Carling Cup: Big moment for League Two survivors
The Carling Cup may be an inconvenience for the elite squads of the Premiership but there will only be excitement among players and supporters of Barnet, Grimsby Town and Mansfield Town when they represent League Two in this weeks’ 3rd round. The ties are very welcome to three teams that have had hard times in recent seasons. Barnet have got the plum draw with a trip to Old Trafford where they hope to emulate Exeter City’s heroics in last season’s FA Cup. This is reward for the tremendous season Paul Fairclough’s side put together to dominate the Conference last year and return to the League. As non-league giants, Barnet made 4 runs to the FA Cup Third Round and as a fledgling League club, they held Chelsea goalless in 1993. However, like several of the clubs promoted from the Conference, Barnet found life in the League a bit of struggle to the point where they lost that status. This tie brings back some of the excitement that came to Underhill regularly when they were outside the 92. Grimsby get the chance to welcome Newcastle United to their Cleethorpes ground and having already removed Spurs from the competition, hopes are high that the Mariners can make life difficult for Graeme Souness. Grimsby are enjoying a tremendous season in League Two and support is reviving again after the club plummeted down the divisions in recent seasons, suffering successive relegations. For Mansfield Town, their home tie with Championship side Millwall is a chance to forget the disastrous run that has seen them rooted to the bottom of the Football League. In 2002 the Stags were promoted from the bottom division and though they came straight back down, they reached the play offs in 2003-4. Last year though, manager Keith Curle left in a disciplinary matter and while Carlton Palmer stabilised matters a little, the Stags have fallen away badly this campaign. The Nottinghamshire outfit downed Championship side Southampton just after Palmer’s resignation to get here and caretaker boss Peter Shirtliff will be hoping for another morale-boosting effort against Colin Lee’s Londoners. So what are the chances of League Two being represented at the last 16 stage? On the face of it slim, especially as Millwall have moved into form after a rocky period. The Lions were on a seven game unbeaten run before they ran into the Sheffield United steamroller last week. Mansfield will hope that their 4-0 drubbing has dented confidence at the New Den again. Even if Sir Alex Ferguson decides to play a weakened team-in fact he may have no choice given his injury list- he can be expected to fire his side up as he was definitely annoyed at the performance against Exeter. Barnet are having a mixed season so far but the LDV Trophy win over Bristol City shows they are keeping their best for the cups. Even so, a draw would be a staggering result. Grimsby might have the verve to upset their opponents and they will be willing Sunderland to take the game to Newcastle in the North-East derby. The Magpies have only two days rest before the trip down the East Coast on Wednesday and the League Two leaders have nothing to lose. Russell Slade will be hoping that someone comes up with a strike- the team have shared the goals this season with 10 names on the scoresheet so far. Whatever happens, it’s pleasing to see some excitement for loyal fans at three clubs where life has been tough over the past few years. The Carling Cup may be maligned periodically but there are times when it injects a feel-good factor to the season.
Hugh Larkin 21 October 2005
http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk (Evening Post)
VICTORY IS BIG BOOST FOR CARLING SHOWDOWN
Mansfield man-of-the-match Simon Brown said the victory was a huge boost to the League Two strugglers and will give them a lot of confidence for tomorrow's Carling Cup showdown with Millwall.
Brown scored the second goal in the win over the Bees and was a constant thorn in their side.
And now he hopes he can be equally troublesome to Colin Lee's Lions who will be looking to avoid the fate that befell Championship colleagues Stoke and Southampton in the same competition.
Brown said: "We have not been playing that badly this season and it has been a case of letting in too many goals, but we seem to have sorted that out.
"We have had some big league wins and I would much rather we were scoring a lot of goals than winning 1-0 all the time, even though there will be times when we have to do that.
"But the way we have been playing recently has given everybody lots of confidence.
"In the last four or five games, I have been getting in positions but they have not been going in, so I was delighted to get one against Barnet.
"It's going to do my confidence the world of good and everyone is looking forward to the Millwall game.
"Hopefully we can keep it up and see them off, like we did the other two Championship teams."
Full Preview and match reaction to the Barnet win in Today's Evening Post.