Sky Bet League Two, Sunday 26th December 2021
Script writers put so much effort into the Christmas day specials of soaps, the REAL drama is in Boxing Day football though – case in point? Mansfield Town 3, Hartlepool United 2 – Unbelievable Jeff!
The Stags found themselves two goals down from just two Hartlepool shots despite utter dominance in the first half and it looked like their excellent run would be coming to an abrupt end.
John-Joe O’Toole then sparked a remarkable turnaround of three goals in eleven second half minutes, as Jordan Bowery and then George Maris made like Santa Claus and delivered!
Mansfield were without several key players, Danny Johnson and Ollie Clarke were both on the treatment table still, and pesky Covid wiped out the midfield with Stephen Quinn, George Lapslie, Harry Charsley all falling to the dreaded red line, defender Richard Nartey and goalkeeper George Shelvey were also forced into isolation – leaving the Stags with just five subs.
Thick boxing day fog and horrendous rain also threatened the fixture, the fog especially was a killer and there was only one visible part of the pitch from my seat, which made commentary interesting to say the least!!
Hartlepool equalised in the 91st minute, denied by the offside flag – a huge call by the assistant on the far side who I presume had some view of it!!! After the game, whilst interviewing John-Joe O’Toole, Hartlepool manager Graeme Lee after finishing his Sky Sports interview, passed us and proceeded to shout “IT WAS A GOAL” – He was not a happy man!
O’Toole was incredible again, I asked him after the game about his future – for me we have to bend over backwards to get him what he wants, he’s been critical in our U-turn in our form and would be a massive loss, like a sledgehammer to a nut, if we were to lose him now.
I’d love to see us continue our excellent form and go again on Wednesday at Harrogate – but honestly, if one more player gets the dreaded red line, we’re done for – I don’t see it being on at all, probably the same for Rochdale too sadly.
Either way, three more points in the bag and just a point from the play-offs, a remarkable achievement when you consider how poor we were two months or so ago! Long may it continue!
COME ON YOU STAGS!
STAGS: Bishop, Hewitt, Rawson, Hawkins ©, McLaughlin, Maris (Sinclair 80), O’Toole, Stirk, Bowery, Oates (Gale 77), Law Unused Subs: Stech, Burke, Ward
Attendance: 5,958 (1,010)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 11th December 2021
There’s a saying in football that once the players step over the white line, there’s little managers can do to change things – but that’s not always the case. It could be a key substitution, a bit of information on a player or, in yesterday’s case a change in system midway through a game to nullify the opposition.
The Stags had started with the back three, but with John-Joe O’Toole (illness) and Will Forrester (ankle) both missing, Clough had to change the back three with Hawkins and Rawson coming in and Hewitt going to left side centre half.
Without sounding harsh on Hewitt, he was having a torrid time and after Salford took the lead on nine minutes, it was clear that the Stags needed to change things up and to Clough’s credit, sent the message out for Hewitt to go to right back in a flat back four – from then on, he improved and so did the Stags.
The fluid football began to return and the Stags racked up a number of chances before Rhys Oates turned home McLaughlin’s free kick to level the game, he was then heavily involved in winning another set play, which McLaughlin then bent home to put the Stags back in front.
In the second half the Stags were OK and put enough pressure on and defended well enough to see the game through, although it’s clear Clough needs another striker, or Danny Johnson to be fit enough to return, because after an hour – the lads had given it everything and were really struggling for pace up front.
Mansfield are on a brilliantly remarkable run and still have players to come back, a week of rest will be needed ahead of the trip to Forest Green Rovers, where an immoveable object, meets an unstoppable force!
COME ON YOU STAGS!
STAGS: Bishop, Rawson, Hawkins ©, Hewitt, Bowery, Stirk, Maris, McLaughlin, Quinn (Charsley 87), Lapslie, Oates (Sinclair 81) UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey [GK], Burke, Law, Gale, Nartey
Attendance: 4,113 (73)
Sky bet league two, Tuesday 7th December 2021
Sometimes winning a game of football isn’t about playing a team off of the park and scoring goal after goal after goal, it’s about defending something earned, to earn something further. Stephen McLaughlin’s sixth minute goal may have proved the difference in the scoreline, but in the end it was the Stags determined defence who sealed the points.
Playing against a strong wind in the second half thanks to the start of the latest storm, Clough’s men struggled to get the ball forward, but Elliott Hewitt, John-Joe O’Toole and Will Forrester, later Faz Rawson, were all phenomenal in getting stuck in and taking every attempted hammer blow that the visitors had to offer.
Mansfield were without Rhys Oates who picked up an injury on Saturday and skipper Ollie Clarke, Oates was a major loss in attack as whilst Bowery is a good hold up man, he hasn’t got the pace to push us high in the press early – it was needs must up there though with Danny Johnson still out injured, and Oli Hawkins suspended.
Clough stuck with the back three and Mansfield played some beautiful football within the first half hour or so, McLaughlin’s strike typified that as his header from Hewitt’s cross brought an end to a lovely flowing move of what 17/18 passes?
The Stags kept the ball very well at times and looked dangerous in attack, if you add in the aforementioned Oates, Hawkins and Johnson, the Stags are causing real damage and killing the game off, as it was – we didn’t have that but we did have the nerve and resilience to defend the clean sheet which it’s fair to say, we’d have lacked a month or so ago!
The winning feeling is a good one and we keep climbing the table, taking things one step at a time and enjoying the ride!
STAGS: Bishop, Hewitt, O’Toole, Forrester (Rawson 57), Charsley, Stirk, Maris (Sinclair 85), McLaughlin, Lapslie, Quinn ©, Bowery UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey [GK], Burke, Law, Gale, Nartey
Attendance: 3,695 (133)
FA Cup Second round, Saturday 4th December 2021
Watching Stephen Quinn dancing and leading the celebrations in front of 3,292 proud Stags fans is a moment that will stay with me for a very long time, as Nigel Clough’s men overcame a 1-0 score line to reach the third round of the FA Cup, slaying yet another League One side in struggling Doncaster Rovers.
Clough was dealt a bitter blow in the build up to the game, losing Farrend Rawson and Oli Hawkins, both through illness, meaning that the excellent back three had to be moved to a back four hours before kick-off.
The Stags started well but after the Rovers’ seventh minute goal against the run of play, struggled to get going and after seeing George Lapslie’s goal chalked off for offside, went into the dressing room 1-0 down and with two key players struggling with injury.
Rhys Oates managed to stay on but Stephen McLaughlin had to be withdrawn, Clough gambled – switched back to a back three but needed someone to play at left wing back, you’d think Ryan Burke would be the obvious choice – but Clough seemingly had a premonition and threw on Jordan Bowery – the rest, as they say, is history!
George Lapslie will get the plaudits for the brace, but Jordan Bowery deserves a huge amount of credit for a phenomenal display, being heavily involved with the goals and our general build up play which Doncaster simply couldn’t cope with.
To the hosts credit, they’d made it to be an entertaining fixture with the goal late on and showing some dangerous moves when they decided to play long, rather try to play out from the back where, with a mixture of our forceful press and their lack of confidence, saw the back four playing in the stands.
Mansfield have to be tighter, but again a month or so ago we’d have crumbled after the first goal, we’re growing closer week by week and that’s driven by O’Toole at the back, Quinn in midfield and Oates up front who is electric!
Fingers crossed for a nice money spinner in round three at home, or a stadium we’ve not been too before to create some memories!
For now though, it’s time to refocus and go again to be ready to face Carlisle in league two on Tuesday!
STAGS: Bishop, Hewitt, O’Toole, Forrester, McLaughlin (Bowery 46), Lapslie, O’Clarke © (Charsley 90+1), Maris, Stirk, Quinn, Oates (Sinclair 79) UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey [GK], Mason [GK], Burke, Ward, Law
Attendance: 7,020 (3,292)
If you enjoy the Mansfield Matters Podcast, our Blog page is very similar - just in article form as team members share their views on matches and events!
Fancy submitting an article, DM us on Facebook/Twitter to get our attention, or email email@example.com (please note, this inbox isn't monitored often so it may take a while to get back to you)
Please read the disclaimer on the home page.