As we approach Halloween and MK Dons visit on Saturday many Stags fans will still have nightmares about the last time the Dons were in town on what could be described as the ‘Night of the Living Drysdale’!
As football matches go, that dreadful evening in October 2007 could only be described as a horror show with referee Darren Drysdale turning in one of the most controversial refereeing performances ever witnessed in Mansfield.
Decision after decision went against the Stags in a 2-1 defeat in a season that ultimately ended in their relegation and the removal of Drysdale from the club’s Christmas card list forever.
It would be fascinating to know what the official thinks of that night now in retrospect.
Every player and manager has a bad game and has to hold their hand up. But there was little contrition from the Lincolnshire official at the end as Stags players and even chairman James Derry ran towards him to remonstrate for his string of puzzling decisions.
Derry’s version of events post-match was: “I just wanted to talk to the referee to ask him why he had not sent off one of their players during a fracas when Micky Boulding was pulled down.
“I was also conscious that things were getting a little heated and wanted to try to calm the situation down.
“But when I approached him and said ‘Can I . . .’ he just stopped me, said ‘How dare you’? Then he pushed me away.
“I didn’t say anything to him in the end because he wouldn’t let me.
“I suspect he was disappointed with his performance.
“The football club will be making an official complaint to the Football League as that was the worst performance by a referee I have ever seen.”
Manager Billy Dearden added: “Obviously I have to be careful about what I say, but in all my 45 years’ career in the game, that was the worst refereeing display I have ever seen.
“That’s not sour grapes as he was poor for both sides.
“By all accounts the ball did not cross the line for their first goal, even their sub said it didn’t go in.
“Then the referee didn’t give what was a clear penalty on Mickey Boulding. He said it was because he didn’t go down which is a load of rubbish.
“I thought we played very well and deserved to win it, let alone draw, against a very strong team.
“We had more injuries, losing out keeper and captain and then just caught by that second goal.”
Stags were furious with the Dons’ physical approach, losing concussed keeper Carl Muggleton with a broken nose after a four minute stoppage early in the second half and skipper Jake Buxton limping off near the end with all three subs used, yet few of the challenges were punished.
Michael Boulding was clearly hacked in the box for a stonewall penalty. But, because he didn’t go down and managed to edge the ball to Matt Hamshaw, play was not brought back for the spot kick, even though Hamshaw was never going to have a goalscoring chance.
Boulding did finally give Stags a deserved lead and home players remonstrated with Drysdale at the break for his decisions.
The Dons then levelled from another bizarre incident on 72 minutes in which the ball was clearly kicked out of sub keeper Jason White’s hands and rolled towards goal where it then looked for all the world like Alex John-Baptiste had cleared before it crossed the line.
However, Stags were stunned when a goal was awarded and an astonished Baptiste and White booked for protesting
As Stags pressed forward the visitors then stole a late winner to rub salt in the wounds.
More controversy saw Swailes hack down Boulding and, in the aftermath, push Hamshaw to the turf. But the card that came out was only yellow to Mansfield’s fury.
Even Dons boss Paul Ince had some sympathy for Stags, saying: “I know from my time a Macclesfield last season that when you are near the bottom nothing seems to go for you.
“Mansfield were not happy with the referee. But it happens.
“When you are down there you think decisions are not going for you and the crowd think the same.
“The referee has to be strong and tonight I though he was strong.”
Strong was not the word being used about Mr Drysdale from the Mansfield fans, staff or players!
PHOTOS BY RICHARD PARKES