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Archived News from January 2012

5th January 2012 14:08

Stags review of the year – in the boardroom

by Matt Halfpenny, Nottingham Post, Wednesday, January 04, 2012

IT'S rarely quiet off the field where Mansfield Town are concerned – and 2011 was no exception.


The now familiar battle between chairman John Radford and one of his predecessors in the role, Keith Haslam, for the ownership of Field Mill continued with little in the way of movement.

But there have been other events, most notably the appointment of Carolyn Still as chief executive, that attracted the most publicity, unwanted in some cases.

Early on in the year, Radford appealed for new board members to take on some of the strain of running the club's affairs at Field Mill.

He soon got that wish as joining chief executive Steve Barker and himself were Mark Hawkins, a childhood friend and associate of Radford's and Darren Bland, a vice-president and local businessmen.

Also back were the well-known faces of Andrew Saunders, Steve Hymas, and Steve Middleton who stepped up from non-executive roles adopted when selling the club to Radford in September, 2010.

Barker was still in office when Paul Cox was appointed Mansfield's new manager, but shortly after 2011-12 kicked off, he had stepped down from his position.

His replacement was Still who, at 29, became what was thought to be the youngest chief executive at a professional club in the country.

The graduate in politics from Durham University insisted she should only be judged on what she did, admitting to not being a football fan.

But just a few days after her appointment, allegations were made about her private life in the national press that caused a significant stir.

Some called for her to step down immediately, feeling her position was no longer tenable, but she vowed to stay on and it was soon announced she was engaged to Radford.

Later in the year it emerged that Mansfield were hatching a plan B to redevelop Rainworth Miners' Welfare's home ground at Kirklington Road to Football League standard.

That bid was in case Mansfield are not able to secure Field Mill – or a ten-year lease to play there – by the end of the season, which they would need to contest the play-offs.

But things are very much still up in the air on that score, with no fresh news of a date for the court battle between Radford and Haslam.

Indeed, it is no guarantee that Mansfield will finish in the play-off places at any rate, meaning the urgency to resolve the current tenancy-cum-ownership issues may dissipate


Stags review of the year – managers
by Matt Halfpenny, Nottingham Post, Wednesday, January 04, 2012

TWO completely different characters have been at the Field Mill helm during 2011 – but both have encountered similar problems.


It was Duncan Russell who began the year in the manager's hot-seat, having been confirmed as boss until the end of the season by chairman John Radford just before Christmas.

Having celebrated his appointment in style with a 5-1 demolition of Cambridge on their own patch, Russell went into the New Year with high hopes of pushing Mansfield up towards the play-offs.

However, his side were thumped 7-2 at Grimsby to begin the year – and continued to blow hot and could for the rest of his short reign in charge.

There were moments of success, such as a 3-1 win at Eastbourne, 2-0 triumph at Tamworth and 2-1 home success over Rushden, prior to their sad demise.

But the fact was that, in the league at least, Mansfield were found sadly lacking when a squad beset by injuries seemed to lose their way in a late-season rash of games caused by a fixture backlog dating back to the winter freeze.

Russell, who had former Jamaica midfielder Paul Hall at his side as an assistant, reserved his best results for the FA Trophy.

And he will always have the distinction of being one of only two bosses – the other the legendary Ian Greaves – to lead out the Stags at Wembley.

But his overall record of nine wins, seven draws and 11 defeats was never going to be enough to land him the Mansfield job beyond the end of the season.

Taking over with the club four points off the play-offs, they eventually finished 17 points adrift of the top five in 13th place.

Russell's exit was swiftly followed by the entrance of Paul Cox following a successful five-year spell at nearby Eastwood Town. He immediately set about ringing the changes with a whole raft of players departing and a similar kind of number arriving.

After four games without a win to start the season, the Stags then embarked on a terrific eight-game unbeaten run that included five victories on the bounce for the first time since the promotion season of 1991-92.

That put them right up there among the early season front runners – and raised expectation levels.

Since then, Mansfield have struggled to find their best form and have suffered disappointing home defeats to the likes of Kidderminster, Southport and Cambridge.

But that has been tempered by a run of ten away games without defeat that was only halted just before Christmas with a 3-1 defeat at Southport.

It is the inconsistency that has proved most frustrating, with Mansfield seemingly able to beat anyone in the division – yet also come unstuck against some of the lesser-ranked sides as well.

Because of what has happened in previous campaigns, with the Stags struggling in the second half of the season, Mansfield fans are anxious to see the club do not tail off in the second half of 2011-12.

For that reason, the jury still seems to be out among the fans on Cox's abilities.

Realistically, though, precious few managers achieve promotion in their first season at the helm unless they have a sizeable budget for the league they are in.

And while the Stags are far from paupers in the Blue Square Bet Premier in terms of wages paid, they are far from the biggest spenders either.

With that in mind, Cox surely deserves time to make his mark – in the same way that other promotion-winning bosses at this level such as Graham Westley, Steve Evans, Terry Brown and, of course, Nigel Clough, were allowed to do


Wembley and all that – Mansfield Town's 2011
by Matt Halfpenny, Nottingham Post, Wednesday, January 04, 2012

THERE was little appetite in the early stages of the year for a competition which would eventually culminate in Mansfield Town's first trip to Wembley in 27 years.


But as the team slowly built up their FA Trophy momentum, and the possibility of a date in the capital, so too the interest levels increased.

The Stags were already through to the second round of non-league football's premier knock-out competition, having beaten Worksop 5-0 in their final game before Christmas, when they took on Newport County in round two in mid-January.

The Exiles had just lost the services of their promotion-winning manager Dean Holdsworth following his departure for Football League Aldershot.

And the Stags took full advantage by sweeping into a 3-0 half-time lead with a double from Paul Connor and another from Keigan Parker.

County rallied to pull it back to 3-2 before Louis Briscoe settled the home side's nerves with a late fourth.

Mansfield's reward was a clash with local rivals Alfreton Town in round three.

The Reds, en route to winning the Blue Square Bet North title, pushed the Stags all the way, taking them to a replay after a 1-1 draw at Field Mill where Nathan Arnold's opener was cancelled out by Connor.

At the Impact Arena, Alfreton again went in front through Matt Wilson and still led at half-time. However, Mansfield got their act together after the interval and, after a Connor leveller, Parker's deflected strike sent the visitors through.

Next up for Mansfield was a clash at Chasetown, the lowest ranked team left in the draw, who had won through six rounds to reach the quarter-finals.

Mansfield should have won at the Scholars Ground after scintillating strikes from Connor and Briscoe, but the concession of soft goals, including a late David Grof own goal, saw them held 2-2.

The replay saw Mansfield struggle early on before skipper Adam Murray opened the scoring to settle their nerves.

The Scholars fought back to level but Briscoe quickly restored the hosts' lead before Danny Mitchley sealed a last four place.

Few expected Mansfield to reach Wembley when they were paired with Luton – the favourites among the teams left in the competition – especially because the match was over two legs.

But the Stags gave themselves a fighting chance when a single strike from Mitchley, coupled with some excellent saves from Grof, saw them clinch a narrow 1-0 victory in the first leg at Field Mill.

When Lloyd Owusu put Luton 1-0 up, it did not look good, but two sendings off helped Mansfield's cause significantly and two minutes from the end of extra-time Briscoe netted with a penalty rebound to clinch a 1-1 draw, 2-1 aggregate victory and a May date under the famous arch.

Almost 15,000 Mansfield supporters made the trip down the M1 come the big day to cheer on their side, who were hit hard by injury and unavailability.

But after a dour struggle with Darlington, it was Mark Cooper's men who clinched a dramatic late win in the final minute of extra-time thanks to Chris Senior's header.

At the time, the heartbreak for players and fans was there for all to see.

But looking back now it was a terrific day out that will surely live long in the memory



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