Full Time Score West Bromwich Albion 2-1 Mansfield Town
Competition EFL Cup (Carabao Cup) – Second Roubd
Venue The Hawthornes, West Brom
Stags Goal Scorers Neal Bishop
Attendance 10,574 (1,183)
Craig Priest writes…
After the Stags’ static and lacklustre second half display at Macclesfield, a visit to the Hawthornes to face Championship outfit West Brom could have ended in disaster, and whilst that’s true in terms of the fact we lost – we’ve walked away proud and with the potential to really kick on as a unit in Sky Bet League Two.
A 2-1 defeat is nothing to be down about, as out of the two sides, West Brom will be walking away wondering how they’ve won that – we’ve done everything bar score.
The critical side of me wants to write here about how that’s been the case in a few games this season, but I’ll silence him in the knowledge that you could see how the players reacted to our support last night and rallied for us – I’d be far more concerned and critical if we’d have just stopped fighting after West Brom scored.
In the first half I think that’s something we were guilty of however I think a lot of that comes down to the system and management – it’s here where David Flitcroft deserves praise. He’s tried too, and I applaud this, implement the 3-4-1-2 system which has worked well – but it only works when you’ve got the players available to comfortably play the roles required to adapt to the opposition – we didn’t at Macclesfield and got punished, but last night learnt our lesson.
It was clear that (as good as these players are) Ryan Sweeney and Mal Benning were playing out of passion and were getting pulled from pillar to post – West Brom’s opening goal a prime example as Benning (and this is NOT a blame culture) was caught hogging the touch line – a central defender does not need to be there. It left us short, out numbered and exposed – and for once, we were punished.
The same can be said with Sweeney who just didn’t look comfortable playing on the right side, as a left sided player he couldn’t adjust his positioning to play the right sided role – fortunately Pearce, Atkinson and Bobby Oljenik swept up.
In the second half, Flitcroft opted for a four-four-two later four-three-three with Sweeney going to left side centre half, his natural passion and was then a rock, whilst Atkinson pushed to right back, Benning across to his natural left back.
With that structure in place and that stability and confidence within ourselves we were able to play and really threaten West Brom – adding the tenacity of Alex MacDonald and the hunger of Danny Rose to the mix where the ingredients to our success in going forward, levelling and then nearly stealing the game.
Conceding the second I’ve no qualms about whatsoever, Atkinson is not a right back and therefore pushed up higher to try and put us in front, in league two his missed header would nine times out of ten go unpunished – but we were up against a good, sharp, quick and attack-minded Championship side and the difference in class, rightly showed.
Neal Bishop’s equalizer will live long in the memory and was fully deserved, both for him in the team, but what will not be forgotten for me is the fight, enthusiasm and desire from everyone involved after we went 2-1 down – we MUST show the same in the league, week in week out.
I hope the players saw last night that our only frustration as supporters is that we, like them, want them to succeed – we applaud and appreciate wholeheartedly their efforts to fight and run, to push and never give up – and regardless of the end result, 99% of the time that is enough. Sometimes I think players stop running, stop caring out of fear of our anger, our disappointments perhaps as a hangover from last season – which was born, and is always born, from us knowing how good and effective they can be.
If anything last night showed we are together, we are one entity wanting the same thing – to one day make fixtures like last night, our bread and butter. We love you through the good times and the bad, there’s nothing in this world that will ever change that – so let’s channel that pride, passion, desire and spark and set league two alight, starting Saturday at home to Carlisle.
On the back of Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Macclesfield, David Flitcroft made a few changes – but on paper it looked very mismatched as he stuck with the 3-4-1-2 system playing left wing back Mal Benning at left side centre back, Ryan Sweeney on the right of the back three, with CJ Hamilton switched from right wing back to the left, to accommodate the incoming Will Atkinson. In midfield, Calum Butcher replaced Alex MacDonald whilst Oljenik kept his place between the sticks.
Both sides saw early chances as the game got underway – naturally it was the hosts who threatened first as Conor Townsend got in behind but failed to beat Oljenik, putting the ball over the bar – whilst at the other end, Craig Davies fired wide from Hamilton’s left sided cross.
Former Nottingham Forest man Oliver Burke put an effort wide for the hosts on eight minutes with the angle against him, two minutes later the dangerous former Red had another chance – this time nodding wide as the Baggies opened up the Stags.
On 18 minutes the Stags nearly grabbed the opener as Boaz Myhill kept out a certain own goal but parried the ball into the path of Davies – the Stags front man rasped his effort narrowly wide.
Otis Khan was next to test Myhill but couldn’t beat the former Hull glovesman who was equal to the attacking midfielder’s free kick with twenty-two on the clock, four minutes later the Stags were caught on the counter with a directional ball. Benning temporarily forgot he was playing as a central defender and not an attacking wing-back and hogged the touch line, as the Stags lost the ball – a long ball saw the Stags with two at the back – a cut back to Jonathan Leko saw the baggies man open the scoring from close range.
Bobby Olejnik then came to the Stags rescue on the half hour to deny the advancing Burke, the last real chance of the half.
After the break David Flitcroft switched systems to a 4-4-2, Atkinson at right back – Benning across to his natural left back with Pearce (right) and Sweeney (left) in the middle, Tyler Walker occupied the right wing, CJ Hamilton the left, whilst Khan partnered Davies upfront.
Calum Butcher nearly headed the Stags level on 52 minutes as he rose to meet Walkers cross, however a clash of heads saw that be Butchers last action – replaced by MacDonald who immediately tightened the Stags midfield and pushed the players forward.
Oljenik then denied Kyle Edwards, before then tipping a free header over the bar from a corner – after Sweeney made an inch perfect tackle to stop the hosts progressing.
Danny Rose replaced Davies on 64 minutes and made an instant difference with tenacious running and just a minute after coming on, cut inside well and curled a beautiful effort beyond Myhill, who could only watch the ball cannon off the bar and post and away.
Rose then set MacDonald for an effort which flew wide and you knew it would take something special – step up Neal Biship, who on 70 minutes reacted to Hamilton’s pull back to lean back and curl an un-stoppable effort into the top corner from long range.
Rose had claims for a spot kick turned down before volleying over the bar, determined to score – but it was West Brom who would strike what proved to be the winner on 75 minutes as Will Atkinson missed his header on the half way line to allow the hosts space down the left hand side, a neat run from Edwards evaded the challenge of Pearce, Walker and Sweeney to curl beyond an unsighted Oljenik.
Mansfield were not down and not out just yet and began a barrage of attack which, on any other day pays off. Rose was twice denied by Myhill, MacDonald curled a free kick wide and substitute Jordan Graham’s cut back picked out Walker – only to be denied by the experience Myhill.
Time was fast running out by the Stags were peppering the home goal – Graham looped an effort just beyond the far post as the game entered five additional minutes. Rose tamely nodded an effort wide before the Stags won a corner – which Bobby Oljenik raced forward for – the ball fell for him after Myhill saved a first effort – the shot from the Stags glovesman was heading into the bottom corner, a block saw it land at the feet of Pearce – who slotted wide!
Moments later another corner and up came Bobby O again – this time going toe to toe with Myhill, the ball ran loose but the hosts scrambled clear as the referee put the whistle to the lips and brought a thrilling piece of drama to a close, West Brom putting the stags out and ending an unbeaten run – but only just.
FULL TIME: West Bromwich Albion 2-1 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Oljenik, Ryan Sweeney, Krystian Pearce ©, Mal Benning (Jordan Graham 85), Will Atkinson, Neal Bishop, Calum Butcher (Alex MacDonald 53), CJ Hamilton, Otis Khan, Tyler Walker, Craig Davies (Danny Rose 65)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Lewis Gibbens, Jacob Mellis, Omari Sterling-James
Referee: Stephen Martin
Full Time Score Macclesfield Town 1-1 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Moss Rose, Macclesfield
Stags Goal Scorers Mal Benning
Attendance 2,624 (1,184)
Craig Priest writes…
In football there are good draws and bad draws – sometimes there are neither and yesterday’s 1-1 draw at Macclesfield was neither, it was a stereotypical ‘game of two halves’, a lesson and a totally unacceptable second half showing.
Credit must go to Macclesfield for their triple change at the break but changed the game for them, however that’s as far as the credit goes the blame (as harsh as that word may seem) is on us as a collective – we didn’t deal with or respond to those changes, we should have put the game out of reach prior to the break and above all else – we showed no heart or desire to take anything but a point, which in the end, we were VERY fortunate to come away with.
The fact we didn’t put the game out of reach before the break I can just about accept, it can be chalked off in isolation as ‘one of those days’ – BUT that particular phrase is cropping up too often now and five games in, that worries me.
What I can’t stomach is the way were absolutely peppered in the second half and if this were ‘Macclesfield Matters’ – I’d be sitting here praising our attack! A better team would have pummelled us into a four, maybe five-one loss and given us a real spanking. We didn’t deal with the pressure and looked lost.
Above all else, and this is something that’s been bubbling away for a few games now, is the absolute lack of movement and want to make things happen in the second half – especially after conceding.
Teams have figured out the way we attack and are pressing us higher up the pitch, we can easily break this down if ONE player makes a run, but everybody just stands there wanting the ball to feet and excepting things to happen for them – it’s almost spoilt brat mentality, show some desire and creativity and one point from a winning position with the taste of frustration – will be replaced with the sweet satisfaction of victory.
In football, as in life, you get out of it what you put in – so on that display which lacked heart and passion, a point is like robbing a bank really. I don’t want to use the R word as we could be in a far worse position and shape, BUT we can only carry on with this careless approach to collecting points for so long before we find ourselves in trouble.
This is not born out of frustration or an arrogant attitude, it’s born out of the knowledge that we know how good we can be, and how capable we are – a little more of as ruthless streak and we’re onto a winner.
Finally, lets end on a positive note – and a big round of applause for the Stags academy set up after the debut of Lewis Gibbens. Two years ago Gibbens was playing football on a park and has been coached, nurtured and developed into a real asset. Like with any young player, there are still improvements to be made, that tendency to slide in for one, BUT he looks a real solid defender older than his years and I’ve no doubt that he’ll add to his debut more over the course of the season.
Defender Hayden White missed out with a knock which gave 18 year old Lewis Gibbens his first start since making the transition from the Academy to the first team during the summer, otherwise it was unchanged from the side which drew 0-0 at Tranmere, with keeper Olejnik keeping his place after a fine display.
The Stags started well winning a corner within the opening minute, from which Alex MacDonald fired over.
Craig Davies and Neal Bishop also tried their luck but failed to break the deadlock within the opening ten minutes, a spell where Olejnik went untroubled in the Stags goal infront of a brilliant Stags support.
Khan picked out Benning on 13 minutes but the advancing wing-back’s touch was too heavy, at the other end Harry Smith rose at the far post but couldn’t keep his header down
Chances for MacDonald, Khan, Walker and Davies followed but despite Mansfield going through the gears – they couldn’t break the silkmen’s seal. The Stags came closer on the half hour as Walker and then Bishop saw efforts saved – two minutes later, Otis Khan delivered a chipped cross from the bye-line – powerfully headed home by Mal Benning to put the Stags ahead.
Two efforts for Hamilton plus chances for Walker and Davies went astray before the break – at the interval the Stags led, but that was about the change as the pendulum of domination swung in favour of the other MTFC.
The hosts rang the changes at the interval and Mansfield struggled to adapt, although both Hamilton and Khan did have efforts to double the Stags advantage.
Macclesfield were growing into the game and you could sense a goal around the corner, Ryan Sweeney – playing as the central of the three defenders, made a critical block to deny the hosts.
Back at the other end a goalmouth scramble prevented the Stags the critical second on the hour mark, before three minutes later – the inevitable happened as Macclesfield levelled – Harry Smith powering beyond Oljenik.
Smith should have then put the hosts ahead but put his header at the far post wide, the let-off clearly not enough for the Stags who consistently allowed the hosts away forward – fortunately Macclesfield failed to have the clinical touch they showed in winning the conference title last season.
The Stags’ own chances in front of goal were drying up and the ripple of frustration showed at the final whistle – Flitcroft’s men remain unbeaten but have won just once in five league games, twice surrendering a lead from a commanding position.
FULL TIME: Macclesfield Town 1-1 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Olejnik, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, Lewis Gibbens, CJ Hamilton, Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald (Jacob Mellis 71), Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Omari Terling-James 77), Craig Davies (Danny Rose 62), Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Will Atkinson, Calum Butcher, Jordan Graham
Referee: Anthony Blackhouse
Full Time Score Tranmere Rovers 0-0 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Prenton Park, Tranmere
Stags Goal Scorers /
Craig Priest writes…
It’s funny how a week can totally change your mood – seven days prior we were reflecting on an astonishing victory over Accrington Stanley, whereas now, a week later – we’re wondering if we’ve used up all our goals – following a goalless draw at Tranmere which saw a number of opportunities wasted by David Flitcrofts men.
The Stags were below par against newly promoted Tranmere and again were left frustrated, collecting yet another draw.
For me personally whilst I’m disappointed and frustrated that we couldn’t get all three points, I’m happy that we’ve managed to stay tight enough at the back to build a clean sheet and not taste the bitter blow of disappointment which comes from a late goal against us like on Saturday.
That said it’s clear for me now that we need to use the loan window to boost our ranks – especially in the full back/ wing back area as, as resolute as CJ Hamilton is, he’s not a right sided player and any attack we mount down that side, see’s us come back inside and forced backwards – it’s negative and easy to defend against.
On the other side, the usually steady Mal Benning had a shocker last night and moving CJ across to the left really opened the game is, the problem then is – you’re asking a central midfielder in Will Atkinson to play right wing back and it’s a gamble we can’t afford to be taking, especially in situations such as last night where the game was there for the taking.
I believe the Stags do have the answer in house – Paul Anderson. His experience is vast and he showed last season, prior to the arrival of Flitcroft, that he can play anywhere well, with that right side certainly suiting his game – if whatever the situation is with Flitcroft can be sorted out, then it would be like getting a new signing.
We are missing that experienced pro which would not only help us to close games out – but also to go on and win them. A prime example, defensively on Saturday a more experienced player than Walker shows the Colchester man down the line, sees the ball out of play and its game over rather than giving away a soft free kick which results in added time and then a goal. In attack, that experience just pushes us forward a little bit more and see’s the run of Davies, who doesn’t like to attack on the front foot – he likes to hold off for cut backs – an experienced head see’s that, and we score.
The main talking point is the change of guard in goal – Oljenik played very well and, whilst I’m not a boo boy or pick people out for criticism, I felt that change was needed and that Olejnik played very well and can now go onto enjoy a run in the team which extends beyond a cup match here and a friendly there.
It’s frustrating to not have reward for our efforts, but we didn’t lose. One thing that does annoy me, is the comparison between this season and last season and that in his whole competitive tenure, we’ve only won three under Flitcroft – it’s an utterly pointless debate, different players, different pressures, different circumstances. A draw is not a loss, a cleansheet is important – if we can’t break teams down, then let’s get out there and make it hard for teams to beat us and break us down – starting with Macclesfield on Saturday.
Bobby Oljenik replaced Conrad Logan between the sticks with Craig Davies and Neal Bishop also back in the side – Calum Butcher and Jacob Mellis missed out as Flitcroft made three changes.
The pendulum was in full swing for both sides during the first half, Otis Khan picked out Craig Davies who saw a long range effort held by Scott Davies in the Tranmere goal, Neal Bishop also put one over the bar from range – moments after Oljenik was called into action – denying Ollie Banks within the opening ten minutes.
Oljenik was then on hand again to deny the dangerous James Norwood with his feet, after the Tranmere front man had skipped his way through – at the other end, Otis Khan forced a smart save from Davies in the home goal.
Pearce and Hamilton came to the Stags aid at the back as the hosts put on the pressue, on half an hour Khan tried to relieve that by scoring the opener – the tricky attack midfielder, denied by the home keeper.
Neal Bishop and Tyler Walker caused problems before the break, but on the referee’s whistle, it remainded goalless.
After the break the Stags struggled to get going and Flitcroft withdrew Mal Benning on the hour – Will Atkinson his replacement went across to right wing back, Hamilton to the left.
Otis Khan then wasted an opportunity to break the deadlock as he found himself clean through – rather than drill low into the corners, Khan hit straight at Davies.
With Twelve minutes to go Butcher & Rose replaced Khan and Craig Davies respectively as the Stags looked for the key to open up the hosts, however it was the hosts who came closest – Oljenik on hand to tip away an 80th minute goal bound header.
Tyler Walker then dragged one wide after being played into the box, he also couldn’t connect with a MacDonald cross – after tenacious work from the Stags number seven.
In the final seconds of the match, the hosts had two chances – Oljenik making a smart save to stop the fires, before the hosts were awarded a free kick, which fortunately was wasted to the sound of the full time whistle
FULL TIME: Tranmere Roves 0-0 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-2-1]: Bobby Olejnik, Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning (Will Atkinson 59), Otis Khan (Calum Butcher 78), Craig Davies (Danny Rose 78), Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Jacob Mellis
Referee: Thomas Bramall
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 1-1 Colchester United
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call stadium, Mansfield
Stags Goal Scorers Craig Davies
Attendance 3,909 (190)
Craig Priest writes…
After the six-one slaughtering of Accrington Stanley in midweek there was always danger of coming back down to earth with a bang, and whilst most thought the sucker punch was the frustration of not being able to break Colchester down, the reality was far more sickening – a 95th minute equalizer for the visitors who hadn’t really troubled Conrad Logan.
Arguments and debates will be had over Logan’s involvement in the goal which robbed the Stags a victory and the chance to go top of League Two, and whilst I’m tempted to weigh in on those debates – it’s pointless, as, as David Flitcroft said post match, it’s a collective problem – win together, lose together, draw together – accept errors, together.
You could see the joy within the dressing room when substitute Craig Davies scored the opening goal, but as Flitcroft hinted, there wasn’t the same pride in protecting the clean sheet and subsequently, the three points – we thought the game was dead and buried and we can’t allow that until AFTER the referee blows the full time whistle.
I firmly believe however that we WILL learn to close games out and see them through by becoming more switched on and game savvy. Other managers would come out after that and berate the referee for “playing more than the official put up” but if one of your players makes a needless foul, the referee will allow time for it and that’s exactly how, and why, Colchester nicked a point.
There’s no point dwelling on negatives though, that’s how bad form starts – yes we should have had three points, but on the other hand – if Walker makes that foul at 0-0 and Colchester go onto score from the resulting phase of play, we lose the game – there’s a fine line between positive and negative.
We’ve scored a wonder goal and not given up against one of the most stubborn and resilient teams in the division and we’ve shown that we can adapt our system to take pressure off ourselves and make the opposition panic.
In the build up to Davies’ fine strike we had a five/ten minute spell of 4-4-2 when we had the ball, with Benning dropping back, white pushing to right back, CJ to the right wing and Otis Khan to the left – those banks for four tightened our barriers for a bit and allowed us to get bodies forward and press, which is pleasing for me to see that Flitcroft won’t just stick with one way of playing – game management is key to locking the door on failure and shortcomings.
It’s how we respond now and fortunately the next match isn’t a week away, it’s Tuesday, so no time to sit and dwell, time only to work.
Trying to end on a positive or two, I thought Ryan Sweeney had another solid game – obviously losing Preston again is a blow but Sweeney had another fine game and in my opinion was deserving of the man of the match award over MacDonald, who just did what Macca does really.
We talk about the attacking signings made by the Stags boss, but the Sweeney move could be just as pivotal – he fits how we play, good in the air, composed on the floor and looks a threat going forward, I hope his form continues to develop.
After the six-one thrashing of Accrington in midweek, boss Flitcroft had a tough selection on his hands and in the end – opted to make just once change, Oljenik back to the bench for first choice Logan.
Up against a side who were yet to concede in the league, the Stags found it hard to break through and get efforts on target – CJ Hamilton the first to try on five minutes as he cut in from the right to let an effort fly.
Otis Khan delivered a corner five minutes later, the impressive Ryan Sweeney pealed away from his marker to try and connect, but was unfortunate to just miss Khans’ teasing set play.
Mal Benning then hit the wall with a free kick before, at the other end, conceding a corner – which visiting skipper Luke Prosser connected with at the far post – Logan on hand to palm the ball away.
The first half saw no more real chances of note as both sides enjoyed spells with the ball to no end product, after the break it was a similar story with the visitors enjoying the early pressure.
Craig Davies then replaced Calum Butcher on 58 minutes as Flitcroft went for two up front rather than two in attacking midfield. The tactical tweak seemed to work as the pendulum of play swung back in the Stags favour, but the hosts still couldn’t break the Colchester barrier.
Danny Rose and Neal Bishop then replaced Khan and Mellis with 13 minutes to play, Rose made an instant impact once more winning his battles and forcing Colchester deeper than they’d like, he was heavily involved with the phase of play on 81 minutes, which eventually saw the ball fall for Davies on the edge of the box – his initial effort was blocked but it fell straight back to him, and on the left foot, he unleashed a venomous volley into the top corner to put the Stags in front.
Rose then came close to adding a second with a curling effort but was denied by the keeper with the angle against him, Tyler Walker also flagged offside as he looked to pounce on Sweeney’s lofted pass.
Into four minutes of added time and the Stags thought they’d done enough, however youngster Tyler Walker lost his cool slightly after an altercation with the visiting staff and was then booked for kicking the ball away as the visitors got a free kick.
The Stags did deal with that but not the second phase of play, as they allowed a long throw to be hurled into the area – Conrad Logan came to claim it but dropped the ball under pressure, allowing Sammie Szmodics to get the final touch to take the ball over the line, as rescue a point from the jaws of defeat.
Neal Bishop tried his luck from the restart, but no sooner had the midfielders boot connected with the ball, the referee brought the action to a close.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 1-1 Colchester United
STAGS [3-4-2-1]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis (Neal Bishop 77), Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Danny Rose 77), Calum Butcher (Craig Davies 58), Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Will Atkinson
Referee: Michael Salisbury
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 6-1 Accrington Stanley
Competition EFL Cup (Carabao Cup) – first round
Venue The One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Stags Goal Scorers Tyler Walker 3 (2x Pens) Otis Khan, Danny Rose, CJ Hamilton
Attendance 1,565 (76)
Craig Priest writes…
Coming up against a side that the Stags hadn’t won against since 2006 in the FA Cup, it would have been easy to write off the Stags chances last night – but those who did, did so at their peril as Mansfield Town shocked everyone, coming back from a goal down to beat Accrington Stanley by SIX goals to one.
David Flitcrofts men were hungry, rampant and meticulous in their play, which saw the League One side and last seasons League Two winners torn apart on an evening all about writing the wrongs.
Naturally the talk on the terraces was all about Danny Rose, who after scoring the fifth goal of the night a minute after coming on, couldn’t have had a better reintroduction into the pack. Far too much has been said about Rose for me to talk about it here, but in a nutshell – his participation alone last night ends the talk of a fall out and a move – the post match comments of an emotional and proud David Flitcroft underline and support that, Rose’s goal – the cherry on the cake.
With that done let us focus on beauty itself – aka, Mansfield’s stunning performance as they showed real character to fight back from a goal down to produce Mansfield Magic – highlighting how far the dressing room has come, as had the Stags gone behind three/four months ago – I’d be writing about the Stags being battered, not them doing the battering.
There were, as you’d expect in a game with such a score-line, several standout displays – Tyler Walker deserved the match-ball with his first half hat-trick highlighting what an acquisition he is, whilst Otis Khan’s skilfulness had Accrington all over the place and in all kinds of trouble.
Alex MacDonald too covered every blade of grass at lease thrice, whilst Pearce was steady at the heart of the back three – yet there are two other names who deserve full recognition and in the drama of it all, have gone slightly under the raider – they are Calum Butcher, and loanee Ryan Sweeney.
Sweeney showed that he’s comfortable in playing in the air, getting stuck in or moving with the ball which complements our system – on his display the solid Matt Preston who missed out through concussion, will have a hard job getting his place back.
Onto Butcher who simply since his arrival nearly a year ago now hasn’t served up the goods – but last night, playing on the right side of an attacking two, showed his class, drive and enthusiasm, playing a key role in three of the Stags four first half goals.
The loan window is still ofcourse open but, and I’m saying this based on what I’ve seen over the past month from Butcher, if I were Flitcroft I would be sitting down with the former Milwall man and telling him his future is at Mansfield Town and that he’ll play a key role.
The way he played last night gave us that added zest and zip in attack, he showed some nice little touches in our passing movement and wasn’t afraid to drop deeper to help defend or allow Mellis or MacDonald to advance. Judging by our opening two league games I do feel that’s something we’ve missed a little, we’ve been caught too high sometimes and punished and that little tactical tweak of going 3-4-2-1 rather than 3-5-2 helped us to dominate the game and cause our opponents to implode.
Naturally it’s easy to get carried away with all the hype such an emphatic victory brings BUT here’s the fundamentals which we need to remember and take into future games – our attitude and application in going down is not a blame game, it’s one of togetherness and desire to win football matches, playing possession based football along the way.
Off the pitch nonsense is over, done, finished, dead and buried – what we do now is progress game by game and water this delicate seed and watch it grow into something really blooming good.
David Flitcroft made four changes to the side which drew with Yeovil, Goalkeeper Conrad Logan was rested with Oljenik getting his first competitive start under Flitcroft. Defender Matt Preston missed out through concussion giving loanee Ryan Sweeney a debut, whilst Jacob Mellis and Calum Butcher replaced Bishop and Davies, who had a place on the bench.
The stags actually started brightly with Mal Benning nearly capping a wonderful flowing move with a goal – his shot hitting the side netting on four minutes.
Two minutes later with pretty much their first effort of the game Accrington took the lead, Sam Finley danced beyond Hamilton and White before turning past Oljenik.
The Stags didn’t let their heads drop and like they did twice on Saturday, fought back and were given a life-line on eight minutes as Butcher found Walker in the box – he was brought down by Jonny Maxted with Walker dusting himself down to convert the subsequent penalty to level the match.
Walker would then face Maxted again on 12 minutes as Butcher was judged to have been fouled in the area for the Stags second spot-kick of the night, Walker again coming out on top – leaving the Accrington keeper no chance as he drilled into the bottom corner.
Jacob Mellis sent one riffling over the bar before Otis Khan made it three on 16 minutes, Calum Butcher again with the assist down the right hand side, sending Khan into box to shoot with ease beyond the Accrington glovesman.
The game then settled for a while before coming back to life with a minute to go before the break – Maxted denying Walker a hat-trick on 44 minutes, he’d soon be picking the ball out of the bet again however – as a minute later, Khan’s low cross was back heeled in by Walker for his third, and the Stags fourth.
At the break Flitcroft gave Mal Benning a rest, bringing on Will Atkinson at right wing back, moving CJ Hamilton over to the left to inflict more damage, and that he did – playing part in the build up for MacDonald and Walker to try their luck on 51 minutes – both denied.
Walker hit another over the bar on 56 minutes before Oljenik had to be on his toes, back peddling well to tip over a cheeky effort from Mingoia who tried lobbing the Stags number twelve.
Sterling-James replace Khan on the hour before five minutes later, Rose returned to action – replacing Walker who received a standing ovation.
Within a minute of Rose’s come back – destiny happened – CJ Hamilton jogged down the left and squared the ball into the box, Rose knew exactly where to be to smash the ball home for Mansfield’s fifth goal of the night, reigniting the chants of ‘Danny, Danny Roooooooooossssssssssseeeeeeee’ – The beaming smile on Flitcrofts face said everything.
Butcher, Mellis and Rose all had chances to make it six but couldn’t quite get the finishing touch right – but right at the death, CJ Hamilton capped one of the best team passing moves I’ve ever witnessed – a 26 pass move without the opposition touching the ball – to make it 6-1 and put Mansfield into round two for this first time in over a decade.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 6-1 Accrington Stanley
STAGS [3-4-2-1]: Bobby Oljenik, Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis, Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning (Will Atkinson HT), Calum Butcher, Otis Khan (Omari Sterling-James 60), Tyler Walker (Danny Rose 65)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Lewis Gibbens, Craig Davies, Neal Bishop
Referee: Seb Stocksbridge
Full Time Score Yeovil Town 2-2 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Huish Park, Yeovil
Stags Goal Scorers Craig Davies, Matt Preston
Attendance 2,795 (315)
Craig Priest writes…
After the home comforts of four pre-season friendlies and the opening day win over Newport County, the Stags finally hit the road yesterday for one of the longest away trips of the campaign as they faced Yeovil Town – an afternoon where the word ‘congestion’ sums the day up in its entirety.
The near four hour journey took about five and a half for supporters hitting the road, some luckier than others to get through the congestion with time to spare before kick-off, others not so much – I imagine there would have been a few nervous fans wondering if they’d actually make kick-off!
The stop-start nature of the motorway seemed to transfer onto the pitch as the Stags couldn’t really find enough rhythm to settle and endured there most frustrating test so far.
It was a matter of time before the 3-4-1-2 (3-5-2 depending on your preference!) system was properly tested and picked at, and whilst Newport showed glimpses of this last weekend, Yeovil were more effective in enticing the Stags high up the pitch and then penetrating over the top, both centrally and in wide areas, to effect – as highlighted in Yeovil’s two goals, although the second could, and should have, been avoided.
If you’re going to play high you have to be quick off the mark and none of the three central defenders were, often beaten in direct races and in Ariel battles – a better team would have, and will, punish us if we don’t tight then screw.
Defensively the midfield let us down as Yeovil were allowed time and space to find a way through, which this system is designed to stop – I felt watched that the boys seemed a bit shell-shocked by the conditions, sweeping wind and rain and weren’t quite sure how to manage that.
However despite a worrying afternoon on that front, I am delighted in the Stags attitude and application in twice fighting back – I’ve said for weeks that I wanted to see the lads come up against it and have to respond, on that performance I’ve no qualms about that going forward, as a collective they aren’t contempt to sit back and take a hiding – which could well have happened.
Attacking wise we didn’t look at our most dangerous, as David Flitcroft said in his post match interview we’ve done a lot of work going through the middle of the pitch but haven’t exploited the wide areas yet – when we did get the ball on the deck and play, centrally or wide, we looked dangerous and like Yeovil at the other end, on another day could have really profited.
Things weren’t dropping for us in that respect and it’s here where the bench need to step in and change things up – bringing Butcher on for Davies with seven minutes to go screamed shutting up shop and playing for the point, and whilst there’s nothing wrong with that in the grand scheme of things, an early attack minded change, perhaps bringing Butcher on for the booked Bishop, or Atkinson on in a wider role, might have turned a point into three.
That’s my only critique really, I’m certainly not moaning, I’m certainly not disheartened and I’m certainly not writing off our chances – this is a good squad which, with the turn of the screw at the back and a bolstered attack, can set this league on fire.
On that subject, here comes the topic of the week – Danny Rose. Listening to David Flitcroft post match, I’m again convinced that the FA are going to have to do some really digging into the way Peterborough United have conducted themselves in relation to “tapping up” Danny.
He was rightly left out of the squad for the trip to Yeovil and his inclusion would have only done more damage than good with Danny, in the words of the Stags boss, spending the entirety of the last week believing he was a Peterborough United player. As Flitcroft said, psychologically now Danny’s head will be all over the place having been promised the earth and delivered nothing.
I completely believe Rose can have a future at Mansfield Town Football Club and play a part in our success. All of this talk of a fall out with Flitcroft is, in my view, created hype to orchestrate a move and disrupt a club – I hope when the two (Rose and Flitcroft) sit down on Monday morning that the two reach the conclusion that, no matter the interested outside party, Danny Rose is best served for all concerned as a Stags player who between now and at least January, can contribute with goals and the fire power to put us on the verge of being a League One club.
All this talk on social media of isolating Rose for wanting a move elsewhere needs to stop – IF on Monday (or whenever) the club come out and say Danny Rose will continue to play for Mansfield Town FC then no matter what, we back him and watch him bloom.
I don’t think there is one single person out there in any walk of life who wouldn’t want to better themselves and their future should the opportunity come. Show me someone who wouldn’t (especially at Rose’s age) and I’ll show you a liar or a madman.
Yesterday we needed that extra attacking threat from the bench (I’m not saying for a second Rose should be benched) to bring on and turn a point into three, we’d be better served in future with that than without it. Looking at the players Flitcroft has brought In in that particular area, Davies, Walker, Khan – I’m even more convinced they were brought in to create a better Danny Rose, not to isolate him.
David Flitcroft named an unchanged starting line-up from the side which beat Newport County, Will Atkinson replaced Omari Sterling-James on the bench.
The surface at Huish Park was very zippy and both sides struggled the get going, the Stags had the first opportunity on five minutes as Khan, on his return to Yeovil, laid-off MacDonald but he saw his effort blocked – Yeovil zipped down the other end and as the Stags got caught too high, Diallang Jaiyesimi brought the ball down and slotted beyond Logan to open the scoring.
Mansfield rallied and began their fight back, Otis Khan tried an over head kick which didn’t pay off on eight minutes but a minute later, Khan was involved as the Stags put a ball across the home box for Craig Davies to react too, lashing home a thunderous effort for his first goal of the campaign to level proceedings.
Khan created two further opportunities for the Stags but it was a Mansfield old face who would cause problems next as Yoann Arquin reacted first, after the Stags were again caight napping too high, to a Logan palm away – tucking home from close range to put Yeovil back in the driving seat.
The Stags weren’t playing Yeovil’s game and again began their fight back – Davies tried to grab his second with a curling effort on 21 minutes, this time denied by Nathan Baxter in the home goal – Baxter left with no chance four minutes later as Khan delivered from the left hand side for Matt Preston to bravely rise at the far post to nod the Stags back into the game.
Tyler Walker, Hayden White, Mal Benning and Otis Khan all had attempts to unlock the home defence denied before the break, at which the sides firmly locked at 2-2.
Walker then met a Benning delivery after the re-start but he couldn’t beat Baxter for his second Stags goal in as many games, Walker was then denied by Yeovil sub Gary Warren again after good work from Benning.
Conrad Logan then kept the Stags in the game on 67 minutes as he denied Arquin a second, at the other end Logan’s opposite number again denied Walker, Khan this time the tormentor.
The Stags should have had a third on 73 minutes minutes as Davies’ far post header saw Sowumni head the ball against his own bar, in the final two minutes – Matt Preston and substitute Jacob Mellis both came close to grabbing a winner, but it just wasn’t meant to be as the Stags settled for a point of the road.
FULL TIME: Yeovil Town 2-2 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-5-2]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, CJ Hamilton, Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald (Jacob Mellis 87), Mal Benning, Otis Khan, Craig Davies (Calum Butcher 83), Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Ryan Sweeney, Lewis Gibbens, Lewis Gibbens, Will Atkinson
Referee: Neil Hair
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 3-0 Newport County
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue The One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Stags Goal Scorers Tyler Walker, Otis Khan (2)
Attendance 4,423 (320)
Craig Priest writes…
They say that you should always start as you mean to go on, and if that’s the case for Mansfield Town – then a good season could lay in wait, following a slick, composed and professional 3-0 victory over Newport County at the One Call Stadium.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Stags who had Conrad Logan to thank for a string of solid saves coupled with some suspect Newport County finishing, but after a testing few days for supporters, it certainly was a relief to walk into the evening sunshine with three points successfully secured.
During the build up to the game there was little talk of if the Stags could match their marvellous pre-season form, instead talk focussed heavily on star striker Danny Rose, who this week handed in a transfer request amid rumours of interest from League One Peterborough United, a side full of former Stags connections.
The Stags had also been active in the transfer market in the build up to the League Two opener, selling Paul Digby to Forest Green Rovers and brining in Stoke City youngster Ryan Sweeney on a season long loan, it was also confirmed after the match that the Stags had accepted a bid from Grimsby Town for striker Lee Angol – should that move go ahead, I seriously doubt Rose would be allowed to leave so easily – we can afford to lose one front man, not two.
Onto the match itself and the most pleasing element for me was the support shown for boss David Flitcroft who, prior to the match, hadn’t won a league fixture at home since taking over in March – a win for him is huge in the support stakes, considering the rumours surrounding fall-outs with a few of the Transfer Listed, fan favourite, players.
The Stags were tested more severally than they were during pre-season against the quartet of championship sides and from the off looked shaky, a better team would have punished us but fortunately, we rode the waves to survive undamaged.
The problem seemed to be in the back three with Hayden White slipping and making early errors, after the first goal David Flitcroft called him over and had a word, after which his game improved significantly and he was fully deserving of being the man to protect the clean sheet late on in the second half with the goal line clearance.
Matt Preston looked sharp and dominant once again and seemed to very much be settling with captain Pearce, whose mentality issues thankfully seem to be gone – this is a big season for Pearce, full deserving the honour of captain.
The three goals we scored highlighted how dangerous the new system can be and the importance of playing the width of the pitch, Otis Khan rightfully will take the plaudits for two fine goals, but as a team – over movement troubled Newport and showed glimpses of real quality.
It will be a long season and it will not be plain sailing all the way through, there will be games we don’t have our own way and have to watch our discipline, but overall – it’s a very pleasing start to the new campaign, I for one can’t wait to see this journey continue.
The questions over the team sheet prior to kick-off weren’t about who would start, more who would miss out as David Flitcroft had moulded his side over the previous fortnight – new signing Ryan Sweeney arrived from Stoke City on Friday on loan, he settled for a place on the bench, with Flitcroft sticking with White at right side centre-back, and CJ Hamilton at right wing back.
Transfer listed Calum Butcher made the bench alogn with younsgeters Lewis Gibbens and Jordan Graham, want away striker Rose missed out along with Lee Angol – who appears to be Grimsby bound.
Otis Khan kicked off the new campaign where the opening ten minutes so a timid start from both, on 11 minutes however Mal Benning had to be alert and make a critical intervention to prevent Jamille Matt from opening the scoring for the visitors.
A minute later at the other end CJ Hamilton saw an effort blocked straight to the feet of a hungry Tyler Walker, he drew a save from Joe Day earning the stags a corner – from which Bishop & Pearce combined to feed Walker, who this time made no mistake in firing beyond Joe Day to officially open his Stags account.
On 15 minutes Conrad Logan made a fine save to deny Padraig Amond at the far post from a deep cross, two mibutes later The stags came close again – Craig Davies’ long range curler crashed against the post.
The Stags endured a spell of unpunished pressure from Newport as the visitors thrice wasted efforts, Tyler Walker then nearly grabbed a second on 38 minutes from MacDonald’s cross, Walker’s effort narrowly wide.
Otis Khan and Craig Davies had further efforts but couldn’t add a second – the Stags 1-0 up at half-time.
The Stags emerged from the dressing room and stepped things up a notch, Khan curled an effort wide from 20 yards on 54 minutes, but soon found the target two minutes later, latching onto Walkers’ cross to head home, after a neat lofted pass from Bishop to send the forest loanee racing to the bye-line.
Khan the grabbed his second and Mansfield’s third on 65 minutes with a sublime effort, curling home from outside the box as Stags’ fluid movement, proved too much for Newport to handle.
Newport nearly hand one back with 12 minutes to go as Amond beat the offside trap to round an advancing Logan, Hayden White recovered well and scopped the ball away from danger a yard from the line.
A long injury to the linesman delayed the ending, but it was set in stone – a comfortable and well earned victory for the Stags, their firs three points putting them third in the League Two table – nwxt stop Yeovil, who were beaten 1-0 at Bury, but did have two players sent-off.
FULL TIME: Stags 3-0 Newport County
STAGS [3-5-2]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, CJ Hamilton, Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Calum Butcher 75), Craig Davies (Jordan Graham 90), Tyler Walker (Jacob Mellis 90+4)
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Ryan Sweeney [#17 New signing on loan from Stoke City], Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James
Referee: Paul Marsden
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