Notts County fans travelling to Mansfield Town for Neal Ardley’s first league match in charge will do so with little optimism, and mostly an expectation that they’ll leave Field Mill pointless once again.
It didn’t used to be this way. Games against the Stags used to be meat and drink for the Magpies. Between 1963 and 1998, Notts went 15 league matches unbeaten against their rivals.
But it is now 13 league games since Notts recorded a victory in this fixture, courtesy of two late goals as Mike Edwards and Glynn Hurstearned Gudjon Thordarson’s men three fine points, sending them top of thebasement division.
A bogey side the men in amber have become much to their satisfaction and the frustration – and at times bewilderment – of black and white followers. Indeed, since the foes were reunited in League Two in the 2015/16 season, the Stags have recorded 5-0 and two 3-1 wins at their homeground.
The 3-2 success under Thordarson, in August 2005, had actually broken a sequence of three straight wins for Mansfield – making the recent league record an alarming one win in 16 games for Notts.
That takes the sequence of results back to January 31st 1998 – the year of Sam Allardyce’s Magpies. The season Notts won the title before March was done. It’s a campaign depicted in new book Record Breakers: The Inside Story of Notts County’s Momentous 1997/98 Title Win, available in the Notts County Club Shop and online here.
In it, that victory at Field Mill is depicted in all its glory by the men who took to the field and the fans who took over Mansfield – many of them locked outside unable to get in and others forced to watch among home fans. But boy was it all worth it. Both that day, and come the season’s end, as Notts romped to the title and finished a remarkable 34 points above their rivals.
Here’s how those present remembered that glorious day – as a Gary Jones brace earned a 2-0 win and with it a derby double for the season and a record 10th straight victory – in passages taken from Record Breakers. Grab a copy of the book to relive it some more!
“The two (goals) at Mansfield – well, fans always remember that one as it’s a local derby. I remember a year or two after I’d left Notts, I went to Acapulco in Mexico – I took my wife to swim with dolphins. There were two couples there doing it with us and we got talking about football. It turns out one of the lads was a massive Mansfield Town fan. He went, “You’re Gary Jones, aren’t you? You’re the twat who scored those two goals against is! Faz (Sean Farrell) set one up for me, where he headed it on a plate.”
Gary Jones, striker
“My wife has hit me harder than that and I’ve stayed on my feet, I’ve got to be honest. I’m not a cheat but in football you do what you have got to do. I hold my hands up to that one. You win how you win. It was a result that mattered and if anyone wants to raise their arms or put their head in you shouldn’t do it first and foremost. It was a bit harsh on him and I do apologise now looking back, but you win any way you can. The intent was there and if he intends to do it, I intend to take it!”
Ian Hendon, captain, on Iyseden Christie’s red card, for headbutting him
“This was before the Field Mill redevelopment, and Notts fans took over the ground. I think we officially had 4,000 fans all around the ground and the ticketing was so pathetic to the extent that fights were breaking out in the main stand between the two sets of supporters, with I believe another 1,000 Notts fans locked outside the ground. Those were the days when it was guaranteed we’d beat Mansfield.”
Notts fan James Cheetham
“The away end was full so we got locked out. I watched the first half from a field at the back of the main stand! I saw the ball go in the net twice and we won 2-0, Gary Jones with both goals in the first half, and I went home at half-time!”
Notts fan Dean Gollin
“Although the rivalry back then wasn’t the intensity it has reached now, in my opinion, it was still a big game and, once again, thousands of Notts fans travelled. The home fans turned out too – and the gates were locked before kick-off, with hundreds still outside. Many gathered on the top of a grass bank outside the home Quarry Lane End – and when some home fans forced a gate open, I, and many others, took the opportunity to pour through. I then had to remain totally silent at Gary Jones put us 2-0 before half-time, which was how it stayed.”
Notts fan Richard Smith
“We were locked out. A few of us slipped the steward a tenner and sat in home supporters’ seats. There were two huge cheers as we were stuck outside. Enquiries as to why when I sat down got some great responses!”
Notts fan Will Greasley
Notts’ team that day was: Darren Ward, Ian Hendon, Ian Richardson, Gary Strodder, Matt Redmile, Dennis Pearce, Steve Finnan, Phil Robinson, Ian Baraclough, Gary Jones, Sean Farrell. Sub used: Andy Hughes