McNIVEN ENJOYS HIS HONOUR
SKIPPER ENJOYS HIS HONOUR
Evening Post, 14 March 2005
Scott McNiven didn't just play against his former club - he was given the captain's armband.
The defender was in the side for the first time since his treatment for testicular cancer.
"Rhys Day was in the same position as me -we've both been out for four months," said the right-back.
"We both needed games, but we haven't had any reserve games for the last three weeks.
"The manager has put us in at the deep end and that's what we wanted fitness-wise.
"The result was important but these are the sort of games you need to improve your fitness.
"It was a lovely touch by the manager to make me skipper against my old club in my first game back.
"I appreciated it. I'm feeling a lot better, and I'm getting better all the time. My fitness is improving.
"I've been given the all clear, but I've got to go back for an MRI scan and some blood tests on May 18.
"Then, hopefully, I can extend the gap between checks from three months to six months. But it's going to be a lengthy process over the next five years."
PALMER: SORRY, THIS WAS DISMAL
Evening Post, 14 March 2005
A Week after threatening to walk out on Mansfield Town because of abuse from supporters, Carlton Palmer apologised to Stags fans.
His first game fully in charge was a disaster and this time, he says, he accepted the booing.
"We were poor throughout," said Palmer, named manager on Wednesday.
"I can't explain a performance like that and I apologise to the supporters.
"I noticed a disappointment in the dressing room after the defeat against Cheltenham last month and I don't think we've shaken that off.
"It was difficult throughout. We lost Baptiste on Friday and Adam Murray and Alex Neil weren't fully fit and that disrupted it. There are no excuses, though. We were well beaten.
"The two goals we conceded in the first half were very poor goals to concede.
"Any team which represents me won't go out with a whimper. That's what happened on Saturday, but it won't happen again.
"It's a rebuilding process and a few questions were answered about one or two players.
"I understand the reaction of the fans this time. I had no complaints about it because it was a dismal showing.
"It was really disappointing because Oxford were first to everything and won every second ball.
"I know what I need to do and how I'm going to do it."
Palmer decided not to start with Fraser McLachlan, who has come in for criticism from fans, but gave starts to Rhys Day and Scott McNiven after long spells on the sidelines.
"It was always going to be difficult for Scott and Rhys. They have been out for a long time, but that's not why we lost.
"I changed my mind about putting Fraser in. I thought there would still be a problem and it's my job to protect the young players.
"When he came on he was the first midfield player to put a tackle in.
"It was poor defending when he flicked the ball on for their third goal. But to be fair, him and Browny came on and showed more spirit than a lot of the players did.
"There have been some answers about one or two areas of the pitch which need addressing. I've got to try to get players in and certain players will leave.
"We know what we need to do to rebuild and improve and we will do."
GREAT SCOTT! (BUT STILL NO POINTS)
Evening Post, 14 March 2005
Mansfield Town 1 v 3 Oxford United
Carlton Palmer was hungry for a home win in his first game since getting the job full-time.
But the fare on the Stags' serving spoon was about as appetising as a courgette past its sell-by date.
Palmer wanted the sweet taste of victory - and defeat tasted bitter.
In culinary terms, it wasn't so much Bernard Matthews as Bernard Manning.
But Palmer says at least the performance has given him food for thought.
He says "questions have been answered" about some players.
Reading between the lines, that could mean the likes of Luke Dimech, Alex Neil and Tom Curtis are on their way out of Field Mill at the end of the season, if not sooner.
And Colin Larkin could follow Derek Asamoah through the exit door before the end of this month.
Fans can expect a flurry of transfer activity between now and the start of the 2005-6 campaign as Palmer builds a side which he hopes will be capable of clinching automatic promotion next season.
Midfielders Sammy Clingan (Wolves), Giles Coke (Kingstonian) and an unnamed Millwall player are on Palmer's shopping list.
Stags are being linked with several strikers, including Luke Beckett and Mike Sheron, who was released by Macclesfield last week.
And with Scott McNiven fighting for his Mansfield Town future, Palmer is also thought to be interested in a young right-back.
Three players - Coke, the Millwall midfielder and a striker - were set to feature in a reserve friendly at Field Mill today.
He has not admitted it yet, but even Palmer must concede now that the play-offs are just a pipe-dream this term.
So the remaining Stags games will effectively turn into an early pre-season campaign as Palmer wheels and deals and tinkers with the squad.
He was at a loss to explain why his side failed to turn up on Saturday - but he admitted it was a poor display.
And after threatening to quit a week earlier after a volley of abuse from home fans, he apologised to them this time.
There were some positives - but not with the performance.
Defenders Jake Buxton and Alex John-Baptiste were ruled out before kick-off and McNiven and Rhys Day started after long spells on the sidelines.
The atmosphere was good before kick-off. There were less than 3,000 Stags fans at Field Mill, but a significant number of them appeared to have bought into chairman Keith Haslam's idea of a "new era" under Palmer.
McNiven's inclusion - as captain to boot - gave the home supporters a lift, as he was given his first run out since treatment for testicular cancer.
And the visiting supporters were generous in their support for their former player, who completed 90 minutes.
But there were boos for Palmer at half-time and boos for him at the end.
He understood why. It was a shocking performance.
Oxford looked like a team who had played together. Mansfield didn't. The visitors had a cutting edge about them, but the Stags lacked cohesion.
A mistake by Day gifted United their opening goal and it wasn't a good day for Fraser McLachlan.
Compared to some of his team-mates he had a decent enough game after coming on as a substitute.
But when the ball deflected off his head in the second half, it provided an assist for Chris Hackett to grab his second and Oxford's third goal.
Larkin managed only his second since his strike in the 3-1 win against Notts County on October 16 - but both have come from the penalty spot and the Stags have lost both games.
His latest strike was merely a late consolation, but he still needed two attempts to convert it. After substitute Simon Brown was tripped, Larkin's first effort was saved.
But a retake was ordered after U's keeper Chris Tardif came off his line too quickly, and the Mansfield striker slotted in at the second attempt.
It didn't hide some glaring problems on the day and if anything, Oxford have knocked down some more of Palmer's building blocks.
A good late run could still earn the Stags a play-off spot. But if their home form doesn't improve they look set to finish in the bottom half.
In the ten League Two games at Field Mill since Palmer took temporary charge, Mansfield have won just twice - and the Stags haven't managed to score more than one goal in a single home game since former boss Keith Curle was suspended.
Saturday's defeat made it three defeats and a draw in the last four Field Mill fixtures.
The real concern for Mansfield fans now is not promotion this season. It is whether or not Palmer can put together a side capable of promotion next term.
Stags man of the match: Scott McNiven.
Observer Report by Steve Hartshorn:
MISERABLE START FOR PALMER
Carlton Palmer's first game as full time Mansfield Town Manager turned sour as The Stags slumped to their third home defeat in four last weekend.
Struggling Oxford United who had lost four out of their last five games cruised to a 3-1 victory with goals from Steve Basham and two from Chris Hackett, whilst the only bright note for The Stags was Colin Larkin's 10th goal of the season from a twice taken penalty on 90 minutes.
There was some good news for Stags fans when injured duo Rhys Day and Scott McNiven returned to the starting line up, but that was as pleasing as it got for The Stags faithful in a largely forgettable afternoon at Field Mill.
The writing was on the wall from as early as the 8th minute when the visitors scored a goal that was virtually laid on a plate for them by poor Stags defending. The ball was hit into Mansfield's left channel Chris Hackett getting the better of Luke Dimech but only managing a poor cross into The Stags area, where Day had time aplenty to clear, however Day's misplaced clearance was headed back towards The Stags area by Bradbury, to Steve Basham who emphatically fired the ball home. It was a disappointing start to a game that it was hoped would provide Carlton Palmer with a dream start to his first game in full time charge at Field Mill.
Stags struggled to find any rhythm and were constantly having to be aware of the threatening breakaway moves by the visitors. Despite good approach play from the home side, the Oxford United back four were troubled very little as once again The Stags were let down by the final ball.
Indeed the only threats to the United goal came from a shot from Adam Murray that was aimed straight at the Keeper and an attempt by Adam Barrowman that was saved and went out for a corner.
On 33 minutes the visitors effectively wrapped up the game by scoring a second. United left back, Matt Robinson pushed the ball forward and found Chris Hackett who raced clear of The Stags defence and coolly lobbed Kevin Pilkington. It was a hammer blow for a Mansfield side that had tried in vain to get a foot hold in the game before the half time break.
Palmer introduced Fraser McLachlan at the start of the second period but any hopes of a remarkable 2nd half recovery were ended just six minutes after the restart. McLachlan inadvertently flicked on a goal kick from United Keeper, Chris Tardif and Hackett raced clear again to roll the ball past Pilkington.
Barrowman attempted to reply for Mansfield, but fired his shot high and wide. On 56 minutes, Alex Neil was replaced by Simon Brown.
Stags began to create chances but were never really allowed back in the game, the best chance coming to McLachlan who fired narrowly over.
On 74 minutes Palmer injected pace into the Stags front line when he replaced Adam Barrowman with Colin Larkin. On 80 minutes, Murray had a shot blocked; the ball falling to Jelleyman who's low shot was saved by Tardif. Two minutes later, Larkin found a little space but his shot was deflected over Tardif but only into the side netting.
In injury time The Stags were awarded a penalty when Brown was upended by Jon Ashton. Larkin stepped up to take the kick but his effort was saved by Tardif. However, the United Keeper was adjudged to have moved before the kick was taken and Referee, Danson ordered the kick to be taken again. This time Larkin made no mistake to register his 10th goal of the season.
The final whistle was greeted by boo's from large sections of the Field Mill faithful, clearly frustrated by The Stags third defeat in four at home.
Stags Manager Carlton Palmer understood the supporters' reaction, “I do apologise to the fans – we were poor throughout.”
“I have said that any team that goes out there to represent me won't go down with a whimper, and it won't happen again. Supporters don't pay to come and see rubbish like that. I can fully understand their booing as it was a dismal showing.
Oxford head coach Horacio Rodriguez said: “We were the better team. We had information that Mansfield weren't the quickest team at the back and we told the players to stay right on top of them and to stay in the channels. We have pace up front.”
This weekend The Stags are on their travel to Bristol Rovers. The opening day of the season saw a 2-0 victory for a Rovers side who were strong favorites at the time for promotion, however they have since fallen a little by the wayside and Stags will be hoping to record their 6th win of the season on the road.
Hackett brace sinks Stags
Mansfield Town 1 - 3 Oxford United
Saturday March 12th
CHRIS Hackett scored two goals in a game for the first time in his career after being switched up front from the wing as United showed they could win without Tommy Mooney.
Leading scorer Mooney was axed, along with Juan Pablo Raponi, but the team appeared none the weaker.
With Bradbury giving a masterful exhibition, the U's equalled their biggest away win of the season and recorded their first double.
Hackett took his chance superbly. His pace destroyed Mansfield's sluggish defence and every time the ball was played over the top he was quickest to it.
But while Hackett had the most impact on the game, Bradbury was its outstanding player.
The skipper returned from suspension and was superb on the right side of midfield, his quality first touch and perfectly weighted passes providing Steve Basham and Hackett with the service they wanted.
Bradbury set the tone for a first half, controlled by the visitors, with a brilliant pull-down to control the ball and beat his marker, his curling left-footed shot then deflecting for a corner.
It owas good play by Hackett which set up Oxford's opening goal in the eighth minute.
He outwitted Adam Rundle by heading the ball on and sprinting forward. And Basham, finding himself in space because Rhys Day was slow to come out, turned the defender and fired home left-footed.
Former England youth midfielder Adam Murray struck a powerful 25-yard strike, which Chris Tardif got right behind, but after that the visitors took over.
Hackett made it 2-0 on 33 minutes with a clever lob over goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington after Robinson had set him clear with a right-footed chip.
Bradbury continued to make Rundle look stupid with his silky skills. With Mansfield surprisingly persisting in trying to play offside, despite being so bad at it, further chances came Oxford's way.
At the other end, Jon Ashton got away with an unconvincing passback to Tardif when under pressure. After what had happened last season, one would have thought he'd have known better.
Just before the break, Basham had another goal disallowed for an apparent push on the keeper, which seemed a harsh decision.
Mansfield oboss Carlton Palmer had made five changes to his side, with right back Scott McNiven making a surprise but welcome return against his former club.
McNiven was made skipper for the day but must have been embarrassed by his side.
They looked as poor a team as United have faced this season and Palmer was booed off when he made his way to the dressing rooms at half-time.
Despite having surrendered a first-half lead three times in the past two months, there seemed little prospect of that this time and Horacio Rodriguez's men continued to attack with pace.
Basham had an angled shot saved after brushing off a weak challenge from Alex Neil, but three minutes into the second half Hackett pounced again.
The ball came off the head of centre back Day and Hackett was on it in a flash. He sprinted forward and coolly slotted past the keeper and into the bottom right corner.
Mansfield's reply was an Andrew Barrowman volley which cleared the bar by eight yards.
The U's were now happy to play on the break, and they continued to look dangerous.
Craig Davies replaced Basham to provide United with two pacy attackers. They should have scored another, but Davies delayed his pass a fraction too long and Hackett was caught offside.
In the closing minutes, Tardif had to save from Luke Dimech.
It should have earned him a clean sheet, but Ashton wrecked that with a stupid challenge on Simon Brown to give away a penalty.
Tardif saved the 90th-minute spot-kick from Colin Larkin, but the assistant referee signalled that he had moved off his line, and Larkin sent him the wrong way with the retaken penalty.
It was an annoying end for United, who still can't get out of the habit of giving away stupid second-half goals.
But at least they won this time.
Latest | March 2005