Full Time Score Mansfield Town 1-0 Forest Green Rovers
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Tyler Walker
Attendance 5,265 (161)
Craig Priest writes…
After a rocky few weeks on the road with defeats at Newport and rivals Notts Couty, Mansfield Town needed some home comfort and to have a little re-think in order to maintain their grip on the top three, something they managed with a narrow but deserved 1-0 victory over promotion rivals Forest Green Rovers.
David Flitcroft’s men looked reinvigorated as they soaked up the February sunshine and could, and perhaps should, have been comfortable winners – however at this stage of the season, it’s points which count the most.
With twelve games remaining the Stags are in a far better position as a club than they were a year ago when the former manager and his dodgy assistant left for china via Peterborough (that ended well!), and boss David Flitcroft has really helped to create a much fitter, mentally stronger and professional environment where the focus will not be taken off the task in hand.
Every club has a blip in form it’s natural in a long season and I’m glad that Flitcroft has been able to tweak the system to get us back on track. The Stags may well have finished with their natural back three, but they started in a 4-2-3-1 system, allowing Hamilton to play at his dangerous best higher up the pitch, whilst Willem Tomlinson made his full debut alongside Bishop in more defensive midfield roles, allowing Mellis, Grant, Walker and the aforementioned Hamilton to rotate across an attacking line.
For weeks the Stags had struggled to get going and with injuries and suspensions playing a part looked a little hap-hazard with players playing out of position and new faces coming in who weren’t fit enough to play at the intensity demanded by Flitcroft’s brand of football.
It’s no coincidence that we dominated the first half having a more solid foundation at the back with Jones and Benning playing as full backs rather than higher up as wing backs. The solid four allowed players such as Mellis, Grant, Hamilton and Walker to not only create, but hurt Forest Green, and whilst it didn’t work in terms of breaking the deadlock, we created a high percentage of chances which we’ve not done in the last two or three games – which has sucked the energy and confidence out of both the players, and the supporters.
The confidence and spark the first half created allowed us to switch to the back three after 55/60 minutes and even though Benning was largely out of position as the left sided central defender, I thought he slotted in really well and as ever, put in the shift we’ve come to expect of him over years of service.
Sadly the game ended on a sour note with Tyler Walker being shown a straight red card for abusive language and behaviour towards the officials, he’ll be a big loss as we face Cheltenham and Port Vale over the next two weeks – but with the tweak in system to go with one out and out striker, it’s an opportunity for others to step up to the cause and show we’re not a one man team.
There are now twelve games of the season remaining, as always we take things one game at a time and keep our focus – that’s how we got back on track yesterday, every team has something to play for now, whether that be survival, promotion or for many, a job – there are no easy games – we were on the cusp of something good at this stage last season and threw it away, once bitten – twice shy. Let’s do this.
Willem Tomlinson was handed a full debut, coming in for Ben Turner in what was the only change to personnel – however the Stags started in a new system, 4-2-3-1 which saw Hamilton pushed higher up to exploit the flanks, and Mellis, Grant and Walker given a free role to rotate.
The Stags new system looked sharp from the off and stayed firm on two minutes as the visitors worked an opening – Tomlinson was on hand to snuff out the danger before two minutes later, Mansfield were pulling the strings as Grant and Walker combined but couldn’t quite break the lock.
Grant and Mellis then combined to set Hamilton racing free, the lightening winger was denied by Ward who on eight minutes, could do nothing bar watch, as Stags’ skipper Pearce flicked the ball wide from Grants’ corner.
Mal Benning then made a fine challenge on nine minutes to stop George Williams advancing before Jordan Smith made a smart save, keeping Mondal at bay.
Forest Green then nearly scored an own goal as Hamilton did real damage down the left flank on 28 minutes before eight minutes later Hamilton again caused trouble, pulling back for Gethin Jones who showed tremendous effort to connect, but sadly turned the ball wide.
Tyler Walker stung the palms of Ward from distance on 43 minutes before moments later former Stag Paul Digby was denied by Smith – the sides deadlocked at the break, but Mansfield predominantly in the driving seat.
Mansfield moved up a gear as the second half got off to a flying start as both Walker and Jones had efforts inside the opening two minutes, before on the hour Matt Preston made a sublime tackle on Williams as he found space inside the box as the Stags slipped back into a back three, a 3-2-4-1 with Benning joining Pearce and Preston, Bishop and Tomlinson anchored, Walker up top with a midfield four of Jones, Grant, Mellis and Hamilton pushing very high.
The visitors tamely tested Smith on 64 minutes but five minutes later the Stags found the breaktrough, Hamilton’s effort cannoned up into the air and Walker beat the keeper to it and headed towards goal – he was credited with the goal but replays strongly suggest it was a Forest Green defender who turned the ball in as he tried to head it away for a corner.
The dangerous Christian Doidge had two efforts inside the last ten minutes but couldn’t find the target before inside stoppage time Tomlinson was booked for a frustration induced but careless lunge seconds before he was subbed for Turner, before Tyler Walker was shown a straight red for foul and abusive language towards the match officials – the full time whistle a glorious sound as the Stags sealed three points to remain in third two points behind Bury and two ahead of MK Dons, who both picked up wins.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 1-0 Forest Green Rovers
STAGS [4-2-3-1]: Jordan Smith, Gethin Jones, Krystian Pearce ©, Matt Preston, Mal Benning, Neal Bishop, Willem Tomlinson (Ben Turner 90+3), Jorge Grant, Jacob Mellis, CJ Hamilton, Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Alex MacDonald, Otis Khan, will Atkinson, Nicky Ajose, Alistar Smith
Referee: Matthew Donohue
Full Time Score Notts County 1-0 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Meadow Lane
Stags Goal Scorer(s) /
Attendance 12,660 (4,283)
Craig Priest writes…
Losing a local derby always leaves a bitter taste, but over 24 hours on from our defeat at Meadow Lane, I can’t help but reflect on yesterday not entirely caring about the one defeat, but what is happening to Mansfield Town – how can they go from an energetic, attacking side full of energy, to the lacklustre shambles who non the face of it, couldn’t seem to care.
The truth is, Mansfield have been increasingly poor for a while (with the exception of Tranmere and Macclesfield) going back to Carlisle maybe further and are in real danger if they don’t pull together as a unit, or undoing all the hard work they’ve put in over the course of the season.
The injuries have hit us really hard, we are a worse side without the likes of Oljenik, White and Rose – and with suspensions kicking in too, our depth is being tested and right now, I’m not entirely convinced our foundations are strong enough to hold us in the top three – PROVE ME WRONG BOYS – PLEASE!
Watching Flitcroft’s post match interview in full, I’m convinced we’ll grab the reins and turn ourselves around rather than fall away from grace, I know some will say he shows no emotion but if you let go of your own anger and disappointment and really listen, you can hear the anger and disappointment in not just his players, but in himself and his staff.
He does have to shoulder some blame for yesterday, in my opinion we rushed Ben Turner into the side to keep the back three – I think he’ll be a good addition for us in time but yesterday he was unfit and that was completely exploited. When we switched to a back four we looked stronger but a combination of the referee awarding them a free kick every time we breathed and our own lack of desire – it was never going to happen.
The same can be said for Alex MacDonald who is a legend, his enthusiasm and desire is exactly what we need to carry us forward, but sadly he wasn’t quite up to the level we needed to get back into the game.
Let’s strip it down and go back to basics, we have thirteen games remaining this season to achieve our ambition of getting into league one – an achievement our performance over the entirety of the season deserves. We have been great all season uniting together, so let’s get all the bitching, moaning and anger out of our systems, fans, players, managers and coaches alike and come 3pm on Friday, start a fresh – because, what really matters? Beating Notts County, or beating the odds and getting promotion to League One? I know my answer.
The Stags were forced into at least one change as Ryan Sweeney began the first of a two game ban, despite being ruled out by boss David Flitcroft earlier in the week, new defender Ben Turner was handed a debut, whilst in the only other change, CJ Hamilton was shifted up front for Ajose, Gethin Jones came in for his first start. On the bench, Alex MacDonald made his long awaited return.
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FULL TIME: Notts County 1-0 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Jordan Smith, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, [#25] Ben Turner (Nicky Ajose HT), Gethin Jones, Jacob Mellis (Alex MacDonald 66), Neal Bishop, Mal Benning (Otis Khan 84), Jorge Grant, Tyler Walker, CJ Hamilton
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Will Atkinson, Alistar Smith, Willem Tomlinson
Referee: Ben ‘Woeful’ Mason
Full Time Score Newport County 1-0 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Rodney Parade
Stags Goal Scorer(s) /
Attendance 3,133 (362)
Craig Priest writes…
When you’re walking along a long, unknown path, you have to be prepare for bumps in the road and to drag yourself through the brambles – it’s your attitude and desire to fight the things holding you back during those moments which define if you’ll reach the end, or have to start again.
For Mansfield that’s exactly what they must do after only their fourth defeat in thirty-two league matches, but in what was arguably a display which lacked the characteristics which has propelled the Stags into second in the first place.
Newport is no easy place to visit, even when the pitch is in pristine condition, and you have to have a game plan to combat the mud and sludge – that game plan shouldn’t be training on a click 3G pitch!
Not for a second am I slating the investment and progress we’ve made with the training ground, it’s a brilliant complex and will be for decades to come BUT, it is NOT ready for the first team to be there yet as the grass pitches aren’t fit for use.
At this stage of the season you do need to have the odd session on 3G, for shape work and shorter technique sessions, but when you’re playing on bobbly pitches, when you’re running on heavy pitches – doing ALL your preparation on the 3G is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole and will do us no favours.
I applaud the enthusiasm of David Flitcroft for wanting to us the facility as a first team venue rather than an academy, I’m 100% behind that in the long term, however the short term ambition is to get promoted into league one, so let’s take a step back, get back on the grass and get to the finish line, before starting a whole new chapter next season – a league above.
The players will be hurt at defeat, we bounce back and keep on track – no arguments, no blame, just togetherness and drive.
Hopefully Danny Rose will be OK to take some part in the rest of the campaign after his horrific injury on the hour, that will have to be assessed closely and additions made if needed as the injury list mounts – whilst changes will have to be made ahead of Notts County, with Sweeney now suspended for the next two matches after collating ten bookings.
The Stags bolstered their ranks on Monday with the addition of free agent Willem Tomlinson [#16] – he settled for a place on the bench as Flitcroft again named an unchanged starting line-up.
Mansfield should have been off to a flyer within the opening minute as Ajose fired over from CJ Hamilton’s teasing cross from the right, Mansfield then saw little sight of goal as Newport grew into the game – opening the scoring on 15 minutes from a well worked corner, the Stags failing to track the run of Robbie Willmott who smashed home.
The hosts had a second chalked off for off-side on 25 minutes before Jacob Mellis trickled one wide for the Stags from distance three minutes later – Ryan Sweeney picked up his tenth booking of the season on 37, before Benning went into the book two minutes before the break, they the only notable moments for the Stags in a frustrating first half.
Change was needed and at the break Ajose made way for Rose whilst Hamilton switched from right to left to accommodate Gethin Jones at the expense of Benning.
Rose nearly made an instant impact firing wide from the edge of the Newport box on the spin before at the other end, Smith kept Mansfield in the game with a brilliant save to deny Bakinson.
Rose’s game was over on 52 minutes with a nasty clash of heads which led to a lengthy delay – Rose was able to walk off and was replaced by new addition Tomlinson, Hamilton went up front with Sweeney at left back in a back four – play only resumed after the referee and Neal Bishop, cleared up Roses’ blood – a sickening sight.
Mansfield won two successive corners through Mellis and Tomlinson but couldn’t make an impact on the scoreline whilst Smith again rescued the Stags, denying Matt 1 vs 1.
11 minutes were added on and with the Stags still behind, Sweeney went up front and came close to levelling the scores following a pinpoint delivery from Grant, and despite mass pressure late on – Newport condemned the Stags to their fourth loss of the season.
FULL TIME: Newport County 1-0 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Jordan Smith, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning (Gethin Jones HT), Jorge Grant, Tyler Walker, Nicky Ajose (Danny Rose HT – Willem Tomlinson 59)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Will Atkinson, Alistar Smith, Otis Khan
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 3-1 Macclesfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue The One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Jorge Grant, Krystian Pearce, Tyler Walker
Attendance 5,642 (236)
Craig Priest writes…
Winning doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be achieved – and that’s exactly what the Stags did against relegation threatened and scrappy Macclesfield, who showed exactly the sort of attitude required to survive a relegation scrap.
Unfortunately for the silkmen, the Stags had the same attitude and their application in terms of making chances count and getting that little bit of luck was in their favour – exactly what was needed as Lincoln squandered the chance to take three points off of conference bound Notts County.
The gap at the top is down to just two points and whilst Lincoln have a game in hand over the promotion thirsty Stags, they still have to come to the One Call Stadium in march – a match which could be pivotal to dreams coming true, LIVE on Sky Sports.
Yesterday Mansfield were far from their best, David Flitcroft’s side are developing a real issue at being too top heavy and getting exposes, had it not been for the post, good positioning of Jordan Smith and Matt Preston throwing himself at bullets – we could have been onto a hiding at times.
The issues comes from the right wing back area and getting CJ Hamilton to be at his best and most effective. It was clear he wasn’t delivering at wing back and half way through the first half, Mansfield’s shape was broken as Preston moved to right back in a back four, whilst CJ joined pretty much everyone else up front – he looked like a lost sheep, unable to find that role to exploit Sol Campbell’s Macclesfield.
Gethin Jones showed real class when he came on in the last ten minutes and could really put the pressure on, we are better off with CJ in the side – but we need to relight the fire and find the right place for the spotlight to shine on him, without risking being too top heavy.
However for that to be the only little niggle coming out yesterday’s game says a lot about where Mansfield Town are at the moment, we’re following up on saved shots, we’re scrapping for second and third balls from set-plays and it’s paying off.
I feel we’ve got enough within the squad to keep challenging, I felt Danny Rose was excellent when he came on – his running and pressing really changed the game in terms of killing Macclesfield’s hope, all that was missing was the goal but when you’ve got everyone else contributing, goals don’t matter – you look at the bigger picture and at things like stopping the opposition getting forward, causing problems etc.
David Flitcroft spoke a lot about balancing the squad prior to the closure of the transfer window and has certainly done that – getting David Mirfin out on loan to York gets him fit and ready for a potential recall without the risk to our standing, whilst terminating the contract of Paul Anderson is best for all concerned.
Calum Butcher also left on deadline day for Dundee giving him more opportunity to play as we were top heavy in that area, the two departures also freed up the funds for the transfer of Ben Turner who arrives as a free agent, having had his contract torn up by Burton.
Turner brings Premier League, Championship and League One experience and whilst he’s injured at the minute, will provide that cover and leadership we need in a number of areas across the back line.
Turner’s arrival didn’t get announced until after the full time whistle and as such wasn’t involved as Flitcroft again named an unchanged line-up.
Mansfield were on the back foot early doors and watched on as Tyrone Marsh tried an effort from distance, Ryan Sweeney also cut out an effort before Mansfield delivered the killer blow on eight minutes – Ajose’s shot palmed away by the keeper but straight into the path of Jorge Grant, who netted his fourth goal in three games.
Walker, Grant and Benning all saw further efforts go astray before Grant’s pin point free kick brushed the side netting on 35 minutes, however seven minutes later the visitors pulled level, Grant failed to track the run of Evans following a goal mouth scramble as the struggling visitors fought back.
Matt Preston then threw himself in the way of Reece Cole’s effort as Macclesfield turned the screw, the half time whistle much needed with the visitors really starting to grow in confidence.
Hamitlon switched back to wing back at the break and just two minutes into the second half was denied by the visiting defence after a give and go with Grant, Tyler Walker and Nivky Ajose both had efforts but couldn’t punish the other MTFC.
Mansfield needed a leader and got one on 57 minutes, Krystian Pearce getting the final touch from a corner, the skipper putting his side ahead with his first goal of the season.
Grant, Walker, Benning and substitute Danny Rose had chances to make it 3-1 but in the end it was Walker who added his 20th goal of the season right at the death, the ball hitting his boot from a corner before crossing the line to seal a big victory for David Flitcroft’s side.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 3-1 Macclesfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Jordan Smith, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton (Gethin Jones 82), Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson 89), Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, Jorge Grant, Tyler Walker, Nicky Ajose (Danny Rose 72)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Jason Law, Alistar Smith, Otis Khan
Referee: Michael Salisbury
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