The final group game of this season’s checkatrade trophy campaign is upon us already – and having beaten Notts County with an excellent dosplay last Tuesday, the ball is now back in our court in terms of qualification as we welcome Everton Under 23s to the One Call Stadium tomorrow night.
It’s a game that will again feel like a reserve team fixture with Evans promising once more to make ‘wholesale changes’ – but as with a week ago, I hope those who come in step up and give the scot, who celebrates his birthday today, a selection headache ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Shaw Lane.
Above all else, tomorrow I want to see a clean sheet and Mansfield, continuing to play the fluid football that they have done in recent games, holding out from start to finish against a young, but pacey and physical side who are going strong in the Premier League Two Division One, sitting second in the table.
Under the caretaker stewardship of Francis Jeffers whilst usual youth boss David Unsworth flirts with become a premier league manager, the youngsters will be hungry and eager to show any potential eyes in the stand what they are made of – and after two defeats in the competition, will want to do put a win on the board – qualification for the Toffee’s youngsters still faintly possible, should they beat us and Lincoln beat Notts County.
This would put Lincoln on nine points and then all three clubs (us, Notts and Everton) on three points meaning second placed qualification would be down to goal difference.
Anyway, Martin Shaw has done all the working out on Stagsnet – click here to see the full permutations, but the upshot is, if Stags win by three clear goals – they are through regardless of the Lincoln V Notts County result (played next Tuesday at Sincil Bank). Anything less than a win by three clear goals, and it’ll be in the hands of County.
As I’ve said in various articles, the Stags are vastly improving and in truth have been since Barnet away – it’s only the niggling conceding of goals late in games that’s killing us really, but if Stags – regardless of the team they put out – can produce the same style of quick, fluid, hungry football – a win will not be a problem.
Evans constantly plays the competitions importance down and of course he is right to do so, however I think in January to boost our league ambitions, we have to make two big, if not three big, signings to fuel to fire, and whilst John Radford I’ve no doubt would back that with his own funds, we are already running the risk of over spending which could kill us two or three years down the line – so why not use a competition such as the checkatrade, as an extra earner?
The prize pot has been increased this year and without kicking a ball clubs get £20,000 and then per group stage win it’s £10,000 – so already the Stags have netted £30,000, which would become £40,000 if they see off Everton’s youngsters.
£40,000 isn’t a bad amount to chuck into the transfer pot really and could make a difference, and with another £20,000 up for grabs for winning at round two – well, it wouldn’t hurt would it. We’ve a big enough squad to achieve that end goal afterall.
With skipper Zander Diamond back in the fold tomorrow, I predict a full 11 changes – which of course is well within the rules as the names Evans is likely to name, will be “first team players” – I predict it’ll be Oljenik, White, Digby, Diamond, Hunt, Sterling-James, Butcher, Thomas/Potter, Atkinson, Spencer and Angol.
This is a big week for Mansfield Town, we are trying to find our way again and we really need to cut out this late goals thing. This is a big week for characters to show they want to be a Mansfield Town player – who wants to turn up in front of a sparse crowd on a cold October night to play Everton’s kids? Who wants to go to a non-league ground and ensure what will be very different facilities to what they’re used to? Who wants to be a winner?
I said it before Notts County and I’ll say it again – Football is a game, regardless of the competition, that is there to be won. Winning breads confidence and confidence breads success. Let’s stand up, be counted, be winners and above all else – be the Mansfield Town we know we can be.
Craig Priest writes…
“You see what happens when we play football” were my words at half time, praising the players for yet another mouth-watering display with the ball, and do you know what – even at full time having again thrown the points away in another 1-1 draw I still stick by my words and on the whole, praise the players and performance yesterday.
We played slick, stylish and most importantly penetrate football which punished the opposition, yes we should have won the game 5 or 6 nil and had it not been for some excellent saves from Pym in the Grecians goal and some goal line blocks – would have done. In fairness and in the interest of being positive, I’ll give the players the element of bad luck and on a whole be pleased with yesterday.
If we play like that on a consistent basis – we will win more games than we lose I totally agree, yet no matter how delighted I am with improving football, I don’t look at football game by game, I always look at the bigger picture – and that is why I sit here on Sunday morning at my desk, having a full blown fist fight with my conscious over if yesterday was a positive or a negative.
I can’t decide who will win and as such, have to back up my argument here as no doubt those of you reading this in team positive, will just say I’m being overly negative!
Our problem is we can’t hold onto a lead and are suffering as a result – from a drawing or winning position in the 16 league games so far, we have dropped nine points – four wining positions (Luton at home, Barnet and Newport away and Exeter at home yesterday) and a draw (Accrington away when we we’re drawing 1-1 and lost in the last minutes). Those nine points, depending on goal difference and the permutations of the other teams involved would put us at least fourth with 31 points from a possible 48.
Looking at goals which have cost us points, we’ve conceded six goals in the last 15 minutes of games that have seen us drop points – whilst as a whole, in all competitions regardless of the result – we’ve conceded 10 goals in the last 15 minutes of the game.
I know my maths is terrible, but of 19 games in all competitions, that’s very nearly one goal per game conceded in the last fifteen minutes and that really, really frustrates me.
Is it a complacency issue, are we as a group thinking the game is wrapped up? Is it a management problem – for example Bryom and Rose as ever were fantastic but in the last ten minutes were tired and in those two key areas, a pair of fresh legs may have proved the difference, but again those changes didn’t happen.
On the slip side of it all, we are now four games unbeaten in all competitions and have a real chance to make that six by this time next week – taking real momentum into the league with games against Coventry, Stevenage, Port Vale and the enemy to come. And I firmly believe if we keep playing like we have done against Notts County and Exeter this past week, fluid and energetic, we’ll come out of November unbeaten and in great spirit, we just need now to close games out, as the longer this goes on – the more teams will know how to hurt us.
Evans keeps saying “It’ll be different in January” yes maybe so Steve, but we’ve NINE more league games until January – I really don’t want to think about how much damage could be done to our long term aims in that space of time by not seeing games out, so how about this? Let’s get two wins and two clean sheets from the next two cup games, reinstall some confidence that we can see games through and forget “It’ll be alright in January” and start the party early?
Come on boys! We’re all behind you 1000000%
Steve Evans made five changes from the draw at Newport, meaning five players kept their place from the win over Notts County game in midweek, and if we’re honest – it was those players coupled with strength in other areas that was the catalyst to such a good performance.
Keeping their place from Tuesday were Paul Anderson at Right Back, Rhys Bennett at centre half (who also started against Newport), Mal Benning at Left Back, Jacob Mellis and Joel Byrom in the centre of midfield, and the most important of all in terms of creativity and flare, CJ Hamilton on the left hand side.
Back in from the Newport game, Conrad Logan between the sticks, skipper Kyrstan Pearce, wing man Alex MacDonald and front two Danny Rose and Kane Hemmings.
In midweek Lee Angol had found the net within the opening minute, a feat nearly matched by Danny Rose as the Stags started with a spring in their step – as the ball was whipped in from the right hand side, Rose controlled well but on the spin – fired his effort into the side netting.
Neat football from Mansfield then saw Mellis heavily involved with both MacDonald and CJ Hamilton, however good Exeter defending prevented Mansfield from taking advantge, Conrad Logan on hand at the other end to keep out a seventh minute cross that looped up in the strong afternoon wind, moments later denying Kyle Edwards with his legs after the visitors had worked a neat give and go inside the Stags box.
The Stags then applied their own pressure with a series of set-plays, the delivery of Joel Byrom really teasing the visitors – Rhys Bennett stayed up from the back on 15 minute for the first of two efforts in as many minutes – MacDonald’s cross headed by Bennett against a red and white shirt for a corner – from which MacDonald’s delivery found Benning who curled wide from distance.
Three minutes later and excellent refereeing from Anthony Blackhouse saw advantage played on the half way line – Hemmings picked up the ball and swept it into the feet of Mellis down the left hand side. A energetic burst of pace from the creative midfielder opened up and as Hemmings continued his run – he completed the give and go by converting beneath Pym to open the scoring with his left boot from close range.
The Stags should have had a second on 27 minutes when MacDonald slotted through CJ Hamilton, the wingers touch let him down and Exeter got back to scramble clear, MacDonald then let fly two minutes later from range – but saw the ball thump wide.
Mansfield continued to play flowing football but for all their possession couldn’t find the second goal before the break.
Danny Rose came close to adding a second for the Stags on 53 minutes with a double chance, both efforts blocked after more quick football had opened up the visitors – Dan Moxey then kept the visitors in the game five minutes later as Hamilton played a lovely cut back from the byeline on the left – Mellis was in the right place and hit a well struck effort, blocked by a desperate Moxey three yards from goal.
The Stags would come even closer on 62 minutes as MacDonald played Hemmings clean through one vs one with Pym, the front man, eager for his second, opened up his body and hit a good effort which Pym just about got enough on the take the sting out of the ball – however it was still going in and only a phenomenal burst of pace from Moxey saw the former Derby County and Crystal Palace man get back, this time clearing the ball off of the line.
Troy Brown was next to thwart the Stags, blocking a Hemmings effort following a Rose flick on on 63 minutes as Paul Anderson threw the ball long into the box – three minutes later Brown got in the way of a MacDonald effort, destined for the back of the net.
Christy Pym then earned the plaudits for the visitors a minute later as Danny Rose let fly from 25 yards with a dipping volley, a flying save pushed the ball away for a corner. Pym was nearly embarrassed by his opposite number Logan on 82, as the Stags number one nearly ‘Did a Marriott’. Spotting Pym off his line, Logan smashed the ball long up park and, with a gust of wind behind it, saw the ball fly towards goal – Pym raced back and palmed the ball over.
With three minutes to go, the Stags hard work was undone as Exeter cut in from the left hand side and fired a shot towards Logan – he saved the initial effort but beat the ball away, straight into the path of Mansfield born Lee Holmes who got ahead of his markers to put a dagger through the heart of his fellow Mansfieldians and level the game.
The visitors were reduced to ten men in added on time as Kane Wilson, who’d been walking a tightrope since the first half, picked up his second yellow card for kicking the ball away – sadly, Mansfield failed to make it count and once again – had to cling on and thank Logan – his last minute save to deny substitute Jordan Storey a goal with his first touch, the last action as Mansfield dominated for the majority, but again – couldn’t make it pay.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-1 Exeter
Paul Anderson – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alex MacDonald – Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson 83) – Joel Byrom – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Lee Angol 88) – Kane Hemmings (Jimmy Spencer 78)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Ojejnik, Paul Digby, Omari Sterling-James, Calum Butcher
Attendance: 3,608 (360)
Referee: Anthony Blackhouse Assistants: Gary Holton, Paul Graham Fourth Offical Alan Clayton
With famous fans such Coldplay front-man Chris Martin, Comic Adrian Edmondson and allegedly Michael Jackson – there are a whole host of bottom young-ones, fixing you, smooth criminal puns I could make – but it’s another famous fan who takes the inspiration for tonight’s blog – step forward Mr Blobby himself, Noel Edmonds.
Tomorrow, Mansfield Town, how about this offer from the banker – A win, three points which kick start our season? Deal, or no deal?
Over the last week or so the Stags have awoken slowly from their nightmare slump and in their last three games have taken points from Barnet and Newport, and have also reminded Notts County who the better Nottinghamshire side are, albeit it the Checkatrade Trophy with ten changes.
A win is a win.
My point is, Exeter are a side who are always up there and always compete – but like us a few weeks ago, have started to slip – so tomorrow will be very keen to claw their form back against a side who, let’s be realistic here, also need to win to send a message to the rest of league two.
I’m a big fan of Exeter’s stability; they’ve done with Paul Tisdale what we kind of did with Paul Cox and given him time to mould a side and let him have the freedom to carry the club forward. He’s delivered too, back to back promotions shot the club into League One and despite relegation back into League Two a few seasons ago, he’s still at the helm – no doubt itching to return to league one after losing in last season’s play-off final.
The patience and stability is phenomenal at Exeter, they know their limits and use those weaknesses as strengths – selling key players at the right time but replacing them without blowing all the money in a ‘like for like’ deal.
I see that for Mansfield Town in the future, although I don’t see Steve Evans being manager for ten years – but I do foresee us as a club who are always tough to break down and will always be involved with a battle.
Tisdale is an excellent manager who cut his teeth way before Exeter with Team Bath, Tisdale masterminded their FA Cup run in 2002-03, which the Stags ended live on Sky, although in typical Stags style it wasn’t an easy ride!
The Stags have to be very careful over what changes they make tomorrow, would I go back to the side that took on Newport? Probably not actually – I think Evans will go for a 4-4-2 again although, having watched Exeter, we could risk a 3-4-1-2 again at home – but let’s go with the former for now.
The same back four as Newport bar Hayden White at right back – I’d go for Paul Anderson who was terrific at Notts County. Midfield is the issue, it’s clear that the pairing of Atkinson and Butcher doesn’t work as it lacks creativity, Mellis and Byrom looked fairly solid Tuesday although Byrom won’t be and shouldn’t be risked tomorrow – he needs 75 minutes Tuesday and then go from there.
Therefore I’d maybe move Potter central alongside Mellis, with MacDonald on the right and then CJ Hamilton, who put in an outstanding display midweek, out on the left with Angol, partnering Rose up front.
The main thing that needs to remain, is the flare and hunger – if we show flare and style – we’ll do what Luton did to Exeter and really open them up, we have the quality to do it – it’s time we proved it on the pitch.
Failure to do so, then in the return fixture – the players should be made to stay at Guest House Paradiso, listen to ‘fix you’ on a loop and talk to each other in the language of MR Blobby. Enough Exeter famous fans related gags? I know, they’re just bad…
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Craig Priest Writes…
Steve Evans made no secret that he wasn’t fussed about winning this evening’s game at Meadow Lane, and in fairness in the grand scheme of things we can understand that – however the one thing we wanted for the players who came in, to stand up, be counted and get a win under their belts.
And that they did, running out 2-1 winners at Meadow Lane in what was actually one of the, if not THE, best display of the season thus far.
From the off, the players looked up for the game, they wanted to play for the shirt and given recent weeks that was my big worry tonight, that we wouldn’t want it and get pummelled into the ground.
But we played with confidence and hunger and even when Notts County grabbed a goal back to level the game, I felt we had more in us and that we could go on and win it.
The competition may not matter to many, although again I’ll highlight the fact the additional money wouldn’t go a miss, and whilst tonight’s result puts the ball in our court – above all else it breeds confidence back into the dressing room and makes us unbeaten in three games on the road, perfect for Saturday against Exeter at the One Call Stadium.
Evans will no doubt have some questions to answer too over some players and positions, Joel Byrom I fear would be a risk to start him again in such a short space of time, but it was evident how much we’d missed his flare in the middle of the park. Paul Digby was excellent at centre back alongside Bennett whilst Paul Anderson was solid at right back and led the side well.
Mellis and Angol obviously deserve mentions but the player who gives Evans the biggest headache for me is CJ Hamilton, who showed his quality and pace throughout and capped the display with a wonderfully taken, and well deserved goal, if anyone deserves a run in the league it’s him.
Overall that was the Mansfield Town I’ve wanted to see for a long time, a team who moves the ball with fluidity, a team who defends well from start to finish and a team above all else who want to play regardless of the competition and who want to bring home success. The important thing now is just too go on, manage it within the squad and keep the momentum flowing.
Steve Evans said ‘significant changes’ would be made and stuck to his word, Rhys Bennett the only made who kept his place following Saturday’s rain swept draw at Newport. Bobby Oljenik, Paul Anderson, Paul Digby, Mal Benning, Omari Sterling-James, Joel Byrom, Jacob Melliss, CJ Hamilton, Lee Angol and Jimmy Spencer all came in – Jack Thomas was also named on the bench, having been recalled from Boston earlier in the day.
Mansfield got off to a flyer with Lee Angol staking his claim for a league start within the opening minute, the hungry front man capitalised on Haydn Hollis’ mistake on the edge of the county box, opening up his body and driving low into the bottom corner, being Branislav Pindroch in the county goal.
Four minutes later it should have been two-nil to rampant Mansfield as Joel Byrom’s deep cross was turned behind for a corner, Byrom himself delivered into the middle and Paul Digby met the inviting ball with a forceful header – Pindroch somehow clinging onto the ball on the line.
Jimmy Spencer then saw an effort blocked by Dan Jones, and it was he who tested the water for the hosts on 14 minutes, dragging an effort wide of Olejnik’s goal from 20 yards.
Spencer again then nearly doubled the Stags tally on 27 minutes as he was played into the area, Omari Sterling-James with the assist with a soft lob over the top, Spencer spun his marker well and fired a fierce effort against the woodwork – the loose ball fell to Angol who was robbed of an open goal as Shaun Brisley put in a brave challenge.
The Stags had a spot kick turned down on the half hour, before five minutes later were pegged level as the experienced Alan Smith converted from a corner with a well timed run, Mansfield however claimed a foul on Digby as Smith appeared to throw him to the ground, but as always – play to the whistle!
From the restart the Stags looked to regain their advantage as Sterling-James came close with a low effort, Mellis and Spencer also saw efforts fail to find the net before the referee drew a close to a first half which the Stags pretty much controlled.
CJ Hamilton was causing Notts County all sorts of problems and sent in a testing cross which Sterling-James connected with, turned behind for a corner by Jones from which Byroms’ delivery nearly caught Pindoch out.
Liam Walker dragged one towards goal on 55 minutes which Oljenik turned behind, the Stags survived the set-play as County failed to find a way back into the game.
At the other end Hamilton saw a header held by Pindoch on 68 minutes as the ball zipped about in the area, the home keeper nay have won that battle but it was a role reversal just five minutes later, as Anderson’s cross was punched out into the path of Hamilton, who controlled with his chest, span his marked and blazed into the top corner with his right foot from 14 yards – a thunderous strike to put the Stags back in front.
Mal Benning nearly added the Stags third with 11 minutes to go as a free kick zipped up off the surface, Pindroch quick to push the ball up and away – the home keeper was on hand again a minute later, this time Hamilton curling one from 25 yards towards the top corner.
The Stags saw out the final moments of the match with solid defending, Evans men now can still qualify for the knockout stages – if they beat Everton U23s next Tuesday, it’ll then all depend on the outcome of the Lincoln V Notts County match the following week.
Full Time: Notts County 1-2 Stags
Paul Anderson © - Paul Digby – Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Omari Sterling-James (Alfie Potter 89) – Jacob Mellis – Joel Byrom (Jack Thomas 58) – CJ Hamilton
Lee Angol (Kane Hemmings 90) – Jimmy Spencer
Unused Substitutes: Conrad Logan, Krystian Pearce, Danny Rose, Will Atkinson
Referee: Graham Horwood Assistants Duncan Street, Joe Simpson Fourth Official John Brooks
Attendance 2,290 (405)
‘Neque deditionem’ is latin for ‘No Surrender’ however I can’t help but feel that even before kick-off, Steve Evans has thrown in the towel and his team talk will be geared more towards getting fitness up than actually going out to win the game. But hey, what do you expect when the match is in a competition which very few actually care about.
Evans is open with his opinion on the Checkatrade Trophy, he doesn’t care about it and insists the league takes priority.
Whilst of course he is right, it’s disheartening to think that tomorrow night the Mansfield Town management will be putting out a team not in the mind-set to win a game against a fierce local rival – a win which after a slight up turn in form, would have possibly helped to reignite our fire.
‘Significant Changes’ will be made by Evans as he rests legs for Saturday, fair enough – however I was hoping for a more impassioned Steve Evans whose body language screamed that he wanted anything other than this game – in fact he might as well have said “I’m leaving Paul Raynor in charge tomorrow, I’m washing my hair whilst watching repeats of The Bill” – yes be open in the fact you’re making changes, but at least play the media a little by urging the fringe players to come in, get a win and steak a claim for three points.
There are three things that worry me about this situation, the first is what message to his body language send to the players – surely they’ll be like ‘well if the gaffer doesn’t care why should we?’ That’s not an attitude I would want, it certainly wouldn’t motivate me to go out and steak a claim for a shirt on Saturday.
The second is, if the game we’re a dead rubber I’d be 100% behind resting as many legs as possible – but it’s not, not only is it a local derby, but we also have a chance of qualification and the opportunity to bank some extra money by getting through which could buy us a striker in January and impact us in our bid for promotion. Given the depth we have, that shouldn’t be an issue and I’m sure that John Radford would welcome an extra source of income having paid out what he has thus far, for little return!
People have criticised the Trophy and the continued low turnouts don’t help, but financially the prize money for a club of our stature can’t be ignored, looked at what winning the competition did for Coventry last season, the money they earned has been invested and the rewards are bound to come.
That leads me nicely onto my third worry – if we lose tomorrow we are pretty much out, as will Everton U23s should they lose to Lincoln tomorrow – meaning our game next Tuesday at the One Call is dead and our lowest ever attendance may be recorded – no footballer wants to play in somewhere soulless and play a game that means nothing.
Regardless of the competitions stature or reputation, I look at tomorrow like this – it’s a competitive match against our local rivals who will want to get one over on us following our recent league game. It is an opportunity for players to get out there and claim a shirt and for the entirety of the group, it’s a chance to get a few goals and a win – bringing some more confidence back into the dressing room.
Not for a second am I saying going and play the strongest side available, I’m saying at least give it a go and start sending the right messages out to supporters and to our competitors – a game of football is a game of football, and victory is victory.
‘Per Angusta Ad Augusta’ means ‘through trial to triumph’ – a football season is just that a trial, a test of ability, desire and courage – triumph is the end goal we all seek, so why not go away, game by game and find some?
Craig Priest writes…
Given Newport’s remarkable 2017 turnaround in form, a point at Rodney Parade doesn’t seem too bad, especially with Storm Brian causing havoc – however looking back, the Stags coped well with Brian’s blustering’s and so on reflection, coming away from Rodney Parade with just a point, for my money, just makes Mansfield the proverbial plonkers.
Personally I think the first half saw the best 45 minutes of our season yet as a collective team, we knew we we’re up against it but played for each other and threw ourselves at everything, being patient enough at the other end to grab a deserved goal which highlights how good of a front man Danny Rose is.
Newport’s success is down to their work rate, whilst they only have one style of play which proves effective, they don’t stop and you can’t afford to switch off for a second, which of course we did and got punished. They like to get the ball wide and put deep, high crosses, into the box – playing particularly for set-pieces and throw-ins which they hurl in long, especially when they are fighting to get back into the game.
The equaliser stemmed from not turning and facing play and prevent any short release, we trotted back to the half way line with our backs to Newport’s play – so many times they naturally played short, pinged balls down their left hand side, catching White wondering and winning a throw via a deflected cross, from which they were bound to score.
Simple mistakes in the space of a minute saw us again drop two points – at this stage of the season, that’s not good enough.
As much as I want to take my frustration of a personally awful day out on berating the team, I won’t – because if you take away that ONE minute, I felt we we’re good enough to keep that ticking over and start to build something.
Naturally when Newport scored the pendulum swung in their favour and they began to pepper our goal – forget storm Brian, it was Storm Conrad that kept Newport at bay with a tremendous performance between the sticks in the last quarter of the game, that point belongs to Conrad Logan for me.
As a whole we we’re excellent given the conditions and the style we came up against, Johnny Hunt was tremendous back in at left back, Rhys Bennett looks far more natural in the middle whilst back in midfield, Alfie Potter added that sparkle we’ve been missing. If you get Bryom back in there as well and take away the storm, we’ll start to climb – so long as we improve our concentration and see games out!
A week ago after horror shows against Cheltenaham, Colchester and Swindon I feared a collapse – yet we’ve made two long journeys in a short space of time and grafted out two good points.
YES it should be six from six or at the very least four, BUT in the bigger picture we’ve stopped the rot, stayed together and found more than one way of playing – we know what we have to do know, fix the broken links and battle over the next week with Notts County (The competition is irrelevant, a win is vital to keep us ticking over) and then Exeter – two tough tests which will really show if Mansfield Town are up to the challenge or not.
With storm Brian having a huge impact on proceedings, Steve Evans reverted back to 4-4-2 and made three changes to the starting line-up which drew at Barnet in midweek, Johnny Hunt replaced Mal Benning, Rhys Bennett replaced the injured David Mirfin whilst after Alfie Potter also came back in after nearly a month’s absence, he replaced Paul Digby in the change of shape.
Newport started applying the pressure from the off, however the Stags were resolute and organised, Alfie Potter and Danny Rose amongst the early white shirts to clear the Stags lines, Ben Tozer hurled in a long throw on 11 minutes and put Stags’ hearts in mouths, O’Brien however relieving the pressure as he headed harmlessly over.
Three minutes later the Stags had a sight of goal as Danny Rose’s flick through the middle was handled, Alex MacDonald’s resulting free kick cleared away – a minute later however a second opportunity presented itself when Hemming’s was fouled – skipper Pearce nodding the ball into the mix, Newport however scrambled the ball away.
Will Atkinson took advantage of Dan Butler’s slip on 19 minutes before a scrambling Newport got back to clear their lines, three minutes later – patience from Mansfield turned to gold, as Danny Rose put the Stags ahead.
It all stemmed from a deep cross from Hayden White, nodded into the air by the Newport defence only for Rose to scramble to his feet, hold off three and play the ball wide for Potter. His first time delivery into Hemmings deflected straight into the path of Rose, who span on the spot and drilled into the bottom corner for his eighth of the season.
A minute after the restart the Stags had a chance for two but we’re left worrying as Rose required treatment, being pulled to the floor. Johnny Hunt stepped up and hit the set-play against the wall, Rose meanwhile, was OK to continue.
At the other End, Hunt showed his strength in the air to turn behind a Butler cross after the full back got the better of Hayden White, Krystian Pearce nodded behind the corner from Matt Dolan who trotted over to the opposite side to take the second successive corner – Pearce again there to head clear, this time for a throw.
On the half hour it was Bennett to the rescue half a yard from goal as Frank Nouble got in ahead of Logan to steer towards goal, allowing the Stags to breathe again. Johnny Hunt was then to the rescue on the stroke of half time as Dolan delivered from deep for David Pipe, Hunt at full stretch to turn the ball away for a corner – from which the Stags survived a goalmouth scramble to go in one goal to the good at the whistle.
After the break it was as you were, with Newport still intent on pulling level, good work from Butcher stopped the hosts finding a way through, whilst on 53 minutes, the Exiles appealed for a spot-kick against Bennett for handball – a minute later the Stags claimed their own as Butcher’s effort appeared to strike a hand, neither were given.
Kane Hemmings came close to grabbing his second is as many games on 56 minutes, bringing down a directional pass and spinning before shooting wide, four minutes later it was another close call as MacDonald curled a free kick into the box – Alfie Potters effort cannoning off the post and out of play.
Newport then finally broke the Stags resilience as on 79 minutes, a long throw hurled into the area saw Mansfield fail to track the run of substitute Shawn McCoulsky who nipped into volley the ball beyond Logan to level the scores.
From there, the Stags were on the back foot, McCoulsky seeing two further efforts land wide before Nouble skipped the challenges of Hunt and MacDonald on 78 minutes, Logan down early and low to prevent Nouble from putting the hosts in front.
Two minutes later, Logan again denied Nouble with a fine save down low which was zipping into the bottom corner, Logan again called into action on 84 minutes, this time jumping well to tip over a drive from Sean Rigg, the former AFC Wimbledon man looked hungry for a goal.
Logan again produced the goods four minutes from time as a close range header caught Mansfield in a storm, and unable to find a break through at the other end, the Stags kept possession well running down four minutes of additional time to secure a second point on the road in as many games.
FULL TIME: Newport County 1-1 Stags
Hayden White – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Alfie Potter (Paul Anderson 87) – Calum Butcher – Will Atkinson – Alex MacDonald
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 72) – Kane Hemmings (Omari Sterling-James 72)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Digby, Jacob Mellis, Lee Angol
Referee: Charles Breakspear
Attendance: 3,146 (160)
If I were to don my best accent and say ‘gobaith a gogoniant’ would you know what I was saying? ‘gobaith a gogoniant’ is Welsh for ‘hope and glory’ and that is exactly what the Stags need tomorrow, hope of seeing a game through to the very last whistle, and glory in the form of three points.
The south-wales outfit have been the shining example of how to turn yourself around, many predicted Newport to crash back into the conference towards the back end of last season as they went through managers like a pot of Pringles (once you pop, you just can’t stop).
However when they appointed First Team Coach Micky Flynn as caretaker boss, he masterminded the ‘Great Escape’ taking the club from being 11 points adrift at the bottom of the table, to safety by two points, with a dramatic 2-1 win over Notts County thanks to a 89th minute winner.
Newport, with Flynn as permanent manager, are now continuing to fly having recruited well with the likes of Pádraig Amond and Frank Nouble – they’ve win seven of their fourteen games thus far to climb to sixth in the table.
Their treat comes in the air, they like to get the ball wide and ping crosses into the danger area – should Steve Evans stick with three at the back tomorrow (which I believe he should, more on that in a moment), Hayden White and Mal Benning must not stray too far forward, they must stop the crosses and the team as a whole, must focus from set-plays and watch the long throw which they love to utilise time and time again.
The Stags made progress with three at the back on Tuesday evening and if Evans can get the team selection right tomorrow, I’d stick with it and build on it. I’d go with the same back three, you will really see Paul Digby start to shine in that back three, although if Mirfin is unable to recover from his back spasm, I’d have no problem with Rhys Bennett in there, he’s a terrific central defender as he proved last season.
I’d be tempted to swap out Hayden White for Alfie Potter, moving MacDonald from that central attacking role to a wing back role, he’s a battler who does not stop running, he is a very good defensive player with attacking flair – I think MacDonald in the right wing back slot would shore us up against Newport’s deep crossing game as Hayden White often goes for a wonder around the park and gets lost in the trees.
Including Potter would really add fire to our counter attacking game getting box to box, something we’ve been missing – I’d also be tempted by Jimmy Spencer to come in and be the hold up man, backing into the Newport defence and bringing the likes of Potter, Atkinson and Butcher into play and opening up the gaps.
One factor which will play a huge part, and could even see the game not go ahead at all, is storm Brian. The high and strong winds will not favour Newport’s deep direct game, but in the same respect, could also put us under pressure if we’re playing into the wind.
It’s a big game for a number of reasons, non-more so than Mansfield Town thus far have been playing half asleep, they’ve been nowhere near the standard they can be and we’ve frankly been a huge let down. On Tuesday I felt we did enough to win and looked brighter in the new system, had Evans brought on fresh legs earlier we might have brought home maximum points.
If we play that way on the counter again but stay focussed and dominant at the back AND stay switched on for the full match, we’ll go toe to toe with Newport and give them perhaps their toughest test of the season. We just have to go out and work hard, soak up the pressure and take our chances when they come, this can be the turning point.
Fail to do so coupled with a defeat to Notts County on Tuesday and we may be in a little too deep to swim to where we want to be. But, let’s be positive here – it is in our hands… ‘tri phwynt’… that’s three points in English! COME ON BOYS
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Craig Priest writes…
Mansfield Town returned from the capital last night with the annoying sensation you get after you’ve been stung, but after a 1-1 draw against the struggling Londoners – I sit here pondering if, in the grand scheme of things, a point is a bad one or not?
Naturally it is, we should have beaten Barnet and we should have closed the game out at one-nil up, however after the way we’ve performed in recent weeks (nothing short of tooth-extractingly painfull) a point SHOULD heal some dressing room wounds.
Steve Evans gambled last night switching from a flat 4-4-2 to a 3-4-1-2 /3-5-2 depending on your preference system. I’d say it was the former with MacDonald playing centrally off the shoulder off of the front two, argue away.
The system lends itself beautifully to counter-attacking play and if you watch the game back, there were a number of opportunities we created on the counter which Barnet couldn’t cope with, we just needed a little bit more creativity and luck to make them count. It’s obvious that we miss Joel Byrom and Alfie Potter, those two in that system would have a field day.
Because we’d changed the system it took us a while to find our rhythm but the important thing is that we didn’t concede early doors and cause the fracture in the thin ice – Digby slotted into the back three well, no surprise considering that’s where he played prior to signing here, whilst Bennings inclusion highlights the importance of the reserves, as he’d been playing as wing back in the same system for the last few games – a safer choice than asking Hunt to play what is a different role higher up the pitch.
Now for the negative, we only took a point home because we didn’t play 90 minutes AGAIN! After 60 minutes it was clear to see we we’re struggling to find a second goal and when Mirfin pulled up injured on 53, we perhaps should have dropped back into a 4-4-2 moving Atkinson and MacDonald out wide as Barnet came at us – because to be fair to them, they were the only team in the game for the last quarter of the game, the goal was always coming – especially with return of the shaq up front. The headline writers dream really.
The frustration comes too from the two final substitutions coming after Barnet’s 85th minute leveller, we needed fresh legs long before that as we were getting run into the ground, but hey – I’m no football manager, I’m just a humble fan watching like the rest of you.
Newport is a tough place to go, but I’d stick with a 3-4-1-2 (3-5-2 depending on your preference) the only tweaks I’d make is the aforementioned Byrom/ Potter in one of the central roles, pushing MacDonald to right wing back as he’s very good at playing the defensive role – or maybe Anderson, with White making way. Digby is very good at mopping up – see ‘The interceptor’ blog for reference, but White leaves that side exposed and too often Digby has to revert from being the ‘sweep up and smash it’ role to playing out and out right back.
A final note on that, there were some critical comments over ‘long ball’ – three at the back is purposely a ‘directional’ ball system – your back three are there to do nothing but smash it long if they’re sitting deep, it’s the front two’s job to hold play up and get the midfield into play, once they have the ball – quick, fluid movement opens teams up and creates chances whereas ‘long ball’ is basically Sunday league hit and hope, watch back the video of some of our chances, we didn’t do that – there’s a sly difference between the two.
Hopefully Evans sticks with the system as we go to Newport which has become a must win game, purely for confidence, but we must not take two steps back – a point, albeit it frustrating and disappointing, is a point of progressing – taking the sting from the tale of defeats.
Three changes were made by Evans as he switched the system, to a back three, with Paul Digby, Mal Benning and Kane Hemmings introduced – White and Benning played as wing backs with Digby the right side of the back three with Pearce and Mirfin – MacDonald and Atkinson interchanged as the centre attacking midfielder, playing just off the shoulder of Rose and Hemmings.
The Stags took time to settle into their new formation but critically face few early Barnet onslaughts, Mauro Vilhete failed to make an early cross count in the opening minute, before Conrad Logan held onto a 25 yard effort from the much travelled ex-Jamaican international Jamal Campbell-Ryce five minutes later.
Former Stag Shaq Coulthirst dragged an effort wide from distance but it would soon be his ex-strike partner Danny Rose that would test the water for the Stags at the other end, Rose curling a shot into the palms of Craig Ross after Atkinson had opened up space on the left hand side.
On fifteen minutes the Bee’s claimed a penalty as Simeon Akinola went to ground following a Pearce challenge, Craig Hicks waved played on deeming the Stags skipper to have fairly won the ball – five minutes later the referee switched sides and awarded the hosts a free-kick, this time Pearce pulled back Akinola, fortunately outside the area.
However it was at the other end where Mansfield’s fluency in the new system shone, Danny Rose was first to try his luck as the ball was swung into the box – the leading hit man’s effort was hacked away but only as far as MacDonald, his well struck shot cannoned away off of the legs of Ross with 21 on the clock.
Six minutes later Rose held a directional ball well before feeding in Hemmings, the Oxford loanee very unlucky to see the pass cut out on his toes, on 32 after Mirfin was felled – MacDonald then set-up Hemmings from the resulting free-kick 25 yards from goal, the effort flew narrowly wide of Ross’ goal.
There was concern for Mirfin with ten to go before the break as he looked to have dislocated a finger, it was quickly popped back into place and taped up before the towering defender returned to the pitch, meeting MacDonald’s corner two minutes later but heading over the bar.
The hosts headed wide a corner at the other end but on the stroke of half-time, Mansfield found the breakthrough as Hayden white cut across park before being brought to the ground. Alex MacDonald stepped up to whip the ball in, Kane Hemmings stuck out his left boot in the middle to convert beyond Ross, finally getting his first goal in Stags colours.
After the restart Mansfield started well in search of a second as MacDonald was hurled to the floor on 48 minutes, Pearce nodded the ball towards the far post for Danny Rose from the resulting set-play, the front man judged to have the final touch as the ball landed wide.
Mansfield’s system again opened up Barnet on the counter two minutes later as playing from back to front, White cantered forward picking out Hemmings, Campbell-Ryce got back well to cover and nip the ball away before directly at the other end, Logan has to palm away a dipping effort from Vilhete.
Mirfin had to be replaced by Bennett on 52 minutes, the switch Barnet needed to spark them into life as they applied the pressure. The Stags did well to soak it up and at the other end did have the ball in the net a second time as Atkinson drove one into the top corner, the goal not allowed as Rose was penalised for a foul as he backed into his marker before laying the ball to the Stags number 11.
‘Shaq-attack’ nearly grabbed the leveller on 70 minutes as he got the better of Pearce but two minutes later, Craig Ross saved the game for the hosts as Mansfield wonderfully countered, Rose picked out Hemmings free in the box, his curling low effort palmed away by Ross – had that gone in, it would have been game over.
However the save inspired Barnet again and after attack after attack, Barnet got their reward with five minutes to go, Conrad Logan made a good stop to an initial Barnet effort inside a mele of players, the former Stags loanee was first on hand to grab his seventh of the season against his former club.
Barnet then should have gone onto win the game but fortunately the Stags did just enough to see the game out, thanks in no small part o Paul Digby, Mal Benning and a top draw save from Logan who tipped over Charlie Clough’s looping header as the Stags failed to deal with a right sided long throw.
FULL TIME: Barnet 1-1 Stags
Paul Digby – Krystain Pearce © – David Mirfin (Rhys Bennet 53)
Hayden White – Calum Butcher – Will Atkinson – Mal Benning
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 90+3) – Kane Hemmings (Omari Sterling-James 88)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Jacob Mellis, Lee Angol, CJ Hamilton (Replaced Paul Anderson in the warm-up)
Referee: Craig Hicks Assistants Abdrew Aylott, Louis Marks Fourth Offical Nigel Lugg
Attendance 1,262 (223)
Some mornings we wake up haunted by the past, a photograph may remind you of a time that once was – but rather than get caught wallowing in sorrow as we all have been guilty of, eventually there comes a time where you stand up – and walk on.
For the past few games we’ve questioned the commitment of the players and the manager, a man wanted by every club going at times – today Steve Evans has nailed his colours to the mast, those colours are amber and blue.
What is more, Evans has admitted things haven’t been right both on and off the pitch in terms of systems, personnel and perhaps overloading instructions – so with a week practically on the road, there’s no better time than to come together and make some honey at the hive.
Barnet are a sticky team to tackle and whilst they struggle to face in your face football, up front they typically, have a player we declined to resign as he wasn’t lighting fires in the Amber and Blue in Shaq. Now he’s a serial arsonist with six of Barnet’s 16 goals so far – there’s no room for friendships tomorrow from any of the Stags players who played with the hit man during his loan spell last season.
Out away form hasn’t been great and we must get that out of our minds, let’s go back to battling for every scrap of the ball, running from the very first, to the very last whistle. Physiologically a win at Barnet is huge to get some belief back into the dressing room and a little bit more energy in the legs, ideal for Saturday’s trip to Newport followed by the short trip to Meadow Lane for the Checkatrade match.
Speaking in his press conference today, Evans said "We'll work hard; that's how we turn things. You have to keep the focus. I believe in this group of players. You learn more when you have days like Saturday than when you beat Notts County.”
He’s right, remember that old saying – fall down nine times, stand up ten. Well as the Stags head to the hive, it’s time to get our buzz back, bathe in honey and get this season back on the rails!
Mark Plumb Writes...
Mansfield Town suffered a heavy 3-1 defeat at the hands of Swindon Town at Field Mill. The first half started with both teams having plenty of the ball in the early exchanges but it was the away side who took the lead in just 4 minutes when, from a free kick the ball got whipped in for Linganzi who was their to convert from close range.
Disappointing start for the Stags, who should have dealt better with the marking from the free kick. As the half wore on Mansfield were huffin and puffin and created a good chance from Spencer shot, which was well saved the Swindon keeper. It was difficult to pick any stand out performers for us but I felt Butcher did well to intercept a few passes and made a few good tackles, coming back deep.
Mellis also had plenty of the ball but not being able to create anything in good positions. Swindon doubled their lead courtesy of Goddard who finished off from a good attacking move from the away side to make it 2-0. Changes had to be made from a disappointing performance from our perspective. It came with Angol replacing Spencer and Sterling James coming on for Atkinson. It was to get much worse for the Stags as the half wore on with Swindon dominating possession and looking threatening every time going forward. Adding salt to the wounds the away side were awarded a penalty when Pearce looked to have draw the foul. Up stepped Norris to slot home and kill the game off 3-0.
The game was crying out for a Jamie Maguire type player to get stuck in and a leader of the pitch to install some passion and belief. We got a constellation goal from Rose who did well to direct his shot past the keeper making it 3-1.
Full time whistle blew and the Stags were put out of their misery. For me the frustration of it is we know we have the players and have a good squad but it means nothing if you don’t play with pride or passion, which I feel is something that lot of players lack in today’s game. Credit to Swindon they played good football and were well organised.
As a supporter all we ask from our team is for them to give it their all and to want to wear the shirt with pride, getting our money’s worth. I felt today we should have had a reaction from the disappointing result against Colchester a week before, hoping that result would just a bad at the office. Even though it is still a new squad, some of the players need to really step up their game and prove their worth.
It is all well and good doing it in league one and championship but league 2 is a tougher league where you have to get stuck in and show some ruthlessness. Onwards and upwards for away trip to Barnet. Up the stags !!!!
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