Full Time Score Forest Green Rovers 1-1 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue The New Lawn
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Jorge Grant
Attendance 2,428 (204)
Craig Priest writes…
Coming away from Play-Off challenging Forest Green Rovers with a point, I should have had more of a smile on my face – after all a point away from home kept us second and the chasing pack at bay with games running thin, however I couldn’t help thinking we should have had all three and bridged the gap further.
In the first half especially we need that little bit of luck to put the game to bed, as Nicky Ajose and Tyler Walker both saw efforts test the paintwork of the post and bar respectively. Had we been fortunate enough to see those chances drop, Forest Green’s lack of togetherness would have seen them beaten and implode, yet as David Flitcroft said – we gave them the one thing you can’t give any team: hope.
Looking at the bigger picture however I’m glad we started brightly and didn’t need to have to fight and comeback for a third successive away game, that particular duck is broken and as far as I’m concerned – over and done with.
A point is better than what we could have had – nothing, especially considering the late home onslaught – we now have to go and build on it and show our ruthlessness as Macclesfield come to town, backed hopefully by a few more faces as the club offer free tickets to Under 18s.
Away from the result and as the transfer window draws towards the finishing line, the Stags have conducted two sensible bits of business this week, with the arrival of Gethin Jones (not the bloke who was on Strictly) from Fleetwood Town on loan, and making the loan of Ryan Sweeny into a permanent deal.
The deal, a free transfer with sell on fee, see’s Sweeney become a Stag for two and a half years – showing that we are building for the future with an establishing young international with League One experience, but also allows us to have Jones in the squad as the fifth loanee.
The Stags boss hinted at further transfer activity prior to deadline day (Tomorrow!) these deals would have to be permanent deals should he intend to use Jones on a regular basis, unless of course one of other loanees should follow Sweeney’s lead.
With the announcement that Ryan Sweeny’s loan deal had become permanent, new boy Gethin Jones came into the squad – but settle for a place on the subs bench, as Flitcroft named an unchanged starting eleven.
With considerably less water on the pitch than when the sides last met, both teams were able to play attacking football but it was Mansfield who made the breakthrough and led, as on 14 minutes, Jorge Grant showed his class to latch onto a pass, hold off his marker and tuck beneath the keeper.
Questions were raised four minutes later when both Ajose and Grant were brought down within the Rovers’ area, but neither challenge was deemed a foul and Stags went without a penalty, you’ve seen weaker given.
Benning did well on the half hour to stop Forest Green getting a cross in through Shephard but the hosts were given a huge let off moments later, Grant delivering a peach of a ball to Ajose who thundered a header towards goal – which cannoned off the post and away from danger.
Jordan Smith was called into action on 38 minutes but it was his opposite number James Montgomery who was the hero for the hosts a minute later, as Walker turned on the ball from Hamilton’s thow and hit a beautiful effort towards the top corner – the home keeper getting a finger tip to the goal bound shot to see the effort thunder off the crossbar.
After the break the hosts took more of a foothold in the game and had efforts through Doidge and former Stag Paul Digby, CJ Hamilton then moved up front as new boy Gethin Jones replaced Ajose on 56 minutes.
Two minutes into his debut, Jones was forward to try and latch onto a Hamilton cross – latch onto it he did, colliding with the keeper who left the pitch with numerous cuts and a few teeth lighter and the unfortunate and accidental collision – we wish Montgomery all the best in his recovery.
On 70 minutes the hosts were level as Digby sent a pass out wide cutting the Stags open, the cross was perfect for Rovers sub Ruben Reid, who made no mistake in converting past Smith.
Jorge Grant then squandered the Stags best chance to take home all three points as a pin point pass saw him free inside the area with the goal at his mercy, his attempted top corner curler sailed over.
Ruben Reid lobbed one over the Stags bar before in the 90th minute, a Grant free kick landed narrowly over – both sides taking a point each.
FULL TIME: Forest Green Rovers 1-1 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Jordan Smith, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, Jorge Grant, Tyler Walker, Nicky Ajose ([#20] Gethin Jones 56)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Danny Rose, Jason Law, Will Atkinson, Alistar Smith, Otis Khan
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 3-0 Tranmere Rovers
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Jorge Grant (2) Tyler Walker
Attendance 4,885 (451)
Craig Priest writes…
Waking up to see the Stags second in the League Table after a fairly comfortable 3-0 victory, it’d be very easy to get carried away and start dreaming, however you get the sense that with David Flitcroft at the helm – they’ll be no room for dreaming, just focus.
Focus is very much the key over the next week as the Stags face two sides fighting for polar opposites, on Tuesday it’s back to forest Green to replay the washout from earlier this season – the hosts very much holding their own at the top end of the division trying to stay in the play-offs and make ground on the top three, whilst next weekend, Macclesfield visit the One Call hoping another victory would lead them further away from the dropzone, and futher away from being the first side to go straight back down after promotion the previous season.
Should the Stags come through those two fixtures with maximum points, that would give some real momentum as the business end of the season draws ever closer.
The Stags boss has compared yesterday’s victory to “death by a thousand cuts” in the way Mansfield overcame ten-man Tranmere, there was certainly an element of sluggishness and again trying to over play, but to the Stags credit – the element of arrogance was nowhere to be seen, they knew one-nil wouldn’t be enough and duly obliged in adding to the tally before Tranmere could cause the upset they are capable of.
It’s that composed and professional approach which the Stags need to continue to harvest now, there are perhaps questions which still need to be answered with the right wing back situation and if that will help or hinder the development of CJ Hamilton - but it’s clear we have a manager who knows it’s not just about the next game, a manager who is passionate about developing players.
We also have a manager who can hold his hands up, admitted he perhaps rushed the decision to set up camp at the RH Academy so early – with full time training on the 3G Pitch causing a few injuries which could have been, and very nearly were, detrimental to key players. It’s very pointless training all week on a surface which is different to the one you play on when Saturday comes – that will no doubt be solved by utilising the training pitch at the One Call until such a time as the training ground is ready.
We have to be coy about our preparation and approach – here’s one for your book of quotes Dave…. Slowly, slowly catchy the league one monkey! COME ON YOU STAGGGGGGGGS!
With Hayden White ruled out for the rest of the season following a leg break at Colchester last weekend, there was a reshuffle to the stags back three, Matt Preston slotted back in alongside Pearce and Sweeney CJ Hamilton continuing at wing back.
It was a well balanced start to proceedings but it was Mansfield who came the closest on 14 minutes as the returning Matt Preston nodded Jorge Grant’s cross wide – eight minutes later it was the latters class which showed, he opened the scoring with a beautifully struck free-kick, after Walker was floored by Steve McNulty.
With nine minutes to go before half time Tranmere were reduced to ten men after their continuous fouling saw referee Ben Toner show Ollie Banks a second yellow card – Jorge Grant nearly added his second and Mansfield’s second with a minute of the first half remaining, his side footed flick landed wide of the post before CJ Hamilton’s header from Ajose’s cross was held by Scott Davies.
After the break, Walker saw two efforts go astray before Ajose was unlucky to not get on the score sheet from Grants cross on the hour – four minutes later Ajose’s well hit effort was parried by Davies, but straight into the path of Walker who converted his 19th goal of the season in all competitions.
A third Stags goals followed on 68 minutes as Walker was denied his second by Davies, Grant however was on hand to finish the job started by his best friend – game set and match.
Mansfield had a fourth chalked off on 76 minutes as Sweeney was judged to be offside from Grant’s corner, substitute Otis Khan along with Hamilton and Ajose did come close to adding number four, in the end it was just three – three MASSIVE points, moving the Stags into second.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 3-0 Tranmere Rovers
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Jordan Smith, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop (Will Atkinson 69), Mal Benning, Jorge Grant, Tyler Walker (Otis Khan 75), Nicky Ajose
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Danny Rose, Jason Law, Calum Butcher, Alistar Smith
Referee: Ben Toner
Full Time Score Colchester United 2-3 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue JobServe Community Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Nicky Ajose, Tyler Walker, CJ Hamilton
Attendance 3,546 (426
Craig Priest writes…
Desire. Fight. A willingness to never give up. Passion. Just four key ingredients that define a team and separate them between languishing in the same division year upon year, and ultimately promotion.
Mansfield Town were truly woeful for 45 minutes at Colchester yesterday and at two-nil down at half-time, few teams would turn the game on it’s head to win 3-2 – but Mansfield Town are no ordinary team.
At the full time whistle you could see how much it mean to the players to turn the game around and grab victory from the jaws of defeat, that spirit, that desire, that passion and desire runs through the very core of the Stags’ dressing room.
David Flitcroft and his staff will not shy away from how utterly woeful the Stags were in the first half, at times over playing and trying to be too cleaver and as a result, getting undone by simple tactics and a high press – highlighted in conceding two unacceptable goals, especially the second where Colchester danced through three players to double their advantage.
It could have been a lot worse had Jordan Smith not produced some outstanding saves to get us to half-time, where a simple question was all that was needed: is this what we are, is this who we are, is this who were going to be?
As Flitcroft said post-match, the comeback was about mentality and approach – getting the goal from Ajose to make it 2-1 changed the game and from then on in, only one team were in complete control.
The result was marred by the injury to Hayden White, a suspected broken ankle as the referee lost control of the game in six additional minutes as Colchester fought to claw something out of the game. Hayden has been brilliant since Flitcroft took the reigns and has vastly improved, adapting in the early season to that central role before making right-wing-back his own. He’ll be sorely missed and as Nicky Ajose said in his post match – it’s upto his team mates now to ensure that like Bobby Oljenik, his return comes into a Mansfield Town side playing League One football.
It was an unchanged starting line-up from the midweek win over Crawley, Matt Preston who was suspended for that match had to settle for a place on the bench.
The Stags boss may however have been kicking himself that one of the most solid defenders in the squad had been left picking splinters out of his backside on the bench as Colchester started brightly as Tom Eastman volleyed over on four minutes, Jordan Smith called into action two minutes later – pulling off a smart save to deny Sammie Szmodics, Smith then again had to be acrobatic on ten minutes as the hosts piled on the pressure.
Nicky Ajose came closest to an opener for the Stags on 12 minutes as he nodded wide at the far post from a teasing cross from the right hand side, but just three minutes later the hosts led though Eastman, converting from close range from a goalmouth scramble.
Smith then denied Dickenson and Pell before watching Szmodics blaze one over. The watching continued for Smith, watching Courtney Senior dance past Mellis, Benning and Sweeney before slotting the ball beneath him on the half hour – doubling the hosts lead.
Mal Benning tried to restore hope with three minutes to go before the break but couldn’t beat Rene Gilmartin in the home goal, moments later Ryan Sweeney nodded wide before the half time whistle sounded to spare the Stags blushes.
The hosts could, and should, have added a third at the start of the second half but Mansfield set about turning the game around and were unlucky to to be back in it on 49 minutes as Hamilton, now playing in a front three, saw a looping cross tipped over by the keeper.
Two minutes later, Mansfield were back in the match through Mansfield Matters’ sponsored away player Nicky Ajose who pulled away from his man to nod in at the far post.
Hamilton was denied by a fine challenge from Luke Prosser on the hour but just four minutes later it was 2-2 in a goal made in the Nottingham Forest academy, and executed perfectly in Colchester, as Walker picked out Grant on the right – Grants reverse ball back inside saw Walker emphatically drill home with his left boot.
Mansfield were not contempt at 2-2 and set about finding a third, Walker was denied before Ajose saw claims for a spot-kick waved away – 11 minutes from time the Stags did find the third goal, Ajose took down a cross field ball and dropped deep before lofting in a deep cross for Hamitlon, who timed his run to perfection, turning home inside the area before sliding on his knees to celebrate with the stags faithful.
Smith then kept Mansfield in the match with a fine save to deny Pell with four minutes of normal time remaining, six additional minutes were added and four minutes into the six a terrible challenge from Frank Nouble on Hayden White saw the stags defender stretchered off with a suspected broken ankle.
Mansfield, fuelled by anger at the injury to White, threw themselves at everything and the referee’s full time whistle sparked scenes of raw emotion and joy. That’s no ordinary comeback, that is a statement of intent – you can try to pull us down and hold us back – but you will never succeed. We are Mansfield Town, deal with it.
FULL TIME: Colchester United 2-3 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Jordan Smith, Hayden White (Will Atkinson 90+6), Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, Jorge Grant (Danny Rose 87), Tyler Walker, Nicky Ajose (Matt Preston 82)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Otis Khan, Jordan Graham, Alistar Smith
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 1-0 Crawley Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Tyler Walker
Attendance 3,739 (24
Craig Priest writes…
After two defeats on the spin, the Stags needed an injection of life – something they were well and truly granted as they bolstered their ranks on Monday with the loan signings of Nicky Ajose (Charlton) and Jorge Grant (Nottingham Forets), before claiming all three points against Crawley last night (Tuesday).
Mansfield had lost a little flair and energy in recent weeks and were in danger of a more serious collapse if the ranks weren’t bolstered, however the addition of both the highly sought after Grant and promotion winner Ajose proved to be the fuel to reignite the Stags fire.
It wasn’t the greatest of displays from Mansfield, however it is the win and the points that count – there where clear glimpses of what the fresh faces can bring once the glue has settled and bonded and perhaps if one or two things had dropped it may have seemed an easier night at the office, but to say the new faces had just the one session prior to the game – there are no complaints from me.
You could tell both players had come from player league one football (Grant on loan at Luton, Ajose at parent club Charlton) and Mansfield’s players will need to raise their game a bit further to get to that level for a more consistent and effective use of said players – but the key thing is that both fit straight into our style of play and our system.
Everyone will rightly coo over Grant, his ability is on another level and the fact we’ve made Notts County have a meltdown helps – however for me I just want people to give Ajose time to settle in, as after around an hour, he was starting to become a target for negativity from a select few.
We have in Ajose a striker who has promotions on his CV from this division, he’s got a good goal scoring record and a history with the coaching staff at former clubs which helps – but we also have a player who, similarly to Calum Butcher last season, is travelling to a new area and will need that little bit longer to settle, let’s not jump straight onto his back because he hasn’t scored 40 on his debut!
I feel the next three games for the Stags are going to act as a mini mid-season pre-season as the new boys become acquainted with their new team mates and surroundings and visa versa. The key area to get right in the back line, the keeper Jordan Smith and his back three must build trust – he is capable of playing the Olejnik role of sweeper keeper and being used to get us out of trouble, but that trust comes with minutes and games – we saw a bit of it in the second half, that has to grow.
Three games remain in January, we must be looking to push on now and grow as a unit with potentially one more player coming in, perhaps to cover either the wide areas or defensive midfield as we seem top heavy in attacking players now, hence the termination of Timi Elsnik’s loan from Derby County.
It’s all about momentum now, we have the capability to hurt teams and have shown our spark – time to add some fuel to the fire and do what we should have done two weeks ago, and put distance between ourselves and the chasing pack.
New signings Jorge Grant and Nicky Ajose were handed debuts, replacing Khan and Atkinson, whilst Bishop returned from suspension to replace the suspended Matt Preston, Hayden white moved to right side centre-half and Hamilton to right wing back to accommodate the changes.
It was a bright start from Mansfield looking to avenge their third league defeat of the season on Saturday, new boy Ajose came close to making himself a hero as he was played through on goal, he was denied at the near post by Crawley glovesman Morris.
Jorge Grant was showing some real flare in the attacking flair but it was his fellow Nottingham Forest team mate in action for the Stags on 12 minutes, as keeper Jordan Smith watched Nark Connolly strike the post before scrambling clear.
Neal Bishop stung the palms of Morris on 17 minutes before Grant’s audacious flick nearly caught the hosts out a minute later, unfortunately for the Stags the effort zipped wide.
Grant was involved again on 32 minutes with a beautiful clip over the Crawley back line to play in Hamilton, he raced forward to lob the keeper, but couldn’t celebrate as the ball landed on the roof of the net – Grant was then twice denied by Morris as the game reached half-time, locked firmly at 0-0.
Ajose was again the thick of things as the second half unfolded, sadly for the Charlton loanee he couldn’t find his first goal – squandering his best opportunity on 52 minutes as Walker squared low across the face of goal for Ajose to latch on too, his connection sailed high and over, rather than low and into the inviting net.
Mellis skimmed the bar and the palms of Morris again just past the hour mark before Jordan Smith was the man earning the applause, keeping out Dominic Poleon’s 20 yard effort with a smart right handed save.
Tyler Walker shot wide at the other end of 74 minutes before Smith denied former Stag and the ever villainous Ollie Palmer with four minutes remaining, Pearce too was strong in cleaning up any left overs allowing Stags to refocus and score two minutes from time, Grants attempted pass deflected into the path of White who literally sprang back into life to square low into the middle – an unmarked Tyler Walker made no mistake in thunderously finishing the move, putting the Stags ahead.
After the goal Mansfield sat a little too deep but terrific work from substitute Danny Rose was enough to preserve the clean sheet through five additional minutes, the referee’s full time whistle a joyous sound and a big relief – Mansfield are back on track.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 1-0 Crawley Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Jordan Smith, Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, [#23] Jorge Grant, Tyler Walker, [#21] Nicky Ajose (Danny Rose 72)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Otis Khan, Will Atkinson, Omari Sterling-James, Jordan Graham, Alistar Smith
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 0-1 Yeovil Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) /
Attendance 4,374 (132)
Craig Priest writes…
They say that when you fall, it’s not about the fact you’ve fallen or indeed why, but it’s all about how you respond, Mansfield Town took defeat last weekend hard and put in a below par performance, falling to their second loss on the spin at the hands of relegation threatened Yeovil.
Mansfield were absolutely woeful throughout and showed absolutely nothing of the fight and spirit which has carried them into the top six, and if truth be told deserved to be beaten for the third time this season – hopefully the loss can be used as a wakeup call and an injection of life can be made to prevent the Stags’ hard work starting to crumble.
I’ve absolutey loved the way Flitcroft has got the Stags playing with the 3-4-1-2 system, but like I’ve been saying for weeks, teams have us figured out and are starting to find ways to not only stop us from playing – but also punishing us.
There’s no reason why we can’t play the same fluid football and playing out from the back, but just tightening up what’s becoming a complacent back line and one which has started to become unstable since the injury to Bobby Olejnik, achieved by dropping to a back four in a 4-2-3-1 which worked well (bar the one with the numerical disadvantage) to get us back in the game at Carlisle.
It was perhaps risky to play Jordan Smith having only arrived on loan from Nottingham Forest on Thursday afternoon ahead of Logan, however he’s more of a ball playing keeper (despite appearances with nervy kicks) than Logan which will suit us more longer term.
The Stags have been a unit who have fought for the fans and each-other over the season so far and mustn’t lose sight of that through what is inevitably a rough patch of form, the saving grace is that the next game comes quickly in the form of Crawley on Tuesday – a game we need to win to keep the niggling doubts at bay.
I believe this week is going to be key to our season, we need to get some reinforcements into the building in terms of fire power, yes the visiting keeper made a stunning save and we had a goal disallowed, but we really did lack conviction in the final third – whilst in midfield we lacked leadership with Bishop suspended, although I felt Atkinson was excellent and wrongly taken off.
We move on, again, quickly.
David Flitcroft made three changes from last weekend’s loss, one enforced as Atkinson replaced the suspended Bishop – Otis Khan made his first start in the league since October replacing Elsnik, whilst new signing Jordan Smith replaced Logan in goal, having joined on loan until the end of the season from Nottingham Forest.
Mansfield made a slow start and new boy Smith had hearts in mouths early with a miss-cued clearance which fortunately didn’t lead to any danger, whilst Pearce gave away a free kick on the egde of the box – which fortunately didn’t test Smith.
On 18 minutes the Stags came alive as CJ Hamilton was denied at the near post, before Mal Benning blasted over the rebound in the Stags best move of the game thus far, a minute later disaster struck however as Yeovil countered, as Dickenson sent Jordan Green racing through – tucking the ball beyond Smith.
Hamilton hit one over the bar before Walker forced Baxter into a smart save as Mansfield looked for a way back into the game – Mellis also stung the palms of Baxter with a long range effort before right on the stoke of half-time, Smith kept Mansfield in the game, as Yeovil hit a long range set-play towards the Stags goal.
Otis Khan was replaced by Rose at the break and was involved in a goal mouth scramble on 58 minutes, Sweeney the last to connect – hitting wide of the mark.
On 56 Smith had to come to the rescue as he denied Green a second goal before his opposite number Baxter had to be alert moments later to prevent an own goal.
Will Atkinson made way on 63 minutes for Elsnik who was involved straight away as he saw a powerful drive blocked, fellow sub Jordan Graham was then denied on the follow up.
Mansfield were denied a goal on 72 when Rose was denied by Baxter, Walkers follow up which found the net flagged offside – the Stags had further efforts through Walker, Rose and Elsnik but couldn’t find a way through, Matt Preston added the misery complier late on, dismissed for a terrible lunge, fortunately NOT a straight red however meaning he’ll only miss Tuesday’s pivotal game with Crawley.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 0-1 Yeovil Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: [#14] Jordan Smith, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, Hayden White (Jordan Graham 58), Jacob Mellis, Will Atkinson (Timi Elsnik 63), Mal Benning, Otos Khan (Danny Rose HT), Tyler Walker, CJ Hamilton
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Calum Butcher, Jason Law, Alistar Smith
Referee: Carl Boyeson
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
Full Time Score Grimsby Town 0-1 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Blundell Park
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Neal Bishop
Attendance 5,931 (865)
Craig Priest writes…
When two in form teams clash, something has to give – and with the Stags always seeming to struggle at Blundell Park, there were some light fears that the Stags may come unstuck and start the New Year on the wrong foot. Fortunately, David Flitcroft’s men had other ideas.
Mansfield were structured and far more comfortable than they were against Swindon and thoroughly deserved to take the lead and ultimately the points, defending well as a unit and putting any niggles from the Swindon match behind them for a second consecutive clean sheet.
The victory puts the Stags into a really solid position in the top three, it’s important now to not get ahead of ourselves and concentrate on solidifying that place and putting distance between ourselves and the chasing pack with our games in hand, one of which against 5th placed Forest Green later this month.
With the New Year dawning, the transfer window is now open – if any additions are to be made, they have to be the right players to fit our style of play, system and most importantly, our dressing room characteristics – you could see at full time how much that victory means to the players and staff – we can’t allow egos or different personalities to upset that.
That focus, that determination, that togetherness is what sets us apart from the rest, it’s what will ultimately be the difference between Mansfield Town being a league one club or spending another in league two.
We have it in abundance, let’s not yet the bubble burst.
Front man Danny Rose made his first start since the end of November replacing Elsnik who settled for a place on the bench.
The Stags were up against a good side and were made to work early on as Elliott Embleton fired over Logan’s bar, before the Stags shot stopper produced a solid save on eight minutes – denying Wes Thomas.
CJ Hamilton came closest to a Stags goal after Rose had swung a volley wide moments prior, the lightening wing man denied by the excellent James McKeown following Tyler Walker’s pass on 21 minutes
Mansfield then found the break through five minutes later as Jacob Mellis delivered an out-swinging corner, straight to the head of Neal Bishop who curled a header from ten yards around the defenders and keeper for his third goal of the campaign.
The Stags set about finding a second and twice came close through Walker before the break, but had to settle for the one goal cushion at the interval.
Grimsby came out strongly after the restart and forced Logan into two smart saves inside the opening three minutes, Mal Benning then nearly set the Stags second on 62 minutes with a fine cross, Hamilton failed to keep his effort down at the far post.
With 15 minutes to go Mellis flicked the ball on for Tyler Walker who was thwarted by McKeown, moments later Matt Preston thundered a header wide from a Stags corner.
Substitute Timi Elsnik hit an effort wide of the mark with four minutes to play, before Hamilton called the keeper into action in the last minute with a low drive – Mansfield held on through four further minutes to seal three vital points.
FULL TIME: Grimsby Town 0-1 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce, Ryan Sweeney, Hayden White, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning Danny Rose (Timi Elsnik 62), CJ Hamilton, Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Jake Kean, Will Atkinson, Calum Butcher Otis Khan, Jason Law, Jordan Graham
Referee: Matthew Donohue
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