Mansfield Town 1-1 Everton U21s (Omari Sterling-James) – Everton U21s win a bonus point, 4-1 via penalty shootout | Leasing.com Trophy NORTH Group E Game 1 of 3 | Tuesday 27th August 2019 | One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Craig Priest writes…
With Mansfield Town in the middle of an injury crisis, John Dempster was forced to merge his past and present together – naming a young side to face Everton U21s in the first group match of the newly named Leasing.com Trophy.
Four graduates of his academy side were brought into the starting line-up as the Stags boss opted for damage limitation on his senior players ahead of Saturday’s trip to Exeter, whilst a further two members of the current academy set-up made the bench.
Personally I was delighted to see the youngsters given a real shot of getting into the managers thoughts for Saturday as it gave supporters the chance to see more of the work Dempster had done within the Academy in developing players capable of making the grade as a Football League player.
The match and result will matter little to many, for me I feel like the Stags senior players could have guided the youngsters through a little more and put in a bit more effort, especially against ten men for the final twenty minutes but given the state of our injury crisis and the fact our league form has not quite clicked – below par effort levels in a midweek cup game isn’t too much of a bad thing, so long as the reasoning is just that!
Everton’s youngsters played very well and marked the Stags out of the game at times and deserved their overall victory, showing Mansfield how to take penalties and earn a bonus point – as the Stags’ spot-kicks left something to be desired for the second time in as many weeks.
A few positives to take out of the game were that of the performances in particular of James Clarke, Aidan Stone, Alistair Smith and Omari Sterling-James. Clarke, who made his full football League Debut at the weekend, looked solid again at Right Back and given the right guidance is a very good prospect for the future whilst Stone looks like a very confident shot-stopper who will flourish further under the tutoring of Ian Pledger, working too alongside the experienced Logan and Oljenik.
Alistair Smith looked comfortable on the ball and was my choice for man of the match, his range of passing and movement is very good and I firmly believe that given regular game time, either with us or out on loan in the division below for three months or so, will really grow and be an asset.
Sterling-James is a strange one for me, he’s been here a few seasons now and still hasn’t hit the ground running – not being given a shot by previous managers.
I think he showed good movement and took his goal well, sometimes he frustrates me by not getting the ball out of his feet or taking the extra touch – but again given game time, we have a player who knows where the net is and can play in a number of roles up-front, perhaps he’ll get the shot he finally deserves in the coming weeks.
Stags boss John Dempster rang the changes to protect his more senior players given the current injury crisis, with skipper Pearce and fellow defenders Hayden White and Kellan Gordon all still unavailable Lewis Gibbens was chosen to partner Matt Preston. Other changes saw Aidan Stone replace Logan between the sticks, whilst Alistair Smith, Jason Law, Omari Sterling-James and Jimmy Knowles also started.
It was the visitors who enjoyed the better early chances but Aidan Stone was resilient inside the opening ten minutes to keep the visitors at bay, whilst at the other end Sterling-James came closest to finding the net – whistling an effort wide on eight minutes before hitting the post on 16 minutes from a free-kick.
Aidan Stone and Mansfield stood no chance on 28 minutes as the visitors took the lead through a phenomenal strike from Anthony Gordon, CJ Hamilton and Sterling-James came closest to pulling the scores level but at the break, it was Everton who held a deserved lead.
Alex MacDonald and Otis Khan were both brought on for the second half, replacing Law and Knowles respectively as Dempster cautiously tried to inject more experience into his side, the Stags responded with a good start as Sterling-James was denied by the keeper, seconds before Preston headed over Captain Mal’s corner.
Aidan Stone then kept Mansfield in the tie on 53 minutes to deny Gordon with a smart double handed stop, Matt Preston also go into the way of an Evans cut back as the visitors looked for a second before the hour mark.
On 70 Minutes the visitors were reduced to ten men as Baningime got his marching orders for a second bookable offence, but the visitors remained tough to break down – Alistair Smith’s well hit left footed half-valley saw the keeper push the ball away.
Sterling-James eventually found the goal which ultimately sent the tie to penalties for a bonus point with four minutes to go, twisting and turning well before firing into the bottom corner.
After seven additional minutes it was time for the Stags’ second shoot-out in as many weeks, and again it was the same outcome as despite CJ Hamilton netting the Stags’ first spot-kick of the shootout, Otis Khan yet again saw a spot-kick saved, before Sterling-James blasted over the bar from 12 yards.
The Stags still have Crewe and Burton to play in the group stages, so could still progress with positive results in those games later in the year (October 8th, Crewe – home, and November 12th, Burton - away)
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 1-1 Everton U21s – PENS Everton U21s win 4-1 | Attendance 824 (55)
STAGS: [4-4-2] Aidan Stone | James Clarke, Matt Preston, Lewis Gibbens, Mal Benning © | Jason Law (Alex MacDonald 46), Jacob Mellis, Alistair Smith (Tyrese Sinclair 90), CJ Hamilton | Jimmy Knowles (Otis Khan 46), Omari Sterling-JamesUnused Subs: Conrad Logan, Ryan Sweeney, Tom Fielding, Jamie Chisholm
Mansfield Town 0-0 Stevenage | Sky Bet League Two | Saturday 24th August 2019 | One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Craig Priest writes…
Following the ridiculous capitulation in midweek as the Stags lost to Leyton Orient, Mansfield Town needed a big reaction to spark this stuttering season into life – a 0-0 draw against struggling Stevenage hardly suggests we saw the reaction we wanted, or – does it?
On paper you’d say no, but when you factor in the fact John Dempster’s men were extremely thin on the ground with numbers due to injuries, you’d probably say yes.
I have to admit that walking away from the One Call Stadium, I did so with a massive weight of disappointment and frustration hanging over me as given the number of chances created by the Stags, three points should have been ours.
Yet on reflection, you have to give immense credit to Stevenage who defended for their lives and pulled off some unbelievable blocks, whilst Paul Farman in the Stevenage goal also made a string of incredible saves.
Also whilst we’re on the subject of defending well, you’ve got to praise the Stags who so far this season, apart from Carlisle away, have been weak at best at the back – so to keep a clean sheet and reduce the visitors to just one clear cut effort, saved well by Logan, is certainly a step in the right direction.
Mansfield were without several key players and were pretty short across the pitch, missing Pearce, White and Gordon from the back, Bishop from midfield and both new strikers Cook and Maynard – meaning the bench was made up entirely of young players with the exception of Sterling-James, although to be fair he’s hardly got much Football League experience under his belt either.
With all those big hitter missing, Dempster was forced into a system change as players failed fitness tests prior to kick-off – the line-up including 19 year old James Clarke who made his full Football League debut. Whilst during some stages of the match it felt like square pegs in round holes and looked very disjointed, you have to say the Stags did enough to control the game in their quest for three points.
Many will argue that given Stevenage hadn’t scored all season and had injury problems of their own, it wasn’t a massive thing to achieve and match up to – but given how turbulent, and sometimes toxic, things have been – a 0-0 draw on reflection now is a positive.
The games however come thick and fast and with the Stags already thread bare any more injuries or suspensions could prove the straw that broke the camels back, and whilst we don’t need numbers of the sake of numbers, we perhaps need one or two more experienced reinforcements to come in and bolster the ranks to kick-start our campaign – especially in midfield and up front.
Ending on a positive, whilst Dempster was forced into naming a young bench – it’s good to see them given the opportunity to shine which will undoubtedly happen further on Tuesday evening as the Stags welcome Everton U23s in the Leaasing.com trophy (EFL Trophy) for the first group stage game.
Let’s get behind them and pull together in the face of adversity – because if we do, getting through to the other side and reaping the rewards will be more special, and certainly more deserved.
-- match recap --
John Dempster was forced into changes as the Stags’ injury crisis worsened – Hayden White & Kellan Gordon both picked up knocks as a resilt of Tuesday’s defeat whilst striker Nicky Maynard missed out with a Grade One hamstring tear. Skipper Krystian Pearce failed a fitness test ahead of kick-off, with an ankle injury sustained during training.
Dempster was also without Bishop in midfield but welcomed back Matt Preston and Jacob Mellis from suspension, the latter issuing a statement prior to kick-off regarding his off-field conduct.
19 Year Old James Clarke came into the fold as the Stags went 4-4-2, joining the aforementioned duo in coming into the starting line-up, CJ Hamilton was also recalled as was Khan, who partnered Rose up front – Mal Bennning was handed the captaincy.
Matt Preston was on hand five minutes in to make a strong block from Taylor’s early effort as the visitors looked for their first league goal of the season, a minute later at the other end Hamilton found MacDonald inside the box – but the midfielder sliced his effort wide of the target.
Played in blistering heat, Danny Rose was keen to continuing his blistering start to the season but was denied a backwards header on nine minutes from Khan’s free-kick, Alex MacDonald then unleashed a beauty from distance, spilled but quickly recovered by Farman with no Stags body quick enough to pounce.
Conrad Logan rescued the Stags on 12 minutes with a good save to deny Taylor before a wonderful fluid move from the Stags moments later accumulated with Tomlinson driving wide from the edge of the area – further efforts from Khan and Benning tested Stevenage before Sweeney converted on 36 minutes – denied by the offside flag.
After the break more frustration followed for the Stags as they did well to keep the visitors at bay, Jacob Mellis hit a powerful drive just wide on 51 minutes before further efforts from Rose, Khan and Benning all went unrewarded before Sterling-James replaced Khan.
Alex MacDonald was next to strike but sent a free-kick over the bar on 71 minutes, before five minutes later being involved in what looked a certain goal – Rose denied by a fine save from Farman before the Stevenage keeper and a defender both threw themselves in the way of MacDonald’s goal bound effort.
MacDonald was denied again with two minutes to play and saw his strike cleared off of the line by Wildin, before youngster Jimmy Knowles came on for his Football League and Stags debut as the clock moved towards injury time – deep into which Knowles crossed beautifully for Rose, who was so unfortunate to not connect at the far post for what would have been a match-winning strike, alas the full time whistle followed with the scores firmly locked.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 0-0 Stevenage | Attendance 3,982 (97)
STAGS: [4-4-2] Conrad Logan | James Clarke, Matt Preston, Ryan Sweeney, Mal Benning © | Alex MacDonald (Jimmy Knowles 89), Willem Tomlinson, Jacob Mellis, CJ Hamilton | Otis Khan (Omari Sterling-James 69), Danny Rose Unused Subs: Aidan Stone, Jason Law, Lewis Gibbens, Alistair Smith, Tyrese Sinclair
Mansfield Town 2-3 Leyton Orient (Rose 2 [Pens]) | Sky Bet League Two | Tuesday 20th August 2019 | One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Craig Priest writes…
There something’s in life which individuals simply don’t believe to be true. It could be the moon landing or something more trivial – I don’t know, like saying after a 3-2 defeat that Mansfield Town were excellent, yet utter woeful in equal measure, actually, I’d believe that!
I think that sums up last night’s 3-2 defeat. I’ve slept on it and pondered numerous thoughts all day long but simply can’t put my finger on how, or why, Mansfield Town went from being totally and utterly in control at half-time, to being so utterly dreadful at full-time in what was a real master class in self-destruction.
Following the win at Carlisle on Saturday, the Stags started really brightly and looked like they were going to give Orient an absolute pasting and certainly set about that in the first half, leading 2-0 at the break thanks to two spot-kicks from the rampant and rapid Danny Rose, and to be fair for a good ten minutes of the second half whilst a third goal was being sought, the visitors looked dead and buried, but then it was like Mansfield just switched off and shut down completely.
I honestly don’t know where to put the blame. Do you look at the management and question why on earth Tomlinson wasn’t brought on after 55/60 minutes when he was running on empty? Do you look at the more senior players for perhaps arrogantly thinking the game was over and done with at 2-0? Do you look at those involved in conceding and question their performance?
Wherever the problem lies, it needs to be sorted and quick because Mansfield are becoming unpredictable and that’s not the track we need to be on, because all we’re saying right now is that anybody can beat us, simply by giving it a go – as it’s clear the Stags lack any form of care or desire to fight.
Unfortunately for boss John Dempster he’s really in the firing line at the moment for all the wrong reasons. He’s inherited a squad capable of not giving the opposition a sniff of victory and added to it with some real quality additions, but for whatever reasons those two factors aren’t fusing together – they seem to be repelling.
The change in Otis Khan, and especially Danny Rose, has been a positive and for me does outweigh all the other little niggling negatives – but coming off the back of such a good season with a manager who was perhaps unlucky to now be a job centre regular, the pressure and expectation to succeed is so high we’ll never be able to reach it.
You have to give Dempster time to iron out these mistakes and to gel his side together, but there’s two problems there – because of the aforementioned previous season & reasoning for Flitcrofts departure, time is of short supply, and secondly, the players have got to really want to buy into climbing up the mountain once again?
If they truly are then you may need to look at adding a few new faces into the mix. Neal Bishop is out for 2-3 weeks, whilst Jacob Mellis and Dion Donohue are suspended from duties at the club following an incident – the Stags are really short of numbers in the middle.
I think I could watch the match over and over and over and over again and still never know what really happened. Yes, credit must go to Orient for a real fight back, but questions need to be asked again of the Stags players – and an answer, a convincing one at that, needs to be given on Saturday because THIS, this horrible feeling of being epic and woeful in equal measure – is NOT what will take us to League One.
Stags boss John Dempster made just the one change, enforced, from the side that beat Carlisle on Saturday with Otis Khan replacing the injured Neal Bishop – Hayden White passed a late fitness test to keep his place in the back three.
The Stags started really strongly and could have taken the lead on eight minutes as Otis Khan’s frightening ball across the face of goal was scrambled away by the visitors.
A minute later and Mansfield had the perfect opportunity to take the lead as the referee awarded a penalty as Rose was hurled down by Ekpiteta, Rose made no mistake in converting the spot kick, sending the keeper the wrong way, for his fourth goal of the season.
Conrad Logan, who’d taken a lot of stick over the past two weeks, went some way to silencing the critics with a splendid save to deny the hosts a way back into the game on 19 minutes.
Four minutes later the Stags were dumbfounded as to how they didn’t score as a beautiful move saw Rose latch onto White’s crisp pass, Rose then found Maynard who in turn found Benning, sadly the wing-back failed to convert at the last second.
Logan then denied Long from long range before Rose proved again clinical from 12 yards on the half-hour, after Kellan Gordan was fouled in the area – Danny Rose netting with ease, again sending the keeper the wrong way to equal the amount of goals he scored in all competitions last season. Five shots on Target, Five goals. What a guy.
Rose was on fire and covering every blade of grass and with five minutes to go before the break was fouled earning the Stags a free-kick, Otis Khan stepped up and rattled the crossbar – had that gone in, the three points surly would have been in the bag.
Mansfield went into the dressing room at half-time 2-0 up and looked certain to take victory, efforts from Benning and Rose tested the water after the restart but a third goal wouldn’t quite come and as time ticked on, Mansfield looked frighteningly bad, being pushed back and allowing themselves to arrogantly think the game was won.
Orient had other ideas and pulled one back on 64 minutes from a corner, won after a howler from Logan – who came to collect a routine cross and let it squirm through his grasp and go out for a corner, from which the Stags failed to track the runners and deservedly conceded.
Orient had the advantage and momentum and to be honest, there’s little point detailing the remainder of the game here as everyone could sense they’d get back in the game – the leveller came with 12 minutes to go, as old face Lee Angol tucked the ball beneath the legs of Logan, before the real killer blow in the sixth minute of six added minutes, a goal mouth scramble in front of the travelling support, saw them convert and snatch all three points, against at that point, the simply atrocious Mansfield Town FC.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 2-3 Leyton Orient | Attendance 4,128 (326)
STAGS: [3-4-1-2] Conrad Logan | Hayden White (James Clarke 90+1), Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney | Kellan Gordon, Alex MacDonald, Willem Tomlinson, Mal Benning | Otis Khan (Alistair Smith 68) | Danny Rose, Nicky Maynard (CJ Hamilton 74) Unused Subs: Aidan Stone, Omari Sterling-James, Jason Law, Lewis Gibbens
Carlisle United 0-2 Mansfield Town (Rose, Maynard) | Sky Bet League Two | Saturday 17th August 2019 | Brunton Park, Carlisle
Craig Priest writes…
Following an opening fortnight of worry and doubt which created an extremely toxic environment, Mansfield Town needed to get as far away from home as possible and come together to get that elusive first victory of the campaign – something they did with a real professional attitude at Carlisle, thanks in no small part to Danny Rose as he continued his phenomenal start to the season.
Rose bagged his third goal in as many league games to get the Stags off of the mark, but also set Nicky Maynard with a splendid cushioned header to put Mansfield into a two-goal lead before the break, and then contributed with a solid defensive display to ensure the long journey home was made not just with three points, but with a clean sheet to boot.
Mansfield as a collective put in a gritty display and silenced the critics, not only those who doubted boss Dempster, but also those who suggested a negative defensive approach when the starting line-up was announced with creative players such as CJ Hamilton and Otis Khan both dropped to the bench.
The Stags may not have played eye catching fluid football to earn the win, but there’s more than one way to win a game of football – and John Dempster’s side were patient in their build up, critically taking their chances when they came, restricting the hosts to very few chances – many of which were from long range with the back three of White, Pearce and Sweeney so stubborn at the back in order to get that clean sheet.
John Dempster has made no secret of the fact his side needed to be sterner and smarter when it came to defending set-plays and to their credit the work put in on the training ground paid off as Mansfield rarely looked troubled when the hosts were starting to take a hold of the encounter.
Those who questioned the passion of the manager and the commitment of the team were truly silenced by the reactions post match and the sheer commitment to put bodies on the line throughout the game and this victory, miles from home with the toxicity threatening to break us, really binds us together and gives us a chance to build, especially with a handful of home games now coming up over the next week.
Three games unbeaten is not a bad start whatsoever, let’s now put all the negativity etc to one side and come together to create a much more positive One Call Stadium, making it a place teams fear visiting and in doing so, pushing us higher up the table.
After getting through 90 minutes in the week against Morecambe in the cup, Hayden White kept his place at the back as the Stags opted to play with a back three, whilst Willem Tomlinson was handed his first start of the season after his return from injury.
Mansfield started the game well but it was a former face who threatened to make it three league games in a row were the Stags went behind, Conrad Logan had other ideas though as he kept Nathan Thomas at bay inside the opening ten minutes – Logan then answered his critics further on 13 minutes, parrying away McKirdy’s low driven effort.
At the other end Nicky Maynard sent Kellan Gordon on his way on the right hand side, flashing a cross across the face of goal on 16 minutes before Rose saw an effort blocked six minutes later.
Mansfield looked the more likely to break the deadlock and did so on 29 minutes following a neat bit of patient build up play, finished off by Rose who slammed in Tomlinson’s lofted cross from the narrowest of angles.
Rose should have had a spot kick on 35 minutes when he was bundled over by Adam Collin, yet the referee played on and after Rose did finally get treatment, re-started play with a drop ball in the Stags half!
Another drop ball followed on the stroke of half-time as a new rule was implemented with the Stags ball forward hitting the referee. A drop ball to the Stags followed as White clipped forward to Rose, his beautifully cushioned header landed perfect for Maynard who made no mistake in blasting beyond Collin, to double the Stags lead before the whistle.
It was a slower start to the second half but Mansfield looked determined to not let slip of their lead and the victory, Alex MacDonald came close to adding a third on 55 minutes but couldn’t quite get enough power on the shot, three minutes later Danny Rose was lurking at the back post for a Gordon cross, beaten too it at the expense of a corner, from which Sweeney looked to have been ragged down by his own shirt – the referee waved away the Stags claims for a spot kick.
Six minutes later Rose was dominant in the air to get rid of two Carlisle corners – the Stags saw out the reminder of the time and upon the full time whistle, passionately celebrated the first victory of the season, the first under John Dempster and his first as a manager – at the ground where he made his professional debut many moons ago – football, it’s a funny old game!
FULL TIME: Carlisle United 0-2 Mansfield Town | Attendance 4,576 (292)
STAGS: [3-4-1-2] Conrad Logan | Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney | Kellan Gordon, Neal Bishop (Otis Khan 89), Willem Tomlinson, Mal Benning | Alex MacDonald (Alistair Smith 86) | Danny Rose, Nicky Maynard (CJ Hamilton 72) Unused Subs: Aidan Stone, Omari Sterling-James, Jason Law, James Clarke
Mansfield Town 2-2 Morecambe (Pearce, Sterling James) – Morecambe win 6-5 on Penalties | Carabao Cup First Round |Tuesday 13th August 2019 | One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Craig Priest writes…
Three games into the John Dempster era at Mansfield Town and already questions are being asked about the rookie manager’s capability to deliver the goods. Whilst it’s easy to get wrapped up in the emotion and frustration of not winning games, I think it’s time to take a step back and look at the two different perspectives, before we all implode.
Last night’s cup exit to Morecambe, via a penalty shootout, puts more pressure on the already thinning ice of the Stags support – and I’ll come to that in a minute, but first, lets look at the two perspectives rather than get caught in the headlines.
It all boils down to if three draws from three games is good enough or not? I think I’ve got serious splinters where I don’t want them, because on the one hand it’s a rookie manager coming in to manager a senior team for the first time with a large proportion of players who aren’t his – and yet despite some woeful errors at the back, the team has fought back and been very close to winning all three games.
Yet on the other hand, there’s a massive hangover from last season – did Flitcroft really deserve to go, would he deliver with this squad? Should we have appointed a more experienced manager? Do last season’s players want to play under this manager? The questions go on.
I will always support whoever is the manager of Mansfield Town FC, unless it’s David Holdsworth, and give John Dempster my 100% backing to erase the errors and get some wins on the board – however I do believe he’s got a big task on his hands to eradicate those errors, because whilst we may have an unbeaten start and some fight about us – something isn’t right, especially at the back.
Like I said after the league game with Morecambe, I’ll never target one particular player – but I can’t ignore that Conrad Logan is taking a fair amount of abuse at the moment. His performances haven’t been up to scratch for me and the defence don’t entirely look comfortable, yes they need to shoulder the blame too somewhat, but the root of every team is the goalkeeper, and Logan’s form at the moment – similar to a star striker unable to find the net or a midfielder who can’t pass or tackle – has to be questioned.
Aidan Stone was brought in to provide some competition until Oljenik is ready to compete, I honestly felt he may get an opportunity last night being a cup game but wasn’t – if the management team feel he [Stone] isn’t ready for first team football, then I’d possibly look at brining another keeper in on loan who has that extra layer of experience to at least make Logan fight for his shirt – serious competition is healthy and could have a positive effect on the Stags number one as it did towards the back end of last season, bringing out some of his best displays.
I’m not targeting Logan, I simply want to see him at his best for his sake as much as ours because being jeered by your own supporters must be woeful to take, and is embarrassing from our perspective. Have an opinion by all means, but it’s no wonder players snap and react when things like that are happening.
Honestly reading this blog back so far is reminding me how much of a toxic environment we’re creating at the moment and that makes me sick, I’ve not felt like that since we were relegated and we’re creating it ourselves through this pent-up frustration and hurt which has been created since promotion failed and Flitcroft was sacked.
We’ve got to get over it and quick, this is a new season with a new manager with new ideas. We 100% should be winning a game in normal time playing against ten men for 70+ minutes but for whatever reason this EARLY in the season just can’t get that click – the important thing for the league games is that we don’t lose and that we fight to turn draws into wins – just as we did under the old regime.
This attitude goes for us as supporters, but likewise the players, many of whom – to end on something which resembles positivity – have already showed signs of moving on and getting better.
Otis Khan and Danny Rose are two examples of that in more senior terms, but as last night’s showing proved – the younger players are going to develop too with Alistair Smith having a fine game in the middle of the park last night, looking composed on the ball.
We have a good opportunity now to up our game and create a good run of form as we head to Carlisle on Saturday, I for one thoroughly believe the management and the squad have enough about them to iron out the creases – who knows in a weeks’ time, our perspective could be very different indeed, in a positive way.
You know, I found a £10 note this morning, crumpled in an old coat pocket. I’ve not thrown it because it looks tired or doesn’t have the feel of a new one – it still has the same value and the same possibilities for me as a new one – that’s the same for the Stags, we may be a tad crumpled and disjointed right now to what we expect and desire it doesn’t mean we can’t thrive.
With Matt Preston joining Jacob Mellis in the stands suspended, a tweak in formation saw Hayden White reintroduced as one of five changes from Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the same opponents – as Ryan Sweeney, Dion Donohue, Alistair Smith and Andy Cook were also brought into the starting line-up.
Mansfield began well with Andy Cook particularly impressing, with the front man having a couple of early chances to test the visiting keeper but as has become customary, the visitors took the lead on 18 minutes as Steve Old nodded in from a corner which Mansfield should have dealt with.
A red card then followed, shock, not for Mansfield! Morecambe’s Conlan shown a straight red card for a challenge on Gordon.
Against ten men the Stags should have fought their way back into the game sooner but were denied by the crossbar on 25 minutes as Cook connected with Benning’s delivery. Further efforts from Cook, Gordon, Smith and Benning followed, but at the break Mansfield trailed by a goal to nil.
Willem Tomlinson replaced Donohue as the second half got underway but despite having a number of chances, the Stags couldn’t beat the visiting keeper nor break down the visiting back line, marshalled expertly by former Stag Richie Sutton.
Logan then did well to deny Cranston on 54 minutes before two minutes later Pearce levelled things for the Stags, converting the loose ball from Sweeney’s saved header.
Mansfield being level lasted a matter of two minutes, as Steve Old was allowed another free header to restore the ten-man visitors advantage – Mansfield were all over the place.
Danny Rose and Omari Sterling-James were brought on with 66 minutes played and it was the latter who drew Mansfield back level three minutes later with a fine low strike.
The Stags then set about trying to find a winner but desire a man advantage couldn’t find away through – Alistair Smith came the closest to finding a winner with seconds remaining as his long range drive grazed the top of the bar.
A penalty shootout then followed and for the second shoot-out in a row, Mansfield were beaten, this time the Stags spot-kicks were better than the ill-fated Newport shootout which ended the 2018-19 campaign, but ultimately a poor penalty from Sweeney which sailed over the bar during sudden death, saw Mansfield dumped out of the cup at round one.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 2-2 Morecambe | PENS Mansfield Town 5-6 Morecambe | Attendance 1,884 (66)
Shootout | Khan SAVED, Sterling-James MISSED, Benning SCORED, Rose SCORED, Pearce SCORED, Tomlinson SCORED, Smith SCORED, Sweeney MISSED
STAGS: [3-4-1-2] Conrad Logan | Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney | Kellan Gordon, Alistair Smith, Dion Donohue (Willem Tomlinson 46), Mal Benning | Otis Khan | CJ Hamilton (Omari Sterling-James 66), Andy Cook (Danny Rose 66) Unused Subs: Aidan Stone, James Clarke, Tyrese Sinclair, Lewis Gibbens
Mansfield Town 2-2 Morecambe (Maynard, Rose) | Sky Bet League Two | Saturday 10th August 2019 | One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Craig Priest writes…
Following the fortunes of Mansfield Town is never easy on the old heart rate, and just two games into the new campaign – I’m wondering if the Stags need to cover their own backs by adding health warnings to tickets, as once again yesterday, us humble supporters were put through the mire by our heroes in Amber and Blue.
There’s no hiding away from the fact that somewhere deep within the dressing room lies an issue which is starting to bubble away, as the Stags’ so called solid defence, has about as much stability as an item from del-boy’s suitcase – on paper it looks good, but the reality is something far different.
For the second time in as many games Mansfield Town have been truly and utterly woeful at the back from the start of the game and again gave away two very sloppy goals to make life much harder for them, leading to a very hostile and toxic One Call Stadium at times – a worry in itself.
I’m not a massive fan of laying the blame at individuals, as a collective we are brilliant and woeful together in equal measure – so I won’t launch a barrage of ranting towards Conrad Logan, however I will say for both goals we conceded there needs to be far more command of the area, especially the second goal which was embarrassing – yet nowhere as embarrassing as getting lobbed from the opponents half, thank-god for the crossbar, let’s get it sorted and if there is more an underlying issue there, then let’s be ruthless and change it – there’s no room for niceties, that’s what’s costs you points as we learned to heart-breaking effect last season.
For a good thirty-five minutes Mansfield were woeful and looked like they couldn’t string a pass together, there was no commitment, no fight and no desire to go and command a game of football – everything just felt false, from the players to the bench and then like a toxic disease, the stand too.
Until Maynard gave us a sparkle of hope to make it 2-1, the atmosphere inside the ground felt toxic, I felt physically sick hearing the comments, the jibes and the burning hatred towards the way we were performing – that’s really worrying if Mansfield Town are creating that, because who are far better than Morecambe (no disrespect to them) will thrive on that and batter us into the ground.
But that said, in the second half we might have still be shaky at the back, but dominated play and should have hit double figures – and that’s baffling that we have to implode so much to get a reaction, I don’t think I can take that for much longer.
System wise, I don’t think you can particularly blame that – as when we got on the ball second half players such as Otis Khan, Alex MacDonald, Nicky Maynard and particularly the heroic Danny Rose, shone – we just need to address the balance and ask are the players we’ve got in that area good enough to play this way. If the answer’s no, we’ve got a few weeks to do something about it – get it done.
Again I’m not pinning blame or negativity on players, but Matt Preston certainly let the side down with a ridiculous challenge to get himself sent-off, however John Dempster said he apologised straight after full time, so we’ll chalk that one off as a bad day at the office.
Dempster has my full support as Stags boss, as would anyone, but I’d love to have known the thinking in the lack of substitutions prior to the sending off – personally I felt Donohue for Bishop in the middle may have added a bit of spark to go on and get the goals, and maybe Sterling-James or even White (Depending on how fit he actually was) down the right for Hamilton may have unlocked Morecambe.
On the bright side, Danny Rose continued his great start to the season by scoring the equaliser with a powerful trademark header, he should have had more, and we as a collective didn’t lose – we have to regroup and improve with the journey to Carlisle next Saturday.
First up though, another encounter with Morecambe in the cup – I expect to see changes and opportunities given to players yet to get minutes – let’s hope they use it to show how they can help steady the ship in the league, and if nothing else, get my heart rate down – otherwise it’s going to be a long old season!!
With Jacob Mellis suspended, Otis Khan was handed his first start of the season following a brilliant display at Newport last weekend from the bench – Kellan Gordon also was handed a start at Sweeney’s expense, with the Stags going for a 4-4-2 aiming to pick up from where they left off at Newport.
Sadly that didn’t transpire as yet again the Stags were behind early, it took just four minutes this time as Mansfield failed to clear the second ball from an attack, allowing a cross to come in from the Morecambe right which Sam Lavelle headed beyond a missing Logan, beating Bishop at the back post in the air.
Nicky Maynard looked bright trying to find the Stags a way back into the encounter but it was Morecambe looking the more dangerous, the experienced Kevin Ellison was denied by Logan on 19 minutes, but two minutes later, lofted a ball in from deep to Lewis Alessandra who nipped in between an indecisive Logan and Pearce to double the visitors lead.
Mansfield were beyond sloppy and looked lost at sea on 28 minutes, as Adam Buxton hit a free kick from his own half over the head of Logan who was off his line and didn’t appear to realise the ball had gone over his head, until it bounced back and fortunately out, off of the bar.
The Stags could easily have been five or six down before the half hour, but finally gave the fans hope on 39 minutes as MacDonald’s effort was parried by Roche straight into the path of Maynard, who tucked home.
Roche then kept Morecambe infront minutes later as Maynard was sent on his way into the box, a splendid one handed save prevented the Stags front man from drawing the match level.
Mansfield stuck with what they had after the break and set about trying to complete the comeback as Rose flicked the ball onto Maynard who won the Stags a corner, from which Pearce headed Khan’s pinpoint set play wide of the net.
Next up it was Neal Bishop to connect with a Khan delivery, this time heading a 51st minute free-kick over the bar before Benning miss-hit a quick Khan delivery four minutes later.
Kellan Gordon’s 68th minute cross was nearly turned in by Morecambe’s Lavelle as the Stags continued to hammer on the door, four minutes later there was only one man to find an answer – Danny Rose for the second week running made it 2-2, this time turning home MacDonald’s cross with a venomous header, much to the relief of the entire home support.
Nicky Maynard nearly put Mansfield ahead on 74 minutes but was scuppered by Roche, before Rose agonisingly saw two efforts go astray – the first a header from a Khan deflected strike, before a beautiful spin, dropped shoulder, and drive from the edge of the box, which whistled wide.
With eight minutes to go Matt Preston burst the Stags bubble with a late and dangerous challenge on Alessandra earning a straight red card, the second straight red in as many games for the Stags – Nicky Maynard then made was for Sweeney as Mansfield sought to protect the point.
Rose then was given a standing ovation as he was replaced by Cook, who had a golden chance to win the game in added time following a mix-up between Roche and hid defenders, Cook hit wide as the ball dropped onto the floor.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 2-2 Morecambe | Attendance 4,465 (110)
STAGS: [4-4-2] Conrad Logan | Kellan Gordon, Matt Preston [Sent Off 82], Krystian Pearce ©, Mal Benning | CJ Hamilton, Alex MacDonald, Neal Bishop, Otis Khan | Danny Rose (Andy Cook 87), Nicky Maynard (Ryan Sweeney 84) Unused Subs: Aidan Stone, Hayden White, Omari Sterling-James, Dion Donohue, Alistair Smith
Newport County 2-2 Mansfield Town (Pearce, Rose) | Sky Bet League Two | Saturday 3rd August 2019 | Rodney Parade, Newport
Craig Priest writes…
The brand new season is well underway, but despite a new manager, new fixture list, new kit and a few new faces – the Mansfield Town journey still comes with the same old cliché’s – that football really is a game of two halves!
If we’re being totally honest, the majority of us would have taken a point from old adversaries Newport on the season’s opening day – but the manner in which the Stags did so left us all reaching for the blood pressure monitors, as John Dempster’s men went from woefully below par, to being comfortably in control!
Throw in a missed penalty, a red card and a local referee who clearly resented Mansfield and you had all the hallmarks of a classic, which now we’ve all slept on it, leaves us with a wry smile that Football is well and truly back!
Reflecting on the game and Mansfield were unacceptably below par in the first half, getting torn to pieces by a Newport side wanting to hit the ground running following last season’s play-off final defeat. The lack of pressure in the final third (Danny Rose aside, I’ll come to him in a second) was a real concern and had the system not changed in the second half, not only would I have put out ‘Missing’ posters for the Stags midfield, I’m convinced we’d have been on the end of a real battering.
Newport’s opening goal was a soft one to concede as we allowed them far too much space out wide and just watched as the world’s slowest cross bobbled into the net, whilst the penalty again came from not closing down out wide, a far cry from the solid defence we’d become accustomed too.
Going to a 4-4-2 worked wonders and allowed us to have more stability across the pitch, Newport simply couldn’t deal with our structure and more direct play which reflected in the goals we scored, Danny Rose’s especially.
Naturally the laughable red card to Jacob Mellis for falling over hindered our flow, but Mansfield coped tremendously with the pressure applied by Newport – with Conrad Logan making a tremendous save, and Danny Rose having the best game we’ve seen from the much loved number 32 in a very long time.
Rose was phenomenal, there’s not a lot more to add to that really. From the first second to the least his relentless pressure really got under the hosts skin and stopped them playing their usual game, whilst he won 99% of everything thrown at him in the air. His movement opened up space for others, but also pockets for him to exploit as shown by his goal – the first, hopefully, of many for him this season as under Dempster, he has a much freer role.
When we went down to ten men, Rose proved again he’s the clubs best defender (Sorry chief!) and held the line well, he was vocal and marshalled the troops well – nothing was beating Danny Rose.
If that wasn’t enough, did you see his long throw in the opening minutes?! Big Ex is clearly on the coaching staff!
All joking aside, the spirit the Stags showed during the second half was a joy to behold – it gives us as supporters faith and belief that we can go on and achieve something, plus gives the lads something to harness and work on ahead of the double visit of Morecambe in the League on Saturday and then in the cup in midweek, where’d I’d be starting as we finished – 4-4-2!
45 More league games to go, the bar has been set!
John Dempster named just one new signing in his first ever starting line-up as a League Manager, with Nicky Maynard partnering Danny Rose up front. Fellow new arrivals Andy Cook, Dion Donohue and keeper Aidan Stone were on the bench, as the Stags started with their familiar three at the back.
Mansfield actually started brightly with some good early running but it was Newport who grabbed the opening goal with a whimpering bit of defending from the Stags, Joss Labadie the man with the effort which found its way beyond the static Stags with just six minutes played.
Padrig Amond whistled one over Conrad Logan’s crossbar on 17 minutes as Mansfield began to sink deeper, Neal Bishop had the Stags best opportunity to level three minutes later, sending a diving header into the side netting.
Jacob Mellis also sent one whizzing wide on the half hour but Newport remained on top, hitting the cross bar through Matt Dolan’s free kick before doubling their lead from the penalty spot when Sweeney was judged to have pulled Matt down – Amond stepped up and beat Logan from 12 yards.
CJ Hamilton was replaced by Kellan Gordon seconds before the half-time whistle, which left Mansfield needing one hell of a response.
Otis Khan replaced the booked Sweeney at the break as Mansfield went 4-4-2 with Khan taking up the left wing slot and MacDonald moving out to the right. The changes too just two minutes to work as the Chief nodded Mansfield back into the game from Mellis’ fine free kick.
Were Mansfield done? No. Danny Rose was the man to pull the game level with a perfect back step and left footed swing to connect with Otis Khan’s left sided delivery – a fully deserved goal following his injury at Newport last season, a side who seemed determined to injury him again as during the break – Rose needed his head gluing back together!
Back at 2-2 Mansfield were then thankful of the alertness of Logan who made a fantastic save to deny Labadie who found a way through, the stage then looked set for Maynard to grab his first Stags goal when he was handed penalty duty for the Stags 58th minute spot-kick. Home keeper Tom King guessed correctly and denied Maynard.
The former Bury man then fired over King’s cross bar on 66 minutes before Mansfield were dealt a blow two minutes later, Mellis’ fell accidently on Labadie and was soon heading down the tunnel, following a straight red card.
A battle of defensive shape followed as Mansfield saw out the remainder of the game protecting the 2-2 score line with some brave defending – the full time whistle came as a relief as Newport were starting to dominate again, alas Mansfield had done what seemed at the break the unachievable – a valuable point to start the new season.
FULL TIME: Newport County 2-2 Mansfield Town | Attendance 4,481 (493)
STAGS: [3-5-2] Conrad Logan | Matt Preston, Krystain Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney (Otis Khan 46) | CJ Hamilton (Kellan Gordon 45+4), Jacob Mellis [SENT OFF 68], Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning | Danny Rose, Nicky Maynard (Andy Cook 82) Unused Subs: Aidan Stone, Omari Sterling-James, Dion Donohue, Alistair Smith
Craig Priest writes…
The dawn of the 2019-20 season is nearly upon us, as Mansfield Town and us long suffering fans prepare to hit the League Two road once more, starting how we finished – going toe to toe with Newport County.
But the question is, are we ready? Are we really ready for the long road ahead, to try once more to achieve promotion, and make Mansfield Town FC a League One team?
I don’t think there’s a truly honest answer to that question to be honest. You can answer ‘Yes’ in terms of tactics, fitness, shape etc, but you can also answer ‘No’ – not just for the same reasons, but also because of the past campaign and the changes in-between.
Personally I believe that any team, manager, or player, who says that they are ready, is a liar. It’s not a negative, it’s just that the road is so long, I don’t believe that you can be ready for every possibility the longevity of a season can throw at you.
Reflecting on last season for a moment, we spent the campaign answering ‘Yes, we’re ready’ as we were so focussed on the long term goal of promotion, we didn’t see the stumbling blocks infront of us – we neglected the short term.
John Dempster’s hit the nail on the head, focussing on the short term is more important – because it gives you more control over results and points which then effect the long-term. Last season we clearly didn’t manage the short term problems, firstly injury.
We never had a plan B for those innocuous issues – nobody could have predicted the injuries to Davies, Oljenik and White, nor the detrimental affect they’d have – but in the same breath, we didn’t really deal with them particularly well either. We didn’t have a buffer of players ready to come and step in, nor did we have any plans to alter shape and approach should said personnel not quite fit, instead we opted for square pegs in round holes and brought in faces / bodies whose long term ambition, was not particularly woven with Mansfield Town FC.
So far this pre-season we’ve seen new boss John Dempster change shape, change match approach and use players to match their strengths – he’s not filled a team sheet to make the numbers up, he’s filled a team sheet to compete in the most effective way for the players whose names are on the paper. What is more, we also appear to have created a buffer between the Academy, Under 23s and First Team, meaning should those players need to step in – they’ll be capable of swimming strongly in the ocean, rather than drowning in the river.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we have to look at Mental Approach. We’d already been hit with the injuries and as mentioned, when it came to the last ten-or-so games of the season, had personnel in the dressing room who knew they wouldn’t be there after May.
So straight away you question if they were fully committed to going out to see out a game and get victory. Likewise when you’re so focussed on gaining promotion, when it starts slipping away, the expectation creates such a wright of pressure it’s like playing on quick-sand – and when you’re not finding a way around that either, that grasp of promotion slips further and further and further away.
It’s like your car’s engine cutting out at the top of a hill, you’ll only continue for so long before you’re at journeys end.
The mental approach doesn’t just go for the team, it goes with individuals too. The back three carried this excellent record which naturally everyone wanted to beat and pick away at, which certainly happened towards the end when it mattered – the prime example THAT MK Dons goal.
Danny Rose had such a torrid campaign, first with the whole transfer saga and then with the horrific injury – you show me a man who that doesn’t take its toll on and I’ll show you a liar. And yet, he was still required to carry the team – talk about playing with the world on your shoulders.
My point is not to look back on what went wrong, but to highlight that putting every focus on that long term vision, just makes you blind to the things in front of you – the factors that will drive you to the long term goal. It’s that whole, look after the pennies and the pounds will follow mentality.
A month or so ago now, I wrote about John Dempster potentially being thrown into the inferno – so far he’s conducted himself with real calm to put out the flames. The additions that have been made, both with personnel and structure, have in my opinion made us a far better squad to cope with the expectation of promotion – approaching in a more manageable way.
Naturally there will be some comparisons as the season gets underway, it’s almost akin to a relationship breakdown and then a new one beginning.
For so long you’ve lived with the person who you adore, you become accustomed to a certain way of life and whilst there may be blots on the canvas, you are contempt enough to never see that relationship ending. You have visions of future life, marriage, kids, a house a dog etc that you become oblivious to the little factors which are going to blow the whole thing apart.
Then all of a sudden, it ends. All of that hope, expectation and dreaming – gone, with the click of a finger. You spend a period of time grieving in a sense, building up an anger in how and why the one person, the one thing you so desperately crave, is no longer a part of your life.
One day though, they move on and whilst it hurts deeply to see someone else living out your vision, your time comes. It’s here where my long winded analogy becomes relevant to the good ship Dempster, as you’ll enjoy the new but you’ll also compare with the old and you’ll go one of two ways – you’ll either carve out a nice new journey, or you’ll spend for ever languishing in regrets and get drowned to the conference, no matter what you try.
It’s to regret and still have love and admiration for the old, of course it is, it was part of your life – but if you don’t learn and give yourself the chance to grow, try out new things, happiness and success will always be out of your reach.
Do we need Tyler Walker to fire us to the top, when we have Nicky Maynard, Andy Cook and a refreshed Danny Rose? Do we need to play 3-4-1-2 every week because of the defensive record, when adapting shape and approach could prove the difference between one point and three? Do we need to panic and get players in who doesn’t buy in to what we’re trying to achieve, when the same infrastructure and quality is deeper within our own ranks anyway?
Are we ready? No, of course we’re not – not for the entire season anyway, but that’s the beauty of football isn’t in – experiencing the unexpected. What counts is that John Dempster has us ready for the first game at Newport on Saturday, all we need to do is say that last season was what is was and it’s gone, let’s just focus on giving Dempster and the players our unquestionable support in the here and now, because I believe that if we do – we’ll be richer for it in the future.
I said earlier that if you look after the penny’s the pounds will take care of themselves – well what about if you look after the points, game by game, the promotions will take care of themselves?!
Newport, let’s go!
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