Craig Priest writes...
Fixture: Cambridge United V Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #13
Venue: R Costings Abbey Stadium
Date & Time: Saturday 6th October – 3pm
Match Referee: Kevin Johnson
Attendance: 2545 (209)
I hate that feeling of failure; it’s honestly the worst feeling in the world – what makes it worse is when you fail in full view of others who, in turn, constantly remind you of your failures. My biggest bug bear in life is people who put others down, how are you meant to be motivated from being told you’re awful at something etc? Today however I’ve just had the displeasure of re-watching the highlights from yesterday and as such am going to break my own rule.... Dear MANSFIELD TOWN: You are woeful.
I hope the players get made to watch that DVD over and over until the disc wears out, I hope there are several copies of the disc too so the players have to watch it until the DVD player blows up and after that, I’ll be on hand with a spare DVD player so that the players and continue watching it until they feel the agony we had to endure yesterday. They need something to motivate them to get to a champion worthy level on the pitch again, what better than a video example of them at their worse.
No passion, no fight, no desire, no creativity, no Mansfield Town – that wasn’t us yesterday.
One good thing about watching the highlights, yes I did find one, is that it refocuses my attention onto the game itself and the situation we are in rather than the ridiculous hatred of Paul Cox and apparent desire to remove him from the position like tossing rotten garbage in a bin – no thank-you.
A lot of people will disagree with me right now, that’s fair enough – I’ve seen us in worse positions and after years of management upheaval after a poor set of results, I’m of the opinion that changing the manager is about as much use as a chocolate fire guard at the gates of hell.
Yesterday Paul Cox DID get it wrong, I won’t deny that. All night I’ve been questioning why on earth we played 4-3-3 again, our players don’t suit it, we make mistakes more times than Frankie Boyle makes offensive jokes and we don’t look comfortable, mentally and physically. It’s no coincidence that out of our five defeats, FOUR of them have been in a starting 4-3-3. Fair enough Nick Wright was injured and with Green back from suspension that’s a no-brainer, but why and I’ll type it again in capitals to empathise my point, WHY did we feel the need to bring in another midfielder and go 4-3-3, stick with the four and either sacrifice Speight for Rhead, target man option, or chance Green and Speight together. We lacked width, became exposed and we’re just terrible 4-3-3 lost us the game. On the flip side players should know their roles, where Speight & Meikle told to stay wide thus leaving Green alone up top, were Howell or new addition Solomon Taiwo told to go and be the target man and support Green? It doesn’t matter, the point is nobody did go and support him and that’s one of several factors to why we lost the game. We played long, it didn’t work and it didn’t get changed, there was no effort to keep the ball or win it back, we had an extra man in midfield and STILL got over run, where’s the sense in that. As for signing Solomon Taiwo, nothing against the lad here by the way, but WHAT WAS THE POINT! Yes Roberts and Hand are injured, why not use Chris Clements or alter the system slightly to utilise Lee Stevenson or, despite him being dubbed as a striker, Ben Hutchinson.
The anger is evident and the game’s gone, come on now be sensible and let it go – not for a second am I brushing this game under the carpet, let’s learn from it and make changes one last time to get back on track.
I genuinely felt sorry for Paul Cox at the full time whistle, as I mentioned above he DID get the selection wrong however he can’t be blamed for losing two key defenders. Fortunately John Thompson’s suspected broken leg turned out to be just bruising, thank goodness for his shin pad, Geohaghon on the other hand has appeared to torn his ankle ligaments – not good. This left Cox with ONE remaining substitute for the second half, you can’t change a system or a game with one sub in my opinion – still this is not an excuse for the pathetic display. Credit to Cambridge, they we’re the example of what we SHOULD have been, strong in possession, a solid attacking unit, a stable defensive unit, quick, strong, hungry and, much to our dismay – ruthless.
I hope the players feel a burn of bitterness in the pit of their stomach, I hope it makes them uncomfortable like they want to itch and scratch at every little part of their body, I hope it makes them want to scream, shout, slap themselves round the face and genuinely make the heart race with anger. That’s how I feel typing this, that’s how I imagine you guys to feel now having watched or listened to the game – the players now must respond and thrive on that burning pit of bile and bitterness, the one thing that can drive people forward is failure – they failed yesterday, it’s up to them to make sure they don’t do it again.
Take out your Craig voodoo dolls again, ready here we go.... Paul Cox should NOT be sacked or resign, it irritates me so much that after a bad result and performance such as yesterday folk are calling for his head on a spike. Five wins, five defeats and two draws – this is no means acceptable for a team that are supposed to go out and ‘smash the league’ – but who started that tag. It’s arrogant. I feel like our debut season in the conference is repeating itself again, oh look at us we’re Mansfield Town, we’ve a divine right to smash everyone and take the title, erm guys, we’re here for a reason.... poor performances, failure to meet expectations, getting frustrated and sacking the manager, appointing a new guy, making numerous signings who fail to deliver, achieving poor results with poor performances, failing to meet expectations.... can you see the picture developing yet?
This is not a dig at anyone, it’s an observation I’ve made over the past ten years. I started watching with us relegated from what now is league one, we failed in the play-offs and raised the bar to high didn’t reach it again and, as time ticked on dropped again. Honestly I don’t think by following the same pattern we’ll go forward, hand on heart – if we follow the same pattern, we’ll drop further. It feels like there’s a spoilt five year old drawing our picture with some plastic crayons on some crumpled, chip stained, McDonalds happy meal paper – time to throw that away and give Da Vinci a call – Mona Lisa, how about the Mona Mansfield!!!
We are lagging behind last year’s pattern a little, but that was then and this is now – Paul Cox can still deliver the goods for us, we just have to let him. We have numerous injuries now but shouldn’t panic, instead let’s look at solutions.
Taking the injured players and those out on loan out of the picture our squad now consists of the following...
Shane Redmond, Liam Mitchell, Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster, Luke Jones, George Pilkington, Lindon Meikle, Jake Speight, Matt Green, Louis Briscoe, Anthony Howell, Chris Clements, Andy Owens, Matt Rhead, Lee Beevers, Adam Murray, Andy Todd, Ben Hutchinson, Lee Stevenson, Scott Rogers, Jobe Shaw, Junior Daniel, Ryan Tafazolli, Solomon Taiwo.
The players in bold would make up my starting eleven against Lincoln and, for the foreseeable future (4-5 games). Many will disagree but we need someone to pull the strings yes? Andy Todd a player with bags of pace, power, creativity and vision fits the bill and has been involved in our only away win this term. We need support for Green, Hutchinson is a player that drops deep to collect things and moves the ball, allowing Meikle to go forward and support Green in the channels, Hutchinson can also play forward and hold up, he’s a strong player that can pass and finish – give him a chance to thrive, that’s all he needs. Chris Clements would give the bite and bile we need in midfield, Anthony Howell can do it too but Clements deserves his chance now. Dempster returns from Tamworth with football under his belt, let him form a partnership with Jones, or even move Sutton central – Dempster and Sutton is a proven partnership, we have Beevers or Todd to fill the right back role. Andy Owens offers a natural left foot, height, pace and, if it’s the way we want to play, a long throw – Southport rated him highly as do the England C set up, let’s give him his time to shine. We have other options naturally and do need to raid loan markets and ‘Do a Holdsworth’ – let’s show some faith in the players we’ve got and in the management team, we’ve taken the rough, now comes the smooth...
I realise I’ve harped on A LOT today, so will keep the match report as brief and as painless as possible, Paul Cox made two changes yesterday withdrawing Nick Wright and Junior Daniel for Matt Green and new addition, Soloman Taiwo, previously of Cardiff City and Dagenham & Redbridge, having impressed Cox in reserve games at Rainworth MW and against Gateshead.
Line Up: Shane Redmond, John Thompson, Exodus Geohaghon, George Pilkington, Ritchie Sutton, Solomon Taiwo, Adam Murray, Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Matt Green, Jake Speight
Subs: Louis Briscoe, Junior Daniel, Ryan Tafazolli, Matt Rhead, Chris Clements
It’s a difficult concept to grab considering the full time score but the Stags actually started quite well yesterday, a couple of early Adam Murray free kicks had the hosts stumbling, former Stags loanee Danny Andrew remaining solid to clear.
The hosts, keen to impress head coach Richard Money, stepped up their efforts and grabbed the opener on nine minutes taking advantage of the Stags lack-lustre defending. Midway in the Mansfield half Michael Gash and Tom Shaw linked up to spread the game to the left-hand side for Danny Andrew. The Cheltenham loan man was aloud far too much space and crossed from deep, Mansfield’s back four flat footed and oblivious to the advancing run of Gash, who beat Shane Redmond to the ball to smash in from an acute angle.
The hosts then missed a golden chance seconds later, Tom Elliott rising un-challenged in the centre to head Jonathon Thorpe’s right wing cross narrowly wide of the target.
Anthony Howell then gave away possession on eleven minutes, Ross Jarvis bursting through the middle to tee up Gash for an effort which sailed over the bar. Five minutes later Matt Green saw a half effort blocked in a rare view of the Cambridge goal for the Stags.
Rory McAuley, Michael Gash, Tom Elliott and Josh Coulson all saw efforts go astray, at the other end only a scuffed Adam Murray effort on 38 minutes is worth mentioning as the hosts dominance in possession saw Stags come under a dogged attack.
Disaster then struck for the Stags with three to go before the break, Luke Berry taking on and beating practically the entire Mansfield team before a crunching challenge from the Stags stand out performer John Thompson put an end to Berry’s burst. Thompson remained grounded and was eventually stretchered off in clear pain and frustration, Junior Daniel his replacement.
Moments prior to the Thompson injury Exodus Geohaghon appeared to be injured and was replaced at the break by Ryan Tafazolli for the entire second half, 45 minutes of horrendous, forgettable football.
Michael Gash added his second of the game on 48 minutes, the Stags defence falling apart like a cheap children’s toy. Ton Shaw had weaved his way through before setting up Elliott, Shane Redmond only able to palm he driven effort into the path of Gash who crept in from nowhere to double the U’s lead.
A minute later it was three as the same sequence played out again, this time Redmond was unable to keep out Elliott who smashed into the top corner.
It was soon four on 58 minutes Danny Andrew’s left sided throw flicked into the area by Elliott on the edge of the box, the hosts having three players free and un-challenged – Ross Jarvis the one who thundered home past a bemused Redmond who could only ask questions of his absent defence.
At this point I’d usually talk about an attempted fight back the simple truth is there wasn’t one! 4-3-3 eventually became 4-4-2 when Louis Briscoe replaced the un-affective Taiwo on the hour mark, however the damage was already done, Jake Speight’s 71st minute goal from Anthony Howell’s scuffed shot made zero difference to the final outcome as Cambridge continued to bombarded Mansfield, Shane Redmond keeping out numerous efforts.
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