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Archived News from September 2004

13th September 2004 14:17

Evening Post, 13 September 2004
Cambridge United 2 v 2 Mansfield Town

Keith Curle says the right mental attitude is one of the reasons his team is in the top seven. After successive 4-1 wins, Saturday's 2-2 draw at Cambridge saw a different kind of performance from the Stags.

But they continue to adapt to the requirements game-by-game and showed they can battle when needed.

Mansfield won a memorable match at the Abbey Stadium last season.

They finished the contest with nine men, Curle was fined £500 and a Cambridge steward was arrested and later sacked for fighting with Mansfield fans.

There was not the same level of controversy this time, but there was still plenty of action.

And the Stags showed a determination and commitment to the cause which saw them respond twice to going a goal down.

Curle kept faith with the same 11 which had bagged eight goals in two games, with Jason White the only change on the bench following Lee Williamson's midweek move to Northampton - thought to have earned Stags a £20,000 fee.

Stylish passing and free-flowing football were less in evidence than in the win against Northampton, but team spirit was in abundance as Stags scrapped hard to claim a point.

Colin Larkin rarely got a look-in but the division's joint top-scorer still managed to be in the right place at the right time to net his sixth goal of the campaign.

Neil MacKenzie typified the visitors' resilience. It was not the midfielder's best game for the Stags this season, but he was prepared to battle for the cause.

After seeing his powerful strike rattle the bar and post, he made no mistake with a 20-yard strike to earn Mansfield a point.

All four goals against Northampton came from open play, but the set play was king for Stags this time and Dave Artell and Rhys Day played their part as U's keeper Shaun Marshall had a game to forget.

Both Stags goals came as a result of Artell and Day putting pressure on Marshall and it was that kind of attitude which secured a point for Curle's men.

It was a 14-man triumph, with substitutes Joe O'Neill, Tom Curtis and Adam Murray playing their part as Cambridge threatened to snatch a winner.

And, although Larkin and Derek Asamoah were below par compared to some of their other displays this season, the strike duo are forging a highly-productive partnership.

Already up to eight goals between them before Saturday's trip to Cambridgeshire, they continued their ever-present status as a pairing and another goal added to their growing reputation as one of the most dangerous strike forces in the division.

They worked hard throughout, and the Stags' equaliser was a good example of how a team can profit even if things are not going their way.

The home side played well. New signing Dennis Oli gave them the lead for the game's first set piece goal and they were good value for a draw.

But Curle's men mean business this season and their first-half endeavour paid off in the 44th minute.

Marshall and his defenders couldn't deal with Scott McNiven's deep free kick, and the ball dropped invitingly inside the six-yard box after Day challenged the Cambridge keeper.

Larkin was in the right place to force the ball goalwards and Asamoah tried his hardest to make sure the ball crossed the line.

It was Larkin's goal, but it was that kind of determination in the windy conditions which earned praise from Curle after the game.

He didn't mind too much that the home side's second goal came after a Stags attack had broken down. He preferred to focus on the character his players showed to equalise twice.

After Larkin went close to giving the Stags a 2-1 lead, Oli broke down the right and crossed for Jermaine Easter to restore the U's advantage.

MacKenzie kept his head up after being denied a stunning equaliser in the 58th minute and, just four minutes later, he grabbed the leveller. McNiven sent in another deep free-kick, Day and Artell went up with the keeper again, and MacKenzie lashed in from 20 yards.

It was that sort of game.

Evening Post, 13 September 2004
How times have changed. In the corresponding fixture last season, Keith Curle was sent off and fined £500.

After Saturday's game he praised the referee.

And the Stags boss admits his side were given the benefit of the doubt for at least one of their two goals.

"Our goals came from set plays that we work on," said Curle. "The referee was a little bit lenient because he allowed body contact, but Colin Larkin was sniffing in the six-yard box and he' s going to get little tap-ins like that.

"It was a great goal from Neil MacKenzie and he was very unfortunate with another strike - it was an absolute cannon."

Curle was pleased with the way his side adapted to the windy conditions and the opposition to secure a point.

"We showed the battling qualities we needed. Our best chance ended up with them breaking to score their second goal.

''But the character shown by the players to come back from going behind twice and the purpose in our play was fantastic."

Hopes had been high among the travelling Stags contingent that their team could claim a third win of the season against a Cambridge side who are struggling at the wrong end of the table.

But Curle said: "In the early stages of the season I don't take a lot of notice of the table.

"It's all about the performance levels and we showed another side to our game with a battling performance. We came away from home, scored two goals and didn't lie down.

"The players are a little bit disappointed because they think we could have played a bit more, and I thought their two goals were poor goals for us to concede.

"But on the back of two 4-1 victories and two good performances, it is important in your next away game to make sure you don't get beaten.''

Evening Post, 13 September 2004
Dave Artell says Mansfield showed one of their best qualities in abundance at Cambridge on Saturday - character.

The no-nonsense defender was indirectly involved in both Stags goals, going up for free-kicks to cause problems in the opposition box.

And Artell, an ever-present so far, says the determination the players showed to earn a point will be a key factor this season.

"The conditions dictated that it wasn't going to be the prettiest of games," he said.

"It was quite breezy and it was difficult at times, but you have to come to places like Cambridge and dig out a result.

"We were confident of winning it and there's still room for improvement, but we were pleased to come away with a point.

"You'll take goals however they come. Both our goals came from free-kicks from the halfway line. Larks and Macca picked up the second ball and we got joy that way.

"The most pleasing thing was that we had the fight to come back and equalise twice. That's the sign of a good side.

"It doesn't matter where you are in the league, you need that steel in the side and we've got it this season.''

Evening Post, 13 September 2004
Joe O'Neill had mixed feelings after helping his side secure a point.

The on-loan striker said: "We were a bit disappointed we didn't get a win but at the same time we are happy to take a draw.

"They are a decent team and it was a hard-fought game.

"It wasn't a great game but we just dug in and scrapped for a point, which is what it's all about.''

O'Neill says morale and team spirit is high in the Stags' camp.

"The lads are confident at the moment, especially after the two 4-1 wins.''

Evening Post, 13 September 2004
Cambridge boss Herve Renard was at a loss for words to explain how his side had again failed to win.

The Frenchman apologised to the media who gathered to interview him after the game for his air of disbelief .

In the words of Victor Meldrew, he repeated several times: "I don't believe it."

His best explanation was that his side dropped two points because goalkeeper Shaun Marshall made two mistakes.

"It's impossible to win, impossible," said Renard.

"We only have one point. It's not the defence, it's two mistakes by the goalkeeper.

"I'm terrible maybe, but it's impossible. I'm sorry.

''The players played very well, they fought very well, they did everything very well, and they need to continue."

Renard was at least happy that Dennis Oli had made a good impression on his debut.

"He is a good player because he has the ball in space and he's here for the team.

"He had a very good game but it was not only Dennis, I think it is congratulations to all the players.

''I am sure the win will come. When I look at the table our position is very bad.

Now it is finished and now you prepare for the next game.''


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