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Archived News from October 2002

11th October 2002 9:06

Evening Post, 07 October 2002

Mansfield midfielder Neil MacKenzie said the players were pleased for manager Stuart Watkiss more than themselves as Saturday's 6-1 thrashing of Tranmere Rovers lifted Stags off the bottom of Division Two.

Mackenzie, signed by Watkiss on a free transfer from Blackpool over the summer, scored a 25-yard equaliser after Alex Hay had given Tranmere a first-half lead.

But goals from Scott Sellars, Liam Lawrence, two from Iyseden Christie and one from Colin Larkin gave Stags a thumping win after more than seven hours without a league goal at home.

The margin could have been even greater had Christie not missed a penalty.

MacKenzie said the manager had come in for a lot of criticism over the last few weeks but he was delighted to have given him a win and is confident Stags can push away from the relegation zone, starting with points from Saturday's trip to Peterborough.

He said: "We are more pleased for the Gaffer than anything. We have done it for him.

"We desperately want him to stay here and we believe in him and we hope the fans stick with him.

"This is a chance for us now to go onto a bit of a run, get something at Peterborough next week and take it from there."

MacKenzie's goal was his first for the Stags and was warmly received by assistant boss Neil Richardson.

Richardson believes Stags have confidence in their ability to compete in Division Two after gaining promotion last season.

He said: "Neil's goal was an absolute screamer and it gave everyone a lift and it gave the lads the belief they could go on and win the game.

"Saturday proved it is all about confidence. We all know that the boys can play and they showed in the second half they can create and score goals.

"At times we rode our luck in the first half when they were playing with the wind, but we knew we would score after the break.

"To get one so early in the second half was a massive bonus.

"We are just delighted to get the result we deserved.

"We've got a big game against Peterborough next week and we cannot rest.

"We have to show the same appetite and enthusiasm we showed in the second half and come back with some points.

"The lads have got to realise how good they can be. We keep saying it is all about belief and confidence.

"They are very honest and they are buzzing at the moment and hopefully that feeling will be carried on into the Peterborough game."

Evening Post, 07 October 2002
Mansfield Town 6 v 1 Tranmere Rovers

Now, was it the fact I sat in the second row of the press box for only the second time this season, the other time being the 4-3 opening day success against Plymouth?

Was it the fact that "When the Going Gets Tough" replaced "Hey Baby" as part of the pre-match warm-up?

Or was it that the new Miss Stags was invited to perform the half-time draw?

Who knows, but something happened.

After 428 minutes without a goal at home in Division Two, Mansfield scored six in the next 32 and, suddenly, the demands for manager Stuart Watkiss to find a new job were replaced by requests for him to "give us a wave."

Classed as tactically na??ve and out of his depth by some in the last few weeks, now he is the hero, whose half-time words turned a situation of depressing familiarity into cause for a joyful night on the beer.

For those who always believed Stags had enough ability to live in the Second Division, the second-half showing will now be used in evidence whenever the doubts reappear, which is bound to be some time in the next six months.

Watkiss had promised that the team would get back to the basics that served them so well last season and, once Neil MacKenzie planted a 25-yarder into the top corner, you could see the relief on the faces of the occupants of the pitch, bench and the stands.

The attacking had the buzz that was a fundamental component of last season's success, which has been absent since the Stags tried to adapt to the higher level.

The strikers looked lively and found the target, although it was a shame Christie managed to fluff a penalty that would have given him the hat-trick his tenacious performance deserved.

Despite MacKenzie's screamer and fine finishes from both Liam Lawrence and Colin Larkin, it was Christie's second that was the most heartwarming, because the ball appeared to bounce off his backside and, consequently, demonstrated the sort of luck that has been in short supply for the Stags this season.

Suddenly, after inflicting Tranmere's second 6-1 defeat in the space of a week, there will be a feeling that Mansfield perhaps do deserve to be featuring in a league higher than the basement division.

And, like all of us who are trying to recall what clothes we were wearing and what our routine was up to kick-off on Saturday, Watkiss and the team will be well aware they will need more of the same.

The danger will be over-confidence, but, on reflection, it is probably not going unnoticed that six of the eight teams Stags have lost to currently sit in the top 11 places in the table.

One win doesn't make them promotion candidates, and there are bound to be a few more harsh lessons during the remainder of the season.

But they have now shown they are capable of beating sides in Division Two and doing it in style.

They have also shown they can go through a game and not concede for 77 minutes.

It would be great if we went on to say you could watch three Star Wars films before they concede again.

For the moment though, three points to take them off the bottom of the table is reason enough to celebrate.

The request will be for more of the same. Personally, I won't be sitting in the front row again and will be wearing those lucky boxer shorts.

And I suggest all Stags fans do the same.

Stags' second half super show
CHAD website
After weeks of agony and even a disappointing first half, suddenly it all clicked into place for Mansfield Town on Saturday as they slammed Tranmere Rovers 6-1.
As they queued for pies and Bovril at the break, not even the most ardent Stags fan could have dared dream of what was about to happen.
Tranmere, looking to quickly banish memories of that 6-1 midweek Worthington Cup hammering at Southampton, had been in charge with the wind at their backs but only had Alex Hay's 13th minute strike to show for it at the break.
So many times this season, Stags have threatened to give someone a good hiding but failed to find the net, especially at home.
But like the proverbial local bus service, as soon as one goal arrived, suddenly so did another and another!
To see this talented young side suddenly believing in themselves again was a joy as Rovers clung on to the ropes and prayed for the end.
Six goals in 32 incredible minutes lifted Mansfield off bottom spot and a huge weight from round the shoulders of manager Stuart Watkiss.
Now Stags have to make sure this was the turning point after the false dawn at Luton and build on the confidence this result will have generated around the club.
With Lee Williamson still suspended, Watkiss stuck with the players who performed so well at Northampton the previous week which saw Dutchman Arjan van Heusden make his home debut in goal.
And, although he was beaten on 13 minutes when teenager Hay forced the ball in from close range from Simon Haworth's nod-down, the keeper's 42nd minute save from Simon Parkinson was a crucial turning point.
Tranmere, with a strong wind at their backs, dominated a scrappy first half and if they had gone in with more than a one-goal lead, it is unlikely this young Stags side, so low on confidence, could have come back.
Mickey Mellon had volleyed narrowly over, Liam Lawrence had cleared a Hay effort off the line and Hay had also sent a diving header inches wide as Rovers created the better chances.
Then, just before half-time, an almighty scramble saw the ball roll invitingly for Parkinson near the penalty spot and he blasted it goalwards only to see Van Heusden turn it aside. It was only one of two saves he was called upon to make but was a pivotal moment of the afternoon.
In the visitors' goal, Phil Whitehead only had one really anxious first half moment as Iyseden Christie headed on a big up and under from Liam Lawrence and then chased his own flick-on to get in a shot from a tight angle that Whitehead stopped with his knees.
Mansfield desperately wanted an early goal after the break. They got it - and what a goal it was!
Stags worked the ball across from the left flank with Colin Larkin laying the ball to his right for the incoming MacKenzie who opened his account for the club with a net-buster from just outside the box and spark wild scenes.
That was Stags' first home League goal in 429 minutes of football - but well worth the wait.
The players immediately seemed to grow in stature and confidence and, with the crowd in fully cry behind them, attacked down the right flank.
Christie ran out of pitch so laid the ball back to Lawrence who whipped in a far post cross where Scott Sellars, Stags' outstanding first half player, simply allowed the ball to go over the line off his midriff.
Mansfield were now in front with half-time only seven minutes behind them and, after Larkin had wasted two openings, extended their lead on 61 minutes.
Christie fed Lawrence who rounded Whitehead and squeezed home his finish, despite the best attempts of Forest loanee Christian Edwards on the goal line.
MacKenzie then forced a good save from Whitehead at his near post as Tranmere began to visibly wilt.
That frustration boiled over two minutes later as Haworth decided to dish out some 'afters' to Craig Disley in the centre circle after a challenge and was promptly red-carded.
The final whistle could not come soon enough for the Merseyrsiders. But there was more agony to come for them.
Disley blazed over from a great position before a long wind-assisted punt from Van Heusden on 69 minutes saw Christie accelerate clear and slot home number four.
Van Heusden turned over a free header from Tranmere substitute James Olsen to deny them their only real second half opening.
But all attention was quickly focussed back at the other end where by now stewards were fighting running battles with irate Tranmere fans behind the goal.
It was 5-1 on 79 minutes as Disley made headway down the left before finding Larkin who beat Whitehead with a devastating shot that looped over him and under the bar.
Christie got the final touch on Larkin's shot on 78 minutes to make it six of the best and really should have had a hat-trick after being brought down by Edwards on 84 minutes.
Allowed to take the spot kick, Christie got no pace or direction as he tried to roll it just inside the keeper's left hand post and put it harmlessly wide.
The final whistle saw stewards and police have to keep the visiting fans away from their own players as their anger at conceding 12 goals in four days spilled over.
But elsewhere Field Mill was a sea of yellow and blue, clapping hands and smiling faces as it began to dawn on fans and players alike that this side is more than capable of Second Division survival and beyond.
Posted by Martin Shaw


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