Despite a period of domination in the second half, City again match their top six opponents without really looking like scoring, and a solitary goal was enough to see the Stags claim all 3 points. Mike Scott hopes for better, soon.
This might be getting a touch serious now. The Tigers put in another decent showing today and for 60 minutes lived comfortably with their tough-tackling neat-passing foes without making many real chances apart from during a spell early in the second half. But then a soft goal went in, a crazy substitution was made and the fizz in the City game went decidedly flat. We never looked like getting back in the game, despite Mansfield generously withdrawing deep into their own half for the last quarter in an apparent attempt to give us a sporting chance.
Peter Taylor persisted largely with the team that fought hard but lucklessly against Lincoln, carding:
All this guff we hear about "Tinker Taylor" really is annoyingly mistaken. Taylor made three changes for this match, reintroducing the influential fit-again pairing of Ashbee and Price at the expense of Hinds and Green (the latter can count himself unlucky that Junior Lewis has edged him out), while also replacing the injured Elliott with Holt. All totally common sense changes, so what's the problem?
The City back four generally played OK today, Marshall putting in his least scary performance so far at right back to quell the usually lively Corden. Holt never got a grip on the game, but had one or two useful surges down the left. Lewis looked a decent enough lower league player, but no better than Green at either tackling, dribbling or passing - if Junior's wages are as steepling as rumour and common sense would have it (he signed a contract at Leicester while in the Prem) then I hope we are paying only a fraction of his total wedge during this loan spell, because he hasn't appreciably bettered our squad, simply maintained its standard and added another selection dilemma. With Burgess having an off day against the muscular Dimech (the Stags' fans and my man of the match) Walters had a pungent, odorous game that smelt bad. He stank. I was disappointed that Forrester wasn't introduced after 30 minutes, how Taylor kept Jonny Boy out there until 68 I can't fathom. Above all else, the team currently screams out for the return of Allsopp.
For the Stags the "People's Elbow" was meted out regularly by new signing Laurent D'Jaffo, while serial scorer against City Iseyden Christie also niggled his way through the match up front. The City-bound Liam Lawrence was clearly trying to impress his new boss come the summer, and in trying far too hard he had a fairly ineffectual game. An injury to Disley in the first half saw veteran Tom Curtis introduced, and he had a very influential 50 minutes up against the restored Ashbee.
In his programme notes Keith Curle spoke wisely of the need for his side to "earn the right to play" against high-rolling Hull. With this tenet also very much at the forefront of Taylor's game plan, a brutally entertaining half ensued with few genuine goalscoring opportunities. The key differences between the team came in attitudes - Mansfield were briefed to launch into every tackle, close down the Tigers quickly across the park and harry their way into possession. City were more thoughtful, as usual, preferring to keep the ball and go backwards, rather than squander possession cheaply. Marginally, Mansfield's tactic won. Lewis showed two pieces of fine skill in the opening minutes and the first half chance was created for Burgess, who shot high and wide after Holt and Thelwell combined on the left. Mansfield's first goalbound shot took 17 minutes to arrive, as Christie turned Joseph inside the box but shot straight at keeper Myhill. Moments later Myhill rolled a suicidal pass to Delaney, whom Lawrence dispossessed and struck home a lomng range effort, only for the floppy-fringed future Tiger to concede a free kick as the ref rather generously adjudged that Lawrence had shoved Damo off the ball. With these two events coinciding with the arrival near me of a roaringly drunk attention-seeking City supporter, my afternoon had taken a turn for the worse.
Things didn't get better. As the pished bloke stole someone's hat, clambered for attention from a camcorder toting PC and bragged loudly about his sexual exploits, Lewis was caught out 30 yards from goal by Disley, who fired an early shot that warmed the gloves of our netminder. Proper Boaz. Then Lawrence wriggled free of a rather half hearted challenge by Holt and swung over a cross that found D'Jaffo unmarked six yards out, but his header was denied by our keeper, who had chosen the correct place to stand. Boaz Selecta. Part of the reason for the lack of an aerial challenge on D'Jaffo was an injury to Delaney, who was clkearly disorientated by a bang in the head sustained after a robust but fair Stag challenge. Damo toughed it out til half-time, but was withdrawn for Hinds for the second stanza.
40 minutes in, Disley also succumbed to injury and the more combative Curtis stepped onto the field to exert his presence in midfield. Initially this influence amounted to hauling back Price as the Welsh wideman broke free of his defender on halfway, but despite Jason having an unimpeded run in on goal the expected yellow card was not brandished. City had attacked the Mansfield goal sporadically without working the glass-jawed Pilkington in goal, and it was only deep into injury time that our first genuine chance came as Burgess showed good strength on halfway before releasing Walters down the centre to bear down on goal. As Jon shaped to pull the trigger, the pacy Day swept the ball off his toe for a corner that came to nothing. Come to think of it, Walters' contribution to this game pretty much came to nothing this afternoon as well. Give the boy a break and give wee Jamie a try.
After half time high-jinx with "are they/aren't they above the legal age of consent" cheerleaders, the teams took to the field again and, as we have become accustomed to, City upped the tempo and pushed Mansfield back. One reason for this was the quelling of Christie, whose threat was diminished greatly after he saw yellow for clattering Joseph on half-way. As a long free-kick deep into Mansfield territory turned their defence, Holt took the ball and squared to Burgess in the centre of the goal whose scuffed shot was straight at Pilkington. Then a brace of corners was won after superb battling by Ashbee, culminating in Marshall swinging in a cross and Burgess seeing a deflected shot loop up onto the crossbar. Vaughan was the next see yellow after kicking Price (Jason was later unpunished for clopping Vaughan in the face as he went for a high ball). On the hour Walters chased down and robbed the swarthy Dimech, but his shot was blocked and cleared. Then Ashbee took the ball from a throw and fired a long range shot in that kept low but failed to trouble Pilkington unduly.
With all that good attacking seeing no reward in terms of goals, a sinking "Lincoln" feeling might have been felt by some. This was given weight when a scramble on the edge of the box resulted in Williamson taking possession, but his chipped goal attempt flew narrowly over. A minute later Mansfield were awarded a corner and D'Jaffo rose unmarked 8 yards out to steer the ball inside the near post for a goal. The lack of any kind of marking was utterly shocking, making yet more mockery of Taylor's "all-11-back-for-corners" policy - TV evidence today suggested Lewis was the miscreant who lost his man.
The instant response by the manager was to withdraw the wretched Walters for Forrester. So far so good. Quite bizarrely, the other change was to take off the influential Price and introduce France. Price was at the heart of much of City's good work in the second half, France is still a young boy learning his way and the capable Green was left on the bench - so there's 3 good reasons why this switch was poorly judged. While Forrester had some nice touches and two decent missed chances (one created by France, the other falling to him after Burgess had a shot blocked), the young winger made precious little impact on the game. For the last 15 minutes the Stags sat back and soaked it up, and to be honest City never looked like scoring as, for the first time in a while, the Tigers' heads seemed to drop as the belief drained out of them a little. The final point of note was the booking of Ashbee, his tenth of the season (nine yellows plus the yellow that pre-empted his red at Bury making ten) meaning he will miss the games against Rochdale and Boston - I think.
Despite three defeats on the spin City are still in second place, but the chasing pack are now close by and the Tigers, while not yet anywhere near being in crisis, need to start winning soon. In the next six days would be nice. The forthcoming 5 fixtures (Scunny, Orient, Rochdale, Boston, Kidderminster) are nowhere near as arduous as the last five (Mansfield, Lincoln, Torquay, Carlisle, York) so a chance to turn the corner has come. But the way in which heads dropped late-on yesterday will surely be the focus of Taylor's work this week, restoring belief in his team must be the number one priority. That, and getting Allsopp fit and picking Stuart Green.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Marshall, Joseph, Delaney, Thelwell; Price, Ashbee, Lewis, Holt; Burgess, Walters. Subs: Hinds (for Delaney, 45), Forrester (for Walters, 73), France (for Price, 73), Green, Musselwhite.
Sent Off: None
MANSFIELD TOWN: Pilkington, Hassell, Vaughan, Dimech, Day, Williamson, Disley, Lawrence, Corden, D'Jaffo, Christie. Subs: Curtis (for Disley, 39), Pacquette (for D'Jaffo, 82), White, Larkin, Buxton..
Goals: D'Jaffo 69
Booked: Christie, Vaughan
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: R Pearson
Last revised: March 09, 2004