REPORTS FROM VARIOUS SOURCES
TESTING TIME FOR YOUNG TALENT...
Evening Post, 29 September 2004
All things considered, it was a satisfactory night for Keith Curle's side as they claimed their place in the second round of the LDV Vans Trophy, Northern Section.
With 11 players unavailable, Curle was still able to start with nine first-teamers, but took the opportunity to hand youth-team players Tom Curle and Callum Lloyd their full debuts.
A third youngster, Richard Lonsdale, made his first appearance, in extra-time, with Ryan Parkes and Austin McIntosh also handed an opportunity to be involved in the first-team set-up.
Curle experimented with Scott McNiven at left-back and Alex John-Baptiste at right-back, with Luke Dimech in central defence alongside Rhys Day.
The victory had an added bonus of being the Stags' first penalty shoot-out success since their failure in the play-off final last season.
Only eight of Curle's 19-man squad were available for selection.
On-loan Craig Woodman was ruled out because Bristol City do not want him cup-tied, Jake Buxton is suffering from flu and seven players were out with injuries - although some of the absentees were left out as a precautionary measure.
The 11th player unavailable was young striker Dean Hankey, whose international clearance had not come through following his spell on loan in Sweden.
There were six personnel changes from Saturday's 1-1 draw at Scunthorpe, but the starting 11 still had a fairly strong look to it, with Curle junior and Lloyd the only youngsters to start the game.
Stags managed to boss the game for long periods in the first half, with Curle looking lively on the left. One neat passing move from the home side ended with Colin Larkin, now one of only three ever-presents for Stags this season, hitting the post with a shot.
Of the players who were handed opportunities to show what they could do, Curle was the pick of the bunch. Lloyd certainly didn't let anyone down and improved as the game went on.
Dimech was solid alongside Day and John-Baptiste was probably the best of the outfield players on show, with McNiven showing he is capable in either full-back position.
Joe O'Neill had the perfect opportunity to show the manager he is worth a start on merit but didn't really take it.
Stags' outstanding player on the night was Kevin Pilkington, who made three excellent stops in the 120 minutes and another save in the shoot-out.
But the game almost didn't make it to penalties. In front of just 47 away fans, Darlington finished strongly in the second half of normal time and, had it not been for Pilkington's heroics and some wayward finishing, the night would have ended much earlier than it did.
Stags raised their game in extra-time, with Curle sending a 35-yard shot against the bar, but Darlington's Craig Russell was also denied by the frame of the goal and Pilkington made sure his side made it to penalties with a superb block to deny substitute Mark Convery in the 118th minute.
Neil MacKenzie and Larkin were on target in the shoot-out to keep things all square on penalties at 2-2, but Pilkington saved Ian Clarke's poorly-struck spot-kick to hand Stags the initiative.
Mansfield 0-0 Darlington
(After extra time - Mansfield win 4-3 on penalties)
Scott McNiven netted the winning spot kick as Mansfield banished their penalty shoot-out blues with LDV Vans Trophy win against Darlington.
The Stags almost went ahead in the 12th minute when Colin Larkin hit the post.
Curle hit the bar in extra time, while Darlington's sub Mark Convery forced Kevin Pilkington into a great save.
In the shoot-out Pilkington saved Ian Clark's effort before McNiven put the Stags in round two.
Stags through on penalties
SCOTT McNiven was eventually Mansfield's hero on a night when 90 minutes, extra time and even penalties struggled to split the sides at Field Mill last night.
Mansfield twice hit the visitors' woodwork, and Darlington also hit a Mansfield post, and both sides wasted numerous chances as this first round tie came down to spot kicks.
Kevin Pilkington savedIan Clarke's spot kick but Adam Murray also saw his saved as the sides were still locked at 3-3 after four penalties apiece.
But Stags eased through when Craig Russell's kick hit the underside of the bar and bounced down and, despite his protests, McNiven calmly stepped up to settle the tie with a cool finish.
With 11 first teamers out with various knocks and niggles or illness, manager Keith Curle made six changes from the side which drew at Scunthorpe on Saturday, giving full debuts to teenagers Callum Lloyd and his son Tom Curle.
Also drafted in were Day, Dimech, MacKenzie and O'Neill.
McNiven played left back with John-Baptiste at right back and Day partnered Dimech in the centre of defence.
O'Neill twice helped the ball on to create chances for Murray in the opening four minutes. But in the first minute Murray's fierce shot hit a defender while his second chance, from a superb position, saw him sky the ball over from 12 yards.
Stags came even closer on 12 minutes when Curle found O'Neill who fed Larkin for a curling shot that hit the inside of the far post and came out again.
MacKenzie was wide with a hopeful 30-yard blast.
The visitors, who had earlier forced four corners, took 33 minute to crerate their first real danger when Wainwright cracked a rising first time shot inches over from Hughes' pass.
Four minutes later Wainwright picked out Valentine at the far post and Pilkington had to beat out his volleyed finish.
Another good run down the left from the lively Curle saw him square to Murray who dragged a low shot wide of the target.
Then Murray was again off target as half time approached with an 18-yard effort that just cleared the angle.
MacKenzie also sent a first time snap shot just wide from Larkin's ball inside from the right.
The second half took some time to warm up as the temperature dropped. But a good run and shot by Curle warmed keeper Russell's hands and gave the home fans something to cheer.
Close then really had the crowd buzzing with a superb run from midway in the Mansfield half which took him past four opponents before John-Baptiste produced a superb saving tackle to prevent what would have been a wonder goal.
Russell then saw his shot deflect wide from a good block by Murray while Gregorio was well wide with a shot on the turn.
The visitors wasted the best chance of the night so far 11 minutes from time as Wainwright headed Maddison's cross over the top from close range.
Keltie joined the action in place of Maddison six minutes from time and a minute later, with his first touch, he forced a great save from Pilkington when a corner was cleared to his feet 20 yards out.
Darlington wasted another glorious chance on 88 as Russell's cross picked out Gregorio who, wight in front of goal, somehow headed wide.
Mansfield were first to threaten in extra time when John-Baptiste headed over from a free kick. Lloyd then found Murray whose poked shot forced a fingertip save from Russell.
Keltie again lashed just wide from a half-cleared corner. But Curle came closer when he rattled the visitors' cross bar from 20 yards on 102 minutes.
Mansfield's woodwork was also struck on 111 minutes when Russell turned Gregorio's cross against the far post.
John-Baptisete headed wide of the near post from a MacKenzie corner while at the other end Pilkington made a great save at his near post when Convery was left free as penalties approached.
SHOOT-OUT DETAILS: Valentine (Darlington) 1-0; MacKenzie (Mansfield) 1-1; Convery (Darlington) 2-1; Larkin (Mansfield) 2-2; Clarke (Darlington) saved; O'Neill (Mansfield) 2-3; Kendrick (Darlington) 3-3; Murray (Mansfield) saved; C. Russell (Darlington) hit bar; McNiven (Mansfield) 3-4.
STAGS: Pilkington, John-Baptiste, Day, Dimech, McNiven, Lloyd, Murray, MacKenzie, Curle (Lonsdale 119), O'Neill, Larkin. Subs not used: Langford, Parkes, Heron, McIntosh.
DARLINGTON: S. Russell, Close (Convery 109), Clark, Kendrick, Hughes (Clarke 66), Gregorio, Thomas, Valentine, C. Russell, Wainwright, Maddison (Keltie 84). Subs not used: Mason, Parkin.
REFEREE: Grant Hegley of Herts.
CAUTIONS: Mansfield - Murray 86 (foul on Kendrick)
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Alex John-Baptiste.
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