Craig Priest writes….
When you take a long journey but get diverted off of track, sometimes you start to panic, worry and generally get anxious about when the diversion will end and normality can be restored. The scenic route, as it’s sometimes known, contains many twists and turns of the completely unexpected – and no matter how hard I try, I can’t think of any better way than to sum up yesterday’s 3-2 win at Yeovil.
Somehow the victory has given us two opportunities to finish the 2017/18 campaign IN the League Two play-offs, one-nil down and playing with no real conviction at half-time, I did not see that coming at all.
Deep down I think we’ve left it too late as personally I think Lincoln contain more fight than ourselves and will therefore beat Yeovil next weekend at Sincil Bank, where they are always backed by a great support – whilst Coventry host Morecambe who need to win to keep distance between themselves and Barnet who will beat already relegated Chesterfield. I think the pressure will be too much for Morecambe and Barnet have something about them under Martin Allen who have lost only twice since Martin Allen’s 140th return.
BUT! Anything can happen in football and IF Mansfield Town can show the same fight and desire as they did in the second half yesterday, then this season may not be over afterall – all we can do is our job.
And do you know what, so long as the Stags come out next Saturday and fight from the first second to the last and give EVERYTHING they’ve got – I won’t care if they don’t make it, because they’ll have ended collectively fighting for the cause and that means more to me than anything else.
That’s what I saw yesterday afternoon in Yeovil – Character. FINALLY throwing bodies in front of things in an attacking situation, not folding when things went against us and importantly, having a go!
A lot is said about the pressure on the players and manager and next weekend it will be huge, Flitcroft has to get it tactically right next weekend which he didn’t yesterday – Alfie Potter must have been furious to be subbed when he was, but why on earth was CJ Hamilton NOT in the starting line-up in the first place?! That said, at least he had the gumption to throw on Angol at half-time and push bodies forward.
Next weekend needs to be the same; I do not want to see us setting up in a 4-4-2 – I want the kitchen sink being thrown at Crawley, 3-4-3 and if things aren’t happening with twenty minutes to go, let’s click the classic ‘OVERLOAD’ button and play 1-10!
Seriously though, us supporters have watched several twists and turns – and whilst sometimes we may get angry, it’s just deflation because we know good that group of players can be when you put the effort in. We’re 10000000000000000000000% behind you week in week out, YES we should have been celebrating automatic promotion now like Luton or Wycombe BUT we’re not and as such must believe in our own abilities to go on and FIGHT for the finish we want.
So from here on in, let’s banish talk of who should be in charge next season [Yes, I know we are guilty of that on the podcast] and about any dressing room fall-outs. The only talk should be 100% about how we support Mansfield Town FC and how we back them to defy the odds and deliver the play-offs.
Together we can do this – I mean, are you really ready to spend your Saturday’s WITHOUT football?
Despite penning a new deal, CJ Hamilton was left out of the starting eleven in favour of Jacob Mellis, thus moving Alex MacDonald back out wide to the right, and Potter to the left.
It was MacDonald who tried to open the scoring early with a long range first minute effort, but it was more of a range finder than anything else as the Stags knew they needed three points to stay in the play-off hunt – Danny Rose then won a Stags corner which Benning floated in beautifully for the excellent Paul Digby, who sent a header crashing into the side netting.
Another corner on 13 minutes came close to picking out Rose but the in-swinging ball was too heavy for the leading front man who is yet to score his first Stags goal since being reunited with old boss from his Bury scoring days, David Flitcroft.
Five minutes later disaster, and yet the inevitable, struck – as Yeovil took the lead through Bevis Mugabi, able to convert practically unmarked after Omar Sowunmi’s run had taken two Stags markers with him.
The Stags needed to turn the game on its head and quickly, as news filtered through that Coventry were tearing Cheltenham into the ground. Rhys Bennett came close to levelling things up but was denied by the offside flag before the tenacious Paul Digby lofted a beautiful cross into Rose, a Yeovil body getting a vital touch to divert it away for a corner as Rose loomed.
CJ Hamilton then replaced Potter on 34 minutes as the Stags looked to open up the hosts, and just four minutes later good interchanging play between the lightening quick winger and Mal Benning saw the latter send in a cross, Artur Krysiak equal to it in the home goal however.
Lee Angol replaced Will Atkinson at the break as the stags went 4-3-3 and it nearly paid off as Rose hammered towards goal, his effort was always rising though – but on 49 minutes, an absolute scramble saw Angol get the vital final touch as the ball scopped over the line to pull the Stags level.
GAME ON! Actually, the referee had other ideas and soon awarded Yeovil a penalty as Pearce appeared to foul his marker following a home corner, Francois Zoko showed no mercy as he sent Logan the wrong way and restored the hosts’ lead.
Angol then saw an effort blocked on the hour before Rose volleyed through the crowd four minutes later, sadly Roses’ effort was way off target but we all felt his frustration and the venom in which it was hit – the Stags were not quitting this time around.
Sure enough on 70 minutes the Stags pressure paid off and as a Lee Angol free kick struck a hand in the wall inside the box, a penalty was awarded – Kane Hemmings made no mistake in making it 2-2. Little celebration from the Stags front man, a draw was not enough.
The Stags needed a hero and were coming forward at a canter and were finally rewarded after CJ Hamilton was cropped on the edge of the box on 75 minutes, up stepped Lee Angol who finally converted with an excellent hit, finding the net via the underside of the bar to put the Stags 3-2 up.
Another would have made things comfortable and not require 338 travelling fans to have heart surgery but to the Stags players credit, the tried and made sure, through nine minutes of added on time which saw a red card for Sowunmi, that the job was done.
Coventry had beaten Cheltenham in style but a defeat for Lincoln at Champions Accrington Stanley meant the Stags have TWO chances to get in the play-offs, all they need to do is win and hope either Coventry OR Lincoln lose – it’s then down to goal difference STAGS are on +15, Lincoln on +16 and Coventry, thanks to their pummelling of Cheltenham, are on +17. A win for the Stags plus a DRAW for either side is NOT enough. COME ON!
FULL TIME: Yeovil Town 2-3 Stags
STAGS [4-4-2 / 4-3-3 SECOND HALF]
Paul Digby (Adam King 90) – Krystain Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter (CJ Hamilton 34) – Jacob Mellis – Will Atkinson (Lee Angol HT) – Alex MacDonald
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Johnny Hunt, Joel Byrom, Jordan Graham
Attendance: 3,500 (388)
Referee: Charles Breakspear, Assistants: Michael Webb and Simon Shaw. Fourth Official: Samuel Ogles.
Craig Priest writes….
The dream is almost over. Whilst the mathematics say reaching the play-offs is still possible with two games to go, Mansfield Town know that in reality it’s a very different tale indeed – and what is more sickening to take, the Stags have been the masters of their own downfall as yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Port Vale pretty much sealed another season of League Two action.
As it stands the Stags are three points off of the play-offs with two games remaining, but both Lincoln and Coventry above them have a game in hand – which fortunately, is against each other.
A win for either side would leave the Stags six points behind with six to play for – meaning the Stags need to win their last two games and pray to the footballing gods that whoever won the midweek meeting lost their final two.
A draw for the two sides would be the best outcome for the Stags, meaning David Flitcroft’s men must win both their last games, and hope at the very least, BOTH Lincoln and Coventry fail to win at least one of their last two.
The chances of that are very slim in my view but anything can happen, the fact though that we are in this situation relying on other teams is down completely to ourselves, yet again Mansfield Town Football Club are the masters of their own downfall.
EVERYONE is to blame here, Steve Evans and his mate Dodgy for walking out when they did and leaving a dressing room wondering what they’d done wrong. David Flitcroft for not stamping his authority earlier, for isolating and not selecting key players who can influence the game – I won’t blame his methodical chess player management style though, each to their own on that one. Finally the players who as a bunch of so called professionals should have been professional enough to not care about Steve and Dodgy and work for Mansfield Town FC regardless of the manager, and in doing so – show some bloody hunger and desire to achieve what they set out to achieve in the first place.
Ironically yesterday saw us play the best football we have done consistently under Flitcroft – alas too little too late, especially coupled with in my view a tactical blunder in the first substitution. Not for a second am I against bringing on an attacking player to try and chase the game at 0-0 which for the record WORKED, but to take off the person who was keeping us tight at the back and holding a higher line in Paul Digby, knowing full well Vale would come at us late on, was a monumental error.
Why? Because rather than change the shape, Will Atkinson was dropped in at right back and through no fault of his (other than the fact he’s not a bloody right back) gaps were created and ultimately more players from Vale, ala Tom Pope, were able to exploit. Digby won every header and 99.9% of everything on the ground, the majority of our attacking movement started through him and from set plays, he was causing havoc as decoy – taking him off was madness unless of course he was injured…. In which case, bring an actual right back in Paul Anderson on and keep the momentum.
To our credit we peppered Vale and on any other day would have ran out 6-0 winners, as is it we couldn’t finish and were only ahead thanks to Kyle Howkins forgetting he plays for Port Vale now and not Mansfield – but even then at 1-0 we didn’t focus and gave away a sloppy goal which anyone could see coming…. Alas, that’s the story of our season really.
We we’re left so deflated we couldn’t even celebrate Chesterfield’s excellent season in being relegated to the Conference, and whilst for both personal reasons (google it) and Stags fan reasons I’m delighted to see them plummet out the football league, their failure is matched by ours in having everything we dreamed of in our own hands, and then throwing it all away.
Who’d be a football supporter eh? Anyone for Yeovil away….
With Hayden White injured and skipper Zander Diamond also absent with “a knock” both Paul Digby and Rhys Bennett were brought into the fold, whilst following his excellent from the bench display at National League Chesterfield last week, CJ Hamilton was also back in the starting eleven.
The Stags knowing they needed a win to keep themselves within the play-off hunt started with a real hunger and should have been ahead just two minutes in as MacDonald slotted in Hemmings, thwarted by the offside flag.
Valiant’s keeper Sam Hornby then denied Rose and Potter in quick succession before Alex MacDonald fizzed one wide from distance, however it was Derby Day hero Benning who nearly opening the scoring on 12 minutes as he advanced into the box and hit one which was going wide, Kane Hemmings outstretched foot a mere whisker away from turning the shot home.
Cj Hamilton also hit at the keeper before Hornby was beaten by Hemmings on 16 minutes, although the goal wouldn’t stand as the offside flag went up against the on Loan Oxford United man as the stags controlled the game.
The Stags created a number of other openings which saw Hamilton, Rose, Hemmings and MacDonald go close with no reward, Danny Pugh almost did the Stags a favour on 44 minutes sending a diving headed clearance narrowly wide of the target, but at the whistle – it was goalless.
Alex MacDonald was the first to let fly at the start of the second half but again couldn’t convert – Paul Digby came the closest to opening the scoring with a venomous shot with 56 minutes played.
Six minutes later, bizarrely Digby was replaced by Mellis before Danny Rose headed over from Benning’s left sided cross.
On 72 minutes an Ex-stag popped up to put the current crop ahead as Kyle Howkins turned into his own net, a clearance after a Rose effort, hit the former West Brom loanee and found the net.
Hamilton then found Hemmings but he couldn’t find a second, before being replaced by Angol with seven minutes to go.
Port Vale then spoilt the party, Tom Pope pouncing as the Stags failed to clear their lines in the 89th minute, rendering the dream pretty much over.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-1 Port Vale
Paul Digby (Jacob Mellis 62)- Krystain Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Will Atkinson – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Lee Angol 83)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Anderson, Adam King, Jordan Graham, Johnny Hunt
ATTENDANCE: 4,210 (598)
REFEREE: Carl Boyeson Assistants Ken Haycock and Andrew Newbold. FOURTH OFFICIAL Oliver Bickle.
Craig Priest writes….
Approaching a local derby with a manager at the helm who was yet to win a game of football, coupled with the fact that our rivals were rock bottom of the football league in desperate need of victory to mount a survival bid – it’s fair to say that yesterday could have gone very badly indeed in the eyes of a Mansfield Town supporter.
Alas no, Mal Benning had other ideas and not only wrote himself into folk law with his second half goal and knee slide, but also etched his name onto our hearts with the comment post-match we needed to hear after weeks of agonisingly watching our heroes capitulate “I don’t know how I’m feeling at the moment, I don’t know what to think – but first of all – that’s for the fans” Yes Mal, we know what you mean my friend, and from us all – thank you!
Over recent week we have all questioned the Stags players commitment to the cause and just last weekend, I sat at this very desk not knowing how to write my feelings after we fell apart without a care in the world at home to Crewe, but yesterday they put their bodies on the line and didn’t stop until the final whistle was long gone – boy did we need that.
It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t as comfortable as it should have been, the strange over-turn of the Chesterfield red card added to the anguish as had the free kick gone our way, the final second would have played out in front of us – miles from our goal! What matters most is the victory and what psychologically that can do to the players going into three massive games.
The victory coupled with results elsewhere has put us back into the play-offs but only just – Lincoln are breathing down our necks and, thanks to their Checkatrade Trophy exploits, have two games in hand. In my personal view, they have momentum on their side where as we are once again the target to be shot at.
Of the teams below us, I’ll never discount the maths but I think some strange goings on would be needed for Cambridge or Newport to sneak in with their games in hand whilst Carlise, I don’t think they have enough about them to do it. Which then makes it between us, Lincoln and Swindon for the final play-off place – add in Coventry if we want to aim for 6th – but for me, 7th will do – let’s just get in there and see what happens.
Can we do it? My heart will always say YES, my head says no – I’m useless at following either so let’s just let the drama play-out!
One thing I want to credit from ON the pitch yesterday is the fact the players finally tried to play Flitcrofts way a little more and that reflected in the goal – get us out to the half-way line and then play, pass and move, drag defenders out with you if you can and exploit the gaps which we did to devastating effect.
I’d have liked us to defend a little higher and take some of the pressure off; sometimes I do think we’re the masters of our own downfall, but we stood firm enough to get the job done and lifted a massive weight off of our shoulders and helped the sun to peak through the clouds, and in doing so put a nail into the coffin of our rivals – a decade after the revelled in joy at our own demise, whose laughing now eh?! Cheers Mal!
Skipper Zander Diamond returned to the line-up in the place of Rhys Bennett whilst Mal Benning returned from suspension to replace Johnny Hunt – Alfie Potter also got a start in place of CJ Hamilton on the left hand side, whilst completing the four changes from Stevenage, Jacob Mellis replaced Joel Byrom.
Backed by a loud vocal support, it was the Stags who nearly struck first as Alfie Potter found a way through to latch onto a rebounding ball after a parry from Ramsdale in the home goal, Potter shot though was always rising – Kane Hemmings also dragged one wide during the opening exchanges with the Stags in control.
The pendulum swung in the hosts favour as Logan had to be alert to a cross, he also watched on as Jacob Brown fizzed an effort wide, before at the other end Danny Rose saw an effort palmed away by Ramsdale as the game hit the twenty minute mark.
Seven minutes later Logan was the hero as Chesterfield came on the charge, he then had Potter to thank as he slid away to prevent Zavon Hines from turning home the rebound.
Rhys Bennett replaced the injured Hayden White on 32 minutes before Logan was again on hand to rescue the Stags three minutes later – diving through a sea of bodies to claim the ball.
After the break the Stags had the better start with a freekick which just evaded the head of Zander Diamond, Danny Rose was also unlucky to not connect with Hemmings’ cross on 57 minutes, just after CJ Hamilton had been introduced for Mellis, with MacDonald going back into the middle and Potter switching to the right.
Hamilton was the pace the Stags needed to stretch the hosts and it nearly paid off on 62 as he romped down the left hand side, his cut back to heavy and quick for anyone to convert as the Stags looked to break the deadlock.
Four minutes later a hero was born and a left back knighted as fluent play saw Mal Benning able to drive into box and hit one, his effort zipped beneath the keeper and into the bottom corner to give the Stags the lead they deserved.
On 70 minutes Danny Rose squandered the chance to make it two-nil as his effort cannoned off a blue shirt, four minutes later it was Potter who weaved his way through – again a blue shirt made the block to deny a second goal of the afternoon for the Stags.
Hearts were in mouths on 79 minutes as Kristian Dennis poked an effort through the crowd, fortunately it landed wide of Logan’s post – Jak McCourt hit a volley 10 minutes later as the hosts went in search of a goal to pull the match level – the referee bringing the game to a close after overturning his own decision to send off Louis Reed for hacking down Rose – the Stags stood firm as Chesterfield pumped forward the resulting free-kick for offside against Rose, the away end erupting to the sound of the full time whistle as FINALLY, David Flitcroft sealed his first win, as Mansfield Town manager.
FULL TIME: Chesterfield 0-1 Stags
Hayden white (Rhys Bennett 32) – Zander Diamond © - Krystian Pearce – Sir Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Will Atkinson – Jacob Mellis (CJ Hamilton 53) – Alex MacDonald
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Adam King 85)
Unused substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Lee Angol, Johnny Hunt, Joel Byrom
Referee: Darren Drysdale Assistants Marvyn Amphlett, Kevin Mulraine Fourth Official Nick Greenhalgh
Attendance: 7,967 (2,617)
Craig Priest writes….
Over the past eighteen or so years of following the Stags, football has been played with many an interesting backdrop – but not as ironically apt as last night at Stevenage where the circus came to town.
The Stags have become their own circus in recent weeks and have been walking a tightrope….. Badly - giving us, the fascinated on-looking audience heart palpitations as our beloved artists look like they are about to fall from a great height.
The second half on Saturday at home to Crewe gave us some hope that we could turn something around, but yet again I’m left feeling frustrated that we haven’t killed a team off and that, yet again, we’ve had to go a goal down to start caring.
The first half last night was completely unacceptable in my book and there are clear problems starting to boil over, the goal was a playground set play where we lost a runner and allowed a shot to come in – but rather than rally, we stood for a good two minutes hands on knee’s looking like we wanted to walk off and go home.
Performance wise in the first half there were only a few times where we got going and strung more than two passes together, our clearances were flat as was our energy – and if you add to that Alex MacDonald ignoring the game to argue with fans, something is not right there.
And yet, the second half was a vast contrast which was highlighted in our excellent play for Will Atkinson’s goal – pass and move! If we play like that constantly for 90+ minutes on Saturday and for the remainder of the season, we might JUST sneak in – and it feels crazy to say that when you look at our results and performances.
Over the last eight games, no wins obviously gives Flitcroft the worst start of any Stags manager – but we’ve shipped 13 goals, scored eight in reply as you’d expect with the form, but the concerning thing over all is the change in discipline.
According to my records over the last eight games we’ve picked up 23 yellow cards and three reds (2.8 bookings a game, so round that up to three) in vast contrast to just the eight yellows and one red picked up in the last eight games under Evans [all competitions] which, doesn’t take a genius to work out, is an average of one booking a game.
If discipline is slipping on the pitch, which as stats show is very much the case, then what about behind the scenes within the dressing room, I personally believe the two go hand in hand, I can’t be the only one who is concerned with that.
You can only put so much blame onto a manager, at the end of the day this is the same squad who only two months ago were being ruthless in their quest for points, ala Newport at home – and fighting back to the death to carry on, ala Morecambe away – other than the big Scot, his mate dodgy and fitness coach Lee Taylor leaving and being replaced by the chess player, big ben and the interim coach – what has changed? Why has their professionalism and work ethic swung on a trapeze from one side of the tent to the other? The ring master’s hat may have been passed on, but the acts are still the same, so please get out there against Chesterfield and put in the show we know you’re capable of!
Four games to go, four wins and the chance to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat – anything less, league two it is for another year! We believe, we back you – believe in yourselves and back yourselves boys!
Striker Ricky Miller dealt the first blow of the evening tweeting that he was injured and would be out for about two weeks, so a deserved start for him didn’t happen – but FOUR other changes did, as Krystain Pearce replaced captain Zander Diamond, Will Atkinson and Joel Byrom replaced Potter and Mellis, both benched, whilst leading scorer Danny Rose replaced Lee Angol, also benched.
The Stags started well with Kane Hemmings’ attempted lift over home keeper Tom King earning an early corner which the hosts cleared, Hayden white also earned a corner with a testing cross but again the stags couldn’t convert
Stevenage then had a corner of their own on 14 minutes an inevitably took the lead, as Danny Newton pealed away from his marked, to hammer home to low corner routine.
Kane Hemmings then nodded Hayden White’s cross over the bar with twenty minutes on the clock, CJ Hamilton and Alex MacDonald also had pop shots which caused little damage – at the other end, Conrad Logan on hand to palm away another effort from Newton with two minutes to go before the break.
The Stags seemed fired up after the break and in act two of the circus display, scored a fine team goal on 51 minutes to pull level as Hamilton and Hunt linked up on the left hand side – Hunt squaring into the mix for Atkinson to latch onto and fire into the roof of the net.
Joel Byrom was then replaced by Jacob Mellis as Flitcroft tried to give the Stags a more attacking edge, Danny Rose denied on 53 minutes as Hemmings tried to feed him in on goal before four minutes later, Hemmings hit over on the volley as the ball zipped around the area like pinball on heat.
Cometh the hour cometh the save from Conrad Logan to keep the scores level, before substitute Alie Potter went on a mazey run which nearly led to a goal, moments after replacing CJ Hamilton.
Mansfield peppered the hosts box but Stevenage remained firm to keep the game finely balanced before heading down the other end to put on pressure, to their credit the Stags turned the screw back and defended well amidst a barrage of shots.
Into the final ten minutes and the stags had two chances to win the game, first Kane Hemmings was denied by a fine save from King, before Alex MacDonald zipped one wide of the post with a minute to go, the full time whistle calling time on a fair result – but the Stags search for victory goes on as they prepare to face rivals Chesterfield on Saturday.
FULL TIME: Stevenage 1-1 Stags
Hayden White – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Alex MacDonald – Joel Byrom (Jacob Mellis 52) – Will Atkinson – CJ Hamilton (Alfie Potter 58)
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Paul Digby, Zander Diamond, Lee Angol, Adam King
Attendance: 2,294 (274)
Referee: Seb Stocksbridge Assistants Carl Fitch-Jackson, Paul Yates Fourth Official Kevin Howick
Craig Priest writes….
You know it’s funny this writing lark, there are many days where you know exactly what you want to say, and then you get the polar opposite of staring longingly at a blank screen. But also there are those rare occasions where you know exactly what to say, but what for whatever reason the words are held back – almost as is if, if you don’t write them – then it never happened.
Today is one of those days.
You know, of all the scenarios that were swirling around my head prior to kick-off yesterday being two-nil down inside ten minutes and then four-one down inside half-an-hour was not one I saw happening, and yet here we are – reflecting on the oldest cliché in football “a game of two halves”.
Firstly there’s something I want to address in brief – the reason for the snap poll on Flitcroft’s future is not me being negative or saying I want him gone, it’s merely for the purpose of judging the raw reaction of supporters after such a turbulent afternoon, in retrospect I broke my own rule of allowing emotion and anger take over when thinking ahead to the next podcast [Today (Sunday) 5pm on our facebook page] – it retrospect I shouldn’t have posted that and for that I hold my hands up and apologise – I’m not usually a negative supporters, I’m quite the opposite, but yesterday for once, emotion and hurt won.
Since his appointment I have backed Flitcroft and still believe that deep down he will come good for us, I also still believe a lot of the situation we find ourselves in, is on the head of Steve Evans. That said, and I’m calling myself out here, yesterday I wouldn’t have battered an eye-lid if the news of his departure had come out – because that Mansfield Town performance was beyond dreadful.
Again I think he got his team selection wrong, as proved by the second half turn-around which I’ll stand and applaud – Ricky Miller should have started, and we as a collective should have started with the rampant lust for victory – trailing 4-1 at half-time should NEVER be the catalyst for that.
What I question, and no player regardless of the effort they show is exempt from this, is collectively has David Flitcroft got the backing of the dressing room – because every time teams come forward we look like we are about to crumble and these tiny cracks are starting to break into gigantic holes which just make me question if any of that dressing room actually want to achieve the play-offs and deliver on what they signed up for?
I’ve said it before, it matters not who the conductor of the band is, just how good collectively the music sounds. Seven games into his tenure and Flictroft should in my view have installed some direction into the music he wants his band to play, and yet we sit here on the back of another defeat having listened to racket of out of tune, lost souls.
Are there injuries in the camp that are preventing certain players from getting a start or in the match-day side, what for instance has happened to Paul Anderson whose leadership and desire we have missed? Jimmy Spencer too seems to have evaporated from thin air when, certainly in games like yesterday when you’re throwing the kitchen sink at sides, he’s be a pivotal part?
Above all else, was Zander Diamond injured yesterday when he was taken off – or is there something more there, because if it’s the latter, then to take your captain off after half-an-hour says to me there is something very wrong in the dressing room.
Several times writing this today I’ve had to walk away and go and have five minutes in fear of welling up because we as supporters know that we are being the masters of our own downfall right now. I have full faith in John and Carolyn Radford’s appointment and I feel sick to my stomach that I crossed the divide into wanting Flitcroft to go yesterday, what sickens me more is that I know that anything less than victory on Tuesday at Stevenage I’ll want exactly the same thing and will find it even harder to drag myself back to the rational thinking of the bigger picture – which is a summer rebuild, his squad, his players, his methods, his way – basically promotion, just a year later than planned.
The reason for that is simple, having travelled countless miles this season in not missing a game – I’ve watched this bunch of individuals become a squad on the brink of achieving something special, and over the past seven games I watched that crumble away like a melting flake.
Within that dressing room the ability to achieve THIS SEASON, is still there – Ok 7th is perhaps the best we can hope for right now, maybe 6th at a push, but it’s still there, but time is against us and a failure to beat Stevenage on Tuesday puts the final nail in the coffin for me, as it’d leave David Flitcroft without a win heading into a game against our relegation threatened rivals, and that fills me with utter dread.
What is baffling about this whole situation is the ability to fight back – we lost the game 4-3 in the end and in truth should have won it, how crazy is that considering how utterly woeful we were in the first half?! I will back Mansfield Town Football Club to the death, I’ll stay with them through the good, the bad and the ugly – but please boys, for the sake of all our sanity, sort whatever issues there are out right now and get out there and deliver what you are capable of.
As I said I let anger and emotion rule yesterday with the Snap Poll, and I hold my hands up to that – can you do the same? Can you as a collective say “we are not good enough, but we WILL put it right” rather than “Ah well, it’s just not dropping” or “it’ll come soon enough” – Nothing happens in this game until you make it happen. You got us into this position, it’s upto you all – regardless of whatever underlying issues you have, to get us out of it. We’re behind you, never think otherwise – you’re Mansfield Town Football club afterall.
Winger Alfie Potter was back in the fold after an appearance from the bench of Monday as he replaced Will Atkinson in the one change to the starting eleven. Striker Ricky Miller was on the bench despite his hat-trick for the reserves in midweek, whilst Youngster Jordan Graham was also a surprise addition – showing that, long term, a partnership and development strategy is in place with the academy.
The Stags started well but were left shell shocked on seven minutes as Crewe grabbed the game’s opening goal as Alex MacDonald’s miss placed pass was picked up and swept forward to James Jones who centrally, evaded the challenge of the Stags defence and hammered beyond Logan.
Three minutes later the visitors doubled their lead as Mansfield fell apart at the back, a cross from the left hand side wasn’t dealt with by Hunt and then Diamond – allowing a shot which Logan half-palmed away, into the path of Jordan Bowery who tapped home.
The stags pulled one back on 14 minutes as Kane Hemmings dropped deep to cross from the left hand side, Lee Angol rose highest but sent his header against the post, he reacted quickest however to turn home the rebound on the stretch for 2-1.
Any hope of a Mansfield comeback was dented once more on 25 minutes as Crewe netted their third of the afternoon, Alfie Potter was disposed inside the centre circle by Charlie Kirk who sent Harry Pickering on his way down the Crewe left – unmarked and unchallenged, Pickering set himself and drilled past Logan.
A fourth followed just two minutes later, Kirk turned from provider into goal scorer as he went untracked and unmarked by White and Potter as the Stags failed to clear their lines from an initial long throw.
Pearce then replaced Diamond with the damage somewhat done already, the Stags did however limp towards the half-time whistle without sustaining any further damage – Rose and Miller then introduced at the break for Potter and Angol as the Stags went 4-3-3 in an attempt to mount what at the time, seemed like the impossible comeback.
And yet they nearly managed it, with Ricky Miller setting up Kane Hemmings on 50 minutes to make it 4-2, Miller’s right sided left footed cross nodded in at the far post by Hemmings.
Danny Rose then had two chances to narrow the scoreline in as many minutes but failed to do so, Hayden White also flashed one across the face of goal but with no end reward.
Conrad Logan then made a fine stop on 70 minutes to prevent a Crewe fifth, before Danny Rose tried to recreate his volley at Shaw Lane in the FA Cup – this time hitting narrowly over.
The Stags to their credit were finally having a go and made it 4-3 on 77 minutes as Ricky Miller got the goal he deserved, turning his man well to anticipate CJ Hamilton’s cut inside and pass – chipping over the grounded keeper from an acute angle.
At 4-3 the Stags deserved another, but despite efforts from Miller, Hamilton, Rose and Mellis to name just a few, couldn’t grab a point from the jaws of destruction – Rose the closest as he struck the underside of the bar.
FULL TIME: Stags 3-4 Crewe Alexandra
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © (Krystian Pearce 31 ©) – Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Alfie Potter (Ricky Miller HT) – Jacob Mellis – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Lee Angol (Danny Rose HT) – Kane Hemmings
Unused Subtitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Will Atkinson, Adam King [#29] Jordan Graham
Attendance: 3,480 (238)
Referee: Richard Clark Assistants: Paul Graham and Mark Cunliffe. Fourth Official Richard Wild.
Craig Priest writes….
The worst feeling in football is not defeat, it’s the deflation which comes from what could have been. That’s the feeling I left Kenilworth Road with yesterday, as David Flitcrofts men threw away a one goal lead to be beaten 2-1, by two sloppy goals in a performance which in the end, lacked energy and drive – a polar opposite from how it began.
It’s like when a rock looks solid, but you pick it up and with one tiny squeeze, crumbles to dust and slips through your fingers – all than promise, gone – and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it happening.
I wrote on Saturday of how, if we came out and played like we did against Accrignton, we’d be fine and to be fair we did for sixty minutes. We pressed high, scored a good goal, should have scored at least two more and as a whole, weren’t troubled by Luton at all.
And then on the hour it was like someone flicked a switch and all of our energy drained away whilst Luton’s shot up – our tired legs couldn’t cope with Luton’s increasing pressure and they did what good teams do, exploited weakness and pounced.
For the first goal especially it was a carbon copy of the goals we’ve conceded from open play under Flitcroft in, not strong enough down the left which gives space, a ball cut back across the middle and an easy finish. The second, yes you can blame Logan for spilling the free-kick, but why didn’t we follow it in to make sure? It’s basic school boy defending when you’re tired.
I could debate here if the team selection, the one enforced change, was right given the quick turn around in games – but given the way we played against Accrington, I feel Flitcroft was right in sticking with what worked. I do however feel that from the side lines, changes need to come earlier – a double change is not going to impact the game with a mere three minutes left, it needed to be done a lot earlier.
The players looked sapped of all energy after an hour and crumbled, there is no excuse for that and whoever takes up the post of fitness coach following the departure of Lee Taylor, needs to address this quickly as, despite the fact our next few games are against sides at the wrong end of the table, we need to last the ninety in what is going to be dogfight after dogfight.
Again the issue of ‘is flitcroft the right man for the job’ could be debated time after time, it’s true that in a higher league, no win in six games would be cause for the sack – but we’ve got six games to go and despite the fact the play-offs seem a world a way right now, we’re still only two points away with a game in hand, so it’s not harder – it’s tougher.
Like him or his methods or not, he’s the manager of Mansfield Town Football Club right now – let’s back him and see where we end up. Tired legs keep running, but only when those around are running with them too. Let’s do this.
With Mal Benning suspended, Johnny Hunt was back in at left back after returning to the fold on Friday on the bench, other than that it was as you where, with Alfie Potter returning to the bench alongside the back from suspension Pearce.
It was a nervy start from both sides, the Stags desperate for their first win under David Flitcroft and Luton desperate to regain their title hunt – but the Stags settled the quicker with CJ Hamilton and Kane Hemmings linking up well down the left hand side in the opening ten minutes.
On 15 minutes Luton opened up the Stags but skipper Zander Diamond did well to get a block in whilst Hayden White also stood tall against Danny Hylton. The Luton hit man tried his luck again on 21 minutes, but Conrad Logan watched his effort sail wide.
Rhys Bennett was next to get a block in on 26 minutes as Potts squeezed an effort past Logan, Bennett nipped in behind to scramble away and watch on as at the other end, Kane Hemmings saw a cross defelect into the side netting
Alex MacDonald swung in a teasing ball on the half hour which Zander Diamond nodded just over James Shea’s bar, four minutes later Shea beaten – as Conrad Logan hoofed long for Hemmings who turned his man beautifully to power in the game’s opening goal.
MacDonald nearly made it two nil on 38 minutes as he powered one towards the target, Zander Diamond also saw a follow up blocked as the Stags peppered the Luton goal in a wave of frenzied attack, which also saw Hemmings denied by a smart save.
The Stags ended the first have in control, Jacob Mellis so close to adding a second goal as a long range drive deflected up and onto the bar.
Luton stepped up the pressure after the break and on 53 minutes the Stags had Logan to thank as he denied Olly Lee from close range, the Stags then countered with Mellis, Angol and Hemmings but failed to convert as the hour mark approached.
The hosts were back in the game on 61 minutes as they skipped freely down the left hand side and cut the ball back into the box – former Crawley man James Collins on hand to tuck home.
Lee Angol pulled the trigger from Diamonds knock down at the other end to try and get the Stags back into the lead, but Angol was denied by a block – Luton then struck what proved to be the winner on 70 minutes, Glen Rea pounced in front of Logan to convert Alan Sheehan’s free kick – which Logan spilled.
FULL TIME: Luton 2-1 Stags
Hayden White (Paul Anderson 87) – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt (Ricky Miller 87)
Alex MacDonald – Will Atkinson (Alfie Potter 71) – Jacob Mellis – CJ Hamilton
Kane Hemmings – Lee Angol
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Krystian Pearce, Paul Digby, Joel Byrom
Referee: Kevin Johnson
Attendance: 9,592 (725)
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