Craig Priest writes...
You know that huge wardrobe that you've been told to hoover underneath, but just lacked the energy to do so? Well that was Mansfield Town in the first half at Wycombe, and yet here we are, 2-1 victors.
How? Well we moved the wardrobe and dealt with the problem, enabling us to play football!
A sickness bug apparently swept through the camp meaning Rhys Bennett was played at left back and got exposed, though like with Grimsby on Boxing Day, with the players Evans selected, a system change to three at the back would have solved that problem.
Wycombe’s goal was standard and inevitable, Bennett and Potter failed to stop the cross and then more importantly, nobody marked the Wardrobe Akinfenwa and he stuck his head out and nodded beyond Olejnik.
It was simple, school boy stuff which you could see coming – the double injury to Diamond and Rose completely took the wind from our sails and with that we were torn about like a ragdoll in the mouth of a pitbull, we were extremely fortunate to go in just 1-0 down, the hosts should have been at least four nil up.
Whatever the reason for the complete turnaround in the second half, praise needs to go to it, as playing football worked wonders!
We finally looked hungry and like we wanted to fight for victory, something that reflected in both our goals. Quick fluid football.
If we can channel that going into the new year, we'll be just fine – however I refuse to let victory and the buzz of a turnaround blind me to the fact for 45 minutes we were extremely poor and looked onto a spanking- and not for the first time!
Evans needs to do business early and hit the ground running, if we continue to be indifferent, we will lose the pace with those around us. 2018 is the year to stand up and say, this is who we are.
Steve Evans was forced to make three changes from the draw at Grimsby, with the surprise omission of Conrad Logan who apparently had a bug- Bobby Oljenik was therefore handed his league debut for the Stags after being restricted to appearances in the cup – full backs Hayden White and Johnny Hunt missed out too, Alfie Potter and Rhys Bennett brought in.
The Stags afternoon was already on a downward spiral with the illness and injury hit squad, matters were made worse just three minutes in when captain Zander Diamond took a ball to the face from a Sam Saunders free kick – after medical attention the captain continued, but you could tell his afternoon wouldn’t last much longer.
Paris Cowan-Hall nearly set the Wycombe opener on six minutes but Paul Anderson was able to mop up, however a minute later – school boy defending allowed Adebayo Akinfenwa another easy goal, as Dominic Gape beat Bennett then Potter down the left hand side, crossing in for the ‘Beast’ who stuck his head out past no markers, to convert beyond Oljenik.
The Stags shot stopper then sent a warning to Conrad Logan by pulling off a fine save on ten minutes as the Stags were again cut open as Wycombe found Akinfenwa, this time his header was palmed away by the finger trips of Oljenik.
Danny Rose had been Mansfield’s best defender early doors but a 17th minute injury saw the front man unable to continue, he was replaced by Lee Angol as Rose headed dejected straight down the tunnel for further treatment – Zander Diamond handed the captains armband to Pearce too as he was replaced by Benning, clearly unable to continue following that early injury.
Wycombe continued to dominate play but fortunately did little with it, almost content and comfortable enough in their early goal to just see the game out, however the hosts should have had a second on 38 minutes as former Nottingham Forest man, and very brief Stags trialist, Nathan Tyson picked out Akinfenwa – the big man planted his header wide of the Stags goal.
Tyson again was tormentor with two minutes of the first half to go, this time picking out Cowan-Hall, his effort hit well over the bar before another let off right on half time as Akinfenwa thundered a header against the bar.
After the break, a U-turn, as Mansfield started to play football and had Wycombe on the ropes, Mal Benning’s excellent run down the left picked out Hamilton whose fizzing cross found Angol – the stags substitute got a touch but Scott Brown in the Wycombe goal was quick to smother the loose ball on 50 minutes.
Two minutes later, Alfie Potter pulled the Stags level – CJ Hamilton’s effort inside the box fell kindly for the magic winger who drilled beneath Brown.
The Stags were on fire and should have edged in front on 55 minutes, Paul Anderson delivered the cross to pick out Lee Angol, his give and go with Mellis saw the Stags number nine lift his effort over the bar, two minutes later Potter nearly turned provider as he swung the ball into the mix – Rhys Bennett darting in from nowhere to power a header wide.
On the hour Angol beat the Wycombe offside trap to latch onto Potters excellent weighted pass, Scott Brown to the hosts rescue, saving with his legs – before Mellis and MacDonald both blazed efforts over the bar.
Tempers then frayed as the referee lost control of the game, before the Stags then grabbed what proved to be the winner on 81 minutes – Potter sent Benning down the left hand side who then hit low into the middle, Lee Angol did the rest, with a very cheeky side heel into the bottom corner.
Wycombe had chances to level but the Stags were resolute enough to keep the hosts quiet, including a later charge from Scott Brown to try and get on the end of a corner – too little too late for the hosts, and a fantastic comeback from the Stags.
FULL TIME Wycombe Wanderers 1-2 Stags
Paul Anderson – Zander Diamond © (Mal Benning 18) Krystian Pearce [VC] – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Alex MacDonald – Jacob Mellis – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Lee Angol 18) – Kane Hemmings (Omari Sterling-James 80)
Unused substitutes: Conrad Logan, Paul Digby, Will Atkinson, Calum Butcher
Attendance: 4,227 (299)
Referee: Christopher Sarginson Assistants Darren Wilding and Rob Smith Fourth Official Adrian Waters
Craig Priest writes…
The funny thing about Christmas is, we always buy boxes of chocolates and over purchase food which no matter how hard we try, we can't finish. Once again Mansfield Town followed that lead and headed back home with a point – one which should have been three.
Yet again the majority of the performance was below par, with Siriki Dembele running riot and causing no end of problems for Johnny Hunt. Hayden White too looked well off the boil and completely cost us the first goal, trying to take on the world rather than smash away the danger.
I'm not surprised in the slightest that he was subbed at half time for Bennett, who somehow found himself dropped from the starting line-up. White has long been a liability with his ridiculous wonders and late challenges, that was highlighted no end, how he made it to half time I will never no.
On the bright side, we eventually turned up and started to play thanks to a system change from a 4-4-2 where we looked rigid and got nowhere, to a 3-4-1-2 which gave us fluidity and space to exploit. It's no coincidence that within two minutes of that alteration, we scored and thereafter looked cast iron to win the game.
I'd question why we didn't change things up before we did, but there's no room for ifs and buts at this stage of the season, it’s simply a case of lets go again at Wycombe and try to go into 2017 with as much momentum as possible.
Grimsby is never a good hunting ground for Mansfield Town FC, we’ve certainly seen worse displays there from the ghost of Mansfield past, so all in all, a point is a good one – there’s now just one more game until the transfer window opens, I’d expect movement and I think they’ll be a surprise or two with who goes out – whatever the movement, we must hit the ground running because if I were the Radfords after such investment, I’d be looking at the league table, looking at the performances of some of the players and thinking – have we made the wrong choice?
Time will tell.
Steve Evans made four changes to the side which somehow beat Morecambe, including the reintroduction of Pearce and Hunt to the back four and once again changing the midfield with Butcher and Anderson coming in.
Both sides enjoyed half openings during the early exchanges, but neither looked like grabbing the opener until the hosts capitalised on an awful mistake from Hayden White ten minutes in. The right back initially did well to win the ball but then rather than release play, decided to go on a mazy run, promptly losing the ball allowing Grimsby to run through everyone, former Stag Mitchell Rose got the final touch, converting beyond Logan to haunt his former employees.
The Stags then had two chances to level in as many minutes as Pearce fired wide from a White cross on 13 minutes before MacDonald delivered for Diamond, who again failed to beat the keeper, heading straight into his arms.
Danny Rose fired over from 12 yards from Anderson’s chip before the hosts were forced to change keepers, the excellent James McKeown replaced on 33 minutes through injury. However the Stags failed to test his replacement Ben Killip who watched on as the hosts nearly grabbed a second down the other end on the stroke of half time, Danny Rose the man to spare the Stags blushes – heading away Summerfield’s excellent ball in.
Rhys Bennett replaced Hayden white at the break but it was the hosts who continued to pressure, Sam Jones stabbing a guilt edge chance wide on 51 minutes as Diamond and Pearce got caught in a tizz.
Three minutes later Bennett showed his class at the other end as he delivered a testing cross which Anderson nodded wide of the target, before Anderson again fired wide – this time from Hamilton’s cross from the left on 57 minutes.
Kane Hemmings then headed one off the line as Grimsby searched for a second on 76 minutes, he was then replaced by Angol on 78 minutes who two minutes later, with practically his first touch, pulled the Stags level.
Two minutes later Anderson delivered for Rose who nearly stole the game, but much to his own frustration – lofted the ball over the bar. Substitute Alfie Potter and Krystain Pearce both had chances to grab the winner, but time was against the Stags who since the introduction of Potter & Angol had gone 3-4-1-2 and looked good with it.
FULL TIME: Grimsby 1-1 Stags
Hayden White (Rhys Bennett HT) – Krystain Pearce – Zander Diamond © - Johnny Hunt (Alfie Potter 77)
Paul Anderson – Jacob Mellis – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Kane Hemmings (Lee Angol 78) – Danny Rose
Unused Substitiutes Bobby Oljenik, Will Atkinson, Jimmy Spencer, Calum Butcher
Referee Darren England Assistants Matthew McGrath & Mark Jones Fourth Official Ken Haycock
Attendance 5,704 (682)
Craig Priest writes…
It was far from pretty, it was far from stress-free and it was a million miles away from what we are capable of, but at the end of the match, we took home all three points and Morecambe were left with nothing in their Christmas stocking – THAT is all that matters.
I actually feel a little for Steve Evans tonight for once, he’s there to be shot at of course – but one thing that really annoys me is perspective, and those who riled him over the Hemmings substitution need to take a long hard look at themselves.
The on loan front man was in top form, so naturally I understand the frustration of taking him off, but the lad has just spent a good three weeks out injured and has barley trained – I’d guess too it was advised he shouldn’t start today and there was no way he was going to last 90 minutes. I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did.
I won’t even start the Digby argument, go back through the blogs and read ‘The Interceptor’ and the next game he plays, don’t follow the ball – follow the game.
Our problem comes from not being settled, Evans just about knows his back four and his preferred from two, but he hasn’t got a clue about the midfield and that is seriously costing us, highlighted in the goal they scored to level the match.
Late on it the game they were always going to throw bodies upfront and Kevin Ellison was always going to come on and throw bully boy tactics around, it’s how Morecambe get results from negative situations, I honestly think even at 2-1, five more minutes we’d be talking about a draw now.
Barry Roche coming up for the late set play highlights Morecambe’s attacking mentality, they never say die – someone somewhere was smiling on the Stags in that moment, it was utter carnage in the box and I don’t know how we’ve got away with it – but again that’s an attitude of togetherness that we lack.
Steve Evans said in his post match comments that he’d go away and reflect, he’ll have a glass of wine, kick something, swear and then move on – the heat of the moment emotion is all just part of the game and we perhaps need to take a look at this under a different light of day.
We were poor and far from good enough, but we are two matches away from being able to add those key ingredients, if we can stay within that pack during those games then we should be ok. In retrospect we are three points from third place and just outside the play-offs, we could be in a far worse position – we could have just been thumped 5-1 away from home and spending Christmas in the relegation zone, Merry Christmas dearest neighbours!
We need to click, we need to find our feet and gain momentum again, but we are going to Grimsby now on Boxing Day two games unbeaten and with one defeat in what, 15/16? Maybe more. Time to draw this year to a close and make 2018 the year of positives, not the year of what ifs.
Steve Evans mixed things up, reverting back to the 4-4-2 system but changing the midfield to a diamond shape with Digby, one of four changes, sitting in front of the back four, and Calum Butcher behind the front two of Hemmings, back from injury, and Rose – CJ Hamilton was the fourth change.
Both sides had early opportunities and Rose miss-hit a MacDonald cross in the opening minute before the lively Adam Campbell saw a shot cannon off Benning, before dragging the rebound wide.
The pendulum kept swinging as CJ Hamilton hammered into the side netting on four minutes from Hayden Whites cross – two minutes later Conrad Logan was on hand to keep out Luke Conolan, after Campbell had thread the ball through the eye of a needle.
Mansfield then grabbed the opener as Kane Hemmings showed what the Stags had been missing, the front man latched onto the ball from Roses flick on – slotting beyond Barry Roche in the Morecambe goal.
The Stags kept on the pressure in search of a second but it was the visitors who had a better sight of goal through former Mansfield man Vadaine Oliver, the Stags clung on to clear before missing a guilt edge chance at the other end to double their lead on 26 minutes, Rose pounced on a lapse at the back feeding Hemmings who then [icked out Hamilton – the left sided winger tamely hit wide.
Logan then had to pick out a looping Oliver effort, before on the stroke of half time, Zander Diamond headed a pin point MacDonald free kick.
After the break the Stags looked shaky and we’re pegged back on 51 minutes as Callum Lang skipped down the left hand side and slotted beyond Logan.
Three minutes later there was up roar as Evans withdrew the struggling Hemmings for Anderson and the below par Butcher for Mellis, it was enough just yet to get Mansfield firing however as Michael Rose smashed a long range effort towards goal – narrowly wide.
Danny Rose and Jacob Mellis both had efforts go astray for the Stags whilst Morecambe also tested, but neither side could find the goal as the game progressed – with then minutes to go Hamilton twisted his way down the left hand side before firing wide.
Zander Diamond threw himself into the path of Kevin Ellison’s shot three minutes later before sheer drama with two minutes to go as Anderson found space down the right hand side, peeling away to deliver a testing cross, which Danny Rose duly nodded past Roche to put the Stags into a 2-1 lead.
The Drama didn’t end there, Rose looped the ball over Roche from MacDonald’s directional pass but saw it drop wide, Roche himself nearly become the Grinch at the Stags Christmas party, racing forward to meet a late Morecambe corner – which Logan some how kept out to the sound of the full time whistle.
FULL TIME: Stags 2-1 Morecambe
STAGS [4-4-2 Diamond]
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Paul Digby (Will Atkinson 70)
Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Calum Butcher (Jacob Mellis 54)
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Paul Anderson 54)
Unused Subs Bobby Olejnik, Krystain Pearce, Lee Angol, Jimmy Spencer
Referee: Ross Joyce Assistants Alix Pashley, Matthew Jones Fourth Official Anthony Tankard
Attendance: 3,058 (63)
Craig Priest writes…
Last weekend at Crawley left me confused, this weekend as we took on Yeovil and played out a disappointing goalless and soulless draw – I’m even more confused but can’t help wondering if Mansfield have blown a gasket, and just limping their way along to January to try and get it fixed.
There you are cruising down the motorway when all of a sudden the warning lights start to flash; you move over and stop – beaten, as we we’re at Crawley. After some swearing, investigation and tinkering, you’re able to limp on out of harm’s way but for how long until you need to fully start from scratch? Can Mansfield afford to do so, or will a quick tinker of the right parts from Evans do the job to get us to our intended League One Destination?
I’m no mechanic nor football manager but something isn’t right. I can’t decide if we were just unlucky, for instance Yeovil’s Artur Krysiak has made at least four match winning saves – whilst, at the other end, his opposite number Logan has had little to do. We’ve changed systems to a 3-4-1-2 and been solid as a back three and moved the ball well across midfield – we’ve knocked on the door but been unable to blown the thing down!
Or… have we been un troubled by a poor side languishing in 20th, done little with the ball and been so tame in our finishing that we’d struggle to crush a polystyrene cup?
Personally I think it’s the former, we’ve been trying to light the fire but no spark – which I wouldn’t be too concerned with two or three months back, but after a 12 game unbeaten run it seems like we’re undoing or own work by failing to stand once fallen.
The January transfer window is nearly upon us – I don’t think we need to add any reinforcements at the back, if anything we can afford to lose one, maybe two to free up some funds – Taft will be one, he’ll extend his stay at Cambridge though I think he could do a job for us, whilst Mirfin or Benning will be the other, Benning seems to yo-yo in and out of the side whilst Mirfin seems injury prone and did not come here to be bottom of the pecking order which he is over Diamond, Bennett, Pearce and actually Digby.
We need a defensive minded midfield player to balance out the attacking and creative scale, Digby is capable but a far better central defender whilst the others, Atkinson, Byrom, Potter, Mellis and Butcher are all on the attacking side.
I don’t really need to write that we need a goal scorer do I? That much is obvious!
We’ve spent so many Christmas’ watching Mansfield Town being Bah Humbug, we need to make like Santa Claus now and deliver no matter where we go, who we take on or what obstacles we face. You can sit and smash your head against a table and think what if, you can sit and drown in all the negatives you can pull from bad experiences – or, you can get out there, make the tweaks and battle on. Remember after all that a true champion, was once a contender who simply refused to give up.
Steve Evans made sweeping changes from the side which were beaten tamely at Crawley, with a system change seeing four in and four out – Pearce, Benning, Mellis and Angol those coming into the fold.
The Stags started with real intent and dominated the first five minutes with no reward, as MacDonald, Benning and Rose were all thwarted by Krysiak in the Glovers’ goal.
Alex MacDonald whistled one just past the post on six minutes before a minute later Logan was called into action as the visitors caught sight of goal – the Irish glovesman down well to deny Francious Zoko from the edge of the box.
The visitors then nearly grabbed the opener as Stags came unstuck on 16 minutes, Sam Surridge crashed a header against the woodwork after Otis Khan created space to whip in a cross.
A minute later Logan produced a first class save as Worthington saw the ball deflected into his path, his effort wrong footed Logan who recovered to scramble the ball away – four minutes later it was Logan’s opposite number Krysiak with the save as Benning whipped in for MacDonald, he cut back inside and curled low but saw his effort beaten away.
Both sides continued to battle, but created no clear cut opportunities before the refree called a halt to the proceedings with the half time whistle.
On 65 minutes a training ground free-kick saw MacDonald spin to hit a free-kick – his effort this time lacked and zest and was comfortable for Krysiak in the Yevoil goal. The Stags then switched formation back to 4-4-2 as Hamilton replaced Bennett, fellow substitute Paul Anderson moving up front to partner Rose after replacing the in-effective Angol on the hour.
The fast footed wing man was involved from the off, lightening pace opened Yeovil up down the left hand side but his cross evaded both Anderson and MacDonald who made good runs to create an opening.
MacDonald then set Hamilton on 70 minutes with a teasing cross – Hamilton’s volley well saved by Krysiak. Five minutes later Yeovil somehow hung on as Pearce stayed forward to poke the ball back into the mix, Anderson swung everything at it, but it just wouldn’t drop.
With seven minutes to go, Krysiak again earned his wage with a fine stop – this time Anderson with a header which the shot stopper flew through the air to punch away. The Stags couldn’t muster another effort despite seven additional minutes as Yeovil got what the came for – a point.
FULL TIME: Stags 0-0 Yevoil
Krystian Pearce – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett (CJ Hamilton 66)
Hayden White – Will Atkinson – Jacob Mellis (Calum Butcher 81) – Mal Benning
Lee Angol (Paul Anderson 60) – Danny Rose
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Digby, Jimmy Spencer, Alfie Potter
REFEREE: Martin Coy Assistants Steven Plane, Paul Thompson Fourth Official James Bell
Attendance: 3,032 (86)
Craig Priest writes…
Wednesday’s midweek trip to Blackpool had given us a little taste of defeat, but the fact it was via a penalty shootout meant we headed to Crawley still optimistic of maintaining our unbeaten run of form and making progress. Alas, a day in the freezing cold quite literally left us short of breath and making the long trip home confused… or was that just me?
For me Mansfield we’re looking OK for the first half – the game wasn’t the greatest and will not go down in a hall of fame to watch again – but the bare minimum of taking a point home looked a cast iron certainty. And yet a lapse in marking from a set-play [again] saw us go a goal down and as we pushed players forwards to chase the game, we got caught out and conceded a second – which to be fair, I’ve no problem with as, at least we tried.
However, this is where my mind is getting all confused…. Why on earth did it take us going 1-0 down to start playing with an urgent energy and any real flair, and – what on earth was Evans doing with 15 minutes to go, brining Pearce on and throwing Diamond up front?!
Because he withdrew Johnny Hunt, we had no natural left sided cover (As Hamilton had already been replaced by Butcher) and as such went into a 2-4-1-3 formation with Butcher in attacking midfield and Diamond, Rose and Angol as a front three! Unless Hunt was injured, which he didn’t look from my vantage point, and you were brining Pearce on – you’d take White off and move Bennett across – it made no sense with 15 minutes plus to go…. especially with Sterling-James AND Mellis, both ATTACKING PLAYERS, on the bench?
I’ve no issue with Diamond being throw up there, it’s the kitchen sink tactic, but don’t you do that with five minutes to go after playing one of your attacking substitution cards – I’m actually surprised it took the hosts until the last minute to get the inevitable counter-attacking goal.
The whole game just left me bamboozled as we looked a far cry from the team that had done so well in putting on an unbeaten run, I fear for the dressing room actually – if I, a humble fan, am questioning the tactical switch – what must a bunch of pro’s be thinking?
Evans questioned the players mentality in his post-match assessment, noting that they players didn’t train properly on Friday. If you spot that during the training session, surely you halt the session – give them what for and run it again rather than just leave it to wallow and get worse?
We have a lot of football to come over the next few weeks and with the transfer window opening again soon, there are bound to be changes – it’s now more than ever that we need to be settled, and so, to make such comments makes bright warning lights start to flash. We have to improve against teams lower than us in the table, we have to be together as one top to bottom and we have to stop this pendulum swing between being world beaters and so bang average, a team of snowmen could beat us.
It was back to the side which beat Guiesley for Steve Evans at Crawley, Jimmy Spencer and Will Atkinson again the two constants between team selections game by game.
Three minutes in, fresh from his hat-trick last weekend, Spencer played a good ball through to CJ Hamilton who nipped around Glenn Morris in the Crawley goal before rolling the ball towards goal – however with a lack of pace to the shot, the hosts cleared.
Alex MacDonald drove from central midfielder to deliver some testing crosses, leading to a corner – from which Rose nodded into the mix allowing Crawley to clear with just six minutes played.
Mansfield we’re keeping and moving the ball well but couldn’t do anything with it when it came to the crunch, but the hosts were mopping up everything the Stags had to offer and at the other end, saw little to really put Mansfield under any pressure, the game dragged out to the half time whistle.
Josh Payne nearly drew first blood for the hosts on 54 minutes following a quick free kick routine, two minutes Danny Rose sent in a teasing cross but Hamilton couldn’t connect at the far post before on the hour, Jimmy Spencer made way for Lee Angol.
Rhys Bennett then came to the Stags recue on 62 minutes, making a good challenge on Jordan Roberts to slam the ball out for a corner – from which Crawley grabbed the opening goal, as after failing to deal with the second phase of play, Joe McNerney nipped in unmarked to head home Roberts’ cross.
Paul Anderson and Alex MacDonald both saw efforts held by the keeper as the Stags suddenly upped the pace, tame calls for a Stags spot-kick were waved away with ten minutes to go following a MacDonald long throw with ten minutes to go – before the hosts grabbed the second on the counter in the final minute after a number of close calls – Ibrahim Meite latching onto a long ball, dancing round Conrad Logan and tapping into an empty net.
The Stags did claw one back through Lee Angol – his header chalked off before he’d even made contact with the ball for offside from MacDonald’s free-kick.
FULL TIME: Crawley Town 2-0 Stags
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt (Krystian Pearce 76)
Paul Anderson – Will Atkinson – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton (Calum Butcher 69)
Jimmy Spencer (Lee Angol 59) – Danny Rose
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Paul Digby, Jacob Mellis, Omari Sterling-James
Referee: Gavin Ward Assistants: Nicholas Cooper, Andrew Laver Fourth Official Stephen Brown
Attendance: 1,791 (229)
Craig Priest writes...
When Alfie Potter saw his pivotal penalty saved by the home keeper midway through the shootout, the 1981 japan only release by ABBA never seemed so apt, as Mansfield allowed prize money and distant Wembley dreams slip through their fingers.
Penalty shootouts are always pot luck and given our indifferent relationship with penalties this season, I didn't fancy us much anyway!
As the supporters coach makes it way out of Blackpool, I write this fresh from the match refusing to let the frustration of a loss eat away at me.
I could sit here and question why Olejnik failed to dive to his right, bar once, in the shootout. I could question also why Pearce didn't thunder forward and take one rather than putting the pressure on Jack Thomas, who because he missed, will again see his name linked with a move out of the club.
Instead, in a cold and soulless stadium a stone's throw from the sea, over 90 minutes we drew with a League One side and kept our unbeaten run going.
There were something’s that concerned me in game, the attitude and commitment levels of Lee Angol, the pathetic marking which led to what at that point was an undeserved goal, the poor delivery from both wings in good attacking positions and, the fitness of Mirfin who went off injured during the second half.
Yet besides essentially what are little niggles, we showed spirit to fight back and deserved at the very least the draw over 90 minutes which in fairness we got agaisnt a fairly decent league one side.
A shootout defeat is hard to take as is the exit from the competition, one I felt we could have made further progress in given our squad.
We weren't embarrassed, we weren't particularly poor over 90 minutes and we've shown willing to compete. We can't ask for much more than that, so long as we don't let it affect us on Saturday at Crawley where it must be business as usual.
Steve Evans made numerous changes as promised to the line up with just two players keeping their place from Sunday's 3-0 victory in the FA Cup in the form of Will Atkinson and hat-trick hero Jimmy Spencer
It was a relatively competitive start to a checkatrade encounter with both sides enjoying early spells, Jacob Mellis the creator for Stags early on as he tried to play in Lee Angol, Alfie Potter also fizzed a shot over the bar whilst at the other end, Olejnik watched on as D’Almedia’s 25 yard effort flew wide inside the opening ten minutes.
On 21 minutes half hearted shouts for a Mansfield spot kick were turned down after Mellis made a cantering run and saw his effort brush an arm, captain for the evening Pearce then had to be strong to halt the run of Quigley on 33 minutes – before seconds later at the other end, Mellis saw an effort beaten away by Mafoumbi in the Blackpool goal.
Seven minutes before the break the hosts opened the scoring as lapse marking from a corner allowed Kelvin Mellor space inside the area to glance a free header into the back of the net, Jimmy Spencer nearly levelling things up two minutes later – Mafoumbi on hand to palm the ball away.
Mal Benning then had space inside the Blackpool boss as he volleyed a Potter cross wide of the target – Bobby Olejnik then on hand to keep the score at 1-0 before the half time whistle, getting low to cling on to Gnanduillet’s effort.
After the break Mansfield started to try and find a way back into the game, on 51 minutes the post came to the hosts rescue as the home keeper fumbled a cross into the path of Mirfin – his lofted ball back into the mix found Pearce, who was denied by the woodwork.
Sterling-James replaced Angol upfront on 66 minutes and injected some life into the game, however it took another eight minutes for a shot to trouble Blackpool – as Butcher slipped in the Stags substitute, only for him to tamely drag a shot wide.
Sterling-James then crashed a free-kick against the wall with ten minutes remaining before Mansfield were forced to re-shuffle as Mirfin pulled up injured, substitute Jack Thomas moved to right back whilst youngster Zayn Hakeem moved up to partner Sterling-James.
With a minute to go Mansfield got their reward as Thomas was felled on the far side, Mal Benning delivered a deep free-kick, turned home by Calum Butcher.
Both sides then had chances to win the match, Hakeem closest for the Stags lifting an effort just over the bar before, in the last minuted of added time – Bobby Olejnik beat away D’Almedia’s hopeful effort, sending the game to an ABBA style penalty shootout.
Blackpool went first with Danny Philliskirk scoring to put them 1-0 up however Paul Digby and Mal Benning both scored their spot-kick’s making it 2-1 Mansfield. Callum Cooke then levelled things up before the hosts went again – Andy Taylor squandered the chance to put the hosts ahead as he fired over the bar.
Sterling-James made it 3-2 to Mansfield and as Alfie Potter stepped up, all he needed to do was score to heap the pressure onto the hosts – the winger saw his spot kick pushed onto the post and agonisingly bounce away from goal.
Nathan Delouneso made it 3-3 before Kelvin Mellor put the pressure on Stags by dispatching Blackpool’s 5th spot kick of the shootout – Jimmy Spencer however made it two penalties from two – 4-4 and sudden death with Mansfield up first.
Jack Thomas then saw a very weak kick saved, but cudos to him for having the bottle to take one. At 4-4 Scott Quigley had the simple job of putting past Oljenik – which he did, winning the game for Blackpool
FULL TIME Blackpool 1-1 Stags - Blackpool win 5-4 on penalties
Paul Digby - David Mirfin (Zayn Hakeem 82) - Krystain Pearce ©
Alfie Potter - Jacob Mellis - Will Atkinson (Jack Thomas 70) - Mal Benning
Jimmy Spencer - Lee Angol (Omari Sterling-James 66)
Unused substitutes Conrad Logan - CJ Hamilton
Attendance 587 (60)
Referee Seb Stocksbridghe
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…. But not in early December on a Wednesday night! But that’s the magic of the Checkatrade Trophy for you – a competition fancied by few, but one in which I [like a parrot] keep saying we’re good enough to win.
Tomorrow night’s trip to Blackpool (7pm) see’s the Stags face League One opposition who are in a poor run of form with one win in their last seven and despite wholesale changes from Evans, Mansfield as a squad are in rich form – meaning those who come in will play like it’s an FA Cup final to stake a claim for a start at Crawley on Saturday.
If you look at the players likely to play too, your Mirfins, your Angols, your Butchers and Potters – a lot of them have league one experience and above so the divisional gap, will count for very little and make for a very competitive game indeed.
Blackpool are a vulnerable side at the back and if we play like we did on Saturday, quickly from back to front, then we’ll cause some damage.
Aside from the players making a claim for a starting place in the bread and butter of league two, financially progression is worth it too as I’ve said before, the competition may be heavily overlooked, but as a cash booster – well I’m sure John & Carolyn wouldn’t complain as there’s another £20K up for grabs for the winner tomorrow night – which would add to the £40K already earned (£20K for participating and £10K per victory in the group stages).
That money could be pivotal not just in January but over the course of the next season or two as we continue to develop things off the pitch – success costs investment and like every football fan up and down the land – I want to see my club be successful and win trophies, I’m not going to turn my nose up at it just because it’s the checkatrade trophy.
We’ve a big squad, some competitive competition only bodes well to keep everyone hungry and driving us on - and if all else fails, it’s a trip to blackpool and if we’re lucky, we might get to see the illuminations!
Craig Priest writes….
Mansfield Town booked their place in the third round of the FA Cup with a professional display against non-league Guiseley on an afternoon filled with cup heroes and villians, as former managers Paul Cox & Adam Murray received a lovingly-warm welcome home.
The club legends, now manager and assistant respectively of Guiseley, received an extremely warm standing ovation as they made their way to the visiting dug-out prior to kick-off – but for themselves in the here and now, endured an afternoon they’d love to forget – as two red cards allowed the current Stags crop an easy afternoon.
Full credit to the visitors who didn’t lie down resigned to defeat, even at 3-0 with nine-men I still felt they could have caused us a problem if they got half an opening – sadly for Cox & Murray, the instruction to go out and be physically was taken far too literally and it cost them in the end. Playing with ten men and mounting a comeback is achievable but with nine against an in-form and hungry Mansfield – it was never going to end well really.
Credit too should go to Mansfield as a unit for their professionalism, there’s no doubt the idea to go physical was to try and provoke a reaction from the players – they we’re wise to that though and just got their heads down and accepted it for what it was, a cup match where they were there to be shot at.
It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for Steve Evans who I felt disappointed with again, as an experienced manager in non-league who went on giant-killing cup runs he most of all should have known the tactic to come, there’s no need to act like a petulant child and kick-off every time a player got breathed on – especially when you consider the fact the referee had it in hand, aka the two red cards and several bookings. The players got on with it, he should too.
I’m delighted to see Jimmy Spencer grab the headlines too, he’s a splendid hold up man who is capable of scoring goals and takes a lot of flak from supporters, but yesterday showed just how good he can be with smart touches and good movement. Yes you can argue two came at a time where space opened itself up with the numeric difference, but in truth had it not been for Jonny Maxted in the visitors goal, it could have been way more for Spencer, his team mates and the Stags.
The FA Cup draw awaits, a money spinner would be great or a big day-out somewhere, but let’s just enjoy the journey and first and foremost, stay focussed – we’ve a big game at Blackpool on Wednesday (which many don’t see as such) where players can stake a claim for a start at Crawley and where the club can not only earn a few extra spends, but also gage where they are against a League One side.
What is it they say? You can look back – but don’t stare.
Three changes were made by Evans following last weekend’s disappointing 2-2 derby-day draw, Joel Byrom and Jacob Mellis both missed out on a start with knocks, replaced by Atkinson and Anderson with MacDonald moving central – whilst Omari Sterling-James was replaced by Jimmy Spencer, who performed very well in the 45 minute run-out at Clipstone during the week.
The visitors had the first opening of the game as they looked to pull off another league-two scalp after beating Accrington in the previous round, Kayode Odejayi let fly from 16 yards but saw Logan equal too it, before on three minutes – visiting hearts were in mouths as Danny Rose went to ground under the challenge of M’Boungou – the referee awarding a corner.
Jimmy Spencer then tested the water on five minutes as he dragged an effort wide of the post from Hamilton’s cutting cross, a minute later Spencer again letting fly from twenty yards but firing wide.
Jonny Maxted was the Guiseley hero in round one and appeared to be so again as the Stags had two attempts inside a minute with 15 minutes played – first Alex MacDonald’s clever free-kick was beaten away after Rose was tripped on the edge of the box – before the visiting keeper threw himself at Paul Anderson’s shot, following a neat charge down the right hand side from Hayden White.
A minute later the post rescued the visitors as MacDonald volleyed a cross into the box – Rhys Bennett was first too it, but saw his header cannon off Maxted onto the post.
The visitors saw sight of Mansfield’s goal as the half progressed, Bennett on hand to prevent the run of Mike Fondop-Talom before at the other end, Maxted to the rescue once more – this time denying Anderson who struck on the half-volley from Rose’s neat cushioned header.
Spencer then had a shot blocked on the half hour but a minute later, finally got his reward as Mansfield romped forwards playing back to front – Paul Anderson providing the assist following a powerful right sided run – his cross met by the head of Spencer who thundered beyond Maxted.
Eight minutes later after several physical challenges, the visitors were reduced to ten men as Darren Holden lunged in on Jimmy Spencer – the straight red card had been coming as was the Stags second, Maxted however making the Stags wait – palming away another Spencer effort right on the stroke of half time.
After the break the visitors game plan was torn up on 50 minutes as, following an arm to the face of Spencer – Chris M’Boungou was given his marching orders with a second yellow card of the match, leaving Cox’s side with nine-men.
It took Mansfield a mere two minutes to make it pay, Jimmy Spencer again the man on the score-sheet, this turning in a left sided cross from Hamilton as Mansfield broke with intent.
On the hour Anderson nearly added a third but saw his shot deflect wide, before five minutes later as Spencer was fouled inside the area – he had the chance to seal a hat-trick from the spot and redeem his spot-kick miss from earlier in the season, which he duly did – sending Maxted the wrong way and rolling the ball into the bottom corner.
Alfie Potter replaced Anderson on 69 minutes and won the Stags a free kick within two minutes of coming on, MacDonald drove this one low but Maxted was equal to it, before moments later – he could only stand a watch the ball fizz narrowly wide, MacDonald smashing towards goal from 25 yards from Spencer’s set – the midfielder’s last action was he was replaced by Butcher to a standing ovation.
Danny Rose tried to replicate his first round goal at Shaw Lane with a volley on 78 minutes from white’s cross, but hit the ball over the bar – a minute later, Rose sent Butcher through but the midfielder, who scored a hat-trick against Clipstone in the 45-minute work-out, couldn’t get this shot on target.
CJ Hamilton then had a chance at the far post from White’s deep cross with nine minutes to go, the lively winger dragged his effort wide of the target – before the Stags hit the woodwork again as Potter and Hamilton stretched the visitors with quick, cross-park, football.
With two minutes to go, the whole stadium was up standing in applause as Jimmy Spencer was replaced by Sterling-James, and despite an additional three minutes of time allowed, couldn’t add a fourth goal.
FULL TIME: Stags 3-0 Guiseley
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Paul Anderson (Alfie Potter 69) – Alex MacDonald (Calum Butcher 73) – Will Atkinson – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose – Jimmy Spencer (Omari Sterling-James 88)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Jacob Mellis, Paul Digby, Krystian Pearce
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Attendance: 4,081 (675)
It’s not uncommon for people to sit and remise about bygone days. Watching old videos, listening to Audio, reading articles, looking at photos – or whatever, memories last a lifetime and tomorrow as the football cycle ploughs on – two old faces return in a showdown that will be bittersweet.
Paul Cox and Adam Murray are two icons in my opinion, what you have there is two names, two men, two heroes – who we have to thank wholeheartedly for getting us to where we are now.
I’ll say this now, and will argue to death over it – anyone who boo’s either Cox or Murray tomorrow is NOT a true supporter.
You see the problem with football is, it’s fickle – people remember the negatives and nit-pick, it’s almost like they’re immune to the positives. When both Cox and Murray left the club, it was after a particularly hard and frustrating and tense spell – but it was so sudden, there was never a chance to say goodbye and more importantly ‘thank-you’ either it was just ‘the end’.
Now call me over passionate or whatever but when you achieve what Cox and Murray achieved, both deserved the respect of us saying thank-you. The arguments I know will be more about Murray and that he achieved nothing by way of trophies or success as a manager – sadly I saw little of Murray’s final few months in charge, but his job as a manager and achievement too in fairness, was stabilisation.
Murray, or to give him his proper title, Mr Mansfield Town took a brave step into management with a club tattooed on his heart – and like so many club legends before him at clubs across the land, risked losing the on pitch respect he gained by stepping into the dugout. We must not forget what he did for us as a player, as a captain – and that my friends, is keep a promise and deliver.
Week upon week, Murray would run through reinforced concrete walls for MTFC, often having been injected prior to kick-off. His passion would lead us, would motivate us and carry us through in times of need. Those tears post York on the pitch we’re real tears of pain, the promise he made me afterwards of promotion the following season – was not words to console a broken Craig, they were words of hope from a broken man, fed up of feeling pain.
Those tears he cried when lifting the conference trophy above his head were real tears of pride and jubilation, it was never about silverware or chasing success for Adam Murray – it was so much more.
He put that into his managerial career and you could always see how much it hurt not being able to influence a game on the pitch itself, I swear down he’d two foot a fourth official to get on the pitch!
There was the ‘falling out’ with Cox, but we all have tiffs and disagreements – there pairing worked and I’m so glad for Muz now that he’s linked up with Paul once again after a spell at Boston as manager which, I’m sure he’ll admit, was a learning curve.
Every captain needs a good manager, that man was Paul Cox who said the first time I met him “success is built on strong foundations”. Having arrived from Eastwood after many successful years, it was still a shock appointment which many questions – but arguably to date, the best appointment made by the Radford’s – and yes, I include Steve Evans in that.
Cox took a broken Mansfield Town and re-built it, picking it’s supporters up from the floor after a turbulent couple of seasons and after three seasons of us all wondering if we were destined for the conference, delivered the most emotional and thrilling seasons I’ve witnessed as Stags fan.
People complained about the football and in the early months, questioned the appointment – but the fact is, we showed patience and in the end IT BLOODY WORKED! We weren’t ready for the Football League in 2011-12 and as I’ve said before, the heartbreak of the play-offs made us stronger and more determined for the following season. Yes, we got lucky in a way, yes we dragged ourselves across the line – but we did, and because of that are in a much better shape now.
Cox was asked in a recent interview if he made a mistake in leaving, I always think he did – but sometimes, you need to let go.
We are ready to take the next step which Steve Evans is at the helm to do, and naturally I want to see us progress tomorrow in the FA Cup against the non-league side, but don’t for a second write them-off, and don’t for a second think it’ll be an easy ride.
Cox and Murray in the game will no doubt frustrate supporters, it’s the games passion of course but just remember this - Paul Cox delivered promotion, FA Cup joy, Football League status and Football League stabilisation, as did Adam Murray.
We would not be where we are today and have this huge opportunity to develop in the future had it not been for Cox and Murray, so please – be upstanding and applaud, no matter the result, no matter the game really – be upstanding and applaud two heroes, two icons, two legends and two men who refused to let Mansfield Town Football Club die.
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