EVENING POST REPORT AND REACTION
GANNON FEARS FANS MAY NOT COME BACK
Evening Post, 31 March 2003
Assistant boss John Gannon fears the Stags may have lost many of their fans after a dismal 5-1 defeat against Peterborough on Saturday.
The home side put in their worst performance under manager Keith Curle and hundreds of Stags fans, among a healthy attendance of 5,653, headed for the exits when the fourth Peterborough goal went in eight minutes from time. Many of those who stayed greeted the final whistle with a loud chorus of boos as the result against one of their relegation rivals left Stags facing a real struggle to maintain their Division Two status.
Stags have now only managed one win in ten games against teams in the bottom seven and Gannon is pleading with the fans to help them defeat Port Vale in another of those games at Field Mill on Saturday.
He said: "It was disappointing to see the fans go but I can understand it in such a game.
"I just hope that we haven't lost them.
"I hope they've seen enough before this to know we are more than capable of doing much better.
"Above all, we need their support to get out of this mess."
Simon Rea was afforded a free header to put Posh into the lead after eight minutes and - despite Mansfield being able to get back on terms with a disputed Wayne Corden penalty eight minutes later - Leon McKenzie was also allowed the freedom of the Stags' penalty area to nod Peterborough back in front.
Ian Hendon doubled their margin with a fortunate chip a minute before half-time and ndy Clarke and Andrew Fotiadis netted late on.
The fifth goal came with Stags down to ten men when Rhys Day was stetchered off with a knee injury after Curle - who came on at half-time after missing the last three games with suspension - had been one of the three substitutes already on the field.
Gannon was left wondering why the team seem unable to play in relegation six-pointers.
He said: "I can't believe how flat we were for such a big game.
"Maybe it was stage fright because we looked jaded all over the pitch.
"So many players had an off day it was impossible to carry that many.
"It was a desperate performance by us. But Peterborough didn't cut us to shreds - we gave it to them.
"The 5-1 score flatters them, but obviously we have a lot to worry about."
The only positive from the match was that Stags did not see any of their relegation rivals stretch away from them.
With Northampton, Huddersfield, Chesterfield and Stockport all losing, Cheltenham without a game and Port Vale drawing at Oldham, they are still only two points behind Carlton Palmer's side, who currently occupy the all-important fifth-from-bottom position.
Mansfield fans have a chance to meet the manager and chairman Keith Haslam at a Fans Forum organised by the Stags Supporters Association, tomorrow.
It takes place in the West Stand Hospitality Suite at 7pm.
DESPERATE STAGS GET A WAKE-UP CALL
Evening Post, 31 March 2003
Mansfield Town 1 V 5 Peterborough United
In analysing Mansfield Town's performances this season, I have tried as hard as possible to stay focused on the big picture.
But, after Saturday, I fear I may have to acknowledge defeat in this respect because there can be no doubt that if this level of performance is repeated until the end of the season then the mission will have failed. They will be relegated.
It was hardly surprising that so many found it not to their taste and made for the exits long before the end.
A "we can see you sneaking out" shout from the visitors would have been inaccurate. They swarmed.
John Gannon was right when he said that individual mistakes contributed to Mansfield's downfall.
The marking for the first two goals was poor, while the third had a touch of good fortune about it.
But that will not have been the reason why so many upped and headed for the car park.
After all, it is not the first time this season they have seen the Stags concede a couple of sloppy goals.
Perhaps the greatest concern was that they offered so little going forward and it is worrying that, in the last five games, they have only scored one goal from open play.
Nothing was created and the forwards and attacking midfielders were left starved.
I have got no problem with the Stags using an approach of direct play.
But a successful adoption of the tactic requires balls to be hit down the channels to get crosses in and, with Peterborough using five across the back, such passageways didn't exist.
It then turned into a series of hopeful punts upfield that were gathered comfortably by the three in the middle, leaving Mark Tyler in the Peterborough goal a virtual spectator.
It was direct play without direction.
There comes a point in every season when a supporter thinks the writing is on the wall and perhaps we were all a little over-confident, the players included, that four wins from the home games remaining would be enough and that the Stags would get them.
It is ironic that it was this time last year that the Stags lost 4-1 at home to Rushden and Diamonds and everyone started thinking about play-offs rather than automatic promotion.
But Stags have been handed a second chance, mainly because none of the teams in the mire - apart from Peterborough - managed to get a decent result on Saturday.
A look at the league table demonstrates that Stockport are only two points ahead of them and a positive result against Port Vale would do wonders.
This result will either be looked upon as a turning point or the beginning of the end, but I thought the Stags had theirs when they put in a limp performance at Cheltenham a few weeks ago.
Relegation will follow more performances of the nature witnessed on Saturday, but they have still got the opportunity to dig themselves out of it and this reverse has to be a big kick up the backside.
Keith Curle is a big one for positives but I am afraid that is about all I can offer. They might have just got away with it.
It's up to the players now to demonstrate that they have got the fight to force their way out of trouble and I am sure they will be anxious to showcase that quality.
Many may ring phone-ins and pepper chatrooms with comments that the Stags are already down, but they are not.
They still have opportunities to bounce back and it is essential that they improve and take them.
There are six games to go and 18 points to play for.
This is a wake-up call and they now have to demonstrate they are worthy of being a Second Division football team.
I'm afraid that simply wasn't the case on Saturday.
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