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YOU'RE HAVING A LAUGH, REF!
Torquay Herald Express
Gulls boss Leroy Rosenior slammed referee Tony Leake and his match officials after Torquay United's 1-2 defeat against promotion rivals Mansfield Town at Field Mill last night.
Mr. Leake, whose late postponement of the original match three weeks ago had caused such anger among supporters, turned down a big penalty appeal for a foul on David Graham in the second half.
United, who stay in fourth place after their first defeat in nine games, were punished for a bad start in which they conceded two goals in the first ten minutes.
Martin Gritton fired them back into the match in the 16th minute, but in one of the best matches of the season, the Gulls could not quite force the equaliser.
Liam Rosenior even had a stoppage-time effort cleared off the line with Mansfield goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington beaten.
Both managers - Rosenior and Stags boss Keith Curle - stormed after Mr. Leake at the final whistle, but Rosenior followed up afterwards by saying: "It was a great game of football between two good sides, but it was a shame that the referee and two officials spoiled it.
"We had a stonewall penalty in the second half, and Martin Gritton was also onside when he was going clear, but the linesman was watching the ball all through the game.
"It's really poor, and if they don't do something about it, it's shocking.
"It's laughable, but it's not funny. Some of the decisions were atrocious, for both sides, but the key ones went against us.
"I'm still proud of my players and their performance, and we deserved something from the game.
"It's a setback, but that's all it is."
Curle paid tribute to United, describing them as "the best football team that's visited Field Mill this season."
He added: "There were a lot of positives, from both sides."
NO DISGRACE AS GULLS ARE EDGED OUT IN A THRILLER
Torquay Herald Express
Promotion rivals Mansfield Town inflicted Torquay United's first defeat in nine games, making the most of two goals in the first ten minutes, in a belting match at Field Mill last night.
Apart from their slow start, which saw Colin Larkin and Junior Mendes both score for the Stags, United played their full part in a contest which was far above Third Division quality.
Martin Gritton's 16th minute goal hauled the Gulls back into contention, and from then on they were the better side.
Referee Tony Leake controversially turned down what looked like a clear penalty on Gulls striker David Graham in the second half.
And in stoppage time Liam Rosenior had a certain goal cleared off the line.
One down in two minutes at Darlington three days before, United gave themselves the proverbial mountain to climb when they found themselves 0-2 behind in ten minutes last night.
There was nothing to reproach themselves for with the opener. Neil MacKenzie's shot, from a half-cleared corner and follow-up cross by left-winger Wayne Corden, was going well wide when Colin Larkin swung his boot at it from 12 yards and the ball spun into the net past a hopelessly wrong-footed Kevin Dearden.
As if that wasn't bad enough, United were still trying to pull themselves together when they let in another goal - and this time it should have been stopped.
Town full-back Bobby Hassell hit a long ball down the right, Craig Taylor appeared to have the situation under control until he stumbled under pressure from Junior Mendes.
It was enough for Mendes to nip away from the Gulls' captain, and he looked up before volleying over Dearden from just inside the box.
It was vital that United establish a foothold in a match that was threatening to run away from them, and they did only six minutes later.
Gritton, preferred to Jo Kuffour up front, nodded down Brian McGlinchey's free-kick from the left, David Graham's first shot was parried by Kevin Pilkington, but Gritton side-footed the loose ball home.
From being in danger of losing before they had started, United were suddenly up and running.
Lee Canoville and Liam Rosenior were combining well on the right, and in the 23rd minute Kevin Hill had a goalbound volley blocked from Alex Russell's right-wing corner.
Three minutes later, in a near-rerun of Mansfield's first goal, Mendes hit the post, swinging his boot at a Wayne Corden shot which United had covered. Again Dearden had no chance.
Taylor made sure that Mendes did not get in behind him again, and up front United increasingly threatened Mansfield's offside trap.
One decision against Gritton was laughable, for Town defender Tony Vaughan had dropped off his back line and was clearly playing at least two United forwards onside.
Hill had made one or two careless mistakes on the ball, potentially costly in such a high-quality match, and he was replaced by Kuffour at half-time.
Kuffour's pace and spirit troubled Mansfield throughout the second half and stopped the attacking forays of Hassell at the same time.
In the 55th minute, with United giving it everything, Rosenior hit the post, from a slick Graham-Gritton build-up.
Kuffour followed up, his shot was tipped round the post by Pilkington, but referee Leake gave a goal-kick.
In one desperate spell, United had three shots blocked in quick succession, but Mansfield then broke on them and Mendes fired over when he should have hit the target.
In the 63rd minute Mr. Leake gave one of the most crucial decisions of the night.
Graham had the retreating Mansfield defence in big trouble, he got into the box, turned cleverly, appeared to have his legs taken by Rhys Day and United fans behind the goal howled for a penalty.
When Mr Leake waved play on, Rosenior was so angry that he stormed out of the technical area, leaped over the fence and watched from the back of the Press Box for a few moments, to calm himself down as much as anything.
He was back to send on Tony Bedeau for Matt Hockley, switching Rosenior Jr into the middle of midfield with Bedeau on the right wing.
Gritton had a goal disallowed for offside, another tight decision but probably just right, as United drove forward in search of the equaliser.
Mansfield were sharp enough to punish them on the counter.
And in the 78th minute Taylor, under pressure on the ball in his own area, was robbed by substitute Andy White.
He slipped a square ball to Mendes and his shot was odds-on to score before Dearden got down to pull off a magnificent save and push the ball round the post.
Kuffour and Canoville both fired over, Mendes had a penalty shout of his own turned down and the action swept from end to end in an enthralling contest.
Then, in stoppage time, Gritton helped on Steve Woods' long ball from defence.
Rosenior dashed clear and his toepoke beat Pilkington but defender Alex John-Baptiste somehow scrambled back to hook the ball off the line.
So, so near...
CURLE ADMITS TO FINAL WHISTLE RELIEF
Mansfield Town 2 v 1 Torquay United
Junior Mendes ended his goal drought and Colin Larkin fired home after just four minutes as Mansfield moved into the top six.
This was a much-needed win for manager Keith Curle, especially against a side also challenging for a play-off place.
And his relief was evident at full time.
Curle said: "It was a cracking game between two teams who want to play football the right way. It was a massive game and winning has given us a big boost. We needed this result.
"Credit to Torquay, I told their manager they were the best footballing team to visit Field Mill this season. I told my two strikers that I needed goals from them and they set their stall out as both scored in the first ten minutes to set the tone.
"Torquay's goal was down to bad marking but I don't want to talk about negatives after a performance like that."
CURLE'S PEP TALK WORKS WONDERS
Shortly before the game got under way, Colin Larkin and Junior Mendes were called into the manager's office.
The pair had been chosen to lead the line, but with Mendes without a goal in 19 games and Larkin only playing a bit-part of late and not being on the scoresheet since Boxing Day, Keith Curle decided to sit them down for a chat.
He assured them not to worry about their lack of goals in the past but to have the confidence to get him at least one each against Torquay.
He told them they had been performing well and if they believed in themselves and got at the visitors early, they would succeed.
That talk worked wonders, with both striking a goal apiece in the opening ten minutes - enough to gain a precious three points against fourth-placed Torquay who had lost just once in their previous 13 games.
At the other end of the pitch, 18-year-old Alex John-Baptiste's own heroics in clearing an attempt off the goal line had prevented a certain equaliser in the dying moments.
Liam Rosenior, the son of Gulls manager Leroy, had put the ball past Pilkington in the third and final minute of injury time after getting in behind the defence, but John-Baptiste raced back to hook it clear.
It capped off a brave and polished team effort against Torquay, who were by far the best footballing side to visit Field Mill this season.
In the end, the Stags had to hold on and put bodies behind the ball to ensure they took all three points, but it could not have got off to a better start.
After dominating the opening minutes, Wayne Corden produced some great footwork on the left byline before crossing to Neil MacKenzie on the edge of the box.
But when his mis-hit shot flew into the path of Larkin, the striker hit it first-time from 12-yards out on the left and curled it into the right corner, leaving Torquay keeper Kevin Dearden with no chance.
And on ten minutes, Bobby Hassell played a long ball down the right to Mendes who produced a great touch to get in behind Craig Taylor and, despite the defender's efforts to pull him back, he produced a great lob from the edge of the box to extend the lead.
Liam Lawrence then shaved the crossbar with a shot, but on 16 minutes the visitors were back in the match.
Torquay's top scorer, David Graham, latched onto a loose ball in the box and Pilkington produced a great save, but the rebound fell to Martin Gritton who bundled it in from six yards.
Graham had another effort from the edge of the box seconds later but Pilkington dived to his left to produce a great save.
Stags had a chance to extend their lead midway through the half, Mendes hitting the post from a Lawrence corner.
Just after the interval, Lawrence cut in from the left onto his right foot and from a tight angle curled it inches over the bar.
But Mansfield were lucky not to lose their lead on 51 minutes.
John-Baptiste put in a good tackle in the box, but the ball fell to Jo Kuffour and with a free shot on goal he hit the post before putting his follow-up shot into the side netting.
With ten minutes remaining, however, the Stags should have wrapped up the game.
Substitute Andy White dispossessed Taylor on the edge of the Torquay box and from the right pulled it back to the unmarked Mendes, but his close-range shot was superbly saved by Dearden.
And with two minutes to go, Mendes hooked the ball over the last defender and from three yards out was pulled back by Lee Canoville, but the referee waved play on.
It was a crucial three points for Stags made all the better by Lincoln and Doncaster both dropping two points last night.
Strikers Iyseden Christie and Laurent D'Jaffo may still be out injured, but with Larkin and Mendes back on the scoring trail, the confidence is back on a high.
Stags soar into sixth spot
MANSFIELD Town made the perfect start to their three successive home games in eight days with a crucial 2-1 win over promotion rivals Torquay United last night.
That saw Stags leapfrog Lincoln City, held 0-0 at struggling Macclesfield, into sixth place, five points off the automatic top three promotion places.
Although all the goals came inside the first 16 minutes, last night's clash at Field Mill had the 4,552 crowd on the edge of their seats from first kick to last.
Strikers' goal droughts ended as Colin Larkin's first goal since Boxing Day and Junior Mendes' first goal since 15th November shot down the Gulls.
But equally pleasing was a mature performance in the centre of defence by Alex John-Baptiste, just turned 18, who also produced a match-saving goal line clearance in stoppage time at the end.
Delighted Stags boss Keith Curle said: "That was a cracking game between two teams trying to play football the right way.
"It was a massive game and winning it has given us a massive boost. We needed not only the result but also a continuation of our improved form which we got.
"Credit to Torquay. I told their manager at the end that they were the best footballing team to visit Field Mill this season"
Curle had demanded goals from Larkin and Mendes beforehand and they didn't let him down.
"I told my two strikers before the game that I needed goals from them and they set their stall out as both scored in the first 10 minutes to set the tone for us. I was very pleased for them both," he said.
"Torquay's goal was down to a bit of indecision and bad marking but I won't go on about negatives after a performance like that."
Torquay manager Leroy Rosenior, a friend of Curle, also thought the match had been a memorable spectacle but was less than happy with the officials' performances.
"It was a great game of football between two good sides and it was just a shame it was spoilt by the referee and two linesmen," he said.
"I was delighted with our performance. We were up against it after letting in those two early goals. But after we pulled one back we bossed the game and deserved to get something out of it.
"But there were some shocking decisions. We had a cast iron penalty turned down and Gritton was not offside either. Something has to be done about it, it's beyond a joke.
"But I am proud of my side. They gave me everything they had."
Leaders Doncaster Rovers needed a last minute equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw at Rochdale last night.
Super Stags pip rivals in thriller
MAGNIFICENT Mansfield ended promotion rivals Torquay United's eight-match unbeaten run in a full-blooder thriller at Field Mill last night.
Stags, desperate for three points to get themselves back in the promotion hunt after four games without a win, were up against an in form Torquay side who were also unbeaten in seven away games.
But Stags had the Gulls' feathers flying with two goals in the first 10 minutes fro Colin Larkin and Junior Mendes.
But Martin Gritton pulled one back on 16 minutes, and the visitors had a goal disallowed, struck a post, and saw Alex John-Baptiste make an amazing stoppage time goal line clearance to preserve three crucial and hard-earned points.
That set mansfield up nicely for the visits of Cambridge and Oxford on Saturday and Tuesday.
Both sides made changes up front with Larkin in for Disley to partner Mendes for Mansfield and Gritton replacing Kaffour for the visitors.
Larkin won Stags a fourth minute corner and it eventually resulted in his fifth goal of the season as Stags made the perfect start.
The corner was cleared as far as Corden who beat a defender before crossing into the danger area again. When that was cleared to MacKenzie just outside the box, he met it with a sweet volley that Larkin changed the direction of en route, turning it just inside the far post from 10 yards.
United replied immediately with a dangerous corner from the right that Stags eventually cleared.
But Stags swept into a 2-0 lead in the 10th minute. Hassell knocked the ball long down the right and Taylor looked favourite to beat Mendes to the ball.
But the Stags striker whipped the ball away from the defender as he dithered and then, spotting Dearden advancing from his line, perfectly lobbed him from 16 yards - his ninth goal of the season and first in 19 appearances since Carlisle away last November.
Mendes set up MacKenzie for a first time effort well over as confidence bubbled for the home side who followed that with two successive corners.
From the second, MacKenzie had a shot charged down and Lawrence was inches over with a follow-up.
Torquay needed a quick reply and got it on 16 minutes with a goal from Gritton.
The Gulls put a free kick into the Mansfield box which saw Graham's blast superbly saved by Pilkington.
But he was unable to do anything about the follow-up as Gritton tucked home from seven yards.
Two minutes later a shot on the turn by Graham brought a low save from Pilkington.
And, from their second corner, Torquay almost struck again as a powerful Hill volley went through a crowd of players before striking Vaughan right in front of goal.
The thrills continued as Mansfield won a corner which saw Corden have a shot blocked and then, as United struggled to clear, Mendes got in a low effort that came back off a post.
Back roared Torquay and Rosenior's cross from the right picked out Graham who should have done better than glance a header wide of the far post.
Mansfield finished the half in the ascendancy, taking their corner tally to six and enjoying lengthy spells of probing possession without further testing Dearden.
Kuffour replaced Hill for the visitors for the second half.
Stags immediately won a corner which was taken short and MacKenzie wriggled through three tackles before passing to Lawrence who flashed a shot just over the far angle.
But Torquay began to find their feet again and Gritton nipped in behind the defence to fire against a post on 51 minutes with Kuffour blasting the follow-up into the side netting.
Already upset at a couple of refereeing decisions, this close shave proved too much for visiting manager Leroy Rosenior who took refuge in the press box to calm down for a few minutes.
MacKenzie volleyed another half clearance well wide from 20 yards as Stags managed an attack of their own.
Lawrence then had penalty appeals refused after a thundering tackle by Taylor was rightly deemed fair.
Torquay had a couple of shots charged down before Stags broke quickly through Corden who set Mendes loose. He took on McGlinchey before firing a crisp finish just over the bar.
Corden himself came close shortly afterwards with a low shot from 25 yards that skidded just wide of the near post.
It was United's turn to appeal for a penalty on 63 minutes as Graham went down under Day's challenge. Again the referee didn't want to know and Hassell clashed angrily with Graham as the play continued.
Mendes broke brilliantly down the right, beating one man. But, with two team mates unmarked on the far post, he inexplicably turned back into trouble and ran the ball into touch.
Torquay increased their firepower on 66 minutes with Bedeau joining the action in place of Hockley.
The visitors won a free kick in a menacing position, centrally just outside the box. But Russell curled it harmlessly wide.
That signalled the arrival of White for Larkin for the last 19 minutes.
Nerves were starting to jangle as the clock ticked down.
And Stags were delighted to see and offside flag raised on 77 minutes as Rosenior and Graham nipped through a square back line and Graham took the pass to poke past Pilkington.
Mendes should have sealed it for Stags on 79 minutes. White robbed Taylor on the right of the box and squared to the unmarked Mendes. But six yards from goal and with only the keeper to beat, Dearden just managed to turn it wide.
Disley and Williamson joined the action near the end for Corden and MacKenzie.
Some desperate defending by Mansfield ended with Canoville volleying well over from 25 yards.
Mansfield replied with a corner which saw Lawrence drill the ball across the face of goal.
Stags were denied what looked a good penalty appeal as Disley set up Mendes in front of goal only to see Canoville's arm go across his chest and halt him.
Curle was furious and had to be calmed down by the referee.
Stags pulled off the great escape in stoppage time as Rosenior poked the ball past Pilkington, only to see John-Baptiste appear from nowhere to clear off the line.
MANSFIELD: Pilkington, Hassell, Day, John-Baptiste, Vaughan, Lawrence, Curtis, MacKenzie (Disley 83), Corden (Williamson 80), Mendes, Larkin (A. White 71). Subs not used: Artell, Beardsley.
TORQUAY: Dearden, Canoville, Woods, Taylor, McGlinchey, Rosenior, Russell, Hockley (Bedau 66), Hill (Kuffour h/t), Gritton, Graham. Subs not used: Van Heusden, Woozley, Hazell.
REFEREE: Tony Leake of Stoke.
SCORERS: Mansfield - Larkin 4; Mendes 10. Torquay - Gritton 16.
CAUTIONS: Mansfield - A. White 74 (kicking ball away)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Alex John-Baptiste.
Latest | March 2004