EVENING POST AND GLOUCESTERSHIRE ECHO REACTION
GANNON BLASTS 'AWFUL' STAGS
Evening Post, 10 March 2003
Mansfield assistant boss John Gannon said he and manager Keith Curle were "up for the fight" but it was up to their players to show the same attitude after a dismal 3-1 defeat at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Stags conceded within the first two minutes and never looked like getting anything against the bottom-of-the-table Robins. The players were kept behind in the dressing room for 45 minutes after the final whistle but Gannon said explanations for the awful display were not forthcoming.
He said: "We have been left asking a lot of questions.
"I don't know how we could put in a performance like that and be a shadow of the team that we were on Tuesday in such a crucial game.
"We have got a lot of questions and they haven't got a many answers.
"We started awfully and gave a goal away in the first minute. When you start a game like that, we said to the players 'you are just inviting them and encouraging them to win the match.'
"For the next 20 minutes, we just couldn't get going. We caused all our own problems and found it very difficult to get back into the game.
"They went two up and it was far too comfortable for them. No one has had it that easy this season against us.
"We made our feelings known in the dressing room and we have got ten games left now.
"We are putting ourselves under pressure and it is a question as to whether they can respond.
"Myself and Keith are up for the fight but we cannot afford any more performances like that.
"We accept defeat sometimes but not in that manner. To go down in the way we did was very disappointing."
Curle missed the game through suspension after picking up his fifth booking against QPR two weeks ago.
He could face a further three matches out if his appeal against his sending-off in the 1-0 defeat against Oldham is unsuccessful and Gannon hinted that a new player my come in to fill the void.
He said: "We looked like we were lacking a leader and missing the manager on the pitch.
"We couldn't shake ourselves out of it and it went from bad to worse.
"If the manager is suspended for three games coming up then we have got a big problem.
"We showed we weren't responsible enough to take control of the situation and the players weren't big enough to respond to the challenge and we went down too easily.
"We will accept defeat if we have had a go and been unlucky, but not from the effort and commitment that was on show against Cheltenham.
"It was a massive game and we made the players well aware of that.
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realise it was a big game but to go down in that manner was awful."
DEFEAT SETS OFF THE ALARM BELLS
Evening Post, 10 March 2003
Cheltenham Town 3 V 1 Mansfield Town
With the National Hunt Festival getting under way tomorrow, the sporting world will turn its attention to the Gloucestershire town of Cheltenham for some thrills, spills and examples of gut-busting human endeavour.
Just down the road from where all the drama will unfold, the clash between the Division Two basement boys was no fitting aperitif.
And it was the Stags, who have seen the front-runners disappearing into the distance for some time, who came to a crashing fall.
The assembled 700 who made the trip down from north Notts will be desperate that their 3-1 defeat, the most disappointing of Keith Curle's three months at the helm, will not be a sign they are about to pull up.
It is up to them to respond to the talking-to they got when the dressing-room door was shut after the final whistle and it appears that, in time, this match will come to be viewed in one of two ways.
Curle, and his assistant John Gannon, will be hoping the defeat will have the same effect as their own victory over Notts County had on Billy Dearden's men.
That 3-2 success may have left many a Stag crowing about being the second team in the county.
But the Magpies haven't looked back and now seem destined for mid-table, while no Field Mill regular will have any fingernails come the second week in May.
However, if the Stags cannot be spurred on by the alarm call this result would have sounded then their visit to Whaddon Road is in danger of being viewed as the beginning of the end.
Ultimately, it will all come down to the reaction of a group of players. Everyone else can only encourage.
It would not have been just the basic surroundings that would have caused a curious racegoer, who might have happened upon the encounter, to question whether the entertainment on offer was a Division Two football match.
The quality of play was generally uninspired and not helped by a gusting wind. But Cheltenham drew the first blow in the opening couple of minutes and had the tenacity and, above all, the desire to get three points - commodities that the Stags just didn't appear to have in their armoury.
That was what was most disappointing. The bustling nature of their midweek victory over Luton, far superior opposition, was hardly in evidence and now they have to put this nightmare behind them.
In doing that, they will realise that, despite losing to the bottom team being a big disappointment, the task remains the same.
Fifth-from-bottom is all that matters.
The situation around the drop zone is not that different. It is just that Cheltenham and Northampton have given themselves a chance of catching up.
The fact that all is not lost is about the only positive to take out of a lack-lustre display, apart from Liam Lawrence's free-kick, which the Stags were unable to build upon to produce a last-ditch revival.
And, with the table relatively unchanged, there is no reason to be too down-in-the dumps, as long as the players make sure that it won't happen in the last ten games.
The up-and-down nature of the season that has seen them produce the goods one week, only to slip up the next could well mean they win against Swindon on Saturday.
No one is going to put another season outside the basement in wrapping paper, tie a ribbon on top and leave it on the dressing room floor.
They have made life hard for themselves this season and now they have to fight through it again. But the tame surrender at Whaddon Road will have to be a one-off rather than a taste for things to come.
It was utterly forgettable and being beaten by a poor side made it even worse.
I am assured that, whatever bets I have at the races this week, no result at Cheltenham will be worse than this one.
CURLE IS LEFT FUMING
http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk , 10 March 2003
Suspended player-boss Keith Curle banned himself from post-match comments after Mansfield Town's defeat. Mansfield lost 3-1 to fellow strugglers Cheltenham Town at Whaddon Road on Saturday and former England and Manchester City defender Curle decided not to give his verdict on the game.
His defence missed the tightness he gives it and Cheltenham's seventh Nationwide League division two win of the season left them deep in trouble, only three points above Cheltenham and two above Northampton Town.
It was not only the defeat but the manner of it that upset Curle, who sent out his deputy, former Wimbledon and Sheffield United midfielder John Gannon to face the questions.
"We accept defeat sometimes, but not in that manner. It was a very, very disappointing display today," Gannon said.
"At the end of the game, we made our views known in the dressing room and the players didn't have many answers.
"We looked as though we were missing a leader. There was no Keith Curle and things went from bad to worse.
"We couldn't shake ourselves out of it.
"There were problems in defence and they may not get any better if Curle's appeal against a three-match ban doesn't work."
The strange run of early goals Cheltenham are having hit Mansfield on Saturday, when Martin Devaney's was timed at 70 seconds.
It was the fourth Cheltenham game in a row with a goal in less than two minutes and Mansfield did not recover from it. In the game before, Bristol City scored early and went on to record a 3-1 win.
"We went down far too easily," Gannon said.
"We could have accepted it easier if we had been unlucky or had had a go, not today.
"It was a massive game and the commitment and effort was not enough.
"To go down in the manner they did was awful and I can't see any positives from it."
The defeat hit Mansfield hard because they beat play-offs candidates Luton Town 3-2 at Field Mill in the game before.
Mansfield went up with Cheltenham from division three last season, although they earned an automatic promotion spot.
Curle, who started out under Cheltenham boss Bobby Gould at Bristol Rovers, has been in charge since the end of last year when he took over from Stuart Watkiss.
GOULD CHEERS ROBINS
http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk , 10 March 2003
Bobby Gould (pictured) rung the changes on Saturday and the result was a much-needed win for Cheltenham Town. The 3-1 success against Mansfield Town at Whaddon Road was not enough to lift them off the bottom of Nationwide League division two, but it has brought renewed hope.
Gould made four changes to the side beaten 3-1 at Bristol City.
Defender John Brough, as expected, was thrust up front in place of the injured Julian Alsop.
Much less expected was the dropping of goalkeeper Steve Book in favour of Shane Higgs, while David Bird and Marvin Brown were given chances at right-back and up front in place of Steve Jones and Damian Spencer.
Midfielder Lee Howells was also in the 16 for the first time since beaking a leg at Bristol Rovers 12 months ago.
Brown scored Cheltenham's second goal after Martin Devaney had put Cheltenham ahead in the second minute.
Liam Lawrence pulled a goal back seven minutes from time but substitute Spencer made certain of the points with a late third.
Gould was pleased with Cheltenham's performance.
"On the whole, the 90 minutes was a lot better," he said.
"The opportunity for the first goal came from some great football and the third goal was another excellent one.
"You have to play long at times and you have to play short at times and I thought we chose the right times today.
"We've still got a lot of work to do and Higgs had one great save to make, so we have to eliminate some things and stop giving away free-kicks in certain areas."
Cheltenham play at Swindon Town on Wednesday.
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