EVENING POST REPORT AND REACTION
Steve Hartshorn's Observer report:
A goal five minutes from time by Stags hot shot, Colin Larkin proved enough to beat Rochdale at Field Mill last weekend.
The in form centre forward scored his 7th goal in 7 games as The Stags moved up to 4th place in Coca Cola League Two.
Keith Curle made just one change from the side which had earned a draw at Cambridge the previous week, Tom Curtis coming into midfield, whilst Rhys Day was dropped to the bench, Alex John-Baptiste taking up position alongside Dave Artell in the Stags defensive centre.
Rochdale who have gained more points away from home this season, clearly set out their stall to come for a point, playing a 4-51 formation with former Stag, Jamie Clarke playing in the centre of their midfield.
The first quarter of the game proved to be a dire encounter with neither side threatening although Rochdale with their in form front man, Grant Holt who started just one goal behind Larkin in the League's goalscoring charts, set up a chance for Dale's Brain Cash; fortunately the midfielder, playing his last game of his months loan from Nottingham Forest, failed to get the ball under control and the chance was gone.
The game was going along in fits and starts and it wasn't until the 20th minute where the Stags created the best chance of the game. A free kick from MacKenzie, some 40 yards from goal was cleverly slid towards Larkin. He then smartly left behind his defensive marker to give him a clear run at the Dale goal, but with the angle tight, Neil Edwards in the Rochdale goal pushed his effort wide for a corner.
Stags then began to turn on the pressure and after being fed by Larkin, Asamoah was denied by Edwards when his effort was pushed past the post.
Stags were denied what looked a perfectly good goal on the half hour mark when following a MacKenzie cross, Dave Artell rose to powerfully head the ball home. Unfortunately the goal was ruled out for what seemed, offside.
It was then the turn of Colin Larkin to go close. After being fed the ball from Asamoah, Larkin went on a jinking run but his effort ended just wide of the left hand post.
On 38 minutes a mix up in the Dale defence presented Larkin with a chance to open the scoring but a combination of Edwards in goal and the Dale defence denied him and when the ball fell conveniently at the feet of Asamoah, he blazed well over with the goal at his mercy.
Right on the stroke of half time, Larkin played the ball through to Corden who in turn found Asamoah. The speedy Stags front man raced on towards goal but shot tamely at the Keeper.
The 2nd half continued in the same dour vain as the first with both sides struggling to stamp their authority on the game.
Around the 68th minute the visitors began to impose themselves upon the game and Pilkington had to be at his best to deny Dale substitute, Leighton McGivern. Just two minutes later and Pilkington was again at his best, this time saving from Ernie Cooksey, when it looked like the Rochdale midfielder would put his side ahead.
The game was living up as both sides tried desperately to get the opening goal. Corden was the next to threaten on 73 minutes, but Edwards brilliantly tipped his scissor-kick over the bar.
Dale came back and were unlucky when following a corner, a header flashed inches past the Stags post. On 83 minutes, Holt, looking to score for the fourth game running, danced past the Stags back line but his finishing was tame.
But on 85 minutes, the goal the majority of Field Mill had been hoping for came. Corden fed Asamoah and following a couple of touches involving Tom Curtis and Scott McNiven, the ball eventually broke free to the prowling Colin Larkin who made no mistake from 10 yards out.
On 88 minutes Rochdale had strong claims for a penalty when the ball was scrambled away from the Stags six-yard box, helped on its way seemingly by the hand of Tom Curtis. Referee, Mr Singh was clearly unmoved and to Rochdale's credit there didn't seem too many complaints.
A mixture of cheers and sigh's of relief greeted the final whistle. It hadn't been the most entertaining of games, but the end result was what mattered.
Stags this weekend face the difficult trip to Coca Cola League Two leaders, Scunthorpe United it what will be a real test of Stags' promotion credentials. The 'Iron' have made a more than impressive start to the campaign and bounced back from their 2-1 home defeat to Chester City to record a fine 1-0 away win over Bury last weekend.
With just two points separating the sides, Stags will be looking to leap over their rivals and continue their hunt for promotion.
CORDEN 'BEST ON THE LEFT'
Evening Post, 20 September 2004
Stags boss Keith Curle said he did not get a clear view of the apparent handball late in the game.
He said: "I didn"t see it through a crowd of people so I cannot comment."
There were plenty of positives for the manager to take from the game apart from the three points.
Colin Larkin's seventh goal in seven games and a good performance by Wayne Corden on his 200th appearance were just two of the plus points.
"Wayne is probably the best wide-left player in the lower two divisions," said Curle.
"The fact that he is still going strong is a testament to his fitness and the way he looks after himself.
"He is the absolute professional. He is someone we need to get the ball to as much as possible as he will destroy people.
"His 200th appearance is testament to his professionalism and conditioning.
"He always trains well and the level of performance he gives on the pitch is special."
LARKIN POPS UP LATE AND TAKES POINTS
20 September 2004
Mansfield Town 1 v 0 Rochdale
There's a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time. Colin Larkin popped up late on to snatch victory with his seventh goal in as many games.
Skipper Kevin Pilkington believes the way Stags dug out a victory shows the side have genuine promotional potential.
The strike pushed Stags up to fourth in the League Two table, two points behind leaders Scunthorpe, who they visit on Saturday.
With Yeovil at Shrewsbury and Wycombe at Cheltenham in the next round of games, Saturday's win against Rochdale means Stags could top the table this time next week if they beat Scunthorpe.
Larkin didn't just happen to be on hand to grab all three points by chance.
His run of goalscoring form is impressive, but the work he does which can go unnoticed is what gets him in goalscoring positions.
He's missed about as many as he's scored this season, but is working hard to make the space and get into the right positions, and the confidence is flowing.
As Rochdale failed to deal with Scott McNiven's cross in the closing minutes, the ball dropped nicely to Larkin.
Visiting fans will tell you their defenders left the Irishman unmarked.
But a big part of a goalscorer's game is creating opportunities by finding pockets of empty space, and Larkin is making a habit of that this season.
He created so much space that when the ball did drop to him, play almost seemed to switch into slow motion.
He had time to control the ball, pick his spot and fire low inside the far post.
Larkin has missed a few one-on-ones this term, but he usually doesn't miss chances like that.
The warning signs had been there for Rochdale prior to kick-off. Six goals in six games tell you you're up against a striker who knows how to find the net.
And, when he let fly in the first half with a shot which swerved just the wrong side of the far post, the writing was on the wall.
That's ten goals in seven games for the Larkin and Asamoah strike partnership and, with Wayne Corden on three, goalscoring is clearly a strong point for Keith Curle's side this season.
Curle's men have plenty of other attributes which suggest they are a good bet for promotion - and on this kind of form, this time it could be without the need for a trip to Cardiff.
Corden has performed well since his recall to the starting 11 and was in good form on his 200th appearance for the club.
But defensive qualities and character were as important as Larkin's late strike.
Alex John-Baptiste was a defensive rock alongside the solid Dave Artell.
And Kevin Pilkington secured a clean sheet with a good all-round display, which featured a handful of good saves.
One in particular, a block at the far post late in the second half, was as much a contributing factor to the win as Larkin's late goal.
Trailing 1-0, Rochdale were fuming when an apparent handball by Tom Curtis went unpunished.
But you make your own luck and in the same way that Stags battled and scrapped their way to a point at Cambridge, they were able to grind out a victory against Rochdale.
"Last season we would have probably drawn or lost games like that. We dug in and kept going and Larks got us the goal.
"It's vital to have someone like him. You need someone who is going to score you 20 goals a season and he"s nearly half-way there.
"He's on fire. He's tucking goals away and looking really sharp. Hopefully he can stay fit and keep doing the business for us."
Pilkington paid tribute to a battling Stags display. "The conditions didn't help. It was very blustery. In the first half we dug in, kept a clean sheet and did everything right and then in the second half we put them under a lot of pressure."
PARKIN'S ANGER AT LATE HANDBALL
20 September 2004
Former Mansfield boss Steve Parkin was furious his side were not awarded a late penalty for a handball by Tom Curtis.
"I never have much luck here, whenever I come back," said Rochdale's manager.
"Games turn on decisions and referees are paid to make the most important ones. If that wasn't a penalty then I have never seen one.
"I went to see the referee afterwards to get his interpretation of the incident.
"I don"t know why everybody in the stadium saw it and the officials didn't.
"I think the referee bottled it because Mansfield were at home. I just felt that neither the linesman or the referee had the strength to give the penalty."
It wasn't just the lack of a penalty award Parkin was frustrated about. "I wasn"t happy with the way we conceded the goal. It was a total lack of discipline."
TAKING HIS CHANCES
20 September 2004
Match-winner Colin Larkin paid tribute to the Stags midfield for helping him reach seven goals.
"The best thing is that we ground out a result," said the in-form striker.
"We got a clean sheet and luckily enough the ball dropped nicely for me and I put it away.
"When you"ve got people like Alex Neil, Wayne Corden and Neil MacKenzie creating chances for you all day long you"re bound to score one of them.
"I"ve been lucky enough to play with these players and it"s been a lot easier to score goals.
"We needed to be patient. We said at half-time that we were a fitter team than them. We knew at some stage they were going to get a bit of the ball but we needed to be strong and solid at the back.
"We hoped we would get a chance and take it and luckily enough we did.
"We"ve proved we can grind out results. Last season we would probably have lost at Cambridge and drawn 0-0 against Rochdale in games like that, but it"s a different mentality this season. We"ve got the belief that we can win games at home and away."
CURLE FULL OF PRAISE FOR LARKIN
Mansfield Town 1 v 0 Rochdale Utd
Mansfield manager Keith Curle was full of praise for decisive goalscorer Colin Larkin following a narrow win over Rochdale.
He said: "It's great to have someone like Colin Larkin in your armoury and all the chances are falling for him right now.
"Patience and belief were the key words. There is a belief in that dressing room that we will go out and score goals. The lads really enjoyed that result as they had to work very hard to earn it.
"The crowd stuck with us. It wasn't pretty but they knew we were trying to do the right things. We knew Rochdale would come here, be very organised and wouldn't go on the back foot easily.
"They competed for every ball and we had to go toe-to-toe with them and try to play our football when we could. We finally got into our stride in the last 15 minutes of the first half and I just told them to carry it on."
But Larkin's goal finally put Mansfield in charge and there was still time for them to survive penalty appeals when Grant Holt's header appeared to strike a Mansfield hand on the goalline.
"I never have much luck here when I come back," said Rochdale manager Parkin. "Referees are paid to make decisions and the most important ones are in the two boxes.
"If that wasn't a penalty then I've never seen one in my life. Mansfield were the home side and neither the referee or the linesman had the strength to give it."
He added: "It would have been a good point as Mansfield have had some great results at home and scored a lot of goals. So it was important that we stayed nice and solid, which we did.
"But, from having the ball by the corner flag, we showed a total lack of discipline in giving it away and it resulted in inevitably in a goal at the other end."
Latest | September 2004