STAGS RETRO: Fairbrother ends record-breaking goal drought
MATCH: Mansfield Town 2 Plymouth Argyle 3.
VENUE: Field Mill, 18th December 1971.
AT 3.23PM on 18th December 1971, Mansfield Town wrote themselves into the footballing record books. Unfortunately for them it was for all the wrong reasons.
John Fairbrother had just found the back of the net for Stags to end an amazing sequence of 833 minutes without a home goal - and in the process set a new Football League record.
It was struggling Mansfield’s 10TH home game of a miserable Third Division season, which had seen the side already lose five of their first nine games at Field Mill and fail to beat the opposition goalkeeper in the process.
The poor run of results, which had left Stags rooted to the bottom of the table with 11 points from 19 games, saw new manager Daniel Williams take over at the helm from caretaker manager Samuel Weaver the previous month.
“Daniel Williams was new to the club and I remember him coming in and saying how he would sort us out,” said full-back Sandy Pate.
“I can still remember him on the mud-bath training ground sending in crosses for the strikers to head home. He said he would show us how to score and he certainly did that.”
The sparse crowd of 3,728 entered Field Mill with hopes that the terrible run would finally finish, but after 19 minutes the horror show continued when the South West visitors hit the front in the 19th minute.
Diminutive winger Hughie Reed showed a good poachers ‘ instinct to fire Plymouth ahead after goalkeeper Graham Brown had failed to hold a tentative shot from outside left Don Hutchins.
But despite being very low in confidence in front of their own supporters, Mansfield came back to level the contest just four minutes later when Fairbrother headed home a Pate cross to finally register Mansfield’s first goal at Field Mill of the campaign.
It was just reward for Stags, who had already seen goals by Dave Thompson and Fairbrother chalked off by the linesman’s flag for offside. Longhorn had also came close to breaking the deadlock when his superb long-range shot was tipped away by Jim Furnell in the Argyle goal.
Parity was not maintained for long though as Reed, a bargain buy at £11,000 from West Brom, ghosted past two defenders as if they weren’t there to put Argy l e 2-1 up a minute from half-time.
Stags came back strongly at the start of the second-half and the lively Fairbrother was left holding his head in his hands as he watched his peach of a shot superbly saved by Furnell.
But Mansfield got their reward once again for a good period of pressure as they made it 2-2 when Pate sent Thompson away with a sweet through ball.
The winger took the pass on his chest before firing home a superbly accurate shot as Furnell attempted to narrow the angle.
Stags sniffed their first home win of the difficult campaign and continued to push their visitors back. But those hopes were left in tatters as Plymouth found the decisive fifth to turn the Field Mill cheers into jeers.
Substitite Jim Hinch ripped a big hole through the Mansfield rearguard with a defence-splitting pass into the path of Derek Richard. He then had little to do but direct his effort past the stranded Brown and wrap up all three points.
When you’re a struggling team the luck so often does not go your way. And Mansfield found this to be oh so true with just one minute to go when substitute Frank Wignall cracked a shot against the Plymouth post to end all hopes of a last-ditch draw.
Not suprisingly, Mansfield were relegated at the end of the season after managing just eight wins and 36 points in a league which was eventually won by Aston Villa.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Brown, Pate, Walker, Longhorn, Saunders, Waller, Thompson, Stensen, Fairbrother, Jarvis, Bingham.