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Archived News from December 2002

9th December 2002 20:11

Evening Post, 09 December 2002

New Stags boss Keith Curle today heralded a fresh start at Field Mill - saying he doesn't care what went on before he arrived at the club.

Curle, who watched from the dugout as Crewe Alexandra knocked his team out of the FA Cup on Saturday, remains encouraged by his players' attitude, despite their 3-0 defeat.

It was the third time Stags have lost to Dario Gradi's side this season, after the Railwaymen knocked Mansfield out of the LDV Vans Trophy with a 4-0 win and thumped them 5-0 at Field Mill in the league.

But all Curle wants to concentrate on now is the remaining 26 league games and ensure the players keep doing things his way.

He said: "I don't even want to know how the team used to play or what the attitude used to be.

"I'm going to find out about myself and find out about the players, but we are going to be positive and give the opposition a game of football.

"In four days, I have had to cover the whole spectrum. I haven't asked them what they used to do. They have to go out and do what I want them to do.

"Their attitude has been spot-on. They have been in mornings and the majority of afternoons as well, because we have had to cover attacking, defending and the shape of the team in the space of two or three days."

Curle promised Stags fans that his side would be competitive in every game, as they try to drag themselves off the bottom of Division Two, starting with Saturday's home clash against Blackpool, where the boss is expected to make his Mansfield playing debut.

He said: "I will take all the positives out of the Crewe game and there are enough.

"The only thing I can guarantee every single Mansfield supporter is that, in every game we go into, the team we are playing will know that they have been in a game.

"Our support on Saturday was brilliant. I made sure that, as soon as the final whistle went, the players went over and gave them a clap because we do need to know they are behind us."

"We were the better team in the first half. We tried to have a go at them and upset their natural style of play.

"There was enough to show that we do have a fighting chance.

"It is the first time I have been able to look at the players in a match and I was definitely impressed with the first 45 minutes."

Kenny Lunt produced the pass of the match to allow Ben Rix to put Crewe ahead after six minutes and Curle made a tactical switch to try to stop Lunt's influence by bringing on David Jervis to man-mark him.

Jervis fouled him to give Dave Brammer the chance to net a 62nd-minute penalty and Dean Ashton completed the win with a third with 13 minutes to go.

Curle added: "Lunt was giving us a problem in the first half because he kept popping up spare in the middle.

"Bringing David Jervis on to man-mark him worked in a lot of respects. He didn't really have any in the second half but we did lose a bit of the closing down from the front."
Evening Post, 09 December 2002

Crewe Alexandra 3 v 0 Mansfield Town

When the emphasis at Field Mill is on gaining enough points in their remaining 26 league games to stay in Division Two, it is difficult to decide where the FA Cup fits into the whole scheme of things.

But the desire to win was pretty apparent when I rang Keith Curle last week.

I wanted a phone number to contact him on yesterday for reaction to the Stags' third-round draw if they managed to see off Crewe and get their names into the hat.

"What do you mean 'if'" was his reply, enhancing the impression that the remainder of the season will be bathed in positivity.

The conversation enhanced my belief that someone with such determination was just what the Stags need as they attempt to battle their way out of the mire.

And, at Gresty Road, there was reason to be encouraged by the first-half showing in particular, although Mansfield lost their way a little bit after the break and fell to the defeat many would have predicted before proceedings had started.

Curle said before the game that his team had nothing to lose and that they would go for it and, in the initial stages, that was the case. Despite the fact they went a goal down following a well-worked move, there was no early evidence of an impending capitulation.

Neil MacKenzie, back in the side for the suspended Lee Williamson, showed the sort of drive that has been absent from his play probably since the opening day of the season against Plymouth.

And Colin Larkin, deployed on the right side of midfield, showed plenty of pace.

Crewe, who had already beaten the Stags 5-0 and 4-0 this season, found themselves in a tough battle.

The Stags' defence looked pretty solid and at half-time there was enough about them to suggest they were far from out of it.

However, after the break they were unable to get to grips with the match again as Curle introduced David Jervis to nullify the effective Kenny Lunt in the middle of the pitch.

Stags lost their shape, with the wide men leaving Iyseden Christie isolated, and Crewe managed to kill the game off.

In his post-match interview, Curle stressed his desire to forget about what had gone on before he came to the club early last week but it is inevitable that comparisons will be made and it is a necessary part of the adjustment process to discuss them.

The one most fans will jump on was that the Stags were a lot more direct and attempted to get the ball forward as quickly as possible.

This became a bit frantic in the second half and I fancy the passing between the defenders that was an integral part of Stuart Watkiss's reign, especially towards the end, will be as a rare as rocking horse manure around Field Mill.

A throw from Kevin Pilkington to a full-back will probably become a collector's item.

But it is too easy to see Curle and fellow former Wimbledon midfielder John Gannon on the bench and draw the obvious conclusion that a long-ball game will result.

Curle has to try everything he can and, really, anything he likes, to address the problems with the team and has to be given time to do so.

It is going to take everyone time to adjust but he is certain to do things his way and all the players will have learned from Saturday's experience and perhaps become more adept in his methods.

Hopefully, he will also have tonsillitis victim Liam Lawrence and Bobby Hassell, who missed the game with a groin problem, to help the cause when he pits his wits against his former Manchester City team-mate Steve McMahon and his Blackpool side on Saturday.

And I hear he has got a centre-half - initials KC - who has played a lot of games, to provide an additional driving force on the park.

The league was more important than the FA Cup when Stags were in the knockout competition and is now the solitary concern.

I would heartily dispute the Crewe fans' assertion that Mansfield are the worst team they have ever seen.

A trip to the seaside for Southend or Bournemouth in the third round of the FA Cup would have been nice but the quest in front of Curle and his side is now plain.

The more important job starts now and everyone needs to get behind the man in charge.


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