Mark Plumb writes...
Mansfield Town suffered a disappointing defeat against league 2 newsboys in the checkatrade trophy group match at one call stadium. As expected 10 changes were made to the line up giving the fringe players a chance to prove their worth and in other cases fighting for their contracts.
The first half I thought we played well in spells, created chances and looked comfortable on the ball. Stags took the lead courtesy of Alfie Potter, who was one and one with the keeper to convert his effort past the Imps keeper to make the scoring 1-0 Mansfield.
We should have doubled the league when Sterling James found himself in a good position but saw his shot wide of the post. As the half wore on we looked dangerous on the counter and for most of the half looked solid defensively, most notably George Taft and Johnny Hunt, making his stags debut. Then came the equaliser when Lincoln hit us on the counter by whipping in an inviting ball into the area for Whitehouse to head home to make the scores level 1-1.
It was a cruel blow for how well we played but we switched off defensively and they took advantage of poor marking. At half time their wasn't much of a concern at 1-1 we showed signs of the quality that we know we have within the team, so was expecting more of the same if not better in the second half. Second half began with the Imps wasting no time in going all out attack, causing the Stags defence and forcing Oljenik into some good saves to keep the scoring one a piece.
They made it difficult for us by playing direct and out muscling us in most areas of the pitch, most notably when the ball was being pumped up to Spencer & Sterling James who found it difficult to work along side each other. At one point in the match I thought we should have had a penalty when Spencer got into the box and did well under pressure to turn and have his shirt virtually pulled to the floor, any claims were waved away by some dubious decisions by the referee.
Paul Digby came close to opening his account for Mansfield from the resulting free kick his looped header clipped the top of the bar. On the 79th minute mark they went ahead courtesy of former Stag Ollie Palmer when he found space evading the defenders to make it 2-1 Lincoln in front of 800 Imps who travelled.
A disappointing goal to concede but they kept on pressing and got their rewards but again go back to the awareness of players marking their men, just hope they learn from these mistakes. Both teams made changes with Steve Evans bringing on Hamilton, Atkinson and Rose to try and have an impact on proceedings for the Stags.
Then in the 95th minute another former Stag in Matt Green raced forward from a Mansfield corner to score from a resulting Stags corner to convert into an empty net, having came on as a sub. For me I think the manner in which we lost the game made it all the more painful to take. We all knew this competition was never going to be a priority and that it was a match for players who needed more minutes and a chance to prove their worth.
On paper you look at the players we had out with the likes of Macdonald, Potter, Pearce, White and others to add to that list and still came away empty handed. I am sure Evans will be reviewing the performances of some of the players and knowing whether or not they feature in his plans going forward but just can't help but feel frustrated with the strength in depth we got in the team, that we should be doing better.
On the flip side of that the longer they play together the more they will gel but felt that some of the players let the fans down by not putting enough effort in. It is still early days for us to panic but as said in previous blogs/ podcasts we need to stop making silly mistakes that costs us in games, whether that be league or cup as teams punish you for it.
The positives from it was no injuries and minutes of the pitch. Other than that struggling to find anything to be positive about from the match. Onwards and upwards UP THE STAGS !!!
Craig Priest writes…
Once again a team switched to three up front against Mansfield Town, and Mansfield Town can’t handle it – honestly, can anyone say they believe this current crop of players is going to come up trumps, when it’s the little mistakes which are starting to make huge dents in our armoury?
It’s that old saying isn’t it, a ripple in the ocean can soon create a tidal wave – I honestly don’t understand how someone as experienced, knowledgeable and successful as Steve Evans and Paul Raynor, can allow such a simple thing to hurt us again, and again, and again.
The competition is irrelevant, as is the team selection – there we’re spells where our desire, hunger and sheer lust for the game really showed – sadly, it was about as frequent as someone either swiping right to me on Tinder or sending me a message on other dating sites!
Cheap gags are all I can do right now to not swear and throw this laptop across the room in anger and how simple we’ve been beaten, not once – but twice, in the same way. What concerns me more is how we react, nobody rallies the troupes, nobody holds their hands up, nobody seems to care – a goal going in, is like a mint being dropped into a bottle of fizzy coke.
With the transfer window slamming shut soon, Evans must work fast to find a solution to the problem we’re facing – instability and fear of failure, have we hired too many cooks for the kitchen?
Fortunately it’s not all over in terms of the Checkatrade Trophy considering the format, we lost to Doncaster at this point last year and still managed to pocked some pivotal funds – and perhaps more critically, tonight’s collapse against the power of three doesn’t impact on our League ambitions.
Alfie Potter was different class as was Alex MacDonald – both will be very hard done by to not start at Carlise, especially the former who ran the show and gave us something we haven’t had all season so far, a counter attacking outlet – Even though it were his side two of the goals came from, I felt Hint had a steady game too – I can’t help but wonder two things, one – would a system change suit us more, with wings back rather than full backs and two – given that four of the last five goals we’ve conceded have been from that side of the pitch, is it a players-error or has Evans’ set-up cost us?
George Taft too alongside Pearce looked assured, again I can’t help but wonder what a back three, with Diamond or the improving Murfin would perform like – but ifs and buts only get us so far, it’s a long trip to Carlise on Saturday – and an ever long road home without any coal to show for it, the power of three has unstitched us twice in a row now, to go back to that ripple in the ocean analogy – as we head for the lake district, how about we cause some waves for once, rather than fail to swim in deep water?
Unsurprisingly Evans made ten changes from Saturday’s 2-2 draw with only Krystain Pearce keeping his place and taking the skippers armband – had Zander Diamond been fit, it would have been 11 changes - Perhaps the most surprising of all was the inclusion of Jack Thomas.
Mansfield started very much on the front foot, Alex MacDonald swung in some testing free-kicks and crosses within the opening minutes, but it was the magic feet of Alfie Potter that broke the deadlock on six minutes.
Jimmy Spencer played a key role in holding the ball up against two Lincoln defenders, before poking the ball into space for Potter to latch onto – a burst of pace and quick feet saw Potter inside the box, he made no mistake as Paul Farman came out to try and narrow the angle.
Ten minutes later Alex MacDonald nearly provided the Stags second after goalscorer Potter was felled, MacDonald’s whipped set-play found the head of George Taft who headed over a greatful Farman’s bar.
The Stags were keeping position well and restricting Lincoln to little, however just before the half hour – Lincoln had a real chance to pull the game level, as skipper Pearce hacked down a swift moving Billy Knott, Sam Hebergham stepped up from 25 yards but fired well into the empty Quarry Lane End.
Mansfield then missed the golden chance to make it 2-0 on 33 minutes a goal which, at that point, may well have killed the game. Alfie Potter was once again instrumental with a breath taking box to box run, he slipped in Omari Sterling-James to the right of the box – his touch to set himself allowed Farman to narrow the angle and the physiology worked, Sterling-James dragged his effort agonisingly wide.
Moments later, Sterling-James tried to feed Jack Thomas, but one of Lincoln’s many former Stags cut out the pass – Luke Waterfall staying strong.
At the other end Bobby Oljenik, in a fetching purple and orange cross fade kit, stood firm to deny Maguire-Drew from a free-kick, before the pendulum swung the Stags way once more, Paul Digby heading MacDonalds’ 39th minute free-kick over.
Seconds later at the other end, Lincoln got in behind Johnny Hunt down the left and side and clipped a cross into the middle, Elliott Whitehouse nodding in Long’s chipped cross to level the match.
Imps boss Danny Cowley was then sent to the stands before the half came to a close, 45 minutes where all Mansfield’s hard work had been undone in one moment.
After the break Mansfield just didn’t look as sharp and had to be rescued by Oljenik who made a fine save to deny Long on 50 minutes – a minute later and Potter was off on another counter attacking run which saw him play a 1-2 with Thomas, Lincoln recovering just in time before Potter was able to wave his magic wand.
Alex MacDonald drew a smart save from Farman on 58 minutes following a nice pass from Sterling-James, but on 65 minutes – a double substitution from the Imps changed the game, they gambled by switching from a flat 4-4-2 to a 3-4-3, no doubt having watched how Mansfield collapsed against Luton when they went up front 2-0 down on Saturday.
And fourteen minutes later, the switch worked – Long again got the better of Hunt down the left hand side and another ex-Stag in Ollie Palmer nipped in to put the Imps ahead.
Mansfield had a go at trying to force a draw, and subsequent penalty shootout for a bonus point and threw Olejnik forward for a corner – sadly the gamble didn’t pay as Lincoln cleared the corner, countered and Stags legend Matt Green had the simple task of slotting into an empty net.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-3 Lincoln City
Hayden White – Krystain Pearce © - George Taft – Johnny Hunt
Alfie Potter – Jack Thomas (Will Atkinson 72) – Paul Digby – Alex MacDonald (CJ Hamilton 82)
Jimmy Spencer (Danny Rose 82) – Omari Sterling-James
Unused Substitutes Conrad Logan, Rhys Bennett, Mal Benning, Joel Byrom
Attendance: 2,495 (898)
Referee: David Webb, Assistants Stephen Wade, Duncan Streete, Fourth Official Thomas Bramall
Tomorrow night see’s the most underrated competition return as the 2017/18 season’s checkatrade trophy journey begins – however, whilst some might see it as one huge irrelevance, I think Mansfield Town’s name should be the one engraved on the trophy at Wembley at the end of the season.
No, I’ve not gone mad, I’m simply looking at the strength we have in depth and thinking – if those players want to stake a claim for league two action – they need to perform, and its games such as the checkatrade trophy where they’ll get the opportunity to do so.
There are other benefits too which I’ll come onto in a minute, but first put yourself into the frame of mind of say Johnny Hunt, George Taft, Alex MacDonald and Bobby Olejnik to name but a few, after Saturday’s unacceptable complete bottle job of dropping two points – those players who will more than likely feature tomorrow, have a perfect opportunity to perform well and say to Steve Evans “this is why you need to be picking me on Saturday at Carlisle”.
First on my “Check List” for tomorrow night is to see Mansfield Town, regardless of how many keep their place from Saturday, come out fighting holding nothing back in a way of saying “we messed up Saturday and we’re sorry” – it’s not about the 11 players who are on the pitch at a certain time (aka when mistakes are made), it’s about winning and losing together, taking the highs and the lows of the roller-coaster (sorry, wrong season) together, Rhys Bennett’s comments should be pinned up in the dressing room along with the still image of his face – they say a picture say’s a million words, only one was needed on this occasion, HURT.
Second on the check list is really testing this co called strength in depth, Bobby Olejnik is too good to be sitting on the bench and must be eager to dislodge an ever frustrating Logan from the starting line-up in games other than cup games, whilst George Taft, Johnny Hunt, Alfie Potter and Alex MacDonald have barley had a look in – fair enough, the latter has been injured, but again he’ll be keen to prove a point.
We have a really strong squad from top to bottom, regardless of the niggles that have plagued us so far this season – looking at naming an eleven that didn’t start on Saturday, it’s a team any manager would give their right arm for… Oljenik, White, Diamond, Taft, Hunt, MacDonald, Potter, Digby, Hamilton, Sterling-James, Rose… I could make an argument for every single one of those players as to why they’d want to impress.
ALL of those players are FIRST TEAM players which means, according to the rules of the competition, Steve Evans could name that exact line-up and not be in trouble for making 11 changes, the wording is no long “five players who started the previous league match” as it used to be.
Away from the on pitch stuff for number three on the checklist – financial return. John & Carolyn have put in a lot of money and will be slightly nervy of failure, as frustrating and irrelevant as some may see the Checkatrade Trophy, the trades regulator has bumped up the prize money again for this season – we did quite well out of it last season and if you look at Coventry, who won the competition last year despite being relegated from league one, the prize money they accumulated has no doubt been reinvested and will aid them in their promotion ambitions.
We have a winnable group and tomorrow will see some familiar faces return to the One Call Stadium, but please whilst we’ll give Green a rapturous reception – can we not go back down the “we should have kept him” route? Living in the past isn’t going to get us anywhere.
Lincoln will be up for it and whilst they won’t know exactly what to expect, let’s treat it as another game, three bags of goal will help massively in the dressing room to lift the mood and to get us up and ready for the long trip to Carlise, a game we really need to win to kick start our season ahead of some more tasty local encounters.
The checkatrade trophy is not a competition we should ignore, it gives players the opportunity to keep challenging to make a difference in the league, it gives us a nice, not massive I grant you, but nice all the same income without doing too much for it – and furthermore, gives us supporters the chance to visit Wembley again – if ever we were strong enough to last the distance and do so, it’s not – Steve, make it happen!
Mark Plumb writes...
Mansfield Town threw away a two goal lead to draw with Luton 2-2 at Field Mill in frustrating circumstances. Prior to the game their was much excitement building for the game, even more so with Kane Hemmings making his debut, hoping to add more fire power up front.
Even though it is still early in the season I just couldn't help but get frustrated by us taking the foot of the gas and inviting pressure on ourselves when Luton have players such as Hylton, Collins and Berry to name a few that will punish you if given the opportunity going forward.
The first half saw the Stags dominate possession and create chances that given the quality of players we have should have been put away, albeit some good last ditch defending by the Hatters.
The pressure paid off when Rhys Bennett found himself unmarked at the free kick to put Mansfield ahead, his first league appearance of the season and first goal for the former Rochdale man.
The Stags did well to restrict Hylton and Collins from causing us any problems, showing that we could handle the pressure. The second half started with Luton on the attack but not really testing Logan out, who kept his place in goal. As the half went on Mansfield kept on pressing for the second goal and it came with good work from Byrom who played in a good ball that was converted by Lee Angol to make it 2 in 2 goals for him.
At this stage we was comfortable and looked in control for a little while but just seemed to me that the players didn't do enough to test the keeper after the early pressure and goals we scored to really kill the game off.
Even with the introduction of Rose, Spencer and Digby it wasn't enough for the Stags to hold out with the Luton pressure proving to be to much for an experienced Mansfield Defence. Luton hit back first with Collins that should have been dealt with by the defence to convert from 3 yards out to make the score 2-1.
Minutes later Hylton converted from a mixup between defenders and goalkeeper that gave him space to equalise, past a disappointing Logan to level the score 2-2. Mansfield was awarded a penalty in extra time, up stepped Jimmy Spencer who's penalty was saved by the legs of Stech earning his side a good point away from home.
I don't like calling out individuals but for me Conrad Logan has cost us in games against Crewe, Accrington and now Luton with him not being commanding or coming out for balls into the box.
At times his defence has let him down with some poor marking at times, admittedly so but that's when he needs to organise his defence and not staying on his line making life tougher for them.
I know we are only in the fourth game of the season but it is another game this season that we haven't killed a game off and haven't seen a game out by striving for more goals making the pressure count that ultimately cost us from taking all three points.
If we are to challenge for promotion the players need to be proving why they should be on board by playing for the shirt and learning from daft individual errors. There is no doubting the quality of players we have but for me the players get to complacent and aren't ruthless enough.
Still a lot of games to be played but the only positives for me so far are that we're creating chances, playing well and look good going forward. Disappointing to say the least but one piece of coal for the Steve Evans train. Onwards and Upwards Up The Stags !!
Craig Priest writes…
You know there are strange, often un-explained, things in life – how do you end up with odd socks? How on earth did you land a ‘ten’ as a partner when you’re a ‘four’ at best? How did your keys move from where you left them? And how on earth did Mansfield Town finish yesterday afternoon with just a point.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I left the One Call stadium as furious as I did yesterday – Mansfield we’re commanding the game and looking comfortable but once again failed to see the game through to its conclusion and completely threw it away within the space of two minutes.
It was nothing special from Luton at all, other than they gambled by putting three up front and we simply couldn’t handle it – and that is why, on that evidence over the course of the season – Luton will be a League One Club next Season and Mansfield will be in League Two.
On the whole I was massively impressed with the Stags commitment and energy yesterday, from the first whilst they had fire in their bellies and riled Luton. We played quick and attractive football and at last looked like a side capable of causing some real damage – but then at 2-0 up and in cruise control, we took our eyes of the road and ended up in a ditch – what’s really annoying is, for the second week running we’ve taken our foot off the gas for a split second and been punished, when are we going to learn.
I take my hat off (metaphorically as I’m not a hat person) to Luton as they’d done their homework, let us run out of steam and then gone with it – James Collins [Luton’s #19] is different class, he turned the game on its head for Crawley on the last day of last season and did so again for Luton – us missing out on him in the close season is a huge hammer blow, effectively yesterday he gained Luton a point from nothing, how many more times will he do that this season…. Just like pennies adding up to make pounds, points add up too.
I’ll start with the negatives, Steve Evans got it terribly wrong yesterday with his substitutions – At 2-0 up, we did NOT need to bring a striker on, at 2-1 with Luton on the front foot – we did NOT need to bring a striker on. Mal Benning was at fault for the first goal to get Luton back in with a shout, he was nowhere to be seen and was outpaced – because he was knackered!
You’ve got George Taft, very capable of playing left-back, sitting on the bench – why not bring him on – utilise his long throw to get us out of danger and to keep Collins & co quiet?
Alex MacDonald is a work-horse and, even though he’s not match fit, ten or fifteen minutes just stamping things out and wide and release the pressure would have been fine – instead Rose and Spencer come on, the latter misses a late spot-kick – it was a poor take in my eyes but I don’t lay any blame on his shoulders whatsoever, good on him for having the desire to step-up. I don’t buy Evans line of “we didn’t have a designated taker on the pitch” (clearly meaning Angol, Mellis or Hemmings) – Rose (even though he missed against Rochdale), Anderson and Digby would have been capable of handling the pressure, I don’t think Spencer was to be fair, never stutter your run up! Again this is NOT a criticism – fair play to him for stepping up.
My final negative [before moving back to the positives] is the defence and Conrad Logan – I think goalkeepers are blamed far too often for conceding, and whilst I’m not laying the blame totally on him – it’s clear that the back line don’t trust him whatsoever. There was so much indecision in that box throughout I said it would cost us and it did – especially their second goal.
I counted AT LEAST FOUR times through the game where Logan either should have come out but didn’t or where he did but the defenders got rid instead (discounting both goals in those chances by the way) – are we playing “keeper collects all” or “back line smashes it into row z”? We need to be sure and I don’t think we are and looking back, I think that indecision has now cost us at least five points, if not six.
Onto the positives, the addition of Kane Hemmings has given Lee Angol a boot up the backside, he looked far hungrier yesterday and fully deserved his goal – he won us several free-kicks yesterday and does so every game, so much so when he scored and went to his knees in celebration, he looked to the referee for another free-kick, he can’t switch off!
Joking aside, I’m glad Angol has had that kick – another young and hungry front man on loan with a point to prove and that’s it – our strike force is complete, although I would be banging on the CEO and Chairmans’ office door in January for another crack at James Collins, inflated fee or not – he’d be worth every penny.
I’ve been somewhat critical of David Murfin so far but yesterday I thought for the most part his was tremendous alongside Pearce – strong, vocal and venomous in the challenge, he allowed us to go and play ten/twenty yards further up the pitch which he hadn’t done in previous weeks.
Jacob Mellis was a joy to watch, some of the touches and bursts he had we’re mouth-watering and were what caused Luton to lose their heads, he was the wind-up merchant and I think Luton were very fortunate to finish with 11 men on the pitch. Joel Byrom too in Digby’s absence, was class – in fact had we won, this Blog would be all about him as “The Interception 2: Byrom with a vengeance” but sadly, that split second of not seeing the game through has put that on the back burner for now.
Rhys Bennett, Mr Ever Present last season, was also excellent although I do prefer him at centre back – Luton had nothing from his side, but more than anything on the pitch, I really felt for him – his post-match comment of “I’d swap my goal right now for the win” left a sombre lump in my throat – on the pitch collectively we’d thrown it away, but off it, we knew it and were hurting. Rhys’ attitude and commitment is infectious and that is why on the pitch, whilst despite throwing the game away in such an inexcusable manner – I don’t care as much, because I know that deep within the dressing room, we have ONE voice clearly wanting to put it right – and it all it takes is one voice signing in the darkness to spark a riot. League Two – be warned.
Finally, a lot is said about football supporters and how in games such as yesterday [packed with Drama] the atmosphere can feel hostile between the two sets – as I walked away from the ground no doubt with steam coming from my ears like an overdosing gas kettle, I saw Luton supporters chatting, laughing and being generally friendly with their opposite numbers, which took the edge off to be fair. Couple that with their phenomenal respect during the minutes applause in memory of Duncan Russell and I really do take my hat off to them.
I think as supporters we forget about the opposition and the emotions they go through – their applause for Russ told me that, whilst we learned the lesson that we can fight and achieve against the odds, the Luton fans to some extent learned that over confidence and arrogance can be the biggest downfall.
Steve Evans made five changes to the side which threw away a point at Accrington the previous week, Hayden White was replaced by Rhys Bennett at right back whilst David Murfin replaced skipper Zander Diamond, apparently unable to recover from a knock, in the middle.
Elsewhere in the middle Joel Byrom, who we missed like mad last weekend, returned to replace Paul Digby in the interceptor role whilst CJ Hamilton missed out at the expense of Jacob Mellis . Up front, Danny Rose lost his place to new loan addition Kane Hemmings.
Despite giving the ball away straight from kick-off, the Stags started sharply – the new partnership of Angol and Hemmings [HAA, because in time they’ll be laughing at defenders? No, ok it doesn’t have the same punch as the classic SAS does it] combined well, Angol slipped between the defence and slotted the ball across to Hemmings, the Oxford loanee drifted too far across from goal to really punish – firing over.
A minute later, skipper for the afternoon Paul Anderson showed his work rate once more as Rhys Bennett’s ball in saw Angol connect and the ball defelect into the former Forest man’s path – his effort cannoning up and over Marek Stech’s goal.
A ninth minute corner nearly saw Luton start a counter attack, but hand ball from Collins on half way gave Stags a little let-off before three minutes later another corner, again delivered by Byrom saw the Stags knock on the door, the retuning Rhys Bennett nodding agonisingly across the face of goal and out of play.
Luton rarely had sight of goal but saw a glimpse on eighteen minutes as the moved the ball well to the edge of the Stags box where Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu found space – his unchallenged shot was driven well wide of Logan’s goal, accompanied by jeers of a vocal Stags support.
Luton’s Dan Potts was the first of twelve players to enter referee Ross Joyce’s note book on 23 minutes as he left a leg out for after Lee Angol had knocked the ball beyond him, from the resulting free-kick Mansfield’s Mr Reliable Rhys Bennett edged the Stags into the lead – converting Byrom’s well weighted delivery at the far post, spinning on a sixpence to celebrate in front of the Stags support.
A goal to the good and the Stags we’re hungry for more – Lee Angol and Mal Benning stood over a free kick just past the half-hour mark – the former went in search of his second goal in as many games, but was denied by Stech who stood firm.
Former Stag Alan Sheehan, who came very close to a return to the Amber & Blue prior to joining Luton midway through the 2015-16 season, tested the water with a free kick with ten minutes of the first half remaining – indecision saw neither Logan nor a Stags defender clear, fortunately the ball curled out of play.
Five minutes later Angol tested the water with another free-kick, his initial effort clattered the wall before the ex-Peterborough man hit the rebound over the bar, at the other end on the stroke of half-time, Conrad Logan was called into action – getting down low to deny Andrew Shinnie after Luton found a way through.
After the restart Luton changed up a gear and for a spell of five minutes, Mansfield failed to respond – Danny Hilton, another of Steve Evans’ summer targets, had the beating of Benning in the far corner and delivered for Collins, unmarked – his volley kept on rising much to the relief of the Stags fans.
That proved the wake up call as stags turned up the heat once more, Jacob Mellis’ quick feet opened up an opportunity for himself, denied by a top save from Stech – who thrashed the ball away one handed.
On 50 minutes Joel Byrom was the provider once more after Angol was tripped by Luton captain Scott Cuthbert on the edge of the box – Pearce this time on the end of the delivery but to no reward as he headed into the path of Sheehan who hammered the ball clear of danger.
Three minutes later Mellis swept the ball into the feet of Angol who drilled wide, before on 57 minutes – the tricky attacking midfielder was fouled by Sheehan, leading to another dangerous free kick position which Angol and Benning again stood over.
This time it was the left boot of Mal Benning to hit, he clipped the wall and despite wrong footing Stech with the deflection, the ex West Ham and Sparta Prague youngster quickly recovered to clutch the ball dead.
Kane Hemmings came close to a debut goal on 70 minutes as a tiring Benning drilled low, following excellent hold up play from Anderson – Hemmings a matter of inches from the driven cross.
A minute later though and Lee Angol made it two in two for him and two-nil to the Stags with a cool finish, Byrom the provider with an exquisite through ball, Angol converting left footed.
Three minutes later Hemmings nearly made it three but sent his volley wide as the ball fell to him 25 yards from goal – the Stags looked in full control.
With five minutes to go, the game and atmosphere changed completely, Luton – with now three up front, completed profited from Benning’s tiredness with a ball down the flank. The full back got nowhere near the runner, allowing Jack Stacey to drill low across the box – James Collins doing the rest, steaming in unchallenged from two yards to smash home.
He raced straight back to the half way line and placed the ball on the spot – Luton were not done, and with a minute of normal time to go – we’re level as indecision from a cross from Potts, saw Hilton get there ahead of Benning and nod home – Mansfield had at least two, if not three, chances to clear but nobody took the challenge.
The drama was far from over – in the final minute of 5 added on, Mansfield were awarded a life line as Cuthbert handled Atkinson’s cross – penalty! Jimmy Spencer took the challenge to try and find his first Stags goal – his staggered run up didn’t fool Stech who saved what was very poor spot-kick.
FULL TIME: STAGS 2-2 LUTON
Rhys Bennett – Krystain Pearce – David Murfin – Mal Benning
Will Atkinson – Joel Byrom – Jacob Mellis (Paul Digby 75) – Paul Anderson ©
Lee Angol (Jimmy Spencer 89) – Kane Hemmings (Danny Rose 82)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik,Alex MacDonald, George Taft, Omari Sterling-James
ATTENDANCE: 4,655 (987)
REFEREE: Ross Joyce, [Assistants] Gareth Mellor, Matthew Jones, [Fourth Official] David Richardson
As Mansfield Town prepare to face Luton Town tomorrow, looking to bounce back from the late 2-1 defeat at Accrington last weekend – my mind is cast back to bye-gone years where there’s always been a so called ‘fear’ of facing Luton.
I’ve never understood why really and it bugs me that silly things like that linger in the air for far longer than is welcome. Luton Town are nothing special, if they we’re they wouldn’t be playing lower-league football would they?
On paper they have some class players, but so have we – the only thing that matters, is who wants victory more, and after last week – it HAS to be us, we have to send those extra supporters home with their mouths watering and with the pulsating urge to come back week upon week.
The biggest lesson I’ve ever learned about desire in football came back in 2011. Mansfield had waded through very murky water, but through it all had made it through to the FA Trophy Semi-Final to face “the mighty” Luton Town, who many said would crush miniscule Mansfield like a paper cup.
The sheer arrogance riled me, over-confidence and under estimation is the greatest downfall of anyone – and we proved that, as Danny Mitchley’s first half goal proved the difference and put Mansfield on the brink of Wembley.
Prior to kick-off tomorrow, the memory of Duncan Russell will be honoured with a minutes applause – Russ’ finest hour as Stags boss came in delivering that message that Mansfield we’re back off the ropes and ready to fight again, in fact if you look at the chain of events that victory triggered – you could argue that it was the birth of who and what we are now. Tomorrow, I hope every single supporter in that stadium remembers the lesson Russ and his team delivered that day and that the squad of today – provides the result to accompany said message.
We’ve questioned the strength in attack over recent weeks, but the additional of Kane Hemmings on loan from Oxford should hopefully release some pressure on that front, where as at the back – defender Krystain Pearce says he knows Luton, who finished in the play-offs last season, will be tough – but accepts the challenge ““I think all the boys are looking forward to it. Training’s been good; everyone’s looking lively in training so it should be a good performance from the lads.”
“They’re probably one of the biggest clubs in the league and they’re probably going to be up there come the end of the season – but hopefully we’ll be above them! I think every game is going to be tough but Luton have got a very good strike force, but if I’m selected I’ll be trying my best to nullify them.”
“It’s going to be a tough fixture. We’re trying to put [last] Saturday right and trying to get another three points on the board.”
The Stags must learn lessons from the season’s final day last term, as striker James Collins had the beating of the back four in what was a thrilling chase to end – Collins made the switch from Crawley to Luton in the close season and I believe was on Steve Evans’ list of targets.
With a 4,000+ crowd expected, the players must step up to the plate and be on the front foot – silly mistakes from set-pieces will be punished, and as the season looks to pick up momentum and enter September’s fixtures – there is no room for error.
Mark Plumb Writes...
Could Kane Hemmings be the final piece in the Stags jigsaw for Steve Evans men ? When you take a look at his stats it's hard not to get excited with his goal ratio scoring one in every two games played.
His most prolific season came in his spell at Dundee where he netted an impressive 28 goals in 41 appearances. His other clubs include Rangers, Cowdenbeath, Tamworth, Barnsley and Oxford. Evans had been after the frontman since May, having failed to sign the 25 year old at his in the past from Dundee stating that a deal could not be agreed.
Huge credit has to go the Radfords for making the deal happen, showing their ambitions that we are aiming for promotion and moving the club forward. The deal is only a loan until the end of the season, with an option to buy if the club would want to make the deal permanent.
It also worth noting that club did extremely well to beat off competition from Scottish teams, League one and League two rivals for his signature. With the service we have in midfield, along with the other strikers we have at the club gives him the platform to score goals and give opposing defenders their worst nightmares.
Still at only 26 he has a good track record at league one level with a proven track record, he will fit it nicely with the style of football that Evans has us playing along side likes of Rose and Angol, who will no doubt score us goals to success.
The one thing that has impressed me most about this signing is he genuinely wants to come to Mansfield to not only be help us in our promotion push instead of coming to earn a pay package, as most footballers do in this day and age.
Evans has done extremely well to attract quality players having had promotions, champions league and championship experience on their cv to drop down to league two. Hemmings will no doubt have a lot to prove not only to the Stags faithful but himself, having not played a minute for Oxford this season being down the pecking order.
He will be hoping to recapture his goal scoring form that we all have in my opinion been lacking since we have been back in the football league. Good luck Kane. UP THE STAGS !
Mark Plumb writes...
Mansfield Town suffered their first league defeat at the hands of Accrington Stanley, with goals from Hayden Jackson and Billy Kee.
The Stags made one change to the line up that won against Forest Green with CJ Hamilton coming in for Joel Byrom. The first half was a scrappy game with both teams fighting for possession and trying to stamp their authority on the game. The first goal came from Hayden Jackson who got an extra yard of pace past the defenders to slot past Logan to make it 1-0 to the home side.
Mansfield quickly equalised courtesy of Lee Angol, a long ball forward from Logan got headed on by Rose, which Angol was first to react to and open his account for the Stags, which will hopefully be the first of many for Steve Evans men.
The second half started with the Stags on the attack from the off and looked the more likely to score as the half went on, creating chances that caused the home side problems throughout.
Their was a number of good performances from likes of Benning, Anderson and Atkinson looked threatening every time they was going forward opening up their defence but not taking their chances when they arised. Accrington weren't causing many problems and was happy to let the Stags have possession as they were well organised and made it difficult to have a shot on goal.
The Stags also used all their subs with likes of Mellis, Spencer and Sterling James to try and make a difference but it wasn't enough to get through a well organised Accrington side. The way the game they went a lot of Mansfield fans would have taken a point, which has been tough place to come over the years but in added time ex Stag Billy Kee was first to pounce on a loose ball to convert from close range past a helpless Conrad Logan.
Even though it still early days the main problem is not being able to defend from set pieces, which has been our Achilles heal recently. The team is still relatively new so it will take time for them to gel but for me the communication between Logan and the defence has for me cost us goals against Crewe and Accrington.
He has shown he is a good shot stopper but for me he doesn't command his area or defence enough to show enough authority that a keeper should be doing. It is a long season and results at this stage mean nothing yet, with still over 40 plus games to go but it is important we learn from the mistakes we are making so we can learn from them before it to late later in big games.
A point would have been a fair result but we shot ourselves in the foot again with not being able to do the basics, that ultimately cost us the 3 points. The one thing that we can be assured of is we have the players/ manager who will know how to bounce back and cope with the pressure of us being the "favourites" for promotion. Also a huge shout to the travelling Mansfield fans again with another good away following, just a shame the team couldn't grind out at least a point from a scrappy affair.
Overall I thought we played some good football and coped well with the pressure in large parts but need to cut out silly mistakes that keeping costing us games, when we know we have the players to challenge anyone in this league. Up the stags !!
Craig Priest writes…
A 91st minute goal from former Mansfield front man Billy Kee sent Stags fans home from horrible Accrington what on earth the bookmakers had seen in backing the club for Promotion as Champions – as the Stags were beaten 2-1.
On a horrible day afternoon were the cutting wind, spitting rain and then blinding sun couldn’t make their minds up over who would stay at the front of the weather cue, Mansfield in my view we’re below par and didn’t do the one thing that “champions” need to do – the nitty gritty, the dirty and ugly jobs – the smash and grab.
According to the stats, Accrington had three shots on target – two of them found the back of the net – proving once more it’s not about how many chances your create or how pretty you try and play – goals win games.
The hosts were made to play into the wind for the first half and seemed contempt to play the ball for the back, for the most part we closed down and kept the club that wouldn’t die penned into their own half – yet a lack of creativity absolutely cost us dear.
Steve Evans opted to effectively play three wings across the midfield with four at the back, having watched us pen Accrington in for 45 minutes [OK we got caught and punished one but levelled] – I’d have gambled with three at the back and brought Byrom, then Mellis, on and really gone for the Stanley juggler, it was there for the taking and we just didn’t accept the invitation – instead Accrington did with a late corner, the less said about that the better. Losing the game from a set-play again… shock horror.
I’m a huge fan of Atkinson, Anderson and Digby – I think CJ Hamilton has bags of talent too – not for a second am I questioning the work rate of any of them, but there was one key ingredient missing – Joel Byrom! If you add Byrom in and make it a midfield five, you’ve three creative players [Anderson/ CJ wide and Atkinson box to box] with Byrom and Digby sitting in front of the back line [which would be a three in this instance] to break things up – the latter (Digby) can play in the back four if there are spells where we have to go to a flat four-four-two.
Evans has assembled this squad to compete and be flexible, yet when it comes to being and playing ugly – they didn’t utilise it. My frustration comes in not losing the game, I saw that coming a mile off, it’s how John Coleman’s sides have always been successful – it comes in having the ability to go swimming in the deepest waters, but shying away and having a paddle in the shallow end – that’s not going to win you promotion.
What’s needed now is a response [and YES an out and out goal scorer – another topic for later in the week] to ensure that when it comes to the crunch, this defeat won’t cost us. You have to go to Accrington and places of that ilk and not get beat, it’s the fine lines.
Boss Steve Evans made one chance from the side to beat Forest Green, Winger CJ Hamilton replaced central midfielder and former Accrington man Joel Byrom - a move which saw us play a flat 4-4-2 with three wingers in the midfieler, Atkinson and Anderson alternating between the central role, again with tremendous work rate.
Playing with the wind behind them was a key ingredient and it appeared that skipper Zander Diamond had won the toss and opted to switch ends, meaning Accrington had the horrible task of playing into the gusting wind and thus – restricting them to playing short.
Mansfield needed to start on the front foot and did, Will Atkinson’s trickery saw him weave through the middle and win the Stags a free kick in a central position - Lee Angol stepped up to try and curl one in… the ball sailed over.
The Stags were playing some good stuff early doors despite the testing conditions, fluidity between White and Hamilton saw the latter cut in and fire across the box – Angol unfortunate to see the home keeper Aaron Chapman gather first with four minutes played – Paul Anderson then tested the water four minutes later, but after finding space, dragged his long range shot wide of the target.
Accrington then proved that all you need is one chance to chance the game, and did so on ten minutes as a right sided throw in found the feet of Janoi Donacien who clipped the ball into the box – the dangerous Kayden Jackson beat both Pearce and Diamond and controlled the ball, drove the ball into a pockt of space and cooly slotted beneath Logan.
The Stags looked for a response and tested the water with a few teasing crosses and a deep Benning free kick which the keeper had to punch clear on 20 minutes, five minutes later pulling the game level as Lee angol grabbed his first league goal, after a successful spell in pre-season.
With the wind behind him, Conrad Logan went route one and smashed the ball up park to Danny Rose to beat Mark Hughes in the air – his flick on played Lee Angol into the box who span away from his marker Ben Richards-Everton, before a lucky touch evaded the keeper, the former Peterborough man composed himself and did the rest with his left foot in front of the travelling supporters.
The goal to bring the Stags level had given them a much needed second wind and they began restricting Stanley to very little beyond the half way line, Mal Benning nearly delivered for a Stags second on 33 minutes – skipper Zander Diamond sending a forceful header wide from the left backs deep free kick.
Five minutes later the interceptor Paul Digby popped up from nowhere to fizzled an effort hard and low, but ultimately wide of Chapman’s goal, before with the clock running down, Ziamond again connected with Benning ste-play, this time a corner on the stroke of half-time, again the same result though as the Mansfield Captain sent the ball wide.
After the break Mansfield had the wind to contend with but started OK, Accrington were again contempt to play short from the back and Danny Rose nearly embarrassed Chapman as he close down a clearance, fortunately for the hosts – nothing came of it.
Lee Angol won the Stags a corner on 65 minutes with Mal Benning again sending in a ball which the Stags headed wide of the target, this time Krystian Pearce guilty of heading wide as Mansfield looked to get ahead.
Danny Rose looked hungry on 73 minutes after being slotted in by Angol, but strong challenges denied the Stags leading scorer his third in as many league games, whilst at the other end a matter of minutes later – Mal Benning had to make a last ditch clearance, as the Stags completely lost all focus and allowed the ball to run free in the area – Benning denying the consistent threat of Jackson his second of the game, what an inspired purchase he looks to be for Stanley, after joining from Barnsley for an undisclosed fee in the summer.
Mansfield had done all they needed too to take home what would have been a fair but scrappy point as the game moved into stoppage time, the Stags switched off and Accrington did what Accrington do best – smash and grab.
Sean McConville delivered what seemed a poor corner in the 91st minute, not one Mansfield player moved or jumped, the ball bobbled down via Richards-Everton and neither Diamond, White or Logan spotted the run of Kee, who unlock three points for Accrington.
Conrad Logan should have come and got something on the ball, in the last minute of the game you want your keeper to barge everyone out of the way and be safe – again, that didn’t happen and we we’re rightfully punished – the defence too, it’s not a crime to jump or track runners, a woeful goal to concede and something needs to change there if we’re to be a success.
FULL TIME | Accrington Stanley 2-1 Mansfield Town
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Krystian Pearce – Mal Benning
Paul Anderson – Will Atkinson – Paul Digby – CJ Hamilton (Omari Sterling-James 74)
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 79) – Lee Angol (Jacob Mellis 86)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Rhys Bennett, Dabid Murfin, Joel Byrom
ATTENDANCE: 1,645 (481)
REFEREE: Darren Bond, Assistants Nick Greenhalgh & James Mainwaring, Fourth Official Peter Gibbons
Tomorrow’s trip to Accrington Stanley see’s the Stags visit a club with a rich history, no I’m not talking about Milk, but about fight and desire – pretty much every football fan in the land knows the story of the club that wouldn’t die.
I’ll be honest, I hate Accrington – not hate in a horrible way, but frustration hate – I’ve never seen us do well there and it was once the venue for a postponement after 45 minutes, where we stood open to the elements and got drenched! The only saving grace was the rain hid many a Stags fans tears as Lord Barker appeared to say an emotional farewell amid wild rumours he was about to be sold against his and the managers wished.
Accrington because of that is associated in my mind for being cold, wet and miserable – for want of a better phrase, it’s the bogey ground.
In fact a trawl back through the records show the Stags last victory at Accrington, came in 1936/37 [If the records are wrong… sorry!] – In fact if you compare the stats, Accrington’s league two record see the Stags be the third best team they have success against.
It’s something we need to correct tomorrow to increase our grip on second place and keep the early pace, as over the next month we have some really tricky games.
Accrington are a far better side than they ever get credit for with a superb manager in John Coleman, a man I would not have been disappointed with had the Steve Evans thing not happened. Coleman knows this division and is a knowledgeable man when it comes to recruitment, the players he’s brought in over the close season will boost Stanley and push star man Billy Kee up another level.
It’s a tight pitch and not the best of surfaces – it’s not going to be a game where we can play particularly fluid football and rack up chance after chance, we’ve got to go and frustrate Accrington and be physical – set pieces in particular will be pivotal in the pursuit of victory.
This is where the team strength in depth is going to come in handy and it may even be games such as this, where we see how important that depth is – it’s not a game we’ll win by being pretty, something previous managers haven’t quite grasped, Steve Evans though – knows it’s a dogfight to silence they club that refused to die.
"It'll be a different type of game on Saturday. We have to once again earn the right to play because if you go to Accrington under John Coleman's guise and you don't earn the right to play, it makes it a long day for you,"
"We're under no illusions as to how tough it's going to be. We need to go to Accrington and we need to try and win the game, we need to compete to win the game. If we do that and if we work as hard as Accrington, with the players we'll travel up with, we'll have a chance.”
"They're very strong. I've said before, on record, that they've got an excellent management team and they've picked up players, like John does, really wisely and that's why they'll be contenders.”
The Stags could be boosted by the return of Alex MacDonald who played in a behind closed doors match in midweek at Peterborough which the Stags lost narrowly 1-0. MacDonald, as we note in this week’s podcast, is strong and quick – he’s exactly the type of player you want against Accrington in a game which for the players will feel like 90 minutes a half!
One thing on the Stags side is a new travel rule they’ve put in place, I need to be sure on the exact time – but pretty much anything that’s over an hour and a half travel time will be an overnight stop.
It may seem excessive but I think it’s a cracking idea, teams like Accrington who have that reputation of being a tough place to visit, bank on getting in teams heads – especially those who need to travel, so to be going to the game having not endured the travel – the players will be more fresh, and hopefully spring a surprise on Stanley.
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