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Archived News from October 2004

19th October 2004 10:38

Observer Report
by Steve Hartshorn
It was derby-day delight at Field Mill last weekend for Keith Curle's 'Super Stags' as local rivals, Notts County were trounced 3-1. The result moved Mansfield up to 4th place in Coca Cola League 2, whilst a sorry looking County slipped deeper into trouble.
There was a surprise inclusion in the Mansfield line up as former Scunthorpe United and Gillingham hit man, Guy Ipoua made his debut in a three man front line that from the off, spelled speed, danger and aggression to the Magpies rear guard.
Ipoua, on loan from Doncaster Rovers, impressed throughout as did every player in the amber of Mansfield as a poor looking County side failed to cope in every department on the pitch.
The Stags goals, scored by Day, Woodman and Larkin, were in truth poor reward for The Stags overall dominance and Gavin Gordon's late consolation was nothing more than an annoying blip in an otherwise sizzling display from the home side.
County Manager, Gary Mills, already under pressure from his team's poor showing this season, must have been dreading the prospect of coming to Field Mill and now must be fearful of what the future holds for his side as they lacked everything which Keith Curle's Mansfield had in abundance, skill, passion and desire.
Stags bettered their opponents in every position, but most of all in midfield where Stags went about their foe with snap and bite and never once allowed County any time on the ball.
The first goal of the game came when Colin Larkin was upended and Stags were awarded a free kick to the right hand side of the County area. Adam Murray floated in a tantalizing cross that only Rhys Day reacted to and with the faintest of touches, notched it past a flat-footed Deeney in the County goal. The goal was timed at 25 minutes; the only surprise was that it had taken a rampant Mansfield that long to finally break County down.
The Stags dominance was confirmed when on loan signing, Craig Woodman scored his first ever career goal, and what a goal it was. Good work from Asamoah and Ipoua resulted in a poor clearance from an under-pressure County defender, the ball arriving at the feet of Woodman, some 25 yards from goal, who without hesitation fired in an unstoppable drive right into the top right hand corner of the North Stand net, leaving a despairing Deeney rooted to the spot.
The 2nd half fight back from the visitors flickered but never really came to light as Stags continued to create chance after chance.
Joe O'Neill came on for the tiring Ipoua and instantly made an impression. It was his well-directed flicked header on 69 minutes that fell nicely for Colin Larkin to score The Stags 3rd and his eighth goal of the season. The contest, if it had ever started, ended there and the party began.
Stags free flowing attacking style was constantly causing worries whilst their midfield were pulling the strings and when needed, their defence were moping up any danger with ease.
Stags could even afford the luxury of a missed penalty. Asamoah was clipped in the area and it was he who was first to place the ball on the spot. Unfortunately though, impressive Magpies keeper, Saul Deeney reacted well and pulled off a fine save.
It was scant consolation for the few County fans still in their seats come injury time when Gordon finished in fine style to make the final score 3-1, a scoreline that in truth flattered the defeated Magpies.
It was a day that will be well remembered by the Field Mill faithful and it is hoped that this result can be the catalyst to a season of success for Keith Curle's side. Mansfield were simply marvellous and now need to carry on in the same vain tonight away at Cheltenham Town and this coming weekend away at Tony Adams, Wycombe Wanderers.
Evening Post, 18 October 2004
Mansfield Town 3 v 1 Notts County

Deflated and downbeat, Notts assistant-manager Darron Gee insisted this defeat had nothing to do with tactical decisions or team selection - but more to do with passion and desire.

In truth, the result was down to all of those factors - and that Mansfield Town were superior in all departments.

Stags fans will take great delight in a comprehensive win that should have ended with a scoreline far more embarrassing for Notts County.

But the Magpies' pain in defeat should outweigh the pleasure felt by Mansfield Town, because this was never even a genuine contest, never mind a match that could be considered a typical local derby.

No praise should be taken away from Keith Curle's rampant Stags for a flowing display in which they dominated throughout, and were thwarted only by an outstanding display from goalkeeper Saul Deeney. His one-man display was the difference between a painful reverse and total humiliation.

But nor should Gary Mills' side be spared any criticism.

Tactically, Mansfield were far superior. Their three-pronged attack of Guy Ipoua, Colin Larkin and Derek Asamoah was a constant threat, chipping away at a defence that was flat-footed and exposed for pace.

But the real difference was in midfield, where Mansfield demonstrated fight and guile in equal measure.

The match ran to a fixed formula. Alex Neil would pick up the ball in midfield, where he was allowed time and space. He would look up, pick out the run of one of his forwards and Mansfield Town would have a chance.

With less than half-an-hour on the clock, Stags had already notched up ten efforts on goal, to Notts' zero.

Rhys Day's close-range effort had put them ahead on 25 minutes, but it could have been far worse and left-back Craig Woodman's breathtaking strike from 25 yards (with his right boot) was the inevitable Mansfield second, such was the pressure they had built on the goal.

Notts rallied briefly after the interval, with Paul Bolland switched into the centre of midfield from out on the right, where he more ably shackled the creative Neil and Adam Murray. But by then the match was effectively over, even before Larkin fired the Stags' third, after breaking into the box from the right and beating the heroic and blameless Deeney, whose performance was typified by a late penalty save from Asamoah.

That Larkin goal was the final straw for Magpies supporters, who flocked to the exits with 20 minutes still to play.

A derby defeat is painful enough, but the manner of the performance - the total lack of passion, cohesion and creativity - was cruel for the fans.

Many have been upset that the expected promotion push failed to materialise. But now there is a justified fear that the club could be facing another fight against relegation.

Notts County's proudest claim is being the oldest Football League club in the world. The idea that this status is threatened is unacceptable for some.

On Saturday, Mansfield played like a team with a fine home record. Notts looked nothing like an outfit with the best away record in League Two.

Tomorrow night, the pressure will be on again at Meadow Lane, as Notts face the first of two consecutive home games, when Darlington are the visitors.

In the aftermath at Field Mill, Gee blamed the players for a lack of passion and for failing to do their jobs as they had been instructed.

This was echoed by midfielder Bolland, who conceded the squad had let the manager, fans and each other down.

But the most telling observation also came from Gee, when he admitted it is managers and not players who ultimately pay the price for failure.

Unless a home record that has seen the Magpies fail to win in six League Two matches so far is addressed soon, that is a reality both Gee and Mills may face in the near future.

If they are to turn things round on home turf, they are going to have to find a way to inspire their players, in every department from passion and desire to tactical nous.

Fans will forgive defeats. They will tolerate failure. They will not accept a lack of commitment and desire.

And while one young manager, Curle, is seeing his career develop with some promise, Mills continues to endure a tough apprenticeship in League football.

He has never been a man lacking in passion. On Saturday's evidence, his biggest task continues to be to find a way to inspire similar commitment and determination in his players.

Evening Post, 18 October 2004

Keith Curle said his side's performance in the 3-1 victory against Notts County was "almost perfect".

The Stags dominated large parts of the game and the scoreline would have been much greater had Saul Deeney not pulled off a string of fine saves.

But Mansfield threw away a clean sheet in injury time when they allowed Gavin Gordon to score a late consolation.

Curle said: "That was almost perfect. At times I thought we were superb.

"A clean sheet would have been nice but I think the players got a bit excited in trying to score more.

"In local derbies, players sometimes get carried away but we will learn from that.

"It's not my place to talk about the opposition but we knew we had to be superb to win the game.

"From the start to the final whistle the commitment and desire of my players was fantastic.

"We were bright in possession of the ball and looked lively throughout.

"It was a big crowd and they showed fantastic vocal support and they have gone home happy, not just because of the result but also with the way we played.

"I cannot say it enough, we were superb."

Curle was delighted with Guy Ipoua who is on a month's loan.

"I went to watch him and saw something in his play that I knew we needed," he said.

"He has a big, physical presence and is willing to bring others into the game.

"I thought he was the strength for Colin Larkin and Derek Asamoah, and he did an excellent job.

"He has not been playing that much but sometimes that is good because he needs a challenge. He is a quality player who can play in a higher division."

Mansfield travel to Cheltenham tomorrow and Curle is looking forward to another battle.

He said: "We need to build on this result so it is good that we have a game tomorrow.

"We go into every single game wanting three points. Cheltenham won away on Saturday so it will be an interesting encounter."

Evening Post, 18 October 2004
New signing Guy Ipoua made an instant impact at Field Mill and then promised: "There is much more to come."

The striker, on a month's loan from Doncaster Rovers, was a constant nuisance for defenders.

Keith Curle snapped Ipoua up on Thursday after watching him score twice for Doncaster reserves against Grimsby the previous day.

He kept the signing quiet and surprised the Magpies, as the former Gillingham man linked well with Derek Asamoah.

Ipoua said: "I was happy with how it went but I could have played better. I am not match-fit but that will come with games.

"Hopefully, I did a job. The gaffer asked me to hold the ball up and try to make the midfield and strikers play off me. I am looking forward to doing that for Mansfield and obviously to scoring goals.

"I had a reasonable game on Wednesday for the reserves and Keith Curle asked if I would fancy joining Mansfield on loan.

"I would not just go to any club. I have turned down other offers but this is a good club and I am glad he asked to me to come here."

Evening Post, 18 October 2004
Mansfield striker Colin Larkin was relieved to get back to scoring ways, playing in an unfamiliar left-midfield role.

Larkin, who had not scored for five matches, grabbed the third goal against Notts to take his tally to eight for the season.

But he had to play out wide as Keith Curle put Guy Ipoua up front with Derek Asamoah.

Larkin said: "The manager did something different, but I kept coming in off the strikers and getting in between the defenders and it worked well.

"It is difficult for me defensively on the left but I enjoyed it. The team performance was amazing and the addition of Ipoua was brilliant".

Evening Post, 18 October 2004
Mansfield goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington said the result would have been far worse for Notts County if not for his opposite number Saul Deeney, writes Stevie Roden.

The Stags captain was a spectator for large parts of the game as Deeney pulled off heroic saves at the other end.

Pilkington said: "It could have been far worse if it was not for him. He was a different class.

"He pulled off loads of fantastic saves, including one from Derek Asamoah's penalty - and then set up their goal.

"It was a great result for us and the performance was brilliant.

"We have been up for every game this season, but this had a little bit extra.

"It was disappointing to let in a goal at the end but you can't let that take away from our overall performance.

"That match was up there with the victories against Yeovil and Northampton at home this season.

Evening Post, 18 October 2004

Magpies assistant-manager Darron Gee today blasted the players for their performance at Mansfield.

Gee insists they should take responsibility for what was a humiliating 3-1 defeat.

He said: "Saturday's defeat was not about tactics or team selection. It was about passion.

"We did not have the passion or determination to win the match. It looked like Mansfield wanted to win it more... and that is unacceptable.

"The players have let us down. They were given jobs to do and they did not do them.

"We can only instruct the players in what their role is before the match and send them out there.

"We cannot play for them. We have to rely on them to do their jobs and they have not done that."

The Magpies had boasted the best away record in League Two but were humbled by Keith Curle's Stags, who simply tore them apart in a game that should have ended with a more emphatic scoreline.

Large sections of the 1,800 Notts fans at Field Mill were calling for the head of manager Gary Mills for long periods of the second half.

And Gee admitted that was painful. "It hurts to hear it, when the fans turn on you," he said. "In all honesty, you try not to look at the fans when it starts. You try not to let it bother you, but what you have to accept in football is that it is always the manager that pays the price, never the players. It is always the manager who gets sacked.

"I know what the gaffer has done behind the scenes. I know what hard work he has put in to change things at this club... and there have been plenty of changes for the better.

"I know how much it hurts me to hear the fans turn on you and I know how much it hurts the gaffer. I just hope people realise how passionate he is about making this club a success.

"We are moving in the right direction. We want to get into mid-table and build from there.

"That is the message we have been getting from the board this season, that we should be in mid-table, stabilising things - and we are not far from that.

"We are only a few points from moving a long way up the table."

But Gee says the players will have to step up a gear to get a result when Darlington visit tomorrow night.

Evening Post, 18 October 2004
Paul Bolland today offered fans an unreserved apology for Notts County's appalling performance at Mansfield Town.

The Magpies midfielder gave a damning verdict on the display in a one-sided local derby.

Bolland, one of the club's longest-serving players, said: "I can't speak for the rest of the lads as to why it was, but there was no question we lacked passion.

"It was never like a local derby. We were just never in it. I don't think you should have a problem motivating yourself for any game, but particularly not for a local derby.

"I understand why the fans were so upset, they have every right and I am sorry they have had to put up with that.

"They have paid their money and come and supported us and they deserve better."

Much of the supporters' anger was aimed at manager Gary Mills but Bolland feels the players have to take a larger share of the responsibility.

"It was not tactics, we were all told what jobs we had to do and what was required of us - we just didn't do it," he said. "We have let the manager down, the fans down, ourselves down and everyone connected with the club.

"It is hard to understand, given that we had done so well away from home this season.

"We did not deserve anything from that match. In fact we could have had no complaints had we lost by seven or eight goals.

"Perhaps the only reason we didn't was because Saul Deeney was in such good form. He made some outstanding saves and was probably the only one of us to come out of the match with any credit."

Bolland said he had some sympathy with the Magpies' back four.

"They did not get a lot of protection," he said. "We let them down a little bit. Every time they got the ball away, it was fired right back at them.

"I think the attack and midfield has to take a lot of responsibility because we never held onto the ball.

"Perhaps it was just a bad day at the office, but we can't just write it off as that.

"With two matches at home coming up we have to make amends. Our supporters deserve better than that."

Evening Post, 18 October 2004
French defender Julien Baudet insists the whole Notts team has to take responsibility for the failure at Field Mill.

The former Oldham man could not explain why the Magpies were so poor against Mansfield and said sorry to the 1,800 fans who made the journey north.

But he also maintained that Notts do have the quality to climb away from trouble.

"It is just down to us to prove it," he said. "I don't think you can blame any one particular person for Saturday,

"We all have to take responsibility. You have to blame the attack, the midfield and the defence, because none of us were good enough.

"We just did not perform, it was only Saul Deeney who came out of the game with any credit, because he had so much to do.

"I don't know if there is a lot to say, we know we let people down, we know we did not perform, we know it's not good enough."

Baudet was particularly upset at the manner in which Notts failed to raise themselves for the local derby.

"I have played in local derbies before and this was just not like one, we did not give them any opposition," he said. "There was no passion.

"There are no excuses and I do feel sorry for the fans."

But Baudet still believes Notts have quality.

"When I came here at the start of the season, we played four or five matches and were superb," he said. "I honestly thought to myself 'This is a side that can achieve something'.

"I don't know what has changed since then, but we have to get back to that."


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