Swindon Town 2 Mansfield Town 1
Parkin 21, Sabin 46. Lawrence 2
Att: 4,136 (approx 150 from Mansfield)
Martin Shaw at the County Ground
Several times this season Stags have clearly been beaten by a better side. Indeed after Tuesday's defeat by Crewe Stags boss Stuart Watkiss bluntly said “they had better players than us”. Today Stags should have been able to beat an awful Swindon side and again let the points slip away. Stags were gifted a goal on 90 seconds and were on top for the opening 20 minutes but an equaliser for the home side gave them confidence. An stupid error almost beyond description by Neil MacKenzie then gifted the 3 points to the drab home side. It was a criminal waste by the Stags.
Stags had two more debutants. Tony Vaughan, on loan from Nottingham Forest, replaced young Mark Hurst at left back, whilst Colin Little, on loan from Crewe, replaced injured striker Larkin, and injured Christie also missed out as Stags employed a 3-man strikeforce of Lawrence, Little and Sellars.
The game got off to an incredible start. Stags were yearning a piece of luck and they got it on 90 seconds. A back-pass was played to Swindon keeper Griemink. Liam Lawrence sensed danger and gratefully received the ball from the obliging keeper. I was screaming for Lawrence to shoot and initially it looked like he was looking for other options (a la Iyseden Christie) but then Lawrence suddenly pulled the trigger and curled a fantastic left-footed finish into the empty net off the left-hand post.
Stags were well on top for the opening 15 minutes with Disley, Lawrence and Sellars passing the ball around beautifully. But out of the blue, disaster struck. A huge ball was punted forward and former Chelsea youth striker Sam Parkin broke clear of the defenders. It looked 50:50 whether Parkin woulkd get to the ball first or whether the advancing Van Heusden would. But then the keeper stopped, leaving Parkin to collect the ball, easily round the keeper and fire into the roof of the net. It was a good finish but the Stags keeper made it easy for him by his indecision. How a goal changes a game! Now Swindon started to put Stags under pressure and the Stags defence wobbled a bit . On a couple of occasions I screamed at Stags players who tried to play the ball out of danger and were lucky not to be caught out. However at half-time 1-1 was a fair scoreline.
The second half started in catastrophic fashion. Disley played a pass back to Neil MacKenzie, who had time to clear the ball on the edge of his own box. However the Mansfield disease struck again and as I (and others) screamed from the stand for him to clear it, Swindon striker Eric Sabin nipped in to steal the ball, easily round Van Heusden and slide home from 5 yards. Stags player sunk to their knees, MacKenzie's head went down (and never resurfaced - he was substituted 10 minutes later) and I suffered near heart failure. Just how long are our players going to continue to do this? It was almost inevitable this would be the winning goal.
Within minutes, Liam Lawrence, Stags most positive threat all afternoon, had 2 chances to equalise, and was so unlucky. First, his shot was deflected by Disley into the keeper's hands, and then he made a great run down the right before shooting across the keeper and against the left hand post. It was so unlucky and reminded me of a similar close shave by Christie at 2-0 down against QPR.
After that Stags rarely came close in a poor game and fell to a desperately disappointing defeat. Swindon were dreadful and even when winning 2-1 there was repeated calls from the home fans of “King out”. References to the hated home manager Andy King, of course a former Stags manager from the mid 90s.
Stags played well in patches but need to play well for longer spells, and need to cut out the ludicrous type of decision making that led to the decisive second goal. It's not the fact that MacKenzie lost the ball, it's the fact that he was trying to beat his man in that position. If Stags can't beat team likes Swindon, and Peterborough in the last away game, then relegation is beginning to look inevitable.
Two home games coming up in the next 6 days. Formidable Cardiff are in Town on Tuesday followed by Colchester on Friday night. Certainly the Colchester game already looks like a must-win game, and anything against Cardiff would be a bonus. Come on Stags!
Man of the Match: Liam Lawrence
Van Heusden 6 Caught out of position for the first goal. Good handing after that.
JClarke 5 Beaten down the wing too easily, and as I seem to comment every game, very poor distribution.
Moore 6 Solid.
Lever 6 Also defended solidly. Good partnership continues with Moore.
Vaughan 6 Decent debut and looked comfortable on the ball. Defended well.
MacKenzie 5 Reasonable first half, but diabolical error for second goal. Soon substituted after his head went down
Williamson 6 Awful first half, but looked to be getting back to some form in the second half
Disley 7 Fought hard throughout and never stopped trying to drive the side forward.
Lawrence 8 A great first half in a more advanced striking role. Took his goal well. So unlucky to hit the post just after Swindon's second goal. Looked less effective in deeper role after the substitution.
Little 6 Looked rusty and rather one-footed (left), but showed promise.
Sellars 6 Started well but contributed little in the second half.
Corden (for MacKenzie, 56 mins) 6 Did ok.
Subs not used: JWhite, Hurst, Holyoak, Bacon.
Referee P. Crossley, Kent: 5 Very poor.
Latest | October 2002