags had to beat Rochdale at Field Mill, and hope that either Rotherham or Blackpool lost.  In front of 5,671, the Stags were unable to break through in a tense first half, but were buoyed by news from Lincoln that Blackpool were losing 1-0, thanks to a penalty from Matt Carmichael. After 48 minutes, the Stags took the lead. Phil Stant tried to hook home a cross from Gary Ford. It was denied on the line by Milner and the ball ran to Ian Stringfellow, who drilled home from close range. Still the tension was unbearable. On 73 minutes, Stant beat the offside trap to reach Ford’s chipped through ball and safely tucked the ball home to make it 2-0. The game entered its final minute at 2-0, with the news that Blackpool were still losing 1-0. To increase the tension, Mark Payne scored for Rochdale, but moments later the final whistle went at Field Mill and the Stags had won. All ears turned to radio commentary from Lincoln. Almost immediately, Lincoln were awarded a penalty, which was again scored by Matt Carmichael. This was followed by a pitch invasion by Blackpool fans, which later transpired to be because of rumours of a Rochdale equaliser at Mansfield. Thankfully of course, those rumours were wrong, but it was fully 8 minutes before the game was re-started for the final 30 seconds, allowing Mansfield to finally celebrate promotion. 

 

2. 20th April 2002

Carlisle United, Home, Won 2-0

The Stags are promoted on the final day of the season, again. Ten years on from 1992 and again the Stags had to win while their closest rival lost. The equation was simple: the Stags had to win and hope that Cheltenham lost at champions Plymouth. And that’s exactly what happened. It was another day that Stags fans will never forget. Both games stood at 2-0 after half an hour and both games remained that way. The Stags made an exhilarating start. Two minutes gone, Andy White provided an excellent flick on, Chris Greenacre glided forward and smacked a drive goalwards which was blocked. The rebound fell to White, who twisted acrobatically and sent in a great volley that Peter Keen tipped over. Five minutes gone. A corner for the Stags. Wayne Corden took a short one to Adam Murray. Murray chipped it in for Greenacre to head it beautifully back into the path of Corden. Corden struck it beautifully and the ball crashed into the net off the underside of the bar and off Ritchie Foran. 29 minutes and Field Mill went into overdrive. Another Corden corner, this time chipped straight into the box. Allen Tankard headed goalwards. Lee Williamson blocked his own team-mate's header. But it fell perfectly for Andy White. He couldn't miss. He nearly did, but it shanked off the edge of his right boot and ended up in the top right hand corner of the net from 2 yards. It didn't matter. For us it was a classic. The entire Stags team apart from Pilks piled on top of White. At the end of the game, boss Stuart Watkiss was raised aloft by jubilant Stags fans in sensational scenes. Later on, Watkiss told the ITV Sport Channel that his day had been “Not bad”, in one of the understatements of all time. He also told the press that “Sometimes it’s your day in football and this was certainly ours. You have got to enjoy moments like these as you never know if they are going to come around again. To see the faces of the fans at the final whistle made all the lows of recent weeks worthwhile.”

 

1. 21st April 1975

Scunthorpe United, Home, Won 7-0

The Stags clinch first ever league title (Division 4) with 7-0 win over Scunthorpe. It was an incredible performance with Ray Clarke scoring two of the goals. Other goals came from legends Terry Eccles, Gordon Hodgson and Kevin Bird, with John Lathan notching two as well. Here's how the goals went in: 1-0, 21 minutes: Ray Clarke snaps up a wayward back-pass and chips the ball round Scunthorpe keeper Mick Norris into the far corner of the net. 2-0, 27 minutes: Norris drops a Sandy Pate long throw-in and with the ball running loose, Gordon Hodgson slams it in. 3-0, 49 minutes: A Hodgson free-kick is headed on by Clarke and Terry Eccles throws himself full length to head in a wonderful goal off the upright. 4-0, 73 minutes: Hodgson's free-kick is only partially cleared and John Lathan's fine shot is turned into the net by Eccles. 5-0, 77 minutes: Clarke steers the ball into the net after a corner from Jimmy McCaffrey. 6-0, 81 minutes: Lathan races out of his own half with the ball and lets fly from 35 yards to leave Norris grasping at thin air. 7-0, 86 minutes: Kevin Bird meets McCaffrey's corner to power-head home the 7th. It was the Stags’ 100th league and cup goal of the season.  The celebrations had begun even before half time, they grew as the goals went thundering in, and overflowed onto the pitch as thousands of excited fans flowed over the barriers at the final whistle with police straining to hold back the crush. It was a wonderful way for skipper Sandy Pate to celebrate his 400th appearance in Mansfield colours and a wonderful way to clinch a title.

 

 

Martin Shaw’s list was originally broadcast on Mansfield 103.2 Radio. You can listen to that broadcast by typing in the link here:  www.Stagsnet.net/Sportstalk040205.mp3

 

Read more about the history of the club in the SSA’s CD: “The History of Mansfield Town FC”, produced by Paul Taylor, Rob Wheldon and Martin Shaw. The CD is available from the SSA online shop at www.Stagsnet.net for just £12 (includes £1 for postage and £1 for paying by credit card). Alternatively send a cheque for £11 (includes £1 for postage) made payable to “SSA” to SSA, PO Box 6430, Kirkby-In-Ashfield, Notts, NG17 8RA. Or visit the SSA Supporters bar on a matchday.

 

If you think there are other games that should have been in the top ten, please write to the editor, and we will print your list in the next edition!