Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 30th October 2021
When Danny Johnson blasted his second minute penalty into the Mansfield sky, Stags fans would have been forgiven for fearing the worst given recent results and performances, credit then to Nigel Clough’s side who dug deep to churn out the type of performance we knew they were capable of, to finally record a long overdue victory.
Rhys Oates got the ball rolling on 18 minutes, scoring a fine goal before turning provider in the second half for Danny Johnson, who turned into an empty net to help the Stags faithful breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Clough was without George Lapslie through suspension but was boosted by the return of Elliott Hewitt and Stephen McLaughlin, meaning there was no room for excuses when it came to having more senior players on the pitch.
Credit where its due too, as the Stags played well, moving the ball and having much more about them in terms of shape and idea – Rhys Oates as an out and out striker alongside Johnson is very dangerous and as more players come back into the fold between now and the next league fixture, a titter of excitement begins to bubble away.
None more so than having Kellan Gordon back down the right hand side, he came off of the bench for the injured McLaughlin (a concern!) and despite the expected rustiness, immediately gave us the option to play wider down the right, thus avoiding playing everything down the left through Quinn.
If we can stretch the game across the middle with both wide players getting forward, the likes of Clarke, Maris, Charsley and Lapslie, when back from suspension, can really cause damage and get on the ball.
The victory will do wonders for the camp and lifts a horrible cloud which was hanging over us, we’ve still got a long way to go but now have the opportunity to press on and collate a good sequence of results during a November period where we’ll spend a lot of time on the road.
A huge well done to Nigel, his staff and the players – all we’ve wanted for weeks is that level of determination and endeavour, because when that happens, positive results happen. That winning feeling, you just can’t beat it!
STAGS: Bishop, McLaughlin (Gordon 62’), Hewitt, Rawson, Charsley, O. Clarke, Maris, Johnson (Sinclair 84’), Hawkins, Quinn, Oates (O’Toole 90+2’) UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Bowery, Burke, Gale
Attendance: 3,831 (630)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 23rd October 2021
The problem with inflating your expectations like Clough’s men did after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Port Vale, is that it hurt far more when they failed to meet them yesterday, squandering a one goal lead at Exeter City yesterday.
The Stags were vastly improved in midweek but failed to match the standard and again were left cursing their luck as Jordan Bowery missed a golden chance at 1-0 up – a miss which would go on to be a game changer.
It’s difficult to convey how I feel right now – as we’ve been down this road before. I guess it comes down to one question, should Nigel Clough continue as Stags manager?
The simple answer is yes. How long for though is another question entirely because it’s clear to many that something isn’t right, both in the dressing room and out on the pitch. For me, sorting one, will then sort the other.
Clough has a way of managing sides which has been successful and given time here will be successful, he’s been dealt a bad hand in the squad he inherited and with the bizarre injury situation which is why some leeway is given but personally, I don’t think he’s helping himself with his slating of players, especially the younger ones, after a game.
Emotions are high, yes, and I do get the logic of challenging a player publically – the old “stick the review on the dressing room wall” motivation process, but football has changed massively and I think now, that way of doing things will only land once out of ten, rather than nine times.
We are supposed to be a squad of players after all – not just an 11 with individuals who will play when there’s literally nobody else.
If Clough has a problem with playing two young full backs and thinks they aren’t good enough – then change the system, play three at the back, he knew Tuesday/Wednesday that Hewitt and McLaughlin were likely to be out – so work on changing it, who knows – it may have been the change we needed.
Anyway, in more positive news – the short term signing of John-Joe O’Toole is pleasing – he’s exactly the sort of player we need, capable of playing both in midfield which despite being dubbed the best in league two, seems to still be on furlough, or at centre back which doesn’t really need explaining does it?!
I’ve seen a few comments RE not signing him sooner, Clough said a few weeks ago that there wasn’t anyone out there – and that was true, because as the Stags boss said post-match, he’s been training with two other league two clubs, meaning at the time, wouldn’t have been as approachable.
Hopefully we see him in action next weekend, rather than just being another body. We need a victory, we need this tension to die and to breathe again – our league position and form is a major concern and I for one, do not want to see us go down the same road of having to pay off a manager and his staff, to appoint someone else, give them a budget etc only to be here again in a years’ time, it’s not the answer.
STAGS: Bishop, J. Clarke, Rawson, Hawkins, Burke, O. Clarke, Charsley, Quinn, Lapslie (Johnson 85’), Oates (Sinclair 87’), Bowery (Bowery 63’) UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Forrester, Law, O'Toole
Attendance: 4,329 (191)
Sky Bet League Two, Tuesday 19th October 2021
The long anticipated return of Stephen Quinn following a lengthy six game ban coincided with the Stags’ best performance in weeks last night, as Nigel Clough’s men showed some fight and desire to come from a goal down to draw 1-1 with promotion hopefuls Port Vale.
On a very wet night at the One Call Stadium, there was a real electricity in the air and on the pitch, as the Stags looked a far cry from the whimpering below par performers from the past few weeks, playing patches of good football which on any other evening, would have resulted in three, well overdue, points.
A point against an in-form and excellent footballing side however is a very good platform and will no doubt burst the bubble of tension that’s been flooding the dressing room. We now need to ensure that we actually do go on and following the performance up with victory.
Quinn’s return really lifted the midfield and gave us much more fire within the middle of the park, with the entire squad showing willing to get stuck in to win the ball back and try and catch Vale on the counter attack – a tactic which led to a number of openings, a penalty which was missed and well taken team goal.
Oli Hawkins’ missed penalty shouldn’t be something we dwell on, it was a good guess and save from the keeper and at that point of the game, typified our luck – had we been awarded the one in the second half, I think we’d have buried it and Mr Radford would have been paying for a new roof for the stadium!
Hawkins’ playing centre back was another reason for our improved performance, I said over the weekend it was a mistake moving him back upfront and whilst he himself will be slightly annoyed to be playing at the back – he brings a calming presence and is very good in the air and on the deck, allowing us to play with calm and fluidity.
I’d leave him there until we’ve either created a solid enough run of form to be able to move him and bring in Forrester, Nartey or Hewitt – or preferably, got to January 1st and signed a commanding central defender – four months between deadline day and the opening of the January window is more than enough time to identify and get a deal done with a club and player – another rant, for another day.
Clough should have Maris back for Saturday which will boost the midfield further and isn’t too far away from having Gordon back in the fold to give us another option down the right hand side – so the troubles for me are very nearly over, it’s time to keep working on playing the counter attacking, fluid way we did last night (and earlier in the season) and push ourselves back up the table.
I wouldn’t say it was the best performance of the season and we clearly still have areas we can improve upon, but we’ve again laid a solid platform to jump from – it’s time to get the landing right, starting with the long trip to Exeter on Saturday.
STAGS: Bishop, McLaughlin, Hewitt (J. Clarke 59’), Rawson, Charsley, O. Clarke, Bowery, Hawkins, Quinn (Sinclair 89’), Oates (Johnson 77’), Lapslie UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Burke, Ward, Law
Attendance: 4,204 (733)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 16th October 2021
Last week I had a sympathetic shoulder for Nigel Clough, but I can honestly say that after a 2-0 defeat to Northampton where more effort was shown by an opposition player to applaud the travelling faithful who’d witnessed 90 minutes of zero effort, that the same old excuses don’t wash anymore.
OK, that player was Danny Rose, absolute hero – what a guy, but still – you get the point!
“I find it very difficult to win games with the players we have out there” – Wow, what a thing to say about your squad, a majority of the players YOU brought in – it’s no wonder the players looked so uncomfortable, there’s a real lack of togetherness and that is worrying.
Another Clough gem was “We had second choice players pretty much everywhere today” – I find that frustrating to hear, nobody should be ranked in terms of number one, two, three etc – it’s a squad game and everybody should be given the opportunity to fight for their shirt, what confidence does that give the likes of James Clarke to know that when someone else is available, they’ll get straight back in ahead of him – I’m singling out James Clarke here either, he’s been excellent!
Clough says it’s a shadow between the team that were out at the start of the season and now, and yes we’ve got players missing – but what frustrates me is the absolute lack of desire and effort from the majority to fight for ball, to dive into a tackle, run at players and that comes from him – he’s the manager, he shouldn’t be blaming the injuries, the missing players and the questionable referee’s – he should be doing his job, managing what he has, motivating what he’s got!
I guess that the frustrating of losing a game can put a perception on a quote, take something with one meaning and give it another one entirely. At the end of the game, a lot of talk was about Clough losing his job – pointless. Woeful results, yes. Awful performances, yes – but if Clough goes, we have to pay him and what, four other staff members off? AND then get someone else in, who gets the SAME GROUP of players and the cycle repeats.
Clough is the right man for the job, his comments will continue to frustrate me as will his lack of reaction within games – but he’s here for the long process and I believe he will get the results and has my backing, but PLEASE acknowledge the fans and change this blame culture of the factors – it’s oozing negativity and sucking us towards the black hole of doom!
We go again Tuesday night at home to Port Vale, with Quinn and Sinclair back in contention, let’s freshen things up completely and get a positive result, something which is long overdue.
Football eh, what a load of cobblers!
STAGS: Bishop, McLaughlin (Burke 66’), Hewitt, Rawson, Charsley (Ward 46’), O. Clarke, Bowery, Johnson (Oates 76’), Hawkins, J. Clarke, Lapslie UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Forrester, Law, Gale
Attendance: 6,034 (1,019)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 9th October 2021
Nigel Clough must be wondering when he walked underneath a ladder, stepped all over cracked paving and smashed a mirror simultaneously, because he seems to be having the worst luck ever right now – having to play square pegs in round holes to field an 11 to compete right now.
Comments walking out of the ground and on social media were mostly negative – whilst I’m frustrated as the next fan, I couldn’t help but swallow down my own frustrations and take a positive from the game – a clean sheet with square pegs in round holes.
I genuinely think had we not lost George Maris early through what looked a very serious injury, or Hawkins at the break also through injury, we’d have won that game. Credit must go to the lads who kept the clean sheet, I’m not too concerned about the lack of goals scored right now – we’re in a real predicament with injuries and suspensions so keeping a clean sheet gives you a point bare minimum, that’ll do for me.
We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, Farrend Rawson will be back for Northampton on Saturday and will go straight back in, whilst Will Forrester will have a full weeks training with the Stags, finally arriving from Stoke late this week after his battle with injury.
After Northampton, we’ll then have Tyrese Sinclair back in the fold and, most importantly of all – Stephen Quinn, who will reignite our extinguished attacking fire. I actually can’t wait for the Port Vale game, I’m sure Clough can’t either!
Praise yesterday must go to James Clarke, I’ve long since been a fan of his since he made his breakthrough under John Dempster’s tenure. The young right back never really got a look in under Cloughlan and definitely didn’t last season when he really should have been pushed on.
He’s a season behind in his development but has a phenomenal attitude – yes he’ll make mistakes, but what I rate about him is, every time he makes a mistake, he works hard and puts in right – in terms of an actual right back, he’s the best we’ve got at the club – Kellan Gordon is class, but we all know he’s better as a wing back or an out an out right winger.
Clough needs to allow him to have a run in the side now and see what he can do, leave Hewitt in the middle, probably with Rawson – but you’ve also got the option of Forrester now.
Keaton Ward is also an option to cover these injuries, I’ll be very surprised if Maris plays next week – I felt Ward was brilliant on Tuesday in the deep Maris role, and was excellent when he came on yesterday. Again, if I have a criticism of Clough, it was that Ward should have replaced Maris, rather than bringing on Oates and changing shape.
We can play fluid football, we can be dangerous and score goals – but that takes bravery and confidence, we’re low on both right now so let’s get our heads down and battle on through – we’ve played 11 games, let’s see where we are after the next 11, when we’ve got bodies back in and rebuilt our confidence.
Let’s dig in our heels, find the energy and smash through the wall!
STAGS: Bishop, J.Clarke, Hewitt, Hawkins (Burke 46), McLAughlin, Maris (Oates 25), O.Clarke © (Ward 61), Charsley, Lapslie, Bowery, Johnson UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Forrester, Gale, Law
Attendance: 4,526 (496)
Papa John’s Trophy Group H 2/3, Tuesday 5th October 2021
A 90th minute goal saw Mansfield Town suffer a cruel defeat at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday, continuing the Stags’ poor run of form on paper – however in reality, Clough’s men put in one of their best displays in recent weeks.
Clough was boosted by the availability of three of his suspended players, relieving some pressure on his selection headache, without doubt though it was the return of Stephen Quinn to the side made a massive difference in the improved performance.
In difficult conditions, the young Stags side coped really well and I was impressed particularly with defender George Cooper, who was substituted at half time, and midfielder Keaton Ward – both contributed well to the way we played, trying to play out from the back and hurt Wednesday on the break in the tough conditions.
Overall, James Clarke who again took the captaincy really impressed at right back – yes he had a few errors in him BUT what really impresses me with him, is he recovers every time – with Rawson suspended Saturday, Clough really should be moving Hewitt back across and bringing Clarke in – if he doesn’t, I’d be asking questions if I were the young right back.
It’s disappointing not to take something from the game, I don’t think Shelvey will look back too often on their first goal, a costly error – but to be fair to the Nottingham Forest loanee, he made a number of good saves to balance that out. A few people were quick to criticise him, but as a young goalkeeper – errors are bound to happen, the problem is you can’t improve by playing one or two games here and there a month.
Stephen Quinn’s goal was well taken and I thought throughout we played some dangerous balls through the visitors and created some good opening’s – Sinclair should have buried his chance at the end of the first half, but to turn negatives to positives – we looked hungry tonight and must show the same energy in Saturday.
I’m not too bothered in the defeat, we weren’t going to get a second and looked content to play for a penalty shootout and the bonus point, but Wednesday effectively put five up front and showed the difference in quality – overloading the box and firing home late.
Overall there’s more positives than negatives despite the defeat – if those positives are good enough to play on Saturday remains to be seen, but we are a squad and when, if not in the middle of a player availability crisis, will be the right time to give them the opportunity to make a difference?
Saturday against Oldham could be the prime opportunity to do so, and the perfect time to bounce back in a positive direction.
STAGS: Shelvey (GK), Rawson, Charsley (Lapslie 72’), Johnson, Burke, Quinn, Sinclair, Ward, Clarke, Law (Oates 79’), Cooper (Hewitt 46’) UNUSED SUBS: Stech (GK), Bowery, Charles, Gale
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 2nd October 2021
A few weeks ago when the Stags’ problems with injuries started to set in, Nigel Clough said that when it rains, it pours – well, add in seemingly endless suspensions and poor decisions to the mix and now, the Stags are in real danger of getting drowned by the rain.
A second half penalty and a red card to Farrend Rawson were the main talking points from yesterday’s 1-0 loss at home to Barrow, a defeat which has fans arguing on social media over if Clough is the right man for the job and is his name is the only thing keeping him on the employment roster – absolute rubbish!
Firstly, let’s take nothing away from Mark Cooper’s Barrow who under the experienced managers early leadership, are fighting to develop as a football league side, have signed some good players and are grounding out some good results the way Cooper does – they should have been out of sight by half time.
Secondly, the matter in hand – Clough wasn’t going to come in and transform things overnight – IF we have a FULL SQUAD available and were getting these types of results, I’d perhaps have a different perspective, but we haven’t and are literally surviving game by game right now.
One transfer window (technically two but I don’t think January should be reflected as a main one, it’s more of a fuel stop) was never going to fix the Stags problems, I do think we got it wrong and took too long, but also the volume of change we needed to transform into a successful club was never going to happen in one window – you’re looking at two minimum, with a fuel stop in between.
Clough was clear at the start of the season – we’ll try and compete, we’ll try and win promotion if we can, but if it doesn’t happen this season, we’ll be better placed to push the following season – we as fans have to accept that.
There’s no use whatsoever in a change again, we DID need it last season under Coughlan because it was clear he wasn’t the man to streamline budgets AND build a squad capable of GROWING OVER TIME – Clough is, he’s proven it everywhere he’s been. Of course if we’d played 20-25 games, were rock bottom shipping goals for fun, unable to score with a FULL COMPLIMENT OF PLAYERS, it’d be different, but that’s not the situation we’re in – it’s not sustainable to repaint the wall every time there’s a bit of muck or dirt that blots the colour.
This goes back years to Flitcroft – I HATE mentioning this, because it’s such a tired point of discussion but it’s true, we are STILL rebuilding from his sacking two and a bit seasons on whereas had we kept him and given him until Christmas to go again, we’d probably have progressed now because we’d have healed TOGETHER, rather than fall apart from the core – if you don’t know what I mean, listen to our Stags Stories with Neal Bishop.
Back to the here and now, yesterday was a tad unlucky – the penalty is bemusing, there’s no foul there from what I can see, no handball and no shouts for it from Barrow – but it’s given, scored and again we fail to react – mainly because our best centre forward, is our best central defender!
As for the sending off, my initial feeling was that the Barrow player is coming back from offside – I’ve just watched it back and it appears Rawson gets the slightest of touches to therefor play him ONSIDE – the foul is lazy and clumsy and by the letter of the law is a straight red, HOPEFULLY it’ll be one game like Ollie Clarke’s was, but I won’t hold my breath, enjoy your three game rest Faz!
The problem is who comes in, will Clough go for James Clarke at right back, moving Hewitt back central, Burke at left back to put McLaughlin central, young George Cooper or maybe a back three of Hewitt, Hawkins, McLaughlin – whatever, we need to back the boys and power on through the storm!
Go back to basics, let’s be tough to break down and keep a clean sheet – that way we’;re guaranteed a point, if our strikers can find some fire at the other end and nick us a goal, even better. For now though, togetherness and basics will do!
STAGS: Bishop, McLaughlin, Hewitt, Rawson, Charsley, O. Clarke, Bowery, Maris (Law 83’), Hawkins, Oates (Johnson 65’), Lapslie UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Burke, Ward, J. Clarke, Cooper
Attendance: 3,931 (190)
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