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Archived News from March 2003

22nd March 2003 15:26

IAN WILKERSON, Evening Post, 22 March 2003

Assistant boss John Gannon warned that Mansfield Town must not rely on home wins to avoid relegation, after watching his side's gutsy 1-0 away defeat to Cardiff last night.

Robert Earnshaw's 62nd-minute goal was enough to see the Bluebirds start the day in second place, but Gannon was still proud of the way his players performed. The Stags have trips to Bristol City, Blackpool and Tranmere Rovers before the end of the season and he warned against complacency in the remaining home matches against Peterborough, Port Vale, Barnsley and Northampton - all of whom are at the wrong end of the table.

He said: "People may say we only have to win our home games to stay up, but sometimes it doesn't work out as you plan it.

"It would be lovely if we won the four home games, but we are due a win on our travels and that is why we didn't go for a draw last night.

"We wanted to go out and try and win the match and that goes for the other three away games we have got left.

"If we could find a win in those games, it would certainly ease the pressure.

"Somewhere among the matches, we need to find the results."

Earnshaw took his total for the season to 34 and Gannon admitted that his finishing made all the difference.

He said: "We did a very good job on Earnshaw and Thorne but, unfortunately, Earnshaw is very lively and he took the one opportunity he had when we were slightly caught out of position.

"All over the pitch we didn't give up and tried to get forward but it was a night when defences were on top for large periods of the game.

"We went to Cardiff and they were running the ball in the corner to run the clock down and that showed what we achieved on the night."

"We kept trying to take the game to them and we contained them for long periods.

"In the first 20 minutes we started a lot better than they did. Unfortunately, we just couldn't find a finish."

IAN WILKERSON, Evening Post, 22 March 2003

As I walked across the Ninian Park car park after the game last night there was one thing on my mind, and it wasn't getting to my vehicle as quickly as possible.

The question I found myself asking was when, in a fight against relegation, do you stop being encouraged by performances that have failed to yield a result? Cardiff may have won just one of their last five home games before Mansfield's visit but none of the remaining seven matches can be regarded as this tough.

After all, the Bluebirds went to second in the table after Robert Earnshaw's goal earned them the points and the intimidating atmosphere at their home ground is well documented.

And, with that in mind, it is proper to give Keith Curle's side plenty of credit and the benefit of the doubt, because they won't go down if the level of performance they offered last night is repeated for the remaining weeks of the campaign.

In effect, the Stags will have left disappointed they didn't earn at least a share of the spoils, but perhaps didn't have that cutting edge in front of goal to justify such a return.

But, while the Cardiff defence guarded Neil Alexander admirably, Keith Welch was offered similar protection apart from the one chance a striker with more than 30 goals to his name was never going to miss.

Whenever Curle has missed matches - this being the last of a three-match suspension - he always said he hoped it wouldn't be necessary for him to write his name into the team again.

And on this evidence, Rhys Day and Adam Eaton are going to take some shifting.

The midfield battled tirelessly and the forwards never gave up, despite having most of their scraps gobbled up by their opponents.

And the sight of Cardiff, who have spent £8.5million on players since Sam Hammam bought the club three years ago, taking the ball into the corner for the last few minutes showed how, in Curle's words, Stags had "given them a game."

Although they failed to head back across the Severn Bridge with some sort of return, the nature of the performance should hearten those with doubts as to whether they will be able to get out of trouble.

There was plenty of fight and they didn't give up and, although they were probably faced with players with greater reputations, the way they played has to be considered a big plus.

They are due a win away from Field Mill and a similar level of show in their last three, at Bristol City, Blackpool and Tranmere, would be enough to earn them one.

So, yes, the result was disappointing, but they will have still left with their confidence boosted.

After today's results, the table may look a bit gloomy but, even now that push has come to shove, there is still the necessity to look a little bit beyond it.

Few would have thought a win was on the cards, even after Notts County managed to get it there two weeks ago.

But, while the table may not look rosy, the outlook certainly is. As long as the level of commitment and mental strength is maintained, there shouldn't be a problem.

Last night, they demonstrated that they can perform well against one of the top sides and certainly the biggest club in the division.

Now, they have to show they can do it against the other teams who find themselves in the mire.

I have every confidence they will and I'm sure the 147 who made the trip will feel exactly the same.

All defeats are disappointing but, while the Cheltenham loss a couple of weeks ago made the heart sink, this one just wasn't the same.

They will not face a tougher test and they almost came through it with a result.

And it's not clutching at straws to say that they can and, really, should push on from here.

The motivation, fighting spirit and self-belief certainly seems to be there and, with such commodities in their possession, the points will come.

And that was the second thing I thought about.


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