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Archived News from March 2004

29th March 2004 18:54

Stags begin bid for home hat-trick
CHAD website
PROMOTION-chaisng Mansfield Town begin a make-or-break spell of three home games in eight days with the visit of in-form Torquay United tomorrow night (Tuesday, 7.45pm).
Stags are full of renewed confidence after Saturday's sterling point at rivals Yeovil Town.
But, Torquay, six points ahead of Stags in fourth place having played one game more, will be a tough nut to crack.
The Gulls are unbeaten in eight games, have won nine and only lost once in 13 matches and, away from home, are unbeaten in seven.
"Yes, it's another massive game - but all nine are massive now between now and the end of the season," said manager Keith Curle.
"Every game will be approached the same. Not one is bigger than the others.
"It should be a super game of football tomorrow as both sides like to play the game in the right way and Torquay are going well. But one defeat and you sometimes find a club can hit a dodgy patch.
"It's another opportunity for us to go out and perfom. We can take another step in the right direction.
"Football-wise there's not much between the sides. I think it will be whichever side can adapt to the more 'horrible' side of the game that will win it."
Stags defender Alex John-Baptiste was back in training today after recovering from the concussion which forced him out of Saturday's 1-1 draw at Yeovil at half-time.
But, although his back problem has improved, the Torquay game will probably come too soon for striker Laurent D'Jaffo.
Torquay will add 19-year-old Irish left winger Daryl McMahon to their squad. McMahon arrived on loan from West Ham on deadline day last week.
Tickets from the original date for this game are still valid.
The match was called off just before kick-off on Tuesday, 2nd March after a late drop in temperature saw the pitch freeze.
Evening Post on Monday:

Yeovil Town 1 v 1 Mansfield Town

Before kick-off there was a feeling among the Mansfield fans that this game could make or break the season.

One point separated the two clubs and, if the Stags lost, they would slip out of the play-off places and the mental blow could have been catastrophic.

However, those who doubted whether Mansfield had the fight to grind out a result were firmly put in their place.

After two games of getting back to basics by playing some attractive football at home, the Stags demonstrated they had the guts for the promotion fight by showing real nerve and grit to earn a point from a difficult away trip.

The character was there, the commitment, the determination and most of all, the belief.

At times the play was a little sloppy, with passes going astray and players caught in possession.

And it was Yeovil who had the better of the chances, taking the lead on the hour.

But instead of caving in after conceding a goal, they fought back and in the end Rhys Day powered a header home to equalise.

Now they have six home games out of the last nine to carry this on and mix entertaining football with the determination to move up the table.

Keith Curle also got his tactics right, playing with on-loan striker, Junior Mendes, to get bodies behind the ball and try and hold off the threat of Yeovil on the attack.

Admittedly, the players did have some luck, with Bobby Hassell not penalised for pulling down Kevin Gall in the box early in the game.

But the players were brave and worked tirelessly, confident they would get a goal.

When it did come, it followed the introduction of young striker Chris Beardsley, who had been missing for several months as a result of new players coming in.

Beardsley put himself about and got at the defenders and it unnerved them, eventually leading to the Stags goal.

If anything, his enthusiastic performance now gives Curle another option as Stags prepare for a run of four games in the next two weeks.

But Mansfield did have a golden opportunity to take the lead in the opening minute.

Mendes was played in down the right and after squaring across the six-yard box to the unmarked Craig Disley, the Stags midfielder scuffed his shot wide.

Neil Mackenzie then had a 20-yard effort come back off the upright before Yeovil started to take charge.

Lee Johnson twice went close and Gall had a close-range effort well saved by Kevin Pilkington before the break.

At half time, with Alex John-Baptiste injured, Curle took the unusual option of putting Bobby Hassell in at centre-half and midfielder Lee Williamson came on at right-back, despite having a natural centre-back in Dave Artell on the bench.

Williamson had filled in well at left-back in midweek and the tactic worked, with both looking solid in the second half.

Tom Curtis then had a close-range effort saved by Steve Collis after he met Mendes' cross from the right, but on 61 minutes the home side took the lead.

Johnson swung in a corner from the right and it was met by Terry Skiverton, who headed into Pilkington's bottom right corner.

Mansfield refused to give in and Wayne Corden had an excellent free- kick tipped over the bar by Collis before the Stags got their deserved equaliser on 78 minutes.

Liam Lawrence fired an excellent 25-yard shot and Collis could only push it away to his left. But Corden got to it and put in a good cross for Day, who came charging into the box before hammering the ball home in front of the Stags fans.

He reacted as if he had just scored the winner in a cup final, jumping into the crowd, but every player knew a draw would be a magnificent result and keep everyone in a positive frame of mind.

It was far from a fancy display, but it was full of all the attributes the manager and the fans wanted to see.

Everyone seems up for the fight and the doubters were more than happy to be proved wrong.

Keith Curle said he feels the belief is now back in his side after they fought back to earn a precious point at Yeovil.

The 1-1 draw keeps the Stags in the play-off places and with a game in hand going into tomorrow night's match with Torquay at Field Mill.

Curle said: "It was important we came away with something. It would have been a long journey home without a point.

"It looks like we are getting that belief back again.

"For the last five or six weeks when we have gone behind it could have been three or four.

"We know we have a goal in us, but young players tighten up sometimes.

"We never asked them to do anything different, but sometimes they took the easy way out and treated the ball like a hand grenade with the pin out.

"The trick is getting them to relax and enjoy their football without becoming sloppy.

"Success and simplicity go hand in hand.

"That was a good, entertaining game of football when you consider what was at stake.

"Both teams had their chances and both teams played the sort of football they wanted to play.

"Overall it was played at the right tempo."

The Mansfield manager was delighted with the second-half displays of Bobby Hassell at centre-half and Lee Williamson at right-back, both of which were playing out of their natural positions.

Alex John-Baptiste complained at the interval of feeling dizzy and sick after a clash of heads and that prompted the change.

Curle said: "Knowing Alex as I do I know he would have stayed out there if he could have done.

"But he was suffering double vision and I had to replace him.

"The easy option would have been to put Dave Artell on as a natural central defender.

"But I was a bit worried about the pace of Kevin Gall down the centre for them.

"I thought it was an accomplished performance by Bobby while Lee is a natural footballer who I feel can play anywhere on the park.

"It was a magnificent goal by Rhys Day as well.

"He has that aggression in him and when the ball is in the air he wants to win it and get a head on it."


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