STAGS BEATEN AT LUTON
Blue Square Premier
Luton Town 4 - 1 Mansfield Town
Pilkington 38, 65, Perry 80 og, Craddock pen 90+4. Garner 18.
Attendance: 7,295 (542 from Mansfield)
Date: 11 August 2009
Martin Shaw at Kenilworth Road
Stagsnet player ratings in the Match Centre
Luton Town 4 Mansfield Town 1, Tuesday 11th August
CHAD.co.uk, By John Lomas
LUTON Town came from behind to convincingly inflict Mansfield Town's first defeat of the season in a fiery affair at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday night.
The euphoria of Saturday's opening 4-0 home win against Crawley quickly evaporated as the relegated Hatters showed Stags the yardstick they will need to reach this season.
Stags were ahead against the run of play through Scott Garner's cool 18th minute finish.
But a talented Luton were deservedly level through George Pilkington by the break and his second of the night put them in control on 66 minutes.
Kyle Perry's own goal nine minutes from the end finished any hopes of an unlikely point before a bruising, ill-tempered game blew up with two red cards for Callum Reynolds, for a second bookable offence, and then Stags' Scott Gardner – a straight red for a bad tackle three minutes from the end.
The reds added to five earlier yellow cards and a stoppage time spot kick by Tom Craddock took the game' goals tally to five and made it 44 goals in the last seven clashes between these old adversaries.
The Stags had made one change for their first away match of the season after Gary Mills lost his race to be fit.
Mills, who limped off with a hamstring injury early during the opening day 4-0 win over Crawley, did train on Monday, but was replaced by Matt Somner, who starred for the Stags when coming on as an early substitute for Mills on Saturday. Steve Istead came in for Somner on the bench.
Luton - who drew 1-1 in their first match at AFC Wimbledon - brought in Freddie Murray on loan just a few hours before kick-off.
Craddock flicked a header at Marriott from a Burgess cross in the first real raid of the game on five minutes.
And soon after Marriott was also easily behind a low scuffed shot from Murray who had overlapped down the left.
The Hatters came closer on seven minutes as Garner headed away a long ball into the box straight to Gallen who whipped a first effort narrowly wide from 18 yards.
Williams won a corner for the visitors on nine minutes which, in a training ground routine, Nix whipped back low from the right to the incoming Briscoe whose first time shot was blocked.
Gallen turned provider with a lay-back to Hall which saw the midfielder crash a firm shot over Marriott's crossbar.
Briscoe went on a typical storming run past two defenders down the right but his final pass saw Stags finish with only a corner.
Burgess was a constant menace on the left and his 16th minute cross saw Gallen power a header just wide as Luton continued to have the edge.
However, Stags broke through on 18 minutes from a Gardner free kick. It came off a home defender's head into the path of Garner all on his own and the defender coolly tucked away a striker's finish inside the left hand post.
Clearly stung, Luton responded with a barrage of pressure and from a corner, Newton had a fierce shot blocked and Keane blazed the follow-up over with Somner steaming in on him.
Hall was screaming for handball against a Mansfield defender as the pressure continued and then Burgess had a shot charge down.
Then a Burgess free kick was headed out to Jarvis who crashed a volley just wide as Stags' goal remained intact.
Briscoe fired across the face of the home goal from a Duffy touch-back after Stags had won a throw on the right.
Marriott sent a long free kick into the home box and Tyler was down bravely before Duffy could get there.
Pilkington was wide again with a hurried effort at the other end as a whole-hearted game continued to flow.
The home players were becoming increasingly irritated by the decisions going against them and first Burgess and then Keane were lectured for dissent.
Burgess curled a shot over the far angle from a difficult position as Mansfield continued to soak up the home pressure.
On 32 minutes an Armstrong throw was headed clear to Williams who wasn't too far over with his 20 yard attempt.
Keane was similarly too high when Luton's fourth corner was headed out to him two minutes later.
And Marriott was always behind Jarvis' low 30 yard snapshot onto a loose ball.
Luton's fifth corner was pulled back to Keane whose free header into the danger zone and Marriott safely grabbed it as it bobbled dangerously.
Marriott then had a let off as he misjudged a Newton corner and was grateful Gardner was behind him to concede another corner.
But when Jarvis' flag kick found its way through everyone, Pilkington was there at the far post to crash a low finish past Marriott from seven yards for a deserved equaliser.
Murray was booked for a late tackle on Somner on 40 minutes as home tempers remained on red alert, despite their equaliser.
Duffy looked a certain scorer when left unmarked from a Williams free kick, but he headed wide and an offside flag went up anyway.
In stoppage time Garner was not too wide with a free header from a Nix free kick and from a central position from where he might have done better.
Holdsworth made a change in midfield for the second half with winger Williams withdrawn and Istead sent on.
But Luton went immediately for the jugular and only brave goalkeeping by Marriott at the feet of Craddock.
Luton were then relived when Reynolds was only shown yellow after tripping Perry on the edge of the box. And from a great central position Nix sent a tame kick into the wall
More unnecessary home protests after a late tackle on Briscoe resulted in a yellow card for Jarvis three minutes later.
But the Luton players and home fans continued to bay for blood at every decision by Mr Johnson.
However, the half-time switch had done the trick so far and Stags were far more steely in midfield and giving the Hatters less room to play their stuff.
Newton was wide of the far post after two clearances fell to him in succession.
Armstrong's error then let Newton free down the right, but the left back recovered to concede a corner with a well timed tackle in the box.
A Burgess cross saw Gallen fail to get a header on goal and Somner then blocked Keane's shot from home corner number nine.
Armstrong was booked for showing his studs in a tackle on Newton on 63 minutes and Istead followed a minute later for catching Hall late.
After Gallen had set up Murray for a low cross, it took a wicked deflection and forced Marriott to turn round his near post.
But from corner number 10, the Hatters surged ahead as the ball bounced to Pilkington who slammed it home down the centre from 12 yards to make it 2-1 in the 66th minute.
Now needing a goal, Holdsworth sacrificed Somner in midfield to send on Speight up front.
Briscoe wanted a penalty after a challenge by Murray but it was never going to be awarded.
Perry blasted a hopeful shot over from 20 yards with team mates waiting for a pass to his right.
Burgess fed Craddock to his left for a rising shot from a tight angle before firing low at Marriott soon after as Luton looked for a killer third.
With 10 minutes to go Clare was thrown into the equation in place of Briscoe.
But an own goal from Perry ended Stags' hopes a minute later as a long hopeful cross to the far post saw a stretching Perry inadvertently head past Marriott.
Luton were down to 10 men for the last eight minutes as Reynolds, already booked, brought down Duffy and then clashed with him on the touchline to earn his second yellow.
Hall did have the ball in the Stags net on 83 minutes with a low finish but an offside flag saw it chalked off.
Luton finished strongly and Newton was just over.
Three minutes from the end Gardner was shown a straight red for his tackle on Murray.
And there was more misery for Perry in stoppage time as he brought down sub Gnakpa in the box after Marriott had denied Craddock with his knees. Craddock thumped the penalty high into the top right hand corner and Stags were well beaten.
LUTON TOWN: Tyler; Reynolds, Keane, Pilkington, Murray; Newton, Burgess, Hall, Jarvis; Craddock, Gallen. Subs: Gore, Howells, Gnakpa, Basham, Beavan.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Marriott; Gardner, Jones, Garner, Armstrong; Briscoe, Somner, Nix, Williams; Perry, Duffy. Subs: Sandercombe, Speight, Clare, Istead, Graham.
REFEREE: Mr K. Johnson, of Bristol.
ATTENDANCE: 7,295 (542)
Luton Town 4 Mansfield Town 1
DIFFERENT day, different division, different dynamic, but still the same disappointing defeat for Mansfield Town.
Eight seasons ago these two sides met as they fought it out at the top end of League Two.
The Stags were never in it on that Easter occasion and were thumped 5-3 in front of a largely delighted Kenilworth Road crowd.
And so it was that Luton – despite the absence of no less than eight players through injury and suspension – prevailed handsomely once more to clinch their first victory in non-league football.
The visiting supporters were singing 'We are top of the League' prior to kick-off, acknowledging Mansfield's opening day 4-0 demolition of Crawley.
But it was always going to be an uphill task to stay there against the big-spending hosts.
There were initially encouraging signs from the Stags – and they actually went in front early on.
But a late Hatters' blitz made the margin of victory even more emphatic than that game back in the early noughties – and showed Luton's undoubted class.
For much of the game Mansfield were a solid unit, even if their hosts played the more attractive football and enjoyed the majority of the possession.
And early on, it was the visitors' set-piece prowess that looked most likely to yield them a victory.
Yet, ironically, it was that very thing that proved to be their Achilles heel in the final reckoning.
The first two goals, both scored by George Pilkington, followed defensive mistakes from dead ball situations and resulted in a first defeat of the season for David Holdsworth's side.
With the game stretched, Mansfield went for broke as Jake Speight took to the field in place of Matt Somner.
But that merely allowed Luton to add two more as both teams were reduced to ten men late on.
With 39 goals coming in the previous six meetings between these two sides, an open game was expected – and materialised.
Luton did most of the early pressing but Tom Craddock headed into Alan Marriott's arms before Kevin Gallen lashed a volley wide of the left-hand post from the edge of the box.
The Stags won the game's first corner, taken by Kyle Nix and met by Louis Briscoe, whose on-target effort was blocked in a crowd of Luton players.
It was the visitors who went in front when Scott Gardner launched a free-kick to the edge of the area and as the ball came off a Luton head, Scott Garner reacted quickest to fire home from eight yards.
Mansfield almost doubled their lead when Craig Armstrong's throw-in was cleared only as far as Ryan Williams who fizzed an angled shot just over.
But Luton were enjoying most of the possession and it was no surprise when they drew level as Marriott misjudged a cross and Gardner was forced to concede a corner.
Ross Jarvis' left-wing delivery found its way through to the far post where Pilkington slid home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Early in the second period, Callum Reynolds brought down Kyle Perry right on the edge of the box and was duly booked. Nix curled the free-kick straight into the defensive wall.
At the other end, Gallen should have done better when he missed his header after a teasing left-wing centre from Burgess.
Marriott pulled off a fine stop at his near post as Fred Murray's shot took a wicked deflection.
But the resulting corner was not dealt with and as the ball bobbled around, Pilkington drove home his second from 12 yards.
The home fans were on their feet again when Perry inadvertently headed into his own net trying to clear a cross intended for Adam Newton.
And the gloss was added in stoppage time when Craddock drilled in a penalty after Perry had fouled Claude Gnapka.
By then, Callum Reynolds was given his marching orders for a second yellow card after careering into Rob Duffy. Scott Gardner also saw red after scything down Fred Murray.
But it made little difference. Luton had already underlined their credentials as pre-season favourites to go straight back up.
Even so, all is not lost for Mansfield. There will not be too many teams who come away from Bedfordshire with something to shout about.
In fact, there are more who are likely to be on the wrong end of a good hiding.
And the last time the Stags left Kenilworth Road feeling despondent, their team still went on to win automatic promotion.
Stags must learn their lessons
Wednesday, August 12, 2009, 07:00Comment on this story
DAVID Holdsworth insists Mansfield Town must learn the lessons from their crushing defeat at Luton Town last night.
Despite taking the lead through Scott Garner, they were outclassed in the second half as they lost 4-1 and both teams were reduced to ten men.
"I felt we gave them too much space and gave them too much respect and it's a harsh lesson," said Holdsworth.
"We must take responsibility and perform at that level if we are to compete.
"They are a very good side, with a strong squad, and I am not taking that away from them or Mick Harford.
"But we have some good players here at Mansfield. Luton did what we try to do to other teams and it is not very nice to be on the receiving end.
"They are a young team but it doesn't matter whether you are old or young, if you give space to people of quality and high standards, they will dominate.
"There are lessons for some of our players to learn and some will find out when I make my selection for Saturday."
Holdsworth was disappointed to see the Stags concede twice from set pieces, something they have worked hard on in pre-season.
He said: "It was the little things that cost us and two set pieces have hurt me and the players. I felt we were well in the game and didn't look like we were going to concede.
"To concede from two set pieces isn't like us at all. It is really strange, but people have put their hands up in the dressing room and we move on.
"I am not going to criticise the players too much – that will stay in-house. But people know they need to step up."
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