Mansfield Town’s terrible down turn in form continued last night as they crashed out of the Johnston’s Paint Trophy in dismal fashion at the hands of League One rivals Notts County who ran out 2-0 winners at Meadow Lane.
It was a titanic like performance from Paul Cox’s men who left over 1,500 travelling supporters seething and calling for the manager’s head. Only the efforts of youngster Liam Marsden, defenders Ryan Tafazolli and Martin Riley and, for his second half passion, skipper Adam Murray deserve a place on the boat to safety, whilst the rest are left to swim in the icy sea listening to the fading sound of the sinking orchestra.
Titanic comparisons aside, Mansfield offered little in the first competitive meeting between the two Nottinghamshire rivals in years and gave Notts County an easy win. Cox’s men completely lost the ability to pass a football whilst the hosts made it look easy, weaving their way around the Stags and netting two easy goals which Forest loanee Dimitar Evtimov should have done better with.
Cox too angered supporters with his strange tactical decisions such as taking off the Stags’ only goal scoring threat Alex Fisher rather than Matt Rhead who tried, but was easily marked out of the game. The sale of Sam Clucas to Chesterfield has left Mansfield with no natural wingers and no plan B, supporters certainly made their opinions clear on an evening to forget.
Ronan Murray opening the scoring after 28 minutes for the hosts after Stags’ attempts to play direct were squashed out, Murray cut in from the left hand side of the area skipping a challenge from Stags captain Adam Murray before drilling beyond a bewildered Evtimov.
Stags had just the one chance to level, Simon Heslop drilled wide from a smart free kick but Mansfield’s chances disappeared quicker than the vanishing paint spray, key challenges from Tafazolli, Marsden and Riley plus two smart saves from Evtimov kept the score line respectable.
The second half saw a short burst of fire from Cox’s men with a series of set plays whilst Alex Fisher created three chances from nothing but saw Fabien Speiss well placed to keep the front man at bay, once he was replaced by Palmer, a minute after Jake Cassidy galloped down the right hand side to drill home Notts County’s second, it truly was over for Stags.
There was never any sense of comeback for Cox’s men at 2-0, ever attempt of a run made was sniffed out, sometimes by the Stags players themselves, tripping over the ball and making the game unwatchable for supporters.
Stags: Dimitar Evtimov, Ritchie Sutton, Martin Riley, Ryan Tafazolli, Liam Marsden (Lee Beevers 87), Simon Heslop, Adam Murray ©, Rob Taylor, Chris Clements (Fergus Bell 73), Alex Fisher (Ollie Palmer 66), Matt Rhead
UNUSED SUBS: Sascha Studer, Jamie McGuire
Across the country last night, football supporters were glued to their sofas with their eyes predominantly glued to the TV hanging onto every word muttered by Jim White as the transfer window came to a close.
For those of us supporting lower league clubs, deadline day often lacks excitement. However this morning we are left slightly numb by deadline day as Stags’ already depleted squad took a hit as the highly rated Sam Clucas was sold four hours prior to the window closing – what adds to the drama is the fact the blow was delivered by arch rivals Chesterfield.
In some ways, it’s like being shot back to 1994 and into the shoes of Grant Mitchell standing in the Queen Vic pub as he hears of wife Sharon’s betrayal, namely her affair with Brother Phil.
Rather than trail off into some soap-opera-esc punch up script, I can’t help but wonder when, all factors considered, if Clucas’ move into the enemy camp is a good thing after all. The factor that angers us the most is clearly the fact what a high percentage class as our star asset has been sold to our arch rivals, but take that away and to be honest it may well turn into a good bit of business.
To what degree I’m not sure but it’s clear that one of two things are happening at the One Call Stadium at the moment, Mansfield Town FC are struggling to keep their heads above water or the chairman is reluctant to invest in the club more than he already has done. Either way, when in that position you have to become self-sufficient and “speculate to accumulate” which is hopefully what we’ll have done with the sale of Clucas, a player that if the statements are true, didn’t want to be at the club anyway.
According to the club statement issued minutes before Clucas’ departure was confirmed, it states that during early contract negotiations for next season (2015/16) the 23 year old playmaker made it clear he did not want to stay at the club once his two year deal ran its course, stating that he wanted to further his career.
To me that statement from the player brings with it an air of arrogance, it screams that he doesn’t believe the club can go to the next level and that he thinks he’s better than everyone else at the club – I will always support a player that opts to move on and be the best they can be, but only when they’ve given their all to the cause. Egos and arrogance have no place in football and can prove catastrophically damaging to a small squad such as ours.
Clucas was often played out of position by Paul Cox and his recent reluctance to play wingers, and as such hasn’t really lit up any sparks for me. Sometimes I sit in the ground wondering what exactly they see in him, especially when he gets pushed to the right hand side and ALWAYS cuts back onto his left foot, it makes it so easy to defend against and so frustrating to watch. But then he had some excellent games, most recently when paired with Alex Fisher as an out and out front man against Sheffield United following Hearn’s early injury and against Oxford, I’ve seen a flare and sensed a good partnership could have been formed – if only Cox had stuck with an attack that was clearly working!
I really can’t decide if the former Hereford man being played out of position by Cox is the reason why he hasn’t lived up to expectations or if it has been a case of “I’m here until something better comes along” on his part – It’s probably a bit of both to be fair. We’ll have easily have recouped the tribunal money we’ll have paid Hereford last summer and hopefully have made a fair bit on top, getting rid of a potential negative influence in the process – the only downside is the destination he’s ended up at, that’s football for you – when the dust has settled I’m sure we all wish Sam the best and thank him for his efforts, after all he’s not the first to go from Mansfield to Chesterfield or visa-versa and certainly won’t be the last.
What is important is we move on something Paul Cox left himself little time to do, he was never going to find a big name in four hours, I can think of roughly three names that would have rendered the Clucas move irrelevant and if truth be told, all of them are always going to be highly unlikely. At least Cox did use the freed up wages pot to make an addition, in an area we really needed an extra man with Hearn out until Christmas – welcoming Rakish Bingham on board.
The twenty year old striker arrives having had little experience and hasn’t scored in a competitive game yet, unfairly he’s going to take a lot of flack made up of our frustrations towards Cox, the current style of football and the fact we’re still waiting to be inspired. Hopefully Rakish has enough about him to get on with the job in hand and not let the comments and frustrations get to him, as a collective we are at a low ebb and need some flight injected into our darkening tunnel.
Cox is starting to become increasingly frustrating with his transfer and selection policy, for example after Saturday after the match he said he needed a “fox in the box” – if he’d have looked at his bench he’d have seen Alex Fisher – there’s your answer, providing you give him the service. The problem now of course is, we’ve gone from having one player that can play naturally out wide in Clucas to having no natural wingers if a miracle were to happen and we were to revert back to 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1, the system which took us back into the football league in the first place.
Rob Taylor is very much like Andy Todd in the fact he can play anywhere and do a good job but who else can play out wide, left or right. Fergus Bell has come from the bench to play their in Cox’s vein attempts to change the system late on in games but it’s not his natural calling and that’s not his fault whatsoever.
We have a pot, however big or small; of money now from the Clucas deal to go out and buy at least one winger, weather that be a free agent like Bingham was or that be a loan with a view to buy in January. We have slots free in the squad to do so – fingers crossed it gets done, if not then Braintree et-al will be getting out the bunting with “welcome back Mansfield Town” on. At this moment, we are too vulnerable to play the 3-4-1-2 (or 3-5-2 depending on your preference) system, we don’t seem to have faith in the system and opposition know far too easily how to beat it.
If Cox has his hands tied then he needs to admit it to the supporters, likewise if we are struggling as a club financially then some honesty from the chairman wouldn’t go a miss either. When we we’re promoted there was a sense of community and togetherness, now there’s a black cloud looming and a huge sense of distance growing between club and supporters.
Should the questions go unanswered and no new faces arrive, not only do we face a high possibility of slipping down the table, but frustrations will grow and grow, meaning gates will drop and going to football after a hard weeks work, will become a chore rather than a pleasure.
He posted a picture on Instagram yesterday sat on his sofa watching the deadline day dealings with a caption about “sitting here until I see my name pop up” – it was tempting to send the Mitchell brothers round to stand guard at his place to stop him going, after all, they’ve kissed and made up now, a LOT has happened since 1994!
Tonight, the Stags take on rivals Notts County at Meadow Lane in the JPT, a competition people take as seriously as they take an Ian Beale proposal (sorry, far too many Eastender’s references today!). For Mansfield though, this could be the perfect competition to boost the clubs coffers, it’s regionalised for the majority which keeps traveling costs to a minimum and only involves teams from leagues one and two. The prise money may not be great but money is money and winning is a good habit to be in, it could be just the tonic Cox’s men need to get back on track so let’s put our frustrations aside and pump some positives back into the current gathering of negatives.
Mansfield Town’s poor form continued on Saturday as one mistake changed the entire course of the game, allowing Burton Albion to come out on top to climb to top of the leader board.
Paul Cox made five changes to the side which lost in disappointing fashion to Dagenham last weekend including handing a debut to Nottingham Forest loan man Dimitar Evtimov in goal ahead of Sascha Studer. The changed line up appeared to be working as Stags began brightly and should have had a good two goal cushion, Ollie Palmer squandering a great chance in a 1 v 1 situation whilst the excellent Lee Beevers and Sam Clucas also came close.
However all was to change in the 42nd minute as a miss placed pass on the half way line saw Stags gift possession to Burton and practically hand over the points. It took just one directional pass for Burton to unlock the Stags, Alexander Macdonald latched onto the pass and cut inside to fire Burton into the lead, with the ball deflecting beyond debutant Evtimov who perhaps should have done better.
From then on in, Mansfield were really in the game at all and it was only a matter of time before Burton grabbed their second on 70 minutes. Fluent football had Mansfield chasing shadows before a low cut back across the six yard box should have been collected by Evtimov, instead Martin Riley was forced to dive into a challenge and slid the ball straight into the path of Callum McFadzean who had the simple task of rolling the ball into the empty net.
Four minutes later Matt Rhead reduced the deficit as he looped home a header following Adam Murray’s deep free kick before Stags were given a real boost as Burton were reduced to ten men. Albion’s Robbie Weir was shown a straight red card for violent conduct after clashing with Jamie McGuire, yet despite the extra man the Stags failed to complete a comeback and again left supporters dismayed wondering how the good form of two weeks previous could change so quickly.
STAGS: Dimitar Evtimov, Ritchie Sutton, Martin Riley, Ryan Tafazolii, Lee Beevers (Simon Heslop 90+1), Adam Murray ©, Jamie McGuire, Rob Taylor (Fergus Bell 78), Sam Clucas, Ollie Palmer (Alex Fisher 63), Matt Rhead
UNUSED SUBS: Sascha Studer, Jack Thomas, Liam Marsden, Chris Clements
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