REPORT FROM COBBLERS SITE
Northampton Town welcomed Mansfield Town to Sixfields for the Division 3 play off semi final first leg. On a warm and sunny afternoon, the Cobblers were cheered onto the field by a noisy and passionate crowd, with the Cobblers fans hoping to see a repeat of the 2-1 victory the Cobblers secured over the Stags on the final day of the league season.
Paul Reid was fit to return after a hamstring injury, but he had to make do with a place on the bench. Eric Sabin was serving a one match ban, and his place in the side went to Derek Asamoah.
The game kicked off in a buzzing atmosphere with 3 sides of the ground bathed in claret, and those fans were quickly applauding as Derek Asamoah curled a 2nd minute shot just fractionally over the bar. Mansfield had their first chance in the 4th minute, but Wayne Corden's curling free kick was held by Lee Harper.
After eight minutes, Derek Asamoah wriggled clear of Rhys Day down the Cobblers left. He was close to the corner of the area when the Mansfield defender hauled Asamoah to the floor, and Day would have been relieved to see just a yellow card waved in his direction by referee Mr Jones.
Day remained at the centre of the action and just a minute later he forced a diving save from Lee Harper with a firm header, while Wayne Corden curled a right footed effort just wide.
The Cobblers went close on nineteen minutes. Martin Smith played a neat ball into the Mansfield area, and after Marc Richards had held off Alex John-Baptiste, he sent in a shot on the turn that was brilliantly clawed away at full stretch by Stags keeper Kevin Pilkington. Richards was close again just two minutes later, sending a spectacular bicycle kick that was just wide of Pilkington's left hand post.
Richards was becoming more and more of a threat, and after holding his marker off his first time shot on twenty seven minutes was straight at Pilkington, while seconds later Martin Smith just couldn't connect with a low cross from Josh Low as the ball rolled agonisingly across the face of goal.
The Cobblers were now dominating, and on thirty three minutes Marc Richards and Derek Asamoah linked well in a move that ended with the former firing a shot just inches over the cross bar.
Against the run of play, the visitors had the lead five minutes before the break. A Liam Lawrence free kick from the right hand side was headed home from six yards by Rhys Day, giving Lee Harper no chance.
At half time an attendance of 6,960 was declared. This was less than the capacity of Sixfields because of a number of factors; seats having been removed on the back row of the Dave Bowen Stand, a sterile area for segregation purposes, unreserved seating in the South Stand meant only 90% of that capacity could be sold, plus there were a number of unsold seats in the wheelchair supporters section, and some pre-ordered tickets were not collected on the day of the match.
Junior Mendes missed a golden chance to double the Stags lead just two minutes into the second half. A long ball from Liam Lawrence found Mendes clear of the Cobblers defence, but his lobbed shot as Lee Harper rushed out went just over the cross bar.
Just before the hour, Lee Harper did well to block a Craig Disley effort from close range after a Tom Curtis shot had caused problems in the Cobblers defence, while seconds later at the other end Rob Ullathorne met Josh Low's cross with a firm header, and after Pilkington had blocked the initial effort, the Stags defence were able to clear the loose ball off the goal line and away to safety.
Colin Calderwood made his first change of the afternoon just after the hour mark, with Tom Youngs replacing Mar Richards. Mansfield responded by putting Neil MacKenzie on for Alex John-Baptiste.
Lee Harper again had to deny Junior Mendes after sixty five minutes after Liam Lawrence had found the Stags striker on the edge of the Cobblers area, but just seconds later the visitors were two up. Tom Curtis fired in a long range shot after the resulting corner had been half cleared, and although Lee Harper did well to save the first effort, Junior Mendes was on hand to fire home the rebound.
John Taylor and Paul Reid came on in a double change for the Cobblers, replacing Martin Smith and Ian Sampson, while for the Stags Colin Larkin replaced Craig Disley.
Keith Curle then made his third change, with Laurent D'Jaffo replacing Junior Mendes, as Chris Hargreaves sent a header in over the cross bar.
Ashley Westwood was shown a red card for hauling Colin Larkin back as he broke clear in injury time but the Cobblers continued to press forward.
Referee Mr Jones blew the final whistle to bring the curtain down on the season at Sixfields, but there is still plenty to be decided when the two sides meet again at Field Mill on Thursday evening.
Cobblers: Harper, Low, Ullathorne, Westwood, Sampson (sub Reid 75), Willmott, Trollope, Hargreaves, Smith (sub Taylor 75), Richards (sub Youngs 61), Asamoah.
Subs not used: Thompson, Reeves.
Mansfield: Pilkington, Hassell, Day, John-Baptiste (sub MacKenzie 64), Eaton, Lawrence, Curtis, Williamson, Corden, Disley (sub Larkin 77), Mendes (sub D'Jaffo 84).
Subs not used: White, Artell.
Referee: Mr M Jones
Booked: Day (8), Trollope (44), D'Jaffo (90)
Sent off: Weetswood (90)
Latest | May 2004