Craig Priest writes…
The sound of fingernails scratching down a chalkboard, a tooth being ripped out by a psychotic dentist, Christmas shoppers, stubbing your toe and that mate who always insists on murdering ‘wonderwall’ on karaoke – all prime definitions and examples of the word ‘excruciating’. None however, come close to Saturday 14th October 2017 – Mansfield Town 1-3 Swindon Town.
A second gutless and below par performance on a whole saw Mansfield Town crushed like a paper cup under the boot of a giant. From the very first whistle, there seemed to be no life behind the eyes of our players and other than a brief spell between the first and second goal, the Stags looked nothing other than a team of rabbit-in-the-headlight-like zombies with concrete boots – and that is simply not good enough.
I said it last week, play well with desire and get beat 3-1 then fair enough – at least you gave it a go, but to play AGAIN with no passion, no flare, no want, no desire and no energy is beyond disappointing.
What really annoys me is that Steve Evans has continued his line of thought from last week, having an obvious but subtle dig at the fans, stating some of his players had ‘Stage Fright’ in fear of what response they got. For a man who has got nine promotions and experience at all levels, he should know that’s just part of the game and to get on with it. Comedians get heckled all the time on stage, do they cry off and cancel a tour because of it? No they find a response and win.
Do I want Steve Evans to leave? No. Do I think he will? Not unless it’s for a top 10 league one club or any championship side. Do I want Steve Evans to drop this vendetta-like line of answers towards the fans? Yes, it’s like when your Mrs say’s ‘Does my bum look big in this’ – your just digging yourself a whole really.
He just needs to understand that this is Mansfield Town FC in league two, pampering players and trying to protect them from the kid who steals the lunch money at school is not the way forward. This is a town of grit, determination and fight for the outcome we ALL want – success.
His comments of ‘Me and Paul need to evaluate what we’re doing’ won’t have helped because in the wake of such defeat, it’ll be taken as ‘Basically we’re going to Gillingham’ – whereas realistically it’s a look at their approach to training and game management, because clearly ruling with an iron fist is simply not working.
The players are in a pressure pot and when they step out on the pitch, must feel like they’re playing on thin ice – yesterday they looked petrified of falling into the murky waters below for an ice cold swim with a shark or four.
They also look embarrassed, every time Evans berates the fourth official and/or referee, the players look like school boys in the playground as their overbearing mother shouts ‘love you pumpkin have a good day’ and blows kisses over the fence. Bold statement here, but every time the referee went over to Evans yesterday I was willing him to get sent off so the players could relax a little and maybe, fight their way back into the game.
Questions will be asked over the penalty – you’ve seen them given, you’ve seen them not given. GET ON WITH IT! There’s no room for blaming the referee, the simple fact is from back to front as a whole, we simple we’re not good enough and Swindon, had the easiest afternoon they’ll have all season.
We are missing some quality in midfield, Alfie Potter and Joel Byrom being the prime examples – the sooner we have them back the better, but again it’s time for change within the team because regardless of results (I refer to the Cambridge game especially) we’ve been poor performance wise four of out five games now – that doesn’t bode well for a side who are supposedly promotion contenders.
Steve Evans made three changes from the defeat at Colchester, bringing Hayden White into the back four, Jacob Mellis into the midfield and, despite only having featured sporadically – Jimmy Spencer was brought in up front.
The Stags started relatively well within the opening minute, quick football saw the ball sprayed wide left for Johnny Hunt, however his deep cross was too heavy for the onrushing Hayden White – and as the home faithful dreamt of a nice afternoon, they were soon brought back down to earth with a bang.
It all stemmed from Alex MacDondald’s poor foul on Paul Mullin near the goal line with four minutes gone – from the moment the referee blew you sensed a goal, and from the delivery, Amine Linganzi nipped in, losing his makers and converted past a static Logan.
Four minutes later as the visitors launched over the top, Logan came rushing out but was beaten to the ball by Keshi Anderson, fortunately the Stags managed to scramble clear as Mansfield started to crumble.
The Stags had their first real sight of goal a minute later as MacDonald picked out Jimmy Spencer, he failed to cap his first league start for the club with a goal – miss-hitting his shot and killing the danger.
Danny Rose nearly got on the end of a Hunt cross with 19 minutes played but six minutes later, Logan prevented a Swindon second as Anderson fed Luke Norris into the area, the former Brentford youngster denied by Logan’s legs before Paul Mullin fired the lose ball over. A minute later, Danny Rose nearly saw sight of goal, but for a string last ditch challenge.
Reice Charles-Cook was called into action in the Swindon goal on the half-hour, palming away Jimmy Spencer’s stinging half volley, before three minutes later the glovesman held onto a MacDonald drive, following a give and go with Will Atkinson.
On the stroke of half time with Stags fans just about believing they could find a way back into the game, Hayden White was beaten for pace down the right hand side and a low cross was turned, again past a static Logan, by John Goddard to double Swindon’s lead.
Lee Angol and Omari Sterling-James replaced Atkinson and Spencer at the break, Sterling-James nearly opened a door just seconds from the whistle but his cross found a red shirt, before five minutes later – Angol tried his luck from a tight angle but saw the visiting keeper equal to it.
With 53 minutes played, game, set and match as a cross into the middle saw White and Norris get in a tussle, you’ve seen them given either way but on this occasion – a spot kick awarded which Norris duly stepped up to take, sending Logan the wrong way for 3-0.
Half chances for each followed but it was very much game over as soon as the penalty hit the net, Danny Rose did find the net in the last minute as MacDonald clipped him through on goal – his 7th of the season a mere consolation but did mean the Stags didn’t go a second game without scoring, but at that point it was very much like a burglar saying ‘You can keep the bricks’ after cleaning out your house. Yeah, thanks for that mate.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-3 Swindon Town
Hayden White – Krystain Pearce © - David Mirfin – Johnny Hunt
Will Atkinson (Omari Sterling-James HT) – Calum Butcher – Jacob Mellis – Alex MacDonald
Danny Rose – Jimmy Spencer (Lee Angol HT)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Rhys Bennett, Paul Anderson, CJ Hamilton, Kane Hemmings
Attendance: 4,081 (523)
Referee: Oliver Langford Assistants Michael George, James Wilson Fourth Official Christopher Sarginson
As Swindon arrive at the One Call Stadium tomorrow, Mansfield Town need to do just one thing – recover, as individuals and as a team, to get their season back on track after a turbulent few weeks of performances.
Yes the Notts County derby-day victory is still recent and some will therefor argument my claim of ‘Turbulent few weeks’ – but let’s be honest, things go out of the window on Derby Day and that match a side, our performances haven’t been great for a fair few weeks now.
Swindon are a good side managed by the experienced David Flitcroft who knows exactly what it takes to get teams promoted from this level and compete higher up, after taking charge in the summer once a certain Steve Evans opted to stay with the Stags – he’s assembled a good squad and there an ‘all or nothing’ side who will be in the mix.
In League Two thus far we’re unbeaten at home and are fourth in the home form table for the last six matches – we’re making it difficult for teams to come and play us which is great, but if anyone have the quality to disrupt that, it’s Swindon – especially if we play the way we have been doing.
The silly mistakes have to stop, the energy levels have got to rise and the want and desire has also got to re-appear pretty sharpish ahead of a week where really, you need to be focussed and switched on with trips to Barnet and Newport within the next week to come.
Swindon play quickly from back to front but are very much a confidence team, reflected in the fact they’ve suffered heavy losses against the likes of Crawley (3-0) and Barnet (4-1) but in turn have comfortably beaten Luton and Stevenage – tomorrow is very much about who takes the front foot early.
If I were Steve Evans I’d be looking to mix things up, it’s risky but I’d be tempted with a 3-4-1-2 formation – bringing Rhys Bennett back into the fold alongside Pearce and Mirfin in the central role, a position he’d far better suited too for me – performing well as captain for the reserves against Rainworth and Grimsby in recent weeks in that role.
Going three at the back allows a little more expression in our play and if we get the midfield combination right, we’ll be able to push higher up and stay tight. Watching Swindon’s highlights, for me it seems like they struggle with pace and flair down the flanks – with that, I’d be tempted by CJ Hamilton. The wide man looked sharp in pre-season and, like Bennett, has impressed in the reserves – he deserves a shot, especially with the miles and games we’ve got coming up, fresh legs and flare are exactly what we’ve lacked.
To be fair, I can sit here all night and harp on about how we should play at Swindon’s weak-link, but the honest issue is Mansfield Town turning up and WANTING to win the game. That was the frustration last weekend and at Cheltenham, it needs to not become a problem – and sometimes when problems are becoming more regular, you just need to face them head on.
We do have the quality within the dressing room, it’s time to show it on the pitch and show the league exactly who we are. It’s a massive ask, BUT honestly I see no reason why we can’t come away from the next three games (Swindon, Barnet and Newport) with the maximum nine points and show some consistency and depth.
Craig Priest writes…
In the blockbuster movies and bestselling novels, the protagonists when faced with a challenge find it within themselves to stand and make a challenge. They’ll stare down the face of a shotgun, they’ll walk through fire and crawl on broken glass. They’ll be heroes. Imagine Mansfield Town FC’s players to be the protagonists, imagine the match against Colchester to be the setting – did they stand and deliver? A 2-0 defeat say’s quite simply… No.
There are always inspiring figures in these setting’s – someone to say something like “You’re never going to live if you’re too scared to die” in this instance, that man would be Steve Evans, but rather than channel his inner Churchill, all he does in his most match comments is over-hype the players and have a pop at the fans – and not only does that frustrate me, it also disappoints me.
Naturally they’ll have been a selection of fans who went OTT as the players came across, but also they have a right to show their frustrations after working hard to come and watch what was essentially a gutless display, with no heart or desire to play for Mansfield Town Football Club.
The way Evans describes it, it’d seem like for the entirety of the second half, Mansfield played fluid and slick football firing shot after shot at goal, only to be denied by everything possible. He describes it like Mansfield ran their socks off and did everything in their power to mount a comeback – the fact is, they didn’t. Nobody seemed to care. Had they cared, had they battled like galactic warriors to get back into the game, 100% they’d have been applauded off and any frustration would have been non-existent.
The reality is, we were out played by a dull Colchester side who scored two easy goals and saw the game out – we were flat, we lacked energy and leadership, we had no bite or urgency about us whatsoever. I hate comparing us to Luton BUT in the game where we capitulated and drew 2-2 from a 2-0 lead, Luton were poor but never gave up, they had hope and flare and THAT is the difference. In the same position, the only hope we had was ‘none in hell’ and the only flare? Well that’d be in Paul Raynor or Steve Evans wardrobe circa the 1970s and 80s.
I can picture it now, the intense music is blurring as the battlefield comes into view and tension rises – Mansfield Town your supporters need you, a leader must step up, and then, Mike Bassett Manager (The ITV Series) “Run away lads, there’s no shame in running away” bellows the manager. Pathetic, I might do that at work next week and then see how I pay my bills for the rest of the year.
In places we we’re OK, I thought Sterling-James was excellent and showed the spark we needed going forwards, we looked hungry to be fair at 0-0 but as soon as we conceded such a week goal we fell apart and you could read from the body language that even at 1-0 down with all that time left to play, it was going to be a long way bloody home.
We had about five minutes in the second half where, had we scored, I’d be writing about an epic comeback – but we ran out of steam far too quickly, and resorted to smashing the ball forward – which the two centre backs lapped up all afternoon.
It’s fair to say yesterday is a memory that won’t ever last – we need to come together now and get our house in order, otherwise – kiss goodbye to your dreams of something special, because gutless runaways never make heroes.
Steve Evans made one change from the previous week’s victory over Notts County as Omari Sterling-James replaced the injured Alfie Potter, the hosts started well with Pearce clearing a first minute drive into the area from Kane Vincent-Young, before moments later the ball dropped free for Mikael Mandron – the frenchmans effort sailed over Logans bar.
Kane Hemmings did well to pick out Sterling-James on seven minutes the wide playing front man dragged a shot into the middle which Frankie Kent scrambled away, the Stags then had another opportunity three minutes later as Will Atkinson sprayed the ball wide to Johnny Hunt – Atkinson then bombed on into the area to meet the full backs cross, heading narrowly wide of the target.
Atkinson would come close again on 17 minutes, this time firing over from the edge of the box, after a neat give and go between Rose and MacDonald created space – Danny Rose then called the home keeper Sam Walker into action, Rose firing a dipping following after an Ariel 1-2 with Hemmings.
The host sprung the Stags backline on 27 minutes, Brandon Hanlan was denied by on rushing Logan – however two minutes later, Logan was beaten and the Stags undone. Sterling-James tripped Sean Murray on the edge of the box, and from the resulting set-play, the ball was rolled short to the feet of Murray who drove the ball low into the net.
In replay Johnny Hunt swung in a cross for Danny Rose, his header was held by Walker before Alex MacDonald went on a mazey run only to fire harmlessly wide. The hosts then grabbed their second with ten minutes to go before the break as the Stags stood and ball watched, Murray turned provider as he swung in a left sided cross – Mandron the first too it to nod the ball home.
Rhys Bennett replaced Sterling-James at the break with Anderson moving from right back to right wing – Alex MacDonald had half shouts for a penalty turned down on 52 minutes, before two minutes later, the golden chance to turn the game fell the way of Danny Rose – throwing himself at MacDonald’s cross but turning the ball over.
The hour mark came and went and went and on 64 minutes, Anderson and Hemmings were replaced by Angol and Mellis as the Stags went 3-4-1-2 with Hunt moving onto the left hand side of midfield, MacDonald to the right and Mellis just behind Angol and Rose in a free role.
The creative spark failed to ignite the fire however and Conrad Logan had to prevent a Colchester third on 76 minutes as Murray beat the offside trap to race into the box, Mansfield’s number one blocking with his legs.
Lee Angol tried his luck with seven minutes to go but the host just mopped up like routine pub cleaners – at the other end, Murray squandered another chance to make it three-nil with four minutes to go and with that, the sound of the referee’s full time whistle couldn’t come quickly enough for the Stags faithful.
FULL TIME: Colchester United 2-0 Stags
Paul Anderson (Jacob Mellis 64) – Krystain Pearce © - David Mirfin – Johnny Hunt
Omari Sterling-James (Rhys Bennett HT) – Calum Butcher – Will Atkinson – Alex MacDonald
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Lee Angol 64)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Digby, Jimmy Spencer, CJ Hamilton
REFEREE: John Busby
Attendance: 3,262 (339)
As the Stags prepare for a busy October, especially on the road, one word springs to mind as Steve Evans men prepare to face Colchester United tomorrow – Organisation.
Prior to September I wanted the club to go through the month unbeaten, an atrocious night at Cheltenham put pay to that, but having got back on track against Notts County last weekend, I still feel that if the Stags can be organised and disciplined through October – it’ll give them the momentum to put a real charge together.
With only two home games this month, the Stags are going to be spending a lot of time on the road – which includes one of the fixture computers hardest Tuesday-Saturday combinations… Barnet, followed by Newport.
It’s also the time of year where, as the weather and climate changes, players start to pick up niggles and colds – meaning the depth of the squad will be tested. Already we’ve had players miss games through fitness and illness, and with the clubs new policy of traveling the day before a match over a certain distance coupled with limited coach space – it’s going to be even further tested and players are going to need to step up, seize their individual opportunity to complete the collective goal.
Tomorrow in Colchester the Stags face a side they haven’t beaten since 2002 – so there’s a bit of the old ‘bogey team’ headlines being touted, and if you look at Mansfield famously doing well against higher placed teams than those below them – the October misery starts to creep in.
This Mansfield Town side however is very capable of bringing back all three points tomorrow, providing they are organised. The hosts have a big ground which they moved into in 2008 and a big pitch, Colchester under John McGreal like to push their full backs forward which leaves them open to direct counter attacks – something, despite it being ugly, the Stags are good at.
Colchester are also vulnerable from set-plays, so if the Stags can organise themselves and stay tight, the likes of Mirfin and Pearce can have a little fun! After all, Lee Angol (who for me should start over Hemmings) will win you free-kick after free-kick, we have to exploit the opportunities which are presented to us.
Performance wise, Notts County a-side, we haven’t been too great of late – this is a prime time to pull ourselves together and show a bit of consistency with our performances and in return, results. There are no excuses, there is no room for second chances any more – in August we we’re the side who dropped points, In September we we’re the side who began to gel but couldn’t handle the odd change – in October, we must become the side who are organised, together, hungry and above all – the side who will win points (or coal depending on ones preference!) by exploitation.
We face some tough opponents and will have some tough questions of us, but a champion faces that head on. The question is not ‘Are we good enough to be champions?’ nor is it ‘Have we got the ability to be champions?’ – it is simply ‘do we WANT to be champions, do we have the desire?’
The answer my friends, is there for Mansfield Town FC to show.
Craig Priest writes…
Players on the fringe of the Starting Line-Up were put in the shop window last night in a friendly with Rainworth MW. Eight first teamers were included as the Stags made up for sending a youth team during pre-season, a run out they won 2-0.
Paul Raynor took charge of the sides with Steve Evans watching from the stands with chairman John Radford, earlier in the day of course Evans had again hit the sporting headlines, as Gillingham made an approach for his services – an approach which was rebuffed.
On the pitch, the Stags put in a shift fitting of the occasion – friendly but professional, ensuring those who were watching in the biting evening cold, we’re entertained enough – perhaps if Joel Byrom and Zander Diamond had been closer to fitness they would have had at least 45 minutes, whilst Paul Digby nor Hayden White weren’t involved either despite missing Saturday’s derby day win over Notts County.
The youngsters who stepped in did themselves no harm, in particular Lewis Collins who has been excellent on loan at Gainsborough –he played out of position at right back but did so comfortably. Cameron Healey in the centre of the park too had a solid game – it’s great to see the club developing young talent and partnerships with the likes of Rainworth, only help to make them stronger.
In terms of the senior players, CJ Hamilton had a solid game on the left hand side of midfield showing his pace, Mal Benning also at left back for me HAD to perform with Johnny Hunt in form ahead of him and did so, although I think it’s about time to give up the idea of another Benning-Belter!
A special mention too for Rhys Bennett who captained the side, he was vocal and helped get the younger players through the game in which Rainworth were certainly up for.
The Stags started brightly and within the opening two minutes, a neat cross park ball from Jacob Mellis picked out Hamilton – his cross flashed across the face of goal and picked out Kane Hemmings, who failed to get his shot on target.
Rainworth then pumped one over the top and got a low cross into the box, Kieran Harrison smashed the ball away before on the 7 minute mark, the hosts had a golden opening with a central free-kick conceded by Harrison. Joshua Ross stepped up and saw his effort deflected behind for a corner, from which Brad Wilson volleyed high into the evening sky.
Ben Townsend in the Rainworth goal palmed away an effort from Hemmings on 17 minutes before Lee Angol had a half hearted appeal for a spot kick turned away – two minutes later, another free-kick for Rainworth, this time hit by the left boot of Jordan Claxton saw Olejnik called into action, who did well to hold.
Jacob Mellis tested the water on 22 minutes from distance on the volley but just three minutes later, Lee Angol headed Mansfield in front as Lewis Collins bombed down the right hand side to cut a cross in from the bye-line – straight from the re-start Mansfield were on the attack once more and grabbed a second with venom, thundering an effort into the bottom corner following a mazey run.
Zayn Hakeem, Jacob Mellis and Lee Angol all saw efforts go astray as Mansfield looked for a third, but couldn’t quite find a way through as referee Declan Bourne drew a close to the first half.
Kane Hemmings was withdrawn at the break and replaced by Jordan Graham, two corners in quick succession for the Stags then followed as Jacob Mellis teased the hosts with a neat cross park ball. Mellis swung in the resulting corner and picked out Mal Benning on the edge of the box for a volley, it’s safe to say his effort is still in the night sky.
As the hour struck, the Stags withdrew Angol and Mellis as youngsters Nyle Blake and Keaton Ward took their place. Blake was involved from the off and was soon fouled, Mal Benning whipped a shot over the wall from the resulting set play but it flew over the bar.
Benning and Blake were both involved in Mansfield’s next chance as the left back’s ball from the left fell kindly for Blake at the back post but he was unable to keep his shot down as Mansfield looked for a third to wrap the game up.
As the match entered the final ten minutes, Bobby Oljenik was called into action as Rainworth sprung an otherwise tight defence – the stags keeper of his line quickly to mop things up before Zayn Hakeem, who scored in the previous fixture back in early August, nearly did so again in the games dying embers. Mal Benning providing the cross which Hakeem nodded wide.
FULL TIME: Rainworth MW 0-2 Stags
Lewis Collins – Kieran Harrison (Henry Wilder 79) – Rhys Bennett © - Mal Benning
Zayn Hakeem – Jacob Mellis (Keaton Ward 60) – Cameron Healy – CJ Hamilton
Lee Angol (Nyle Blake 60) – Kane Hemmings (Jordan Graham HT)
Unused Substitute: Sam Wilson
Referee: Declan Bourne
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