INJURY WORRIES FOR STAGS
Injury worries for Stags
STAGS look set to be without top scorer Liam Lawrence and up to three other first teamers for tomorrow night's trip to Bury (7.45pm).
Lawrence battled on through Saturday's 4-1 defeat at Lincoln with groin and hamstring strains and a sore foot.
He will definitely miss the Bury trip while manager Keith Curle is also sweating on full backs Tony Vaughan and Bobby Hassell, who both picked up hamstring pulls, and midfielder Lee Williamson, who has a stomach illness.
The Bury game is the only match in March that doesn't see Stags up against promotion rivals.
But Curle still expects a tough night from a dogged Bury side who have drawn their last five matches.
"Whatever the result, I can guarantee fans the players will give it their all for the full 90 minutes - unlike Saturday," he said.
"We have watched the video individually and collectively and there were a lot of lessons to be learned in the second half.
"This Bury game is now a vital one for us as we needed a minimum of three points from these two away games.
"We had Bury watched on Saturday and they fought for every ball and covered every blade of grass. They went to Rochdale determined to get a minimum of a point and they did just that.
"They have unccompromising, no-nonsense defenders and won't make it easy for us.
"I can understand why fans were upset on Saturday. But as long as they come to games and pay their hard-earned money, they are entitled to an opinion.
"I knew when I took the job I couldn't please all the people all the time and I've gone from hero to zero in a week.
"But I am the type of character that is set a task and doesn't give in.
"We showed a soft centre at Lincoln which has to stop."
The sides fought out a thriller at Field Mill which ended 5-3 to Stags earlier in the season.
"It was a game in which we were never able to relax," said Curle. "Every time we got two goals in front they pegged us back but it was a very entertaining game.
Curle is continuing to scour the country for new faces, particularly a goalscorer, but has had no luck in time for the Bury trip.
The Shakers have not lost any of their six home games in 2004 and won their previous game before the current five-draw sequence.
Evening Post report from Lincoln game:
THREE MORE POINTS THROWN AWAY
Lincoln City 4 v 1 Mansfield Town
As hundreds of Stags fans left early after witnessing a shocking second-half display at Lincoln, one showed his disappointment by throwing his Mansfield scarf onto the pitch.
It was an act of sheer frustration after witnessing his side throw away another vital three points in the search for promotion and nobody could blame him.
After looking like they had started to turn things around with a passionate, battling 1-0 win against Hull last week, Mansfield were in the same position at half-time, with Liam Lawrence's tenth penalty of the season giving them the advantage.
But when those battling qualities were required again after the break, the Stags players could not summon up the fight or determination to hold onto their lead and looked disorganised at the back.
Lawrence's penalties have played a big part in the club's success this season, many of them turning potential draws into victories.
However, on this occasion it was not going to be enough and in the end the second half display was nothing short of shambolic.
Mansfield simply surrendered at a time when Lincoln began to play some stylish, passing football and Gary Fletcher scored two of his side's four goals to give the home side the points they deserved.
The Stags' back four were caught out on numerous occasions and looked as if they had never played together, failing to keep their shape and win the tackles and headers when it mattered in the second 45 minutes.
Keeper Kevin Pilkington had an off-day, giving away an indirect free- kick in the opening few minutes after picking up a Bobby Hassell back-pass and he was lobbed twice at the end.
He was not on his own and now the same questions are arising about how a team can look so different in two halves of football.
If the first half lacked any fluency, at least it did not lack commitment. But when the call was made at the break to continue where they left off and perhaps up their game, nobody appeared to have been listening.
Both teams did not play the best football in the first half but Tony Vaughan did well to head off the line when Fletcher shot past Pilkington from 15 yards out.
Lawrence then went down dramatically under a challenge from Fletcher ten minutes before the break and he kept his nerve to send Alan Marriott the wrong way, slotting it into the goalkeeper's bottom left corner.
But with 45 minutes between Mansfield and another victory, Lincoln came out and looked much sharper. They played the ball around in a much slicker fashion than their opposition.
And, ten minutes into the second half, the Imps got the equaliser when Kevin Ellison's shot from the edge of the box was blocked by Laurent D'Jaffo, who was just inside his own six-yard box.
The Stags striker was unable to get the ball out from under his feet and Fletcher pounced to drill a shot into the roof of the net.
Then, on 69 minutes, Fletcher scored an excellent solo goal when he raced at the Stags defence before firing into Pilkington's far right hand corner from the edge of the box.
Rather than a real reaction, Mansfield continued to look out of sorts and two minutes later Francis Green beat the offside trap and lobbed the advancing Pilkington from the edge of the box.
And with many of the near 2,000 travelling supporters already making their way out of the stadium, Lincoln hit the bar before substitute Simon Yeo caught out the Mansfield defence.
He got in down the right-hand side of the box with a minute remaining before superbly lobbing Pilkington, who was once again caught off his line.
There have been a few poor performances recently, after which Keith Curle has asked his players to give him a positive reaction in the next game.
The problem is when they do up their performance in the next match, they do not seem to be able to maintain it and a few days later they are back playing, lacking belief and confidence.
They face Bury tomorrow night with a chance to once again put things right.
Some fans, like the one who threw his scarf away, are starting to lose faith.
Tomorrow night is an opportunity for the players to help instil confidence and belief not only for themselves, but for their supporters as well.
Bury v Mansfield Town
Bury manager Graham Barrow will be able to name the same starting XI for the third game running as he has no new injury worries.
The Shakers also have on-loan striker Joe O'Neill available after he recovered from an ankle problem.
Simon Whaley is also back in training but is unlikely to feature, but Lee Unsworth is still some way from making his comeback from a knee ligament injury.
Mansfield manager Keith Curle will welcome central defender Luke Dimech back for the game at Gigg Lane.
The Malta international was a notable absentee during the 4-1 defeat against Lincoln, but is set to take his place in the squad after serving a one-match suspension.
Neil MacKenzie continues his recovery from minor knee surgery although the visit to Gigg Lane may come too soon for the midfielder.
Latest | March 2004