Mansfield Town’s good fortune came to an abrupt end yesterday as Paul Cox’s men faltered at Dagenham & Redbridge, failing to a gutless 2-0 defeat.
Cox blamed “outside influences” for the defeat in his post-match comments which hinted towards Chesterfield’s rejected bid for Sam Clucas earlier in the week, however the blame should lie completely with the squad who were their own downfall with a poor defensive show and very little to offer at the other end.
The Stags named an unchanged line-up following last weekend’s victory over Newport County but it was a polar opposite performance, the hosts eventually found the opening on the stroke of half time as Luke Howell was left unmarked to fire beneath Sascha Studer.
Studer was perhaps a tad unfortunate to concede the second on sixty minutes after more defensive woe had left Stags un-tied, Abu Ogogo saw his effort deflect beyond the reach of Studer to double the hosts lead.
Mansfield switched to a vaig plan B with twenty-five minutes remaining, switching the 3-4-1-2 to a 4-4-2 formation, Sam Clucas came close after coming off of the bench whilst Matt Rhead was also denied, however there was a mass sense that no matter what the Stags tied, the Daggers would not be defeated.
STAGS: Sascha Studer, Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster ©, Ryan Tafazolli, Lee Beevers, Simon Heslop, Jamie McGuire, Rob Taylor (Fergus Bell 64), Chis Clements (Sam Clucas 64), Alex Fisher (Ollie Palmer 51), Matt Rhead
UNUSED SUBS: Martin Riley, Luke Jones, Adam Murray, Dimitar Evitmov
Chris Clements was quickest off the mark last night as his second minute goal proved the difference against Newport County. It was a long 88 minutes that followed for Stags however as they were guilty of missing several key chances to double their lead and fortunate to see Newport fail to punish defensive errors at the other end.
Justin Edinburgh’s side have always been tough to beat for Paul Cox’s men yet despite numerous openings for the welsh side; they didn’t look as creative as they have done in bygone seasons. That too can be said about Stags, but in a more positive light – had we seen the same game played out last term, we’d be reflecting on defeat right now, another example of the current crop of Stags’ positive character and work ethic.
The performance consisted of many dull spells from Cox’s men as they failed to settle on whether to play the ball on the deck or play a more directional game with Matt Rhead back from suspension. However that indecision should not mare the determination to protect the one goal lead or search for a second, sometimes it matters little how the points are won, it’s the fact they are won that matters.
Sascha Studer undoubtedly kept the Stags in the game with a series of fine saves including one excellent palm following a Newport free kick which looked destined for the back of the net late on in the first half, his passionate embrace with Jamie McGuire at the full time whistle, almost like they’d just got engaged to be married, again highlighted the passion and the delight of Studer on keeping his first clean sheet.
Simon Helsop was voted sponsors man of the match and did put in a positive display for the cause, Lee Beevers too has been constantly improving since his return from his shoulder operation and last night, again took his ‘Iron Man’ crown with a dominant display at right wing back.
One concern would be the amount of yellow cards that we seem to be picking up, with Amari’i Bell now back at Birmingham after the Blues opted to recall the young full back, numbers are even lower so a suspension here or there could have serious consequences, Ritchie Sutton and Simon Heslop both picked up their second booking of the season already last night.
Clements opened the scoring just two minutes in, grabbing his second goal in Stags colours after being threaded through into the area by Lee Beevers. The attacking midfielder had it all to do though as he was closed down and marked tightly, however he managed to fend off the defence and trickle the ball home in what seemed like slow motion.
On 18 minutes Clements should have grabbed his second of the night as Mansfield fluently calved their way through the visiting defence. Alex Fisher’s angled run down the right channel saw Newport a yard behind the pace, Fisher had two options and opted to pick out Clements in a pocket of space which neither Newport, nor half of the ground, saw. Clements hit first time but found Pidgley well placed to keep the Stags at bay.
Two minutes later Studer was on hand to deny Chris Zebroski before Lee Minshull was allowed pace from one of many Newport corners, fortunately for the Stags his header went wide of the mark.
Heslop, Clements and Dempster came close before the break but Stags couldn’t find a second, as the second began, it was Newport who stepped up a level. Matt Rhead came close at the other end but it was largely the visitors that racked up the chances as Minshull, Wilmott, O’Connor and Howe all saw opportunities go astray.
In the final two minutes, Ollie Palmer should have grabbed Stags’ second following a sublime burst of pace from Taylor – the full back drove forward from the half-way line before chipping a ball back into the middle, Palmer nodded over when it really was easier to miss.
Stags: Sascha Studer, Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster ©, Ryan Tafazolli, Lee Beevers, Simon Heslop, Jamie McGuire, Rob Taylor, Chris Clements (Adam Murray 75), Matt Rhead (Sam Clucas 84), Alex Fisher (Ollie Palmer 60)
Unused Subs: Luke Jones, Fegus Bell, Liam Marsden, (23) Dimitar Evtimov [Signed before the match on a six month loan from Nottingham Forest, replacing Cameron Belford who leaves the club]
Mansfield Town showed a united spirit yesterday as they bounced back from two consecutive defeats, to grab their first three points of the new season against Oxford United. Paul Cox’s men dominated the game but despite being in control, still endured a rollercoaster ride which didn’t come to an adrenaline fuelled end until Adam Murray rose from the bench to grab a dramatic 88th minute winner against his former club.
Murray made amends for his poor display last weekend at Northampton by injecting a final shot of passion into a lively Mansfield, driving home two minutes from time following Rob Taylor’s long throw. It was a moment of ecstasy for the Stags who had suffered agony when referee Richard Clark wrongly awarded the visitors a penalty on 79minutes, Danny Hylton converted despite the best efforts of Sascha Studer to cancel out Ryan Tafazolli’s first half opener.
The deserved victory highlighted a mass positive for Paul Cox’s side, with such a small squad one of two things can happen when you suffer defeat like last weekend – you either fall apart or you dig deep and fight. Midweek at Sheffield United, there were signs of fight and passion began to burn, yet another defeat emerged and could well have rocked the boat once more. Yesterday, the players came out of the traps with flare, passion and desire to gain victory and despite facing rough sea, they sailed onto victory which makes the end result more impressive as it took an abundance of character – it’s difficult, scary and somewhat thrilling to wonder what that character could be capable of if all the factors fall into place.
For a large proportion of the match, it was frustrating to watch as for all of Mansfield’s possession, they did little with it, drifting numerous crosses into the grateful hands of Sheffield United loan glovesman George Long. That said, there was a sense that it would come with Oxford looking lacklustre in attack, the Stags were given a free rein and didn’t become frustrated when the ball didn’t drop, eventually taking the lead six minute prior to half time.
Chris Clements helped set the goal as he stepped up to fire a thirty yard free kick over the wall and towards the bottom corner, Long helped push the ball onto the post but couldn’t prevent the ball bouncing back into the path of the again excellent Ryan Tafazolli who showed no fear in diving forward to head the ball into the empty net from eight yards.
Oxford’s Carlton Morris did draw Studer into action as the visitors looked for a response but the swiss keeper had no trouble in keeping Morris at bay whilst, on the stroke of half time Tafazolli nodded wide.
In the second half a fluent move between Clucas and Fisher saw Clucas drive narrowly wide of Long’s goal as Stags looked odds on for a second, Tafazolli also came close once more on 75 minutes before being penalised two minutes later at the other end for an apparent foul on Hylton. Sascha Studer’s reputation as an absolute legend continued to grow as he got into the head of Hylton with some brilliant mind games, it nearly worked too as Studer guessed right and saw the ball agonisingly brush off of his glove into the net to level the score.
Adam Murray is a man of huge character, he knows when he’s had a bad game such as Northampton and won’t stop until he puts it right. Throughout the second half he underwent a vigorous warm-up awaiting his chance – that came six minutes from time as he entered play alongside Fergus Bell. It took him just two minutes to make his traditional Adam Murray influence, arriving in a pocket of space that only he could spot to latch onto a loose ball following Rob Taylor’s long throw. From the second the ball fell to him, there was only one outcome, the Stags skipper and assistant boss made the One Call erupt in joy as the ball thumped into the back of the net to give Mansfield their deserved victory.
Murray was booked for his celebration but the smug, childlike grin told the whole story – the job was done and that loveable, passionate character had spread – something evident both at the final whistle, as Studer turned to the visiting supports and danced in jubilation and post match as Murray dedicated the victory to Hit-Man Liam Hearn who faces a lay-off until Christmas through the injury he sustained at Sheffield United midweek. Character, it’s a wonderful thing.
STAGS: Sacha Studer, Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster ©, Ryan Tafazolli, Lee Beevers, Jamie McGuire (Adam Murray 85), Simon Heslop, Rob Taylor, Chris Clements (Fergus Bell 85), Sam Clucas, Alex Fisher (Ollie Palmer 70)
UNUSED SUBS: Luke Jones, Liam Marsden, Jack Thomas, Amari’i Bell
Sheffield United delivered an 86th minute killer blow to knock Mansfield Town out of the Capital One Cup last night despite an encouraging and spirited display from Paul Cox’s Stags at Bramall Lane.
In what was a knife edge game, the League One side didn’t have it all their own way as, fresh from the defeat at Northampton, League Two Stags felt they had a point to prove and refused to go out without a fight.
Concerns we’re raised over the Stags defending at times, non-more so than in the 53rd minute as Andy Bulter tucked home the second ball from a corner, however when star man Alex Fisher levelled four minutes later from close range – it looked like an upset could be on the cards. Ultimately the difference in leagues showed as Marc McNulty grabbed the winner four minutes from time, finishing against the run of play as the Stags had been hammering on the door at the other end.
Despite another defeat, Stags can come away with their heads held high – their performance at Northampton was inexcusable whilst in contrast, against the blades their performance was full of heart, passion and determination – if the defensive errors, especially from set plays, can be tweaked then Cox’s men will have no trouble in putting points on the board and a good run of form together.
The match didn’t come without adversity however, striker Liam Hearn was one of four changes but the hit-man lasted a mere 15 minutes on his first start before being withdrawn through injury for Sam Clucas whilst late on, defender Martin Riley was also taken off after getting a knock.
With Matt Rhead suspended and Ollie Palmer and now Hearn injured, this leaves Alex Fisher as the only recognised front man for Saturday’s clash with Oxford, however when Hearn emotionally hobbled off his replacement Clucas looked really sharp in attack alongside Fisher and actually moved Stags into another gear after what was a shaky start.
From the off Sheffield United cut Stags apart with crisp passes and, had it not been for an excellent save from Studer away to his left, Mansfield may well have been in for a long night. However the Stags began to fight back as firm challenges from the back three ensured Stags kept United at bay whilst, after the addition of Clucas, Mansfield began to play some good stuff with Taylor, Clucas and Fisher coming close to opening the scoring.
At the break it was all square and during the second half the match remained on a knife edge until Andy Butler opening the scoring, tucking home the second ball after Sascha Studer had made a fantastic initial save. Bulter should have been picked up and closed down and understandably Studer was left angry with his defence – skipper for the night McGuire played well but helped little as a leader throughout the game, his passion misinterpreted as anger which unfocussed the side at key points.
Alex Fisher then levelled with a well taken effort following Lee Beevers’ drilled assist and Stags then flowed with confidence as we’re unlucky not to have taken the lead, running out of steam towards the end, cut apart on the counter attack where McNulty delivered the killer blow.
Stags’ passion was encouraging as was certain phases of play, if they can channel this into Saturday and tighten up at the back, the good times will soon follow.
STAGS: Sascha Studer, Ritchie Sutton, Martin Riley (John Dempster 72), Ryan Tafazolli, Lee Beevers, Jamie McGuire © (Fergus Bell 68), Simon Heslop, Rob Taylor, Chris Clements, Liam Hearn (Sam Clucas 16), Alex Fisher
UNUSED SUBS: Luke Jones, Jack Thomas, Amari’i Bell, Cameron Belford
After all the promise of pre-season, yesterday afternoon Paul Cox’s Mansfield Town again taught supporters that pre-season stands for nothing, as they turned in a dismal performance – falling to a 1-0 defeat at Northampton Town.
Opening days have never been promising under Paul Cox, now in his fourth term at the helm, Cox has never guided Stags to an opening day victory drawing 1-1 with Bath City in his first season, losing 4-3 to Newport in his second and 2-0 at Scunthorpe last year.
Almost like pre-season results, opening days have come to mean nothing, but still that’s no excuse for the faltering’s at Northampton yesterday, as around 900 supporters headed home disappointed and confused. The Stags made it too simple for Chris Wilder’s side, allowing them to get in behind and exploit space – Chris Hackett caused problems on a number of occasions down the flanks looking to create for John-Joe O’Toole.
Defensively the Stags looked limp, bar for Ryan Tafazolli, who had a fine game putting his body on the line and showing determination for the cause. Simon Helsop looked for passes but seldom found Fisher or Palmer whilst Adam Murray frustrated with a below par display on a day where, we needed a leader.
Credit where credit’s due, the introduction of Liam Hearn for an injured Palmer, injected some life into Cox’s men – every time Hearn led a charge forward you could hear seats in the away end clatter as fans rose in anticipation, this was soon followed by frustrated groans as Mansfield couldn’t turn the ball home. The late fight encouraged but in truth was too little too late.
The goal itself perhaps shouldn’t have stood as there was a clear foul on Stags’ debutant shot stopper Sascha Studer as Darren Carter’s corner was headed home at the back post by Kaid Mohamed. The Stags keeper reacted angrily to the goal claiming a foul as he tore after the referee half way down the pitch, it really was just one of those days!
One game down of forty-six and as we know from our title winning campaign, nothing is won or lost on opening day. With a smaller squad, things will be easier to iron out as Cox can’t just change the entire side as he’s been prone too in the past, everyone must stay together take this one on the chin and go into Wednesday’s capital one cup trip to Sheffield United with a refreshed attitude before heading home to face Oxford United – False beginnings don’t necessarily bring false endings.
STAGS: Sascha Studer, Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster, Ryan Tafazolli, Lee Beevers, Adam Murray ©, Simon Helsop, Rob Taylor (Chris Clements 80), Fergus Bell (Sam Clucas 54), Ollie Palmer (Liam Hearn 54), Alex Fisher
UNUSED SUBS: Martin Riley, Jamie McGuire, Liam Marsden, Amari’i Bell
Sascha Studer put in another man of the match display yesterday afternoon as Mansfield completed their pre-season programme with a goalless draw against League One Walsall.
The swiss goalkeeper came to the Stags aid on a number of occasions against the league one outfit, ensuring Stags ended what has been an extremely positive pre-season campaign on a strong note, leaving Paul Cox with little worries ahead of next weekend’s league two opener with Northampton Town.
Whilst the Stags defence we’re asked questions of against Walsall, the attacking movement from Cox’s men looked bright and hungry – a draw a fair reflection on what was a tough test of standing firm and trying to find an opening, yesterday’s game the perfect example of those fixtures this forthcoming season which will be about ‘protecting the point’.
Paul Cox whittled down his Trialist list to just the one, with a deal for midfielder Anthony Griffth looking dead in the water due to budget, he was sent back to Port Vale whilst his ex-team mate Rob Taylor, continued his trial with a view to agreeing a deal ahead of next weekend’s curtain raiser should the budget allow.
The 29 year old has impressed having featured in every pre-season fixture for Stags predominantly in the left-wing back position. His addition could prove to be the most vital one heading into the season as he adds adaptability and can play anywhere, bringing with him a wealth of experience that includes promotion out of league two.
Cox also opted to have a look at his strength in depth and alternate options with Chris Clements favoured ahead of Fergus Bell just behind the front two, Liam Marsden also started ahead of Lee Beevers at right wing back whilst Alex Fisher and Liam Hearn were pared together upfront with Matt Rhead suspended for at least the first two games of the season.
The visitors looked to test the water early on as James Baxendale twice warmed the hands of Studer in the opening two minutes before Chris Clements couldn’t quite make the most of the Stags first corner of the game four minutes later.
Both sides then had a sight of goal with Webber seeing an effort held low by Studer for the visitors before hit-ma Liam Hearn saw a well hit effort also claimed low by Richard O’Donnell.
The Stags showed real intent on 23 minutes with the impressive Simon Heslop driving forward before threading a slick pass into the feet of Alex Fisher, the front man unselfishly looked to cut back to a ready to pounce Liam Hearn who was just beaten to ball by the back tracking Saddler’s defender Dean Holden.
Three minutes later it was again Baxendale causing problems, skipping beyond Murray and then leaving Tafazolli in his wake before hitting from twenty yards at Studer, the swiss glovesman palming away before issuing a firm warning to his defence which even the un-multi-lingual amongst the crowd could easily understand!
Studer twice more came to the Stags aid before the break whilst Ryan Tafazolli was unlucky to turn home Chis Clements’ 41st minutes corner at the far post, the sides headed into the break goalless.
Cox made three changes for the second half as Lee Beevers, Ollie Palmer and the returning from injury Sam Clucas replaced Marsden, Hearn and Clements respectively. What followed was a very bitty second half display as the two sides tasselled for possession but seldom found a way through – Studer again beating away a number of Walsall efforts whilst substitute Fergus Bell came closest to finding a late winner two minutes from time with a driving run which finished with the ball landing narrowly wide of the visitors goalmouth.
Stags: 1.Sascha Studer, 14.Ritchie Sutton (4.John Dempster 56), 3.Martin Riley, 6.Ryan Tafazolli, 17.Liam Marsden (18.Lee Beevers 45), 8.Adam Murray ©, 20.Simon Heslop (16.Jamie McGuire 68), 19.Rob Taylor [Trialist] (13.Amari’i Bell 66), 21.Chris Clements (11.Sam Clucas 45), 16.Alex Fisher (7.Fergus Bell 60), 10.Liam Hearn (9.Ollie Palmer 45)
Unused Substitutes: Matt Rhead, Jack Thomas
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