Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 25th September 2021
Mansfield Town had a three step plan after weeks of error fraught defeats; stop the rot – keep a clean sheet – win a game of a football, simple. Yesterday’s 0-0 draw at Leyton Orient saw stage two executed ALMOST perfectly, as heroic Nathan Bishop finally claimed his first shutout of the campaign.
In the capital, it’s the Stags who should have been charging for congestion late on, as with ten men thanks to Tyrese Sinclair silly sending off, the divisions second placed team looked certain to break the deadlock and flooded the Stags box.
Nathan Bishop and his back four, which included striker Oli Hawkins, were determined to stand firm and did, roared on by vocally proud Stags fans – with Bishop making a string of fine stops, and the back four throwing themselves at everything, including Elliott Hewitt at right back.
Sinclair’s sending off typified the Stags luck, keen to impress from the bench there was no need to kick-out after he was fouled to win his side a free kick, inexperience cost us the opportunity to perhaps steal all three points, but cost him the golden opportunity to break into the side more frequently, with injuries mounting up and Stephen Quinn still missing for three more games.
He’ll learn from that and to be honest, that’s all we should say – he’s a young and eager player who will bounce back – there’s no need to crucify him for it.
Focus, rightly, should be on the vast improvement defensively – driven in my view by moving Hawkins to centre half. With Kellan Gordon injured (and likely to be out for another 2-3 weeks) and joining the list of absentees at the back – Clough had two choices; play Hawkins at CB and switch Hewitt to the right, or bring in James Clarke for a straight swap.
I’m disappointed he didn’t opt for the latter as I think Clarke is a fantastic talent and has a big future, however we needed authority at the back and as much experience as possible – so in hindsight going with the Hawkins/Hewitt option was the right one.
The two problems Clough now faces are that, firstly, consistency is key. Hawkins was brilliant and brought a calmness, he won 99% of everything and marshalled the game – it’s not a coincidence that we kept a clean sheet which we have to build on, and in order to do that – he has to stay there!
That however brings around the second problem – Hawkins is also the best chance we have of being clinical in attack! He’s a big outlet for us and we have nobody that can do the same job as he can, you can’t ask Bowery to do it, because he’s doing Quinn’s job, you’d then look at Sinclair to do that but he’s now joined Quinn in the banned club – Johnson? He’s not that type of player and without Hawkins to feed off, isn’t firing! So what do you do?
It’s a big question and one only the experience of Clough and his team can solve – but that is what they’re paid for really!
Fundamentally, I think for the short term, we’re better off leaving Hawkins at the back and being more stable there, because if you keep a clean sheet – you’re guaranteed at least a point, and if we can utilise set plays more, Hawkins can be a threat from those so you almost get the best of both worlds.
Stage two of the three stage plan complete – Barrow up next at home, time to complete stage three!
Come on you Stags!
STAGS: Bishop, Hewitt, Rawson, Hawkins, McLaughlin, Lapslie, Maris (Charsley 54’), O. Clarke (C), Oates (Burke 88’), Johnson (Sinclair 67’), Bowery. UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey (GK), J. Clarke, Ward, Law.
Attendance: 5,252 (347)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 18th September 2021
When you’re on a poor run of form shipping goals like there’s no tomorrow, you need to really work hard to balance the scales and get the ship steady again. What doesn’t help is losing your best defender for the season, and having your two deadline day signings both out injured too!
That’s exactly the situation Clough finds himself in, Richard Nartey will be out for 6-8 weeks, whilst the yet to arrive Will Forrester won’t be available until October.
Add into the mix the only two other actually fit defenders having shockers, it could have been a nightmare afternoon as Rochdale came to town – as it was, both Rawson and Hewitt showed improvement – sadly, they passed the ‘I’m going to make a mistake’ bug onto Kellan Gordon!
His second half error led to Rochdale netting an easy goal, but Danny Johnson came from the bench to grab his second goal in as many games – earning a deserved point for the Stags.
At one point I did think Clough had forgotten what a substitution actually was, however when he did introduce Johnson and Stirk for Oates and Maris on 70 minutes, the Stags looked like they’d FINALLY found what they’d been missing and caused problems – intensified with four minutes to go when Charsley came on, I’d start with the team that finished next weekend, apart from Stirk, who is a real asset to bring on from the bench rather than a starter.
Rawson out of the two defenders really showed what he can do, going in with strong tackles early to stamp authority on a hungry Rochdale attack, I was pleased with him, but more pleased with Bowery, playing on the left side of a front three – I thought he was excellent, I’d love to see what he, Quinn and McLaughlin could do…. Shame we’ll have at least four more games to wait for that with Quinn suspended!
There’s not much more to say to be honest about yesterday, the rot was stopped, a point was earned and a base set – we are where we are with injuries at the back, we can’t do too much about it, so let’s crack on and focus on staying tight, making as few mistakes as possible and moving onto the next rung of the ladder – a cleansheet, followed by a win!
STAGS: Bishop, Gordon, McLaughlin, Hewitt, Rawson, O. Clarke, Bowery, Maris (Stirk 70’), Hawkins, Oates (Johnson 70’), Lapslie (Charsley 86’) UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Burke, Sinclair, Law
Attendance: 4,336 (318)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 11th September 2021 | Mansfield Town 1 [Johnson] Walsall 3
Stepping on lego. Stubbing a toe. Having a tooth extracted, and getting repeatedly flicked on the air in the peak of Winter – all things I’d rather do than watch another performance like that from Mansfield Town FC.
Nigel Clough labelled his players inept as they handed Walsall three points, the hosts running out 3-1 winners – capitalising on three pathetic pieces of defending, making it five losses on the bounce in all competitions,
Clough was without the injured James Perch and suspended duo Ollie Clarke and Stephen Quinn, but there’s no room for using that tipple absence as an excuse – it’s a squad game, and as a collective, that squad wasn’t good enough AGAIN today – something has to change.
People can say ‘it’s early’ but all we’re delivering at the moment is a constant negative, pathetic defending and several performances which scream ‘I don’t care’ – and as supporters who travel and pay to back them, that’s not on. No desire, no fight, no energy and no idea! If we allow this to go on any longer, someone will unmask Clough, Scooby Doo style, and it’ll be Graham bloody Coughlan putting that team out!
He’s a good manager, no doubt, and he’s not quite assembled the squad he wanted – BUT, he and his coaches pick the team, so whilst he can throw the ‘Inept’ label around, he has to shoulder some responsibility.
We have a clear issue at centre half, Hewitt isn’t performing well at all for me and Nartey has had a nightmare start – we can’t start either of them next week and I was very surprised at half time when only one of them was taken off. I don’t want this to sound like a witch hunt and a blame game, it’s not, but sometimes stepping back to take a look at how you can improve is very beneficial in the long run – for all concerned.
The question is, who comes in? Rawson, I still think is getting better and needs that perfect partner, he’s a no brainer – it’s more who partners him? The new signing from stoke Forrester when fit is the obvious choice but when will that be? If he’s ready next week then yes, if not – my choice is simple, Jordan Bowery!
You may laugh and think I’m mad, but he’s clearly not fancied as a starter up front – he’s good enough in the air and can play with the ball at feet. He’s also got the experience to read the game and lead from the back, and whenever he’s played centre half seems to have brightened up and actually looked interested.
Seriously, ask yourself, whatever have we got to lose? Some are saying James Clarke, don’t ruin him by playing him out of position, play him right back where he can, and will, thrive.
I’m far too annoyed to keep typing, I want to forget about that game and utterly woeful display – let them scrap, argue, or whatever to get it out of there system and really come out and bury Rochdale next week.
Enough is enough.
STAGS: Bishop, Gordon, Hewitt (Rawson 46’), Nartey, McLaughlin, Maris (Bowery 62’), Stirk, Lapslie, Oates (Johnson 46’), Hawkins, Sinclair UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Charsley, Burke, Law
Attendance: 5,203 (1,008)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 4th September 2021 | Mansfield Town 1 [Oates] Harrogate Town 3
Red cards to captain Ollie Clarke and midfielder Stephen Quinn within seconds of each other sent a red mist over Mansfield Town’s performance, however I’m determined to see through that today and say that even at 11 v 11, Nigel Clough’s men were far from good enough – slumping to a second successive 3-1 defeat at the hands of Harrogate Town, this time on home soil.
Rhys Oates goal just three minutes in gave the Stags a fine start and pumped some belief that a tweaked system could get us back to winning ways, however a minute later, woeful defending from a corner saw Harrogate level and from there, dictate the game.
Clough switched from the diamond in midfield to (in my opinion) a 4-2-3-1, with Clarke and Maris as deep lying midfielders, Oates, Lapslie and Quinn as an attacking three, with Hawkins the target man lone striker.
The system is one I think WOULD suit us, it suits slick passing, quick movement and stretches the game playing on the counter whilst importantly at the other end, helping to tighten the midfield and prevent sides playing through us. That’s the theory anyway.
For whatever reason Mansfield couldn’t string a pass together and forgot how to pass – how Clough can come out and say we played OK is beyond me, we were sloppy, made far too many mistakes and errors of judgement – and failed to really trouble the Harrrogate keeper.
The ONLY positive is that we had more aggression to our play, trying to close down and press more rather than inviting on – naturally that leaves you exposed to cards and you need a referee to bit a little stronger, but still – we need to fight.
I have to say I thought the officials were poor with some decisions, we should perhaps have had a penalty and Mez must have painted the lines in invisible paint because the referee and his team had NO IDEA when the ball was in or out of play!
As for the red cards – my views is, they’re both reds. Clarke’s is a soft red, granted – but, by the letter of the law, he’s the last man on a clear goal scoring opportunity and pulled his man down so had to go – Clough and his team may have grounds for appeal with Nartey arguable quick enough to be getting back in to cover, but still – the law says red card, and to be honest, it won’t do us any harm to be missing Clarke for a while!
Quinn’s I didn’t see, I’m looking at the bench to see what Clough and his team are thinking to play with ten and get back in the game (2-1 at the time) – but if he’s kicked out or whatever, again it’s a red. I doubt they’ll be much footage to review, as cameras will have been on Clarke.
Quinn, will be a loss, but an excellent opportunity to freshen things up in there, let’s face it – we need something.
Finally, and I’m holding back for the Podcast, Richard Nartey had a debut to forget – I can’t get my head around why he started with what, only 2-3 training sessions under his belt?! Let him settle, start him next week, don’t throw him straight in!
One game doesn’t make a terrible player though, so for once, let’s get behind him and back him – we need him, Perch apparently will be out for a few months.
Four defeats in a row in all competitions – it’s not good enough, time to stop blaming officials Mr Clough, because whilst I agree, they’re not the ones wearing a Stags shirt making costly errors week in week out, sort your own house out first before criticising others.
STAGS: Bishop, Gordon, Nartey, Hewitt, McLaughlin, Maris, O. Clarke, Quinn, Lapslie (68’ Johnson), Oates (76’ Rawson), Hawkins (82’ Bowery). UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Burke, Sinclair, Stirk.
Attendance: 4,599 (155)
Papa John’s Trophy Group H 1/3, Tuesday 31st August | Harrogate Town 3-1 Mansfield Town
The Papa John’s Trophy is about as controversial as discussing if Pineapple belongs on Pizza – someday yes, some say no, others don’t care, last night at Harrogate Town, it felt like 95% of the Stags squad didn’t care about a number of things, with a lacklustre uninspiring 3-1 loss at Harrogate Town.
The defeat I can take, the manner of it not so much – when a player pulls on a Stags shirt, I expect a certain level of performance for the badge and for whatever reason, that seemed to be lacking.
I’m not going to go into full rant mode because of the competition (even though personally I’m all for trying to win it) and because a lot of the side out last night were young ones getting a taste of senior football – BUT, what I’m left disappointed by is an obvious lack of depth within our squad.
In fact, it felt like we had as much depth as a shallow kids splash pad in a park, that had been filled in by concrete!
I really felt sorry for Keaton Ward especially, thrown in at centre-back with Hewitt rested, Perch injured and at that point, absolutely no cover! Fortunately, we’ve signed two on loan – but I’ll save my views on that for the Podcast tonight!
I could real off negatives and grievances like an auctioneer but again I’ll save some of those for the Podcast when I’ve woken up more! I will, however, finish on a positive – James Clarke, fantastic at right back and showed a real captains attitude, even when he lost the ball or didn’t win the initial header, he was determined to win it back and I’d say did – 98% of the time, why he’s not playing more is beyond me at times.
Rhys Oates looked lively when he came on whilst Charsley, his first run out post injury, looked hungry – albeit a little lost on the right hand side of the diamond – it’s time to ditch that for 4-3-3 without a shadow of a doubt.
Nigel Clough post match said he didn’t care about the competition, which is fair enough – however a little bit more effort for the travelling fans and acknowledgement of them coming out to support the younger lads wouldn’t have gone a miss – especially when your experienced striker absolutely fluffs a penalty, costing us the game and 10K!
That’s a third consecutive defeat for the group – we need to have a good couple of days training now and come out on Saturday, at home to Harrogate, and put three points on the more.
Who’d be a football fan eh!
STAGS: Shelvey, Rawson (55’ Oates), Charsley, Bowery, Burke, Sinclair (78’ Cooper), Ward, J. Clarke, Law, Hill, Lapslie (68' Caine) UNUSED SUBS: Bishop, Gordon, O. Clarke, Johnson
Attendance: 825 (135)
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