CALAMITY AS STAGS CRUSHED WHILE OTHERS WIN
Darlington 4 - 0 Mansfield Town
Lafferty 6, Sodje 53, Clarke 58, Martis 65.
Attendance: 4282 (306 from Mansfield)
Darlington 4 Stags 0
A DARLINGTON purple patch of three goals in 12 minutes early in the second half condemned Mansfield Town to their worst defeat of the season at the magnificent 96.6TFM Darlington Arena this afternoon.
Stags, missing several key players, were chasing the game as early as the sixth minute when slack marking allowed Kyle Lafferty to pick his spot.
On a poor surface the under-strength visitors did enjoy spells of possession but lacked any cutting edge.
Ironically they began the second half strongly and were playing some neat football when they were suddenly rocked by a three-goal blast by a side unbeaten at home since mid-September.
First Akpo Sodje was allowed to squeeze home an embarrassingly easy finish at the near post on 53 minutes.
Then Sodje set up Matty Clarke for a close range finish on 58 before Sodje headed home his second on 65.
With other results going for sides below them this really was an afternoon to forget for the Stags.
The Stags side saw four changes from the team beaten in midweek by Chester, three enforced.
Buxton (back) and Pressman (foot) were both left out due to knocks while Barker was suspended for his midweek red card and Uhlenbeek dropped down to the bench.
Pressman joined Uhlenbeek on the bench as goalkeeper cover.
Into the side went White in goal with Jacobs making his League debut at right back.
Birchall came in to play right midfield and Brown partnered Reet up front.
The match kicked off on a largely soaked pitch which had already cut up badly down one side in the pre-match warm-up.
Hjelde and Sodje needed treatment in the fourth minute after a clash of heads.
But the home side swept into a sixth minute lead after some static Mansfield defending.
Johnson provided a good overlapping run down the left to cross low across the penalty box. It reached an unmarked Lafferty on the far side and he could hardly believe how much time and space he was afforded to pick his spot inside White's right hand post.
Birchall came close to an equaliser four minutes later as John-Baptiste made a good interception in the centre circle and raced forward purposefully, finding Birchall as he was closed down and the midfielder got away a good shot from 18 yards which wasn't too far off target.
Darlington swept forwards and Dickman was close from a similar range.
Stags began to settle down and played some neat football on a difficult surface. But the home side defended well and Schmeichel was left untroubled by the spell of pressure.
Jelleyman conceded a soft corner at the other end but White confidently claimed Logan's ball in.
Stags won a corner of their own which ended with the ball bouncing off Brown at the far post and going out for a goal kick and Schmeichel challenged. Brown tried to claim a penalty and Valentine and Clarke remonstrated with him. Reet became involved and the referee eventually lectured Reet, Clarke and Brown before the goal kick was taken.
Soon after Brown turned well onto Jelleyman's quick throw and, despite Valentine's challenge, managed to force a save from Schmeichel.
Logan turned superbly on the edge of the box and, despite Jelleyman pulling at him, managed to fire in a powerful low shot that White did well to parry for the first of two successive home corners. Jelleyman was booked for his troubles, but Stags survived the flag kicks.
Another one followed on 41 minutes which saw White make another excellent save as Clarke got in a shot from seven yards at the near post.
Schmeichel was back in action as his defence failed to cut out Brown's hoisted forward ball and he had to go down bravely at the feet of the incoming Dawson.
White again expertly caught another home corner in first half stoppage time.
Even deeper into added time Jacobs played a one-two with Hjedle before finding Dawson who had a shot blocked just inside the box.
Sodje flashed a close range volley over the bar after an early second half free kick from Kendrick had been helped on, but the offside flag was already up.
However, the Quakers were gifted a soft second goal on 53 minutes. Sodje chased a loose ball on the left of the box, turned and was allowed to somehow squeezer the ball inside the near post between John-Baptiste, Jacobs and White to the embarrassment of the visitors (comment, not from CHAD: wasn't Hjelde involved in this goal?!?).
Schmeichel was in action almost straight away to tip over a dipping Dawson shot - a half-volley from 18 yards.
Lloyd replaced the limping Rundle for the visitors. But it was 3-0 on 58 minutes. Logan's right wing corner was headed down by Sodje and Clarke was there to crash home a close range finish from inside the six yard box.
Hopkins was given a run up front in place of Lafferty a minute later.
Stags' afternoon wasn't getting any better now as the home side went further in front on 65 minutes.
Logan cut in from the left and chipped the ball towards the edge of the six yard box where Sodje flicked a header past the helpless White.
Darlington made a double change as Dickman and Keltie were replaced by Stamp and Peacock on 68.
Reet should have pulled one back when he rose to meet Jelleyman's 74th minute cross. But he sent his header straight at the keeper from seven yards.
Coke then set off on a strong run but, with better options either side, pulled a poor finish wide of goal.
By now the home side were down to 10 men as, having used all three subs, lost a limping Logan as well.
Stag continued to search for a consolation and won a corner which came out to John-Baptiste. His blast was deflected upwards and Reet jumped highest to nod a header over the bar.
Reet again couldn't get a header on target two minutes later as Jelleyman knocked Uhlenbeek's long cross back towards him in front of goal the ball this time finishing on the roof of the net.
Darlington ended the game with two more corners and the final whistle could not come soon enough for the well-beaten visitors.
Story by Garry Mann - 28th January 2006
Darlington recorded a 4-0 win over Mansfield Town to continue their run. Goals from Laffery, Sodje, Clarke and Martis.
In the words of Freddy Mercury, it seems all challengers: 'Can't stop us now, we're having such a good time, we're having a ball.' Indeed a far cry from what fans have become accustomed to over the past year or so, but an emphatic compounding of the brilliant run which has catapulted Darlington into the almighty heights of genuine promotion contenders with a performance at times 'just like watching Brazil.'. 4-0 with four different scorers in front of 4,282 delighted supporters - Finally taking advantage of a bumper crowd who have every reason to make a return visit in two weeks time.
Confidence at the Arena has been rife recently. A run of form which has propelled The Quakers back into the promotion reckoning was fully expected to be maintained against, at least of recent times, perennial underachievers Mansfield. Indeed, stand in skipper Matt Clarke remarked in his programme column how 'confidence in the changing room is now being reflected in our performances and long may it continue.' If mercurial Matt was ever to leave the beautiful game he could feasibly take up a career in fortune telling, with his side taking the lead with only five minutes on the clock. After a poor Johnson free kick, which cannoned into the Mansfield wall, the striker turned winger had another opportunity to put a ball across after neat link up play with Kendrick on the left; picking out the preditor-esque Kyle Lafferty who hammered home a composed right foot shot past Hjelde and into the bottom right corner.
The loanee from Burnley again demonstrating his potency in front of the sticks to notch his third goal since joining Darlington at the beginning of the month - he simply does not look like missing - 'feed the Laff and he will score' to amend the infamous Shaun Goater chant. However, his strike partner for the day Akpo Sodje was unwilling to be outshone. After impressing without scoring as a sub against Oxford, the giant former Terrier twice in the first ten barged and bullied his way through The Stages rearguard, albeit without any fruition. First, he latched onto a long goal kick from the stylish Kasper Schmiechel; quite probably playing his last game before returning to Man City, rather ungracefully shimmying past Hjelde put a strong boot from young skipper Alex Baptiste proved one obstacle too many. Then shortly afterwards, the only Sodje to score a hat trick powered in from the left flank, laying off for the returning to form Jonjo Dickman whose thunderous strike went marginally wide.
But Peter Shirliff's men weren't here to make up the numbers and, despite missing top scorer Richard Barker started to get a foot hole in the game. The irrepressible Shelton Martis had to be aware to cut out Danny Reet's surging run - the Dutchman's searing pace and menacing challenge adequate to prevent the young striker from threatening Schmiechel. Adam Birchall fired well over on the quarter hour mark, and on twenty minutes Simon Brown beat Kendrick on the left before Martis calmly averted any danger. Although a match for Manfield possessionally, the hosts had a tenancy to lose possession very cheaply; Clark Keltie inexplicably the culprit on two occasions. Fortunately, however, Mansfield failed to inflict too much damage as a consequence and it was instead Darlo who created the most threatening attacking moves. The work horse Lafferty, relentless in his chasing down, impeccable flicks and comfort at feet; almost architected a second goal - a sublime knocked back header to Sodje in the six yard box a fraction to strong for his strike partner.
The last ten minutes of the first half offered tremendously good value for money in fact, with a whole gammet of chances for both sides. A much improved Carlos Logan, after being largely ineffectual at Oxford, twisting and turning his marker on the edge of the eighteen, fording Jason White into full stretch low to his left. Five minutes from the interval Matt Clarke tried his luck at beating the impressive White; but his left foot half volley following a half cleared corner was straight at the opposition stopper. The impetus was with the hosts, but what is becoming almost habitual Hodgson's men were unable to make headway in killing the game off. In fact it was Mansfield who had the final chance of the first half, Kasper Schmiechel's terrific save at the feet of Simon Brown the only thing separating Mansfield from a half time stalemate.
After a sloppy opening following the restart, a moment of two rarities gifted Darlington a second decisive goal. The first rarity being Akpo Sodje's first home gaol since he scored in the opening home fixture versus Stockport back on August 9th. However, despite a resilient pursuit of Hjelde's wayward back pass, it was White's impetuous positioning which gifted the striker his sixth of the campaign; leaving a huge gap at his near post for Sodje to tap home. Cue liquid football, as the hosts embraced the two goal cushion to put the game to bed and play the best football they've done so in many, many a year. Oozing in confidence and enthusiasm, immaculate in distribution and clinical in the last third - when was the last time you heard that. On fifty seven minutes, Sodje's knock down from Logan's inswinging corner falling nicely for captain courageous Matt Clarke to redeem his miss in the first half, comfortably blasting past White.
The free flowing football continued. The skilful Johnson and more so Logan revelling in the freedom granted by such a margin. No sooner had Schmiechel superbly, emphatically but typically managed to tip Birchill's sweet strike over the top had the hosts added another onto the relentlessly increasing lead. Again much of the blame must be placed on the shoulders of Mansfield's frankly woeful defensive trio, who failed to pick up Shelton Martis' run around the back to latch onto Logan's patient ball over the top. 4-0 and home and dry. A goal a piece for the centre halves, no more than they deserve for a string of the highest quality performance in recent weeks, if not months the foundation to Darlington's return to form.
Where have all those moaners gone, look there they are jumping up and down, no more than half an hour after ravaging abuse on some members of Hodgson's selection. However, one person who has concreted his name into the affections of the Darloid intelligencia is Kyle Lafferty - deserved of his rapturous standing ovation ahs he was replaced by Hopkins just before the hour mark. He bares all the trademarks of the old fashioned centre forward, his bulliant, never say die workmanlike approach to the game making somewhat of a temporary heroine - hopefully this won't be the last we see of the teenage prodigy, his loan expires after today. Perhaps just as well the game was killed off so quickly, The Quakers having to play the last fifteen minutes with ten men due to a Carlos Logan injury, not long after Hodgy used up his allotment of substitutes by replacing Keltie and Dickman with Peacock and Stamp, and of course earlier Hopkins for Lafferty.
Minutes from time a ball destined to pass the by line was excellently hooked back by a rejuvenated Sodje, who also came close to doubling his tally for the day in injury time when his glancing header from Logan's enticing corner fizzed wide. An exemplary display in front of the biggest Saturday home crowd of the season caped offs by news of miserable Hartlepool's three nil defeat. Moreover, a fantastic team spirit clear as the delighted black and white shirts vacated the imperfect field of play; hugs all round vindictively embracing the delight being echoed from the adoring home support. But with Hopkins, Lafferty and Schmiechel all possibly playing there last games for the club today, will the brilliant run continue here on? A vital four goals propelling the Quakers to sixth spot, with Cheltenham in FA Cup action today, and increasing the goal difference column to +10. Admittedly we don't want to rely on goal difference but we of all supporters should know its significance in a playoff push.
Darlington: Schmeichel, Valentine, Martis, Clarke, Kendrick, Johnson, Keltie (Stamp 67), Dickman (Peacock 67), Logan, Sodje, Lafferty (Hopkins 58). Subs: Appleby, Norton, Peacock, Hopkins, Stamp.
Mansfield: White, Jacobs, Baptiste, Hjelde, Jelleyman, Birchall, Dawson (Uhlenbeek 67), Coke, Rundle (Lloyd 57), Brown (Arnold 77), Reet. Subs: Pressman, Russell, Arnold, Uhlenbeek, Lloyd.
Darlington bookings: None.
Mansfield bookings: Jellyman.
Goals: Lafferty 6th min (1-0), Sodje 53rd min (2-0), Clarke 58th min (3-0), Martis 64th min (4-0).
The Sunday Sun
Darlington 4, Mansfield 0
A purple patch of three goals in 12 second-half minutes brought the Quakers their biggest win of the season.
So often in the past Darlington have shot themselves in the foot in games against more lowly opposition - but this time a crowd that edged over the 4000 mark went home delighted.
They saw Darlington make a blistering start to each half to sink a Mansfield side that had no answers.
Kyle Lafferty's opener on five minutes when he expertly lashed Joe Kendrick's cross into the corner of the net set Darlington on their way, but didn't compare with the fireworks at the start of the second period as Akpo Sodje, Matt Clarke and Shelton Martis struck.
For much of the first half the visitors gave as good as they got, but had no cutting edge and Kasper Schmeichel, probably playing his last game before returning to Manchester City, claimed a third successive clean sheet.
Sodje doubled his side's lead on 52 minutes when he cut inside from the byline to fire home at the near post with stunned Mansfield keeper Jason White expecting the powerful striker to cross the ball.
Skipper Clarke got in on the act on 58 minutes after Sodje headed on Simon Johnson's corner. Central defender Clarke's only previous goal this season came, coincidentally, in the away game at Mansfield.
And fellow central defender Martis decided that he was not going to miss out, heading home his first goal of the season from Carlos Logan's pinpoint chip to the heart of the penalty area on 64 minutes.
The goal capped an outstanding performance form the Dutchman, who is rapidly getting to grips with the demands of the English game.
His first half tackling and anticipation was outstanding, and he read the game so well that he was never stretched despite facing a tricky opponent in Simon Brown.
Darlington may well have added to their tally had they not finished the game with 10 men as Logan limped off 20 minutes from time with all the substitutes already used.
Darlington have now lost only once in 10 games and are up to sixth place in League Two, leapfrogging Cheltenham while they were in Cup action against Newcastle.
Darlington's assistant manager Mark Proctor said: "We were strong defensively and scored four very good goals.
"Bearing in mind how we missed out last season we were desperate to keep the clean sheet."
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