Full Time Score Carlisle United 3-2 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Brunton Park
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Matt Preston, Tyler Walker
Attendance 4,563 (335)
Craig Priest writes…
It had to come to an end at some point didn’t it? Up against a Carlisle side determined to not let a managerial walk out rock their boat – it was almost inevitable, the only solace which Stags fans could reflect on during the long journey home was that Flitcroft’s men went down fighting.
When you’re on such a long run and carrying records – those records are there to be broken and shot at, the REAL test comes not in stopping that from happening, but in how your character and mindset responds, and with that I have no fear whatsoever that yesterday’s loss – only our second all season, will be a wakeup call and a mere bump in the road.
The truth is Mansfield have perhaps rode their luck a little over the last three or four games and yesterday were totally outplayed in the first half by a very good counter attacking side who suck you in and then pounce – we fell well and truly into the trap.
Players are human, they have off days and bad days at the office – three, maybe four were guilty of that in the first half and it cost us, non-more so than Neal Bishop who was booked for retaliation after a reckless challenge on him right on the stroke of half-time.
Red mist took over and a confrontation in the tunnel led to a second yellow card and Mansfield having to come back from two goals down with ten men. Personally I thought Bishop was off the pace from the start and when Rose came on after half an hour, I was surprised to see Elsnik withdrawn and not Bishop – however it’s all irrelevant as Bishop being the model pro will serve his ban, hold his hands up and come back stronger. Sometimes an enforced rest is a good thing.
Mansfield’s resolve in the second half is typical of the team that David Flitcroft has built and with 11 vs 11, I firmly believe that I’d be sitting here writing about a victory right now. Had we been just a goal down We’d have come away with at least a point with ten men, maybe a win – but they are a very good counter attacking side and were always going to make the numerical advantage count.
IF I’m going to knitpick, I would have brought Khan or Butcher on after we scored the first goal at 2-1 and given them something else to think about – as it happens we perhaps got too hyped up and, again played into their hands, by pressing too high and letting them counter and score a much deserved third for 3-1 and game over.
Yes we fought and got it back to 3-2 but with numbers and time against us, that third goal was too much to ask and to be honest – we walk away at full time knowing we’ve given it absolutely everything and go again.
This is a unified dressing room and speaking to many fellow fans on the way out and at various service stations after the game, there is a collective feeling that the loss had to happen sometime and that this side is not one to implode, but one to grow.
I wouldn’t ring the changes too much but this is a good opportunity to freshen things up, playing with a back three does suit us but it was only a matter of time before teams countered us and punished us – we’ve been lucky in the last four, maybe five games to not have that happen AND take positive results.
However in the second half in a 4-2-3 we were tough to break down and still played our passing game, I’d be very tempted to go 4-2-3-1 next weekend, with Atkinson – who I thought was excellent, taking Bishops place, Khan coming in for Elsnik and Rose for either Sweeney or Preston, one of which would be unlucky to miss out by virtue of the fact we’d need two central defenders not three and dropping Pearce is not an option!
Unbeaten runs and records are great to have yes, BUT the ultimate aim is promotion and with games in hand on the teams around us – plus lots of them still to play, that must remain the focus of our attention, and not a marginal loss at Carlisle.
We move on.
David Flitcroft made the one change, with Rose and Elsnik swapping places in the line up for the second game running and set about trying to hurt an already wounded Carlisle with good early pressing leading to a Stags free kick – which led to nothing.
Mansfield found themselves behind on four minutes after a cleaver counter attack from the hosts with Jack Sowerby getting the final touch to finish a move which cut the stags open like a knife through butter.
The Stags could have been further behind eight minutes later as Grainger’s testing free kick left Mansfield watching, second later at the other end – Timi Elsnik’s volley flew into the Cumbrian sky never to be seen again, as Mansfield hunted for a leveller.
Skipper Pearce prodded an effort wide of the home goal on twenty minutes before six minutes later, the Stags were again caught on the counter attack and punished – Ashley Neadesan squared the ball from a wide position and Hallam Hope left the Stags hopelessly watching on as the ball easily found the back of the net.
Danny Rose replaced Eslnik on 33 minutes as Flitcroft tried to inject some life and spark into a flat Mansfield who at that point looked like relegation certainty’s than a team pushing for promotion, the stags had little opportunity to draw one back and lost the game on 45 minutes, when Bishop was booked for retaliation – after Grainger had floored him. The half-time whistle followed just seconds later and with the red mist not clear, Bishop squared up to Grainger in the tunnel, not emerging for the second half having been given his marching orders.
Mansfield needed a miracle and with a man down, made their second change bringing on Atkinson for Sweeney – with Flitcroft switching to a 4-2-3 with Atkinson sitting alongside Mellis in midfield, Walker on the right, Hamilton on the left and Rose through the middle.
Walker very nearly reduced the score line four minutes into the second half flashing an effort wide of Adam Collin’s goal, nodding wide a deep Rose cross on 51 minutes – a sign that whilst the Stags were two down and a man down – they were not giving up.
Rose himself then nodded wide of the target before the Stags got a huge let off on 67 minutes as Gillesphey’s powerful effort whizzed wide of Logan’s goal.
It was game on, on 78 minutes as Matt Preston headed home Mal Benning’s free kick – at 2-1 Flitcroft rightly left Preston up front making it a 3-2-4, but that error proved costly just two minutes after the restart – Hallam Hope in acres of space to slot home his second, and the hosts third – 3-1 with ten minutes to go.
Hope then set about getting his hat-trick but fired straight at Logan on 83 minutes, he did so again on 84 but this time saw Logan make a fine save which proved just the Hope Mansfield needed to try and stay in the game – a strong run from White saw him beat the keeper and clip into the middle for Walker to nod home with three minutes to go.
Time was against the Stags and in the end they had Logan to thank for keeping it 3-2, he again made a save before Pearce swept up in the dying minutes – the referee’s whistle bringing a thrilling second half to an end, and with it, Mansfield’s unbeaten run and up until then, unblemished away record – for just over a day thanks to Liverpool’s loss at City, the Stags were the only side in the top four leagues to be unbeaten away from home this season.
FULL TIME: Carlisle United 3-2 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce, Ryan Sweeney (Will Atkinson HT), Hayden White, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, Timi Elsnik (Danny Rose 34), CJ Hamilton, Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Jake Kean, Calum Butcher, Otis Khan, Jason Law, Jordan Graham
Referee: Robert Lewis
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