Beating Fleetwood on Saturday was hard work for Stags, however last night at the One Call Stadium, Paul Cox’s men un-did all of that hard work as they were buried by Bury, falling to a disgraceful 4-1 defeat.
Fellow struggles Bury to their credit were excellent; they passed the ball and often made it look like they had two extra men – All four goals were far too cheap to give away but were equally deserved and well taken. We were all in agreement last night in Q block that the game was lost not to Bury’s work rate and effort, but to the fact the management completely lost their bottle and failed to change the system when it was clear from the off that it was going to fail.
I remember last January sitting in the commentary box at Stockport in the early stages of our mammoth gallop to the league title, watching the first few minutes and seeing the struggling hosts rip Mansfield apart. We’d started, whether intentionally or not, with a flat five across midfield. Stockport ran riot and should have led thanks to an early penalty, fortunately for us, Danny Hattersley screwed his spot kick wide of the target. Paul Cox then tweaked the formation from a flat five across to the middle to a defensive midfield two (Murray and Howell) and an attacking midfield three (Meikle, Stevenson and Daniel) to support and provide for Matt Green which subsequently worked wonders and sparked THAT memorable run.
I said numerous times in commentary that night that Paul Cox had bottle to change the formation and that, by doing so, he could accept that something wasn’t quite working and give the lads the push in the right direction. In football, you live and die by the choices you make – that night Cox gave us life, last night, we died.
This happened simply because Cox stuck by his guns and continued with a failing system – from the first two minutes it was clear Bury had done their home work and exploited every hole and gap they could find. We allowed the shakers to play out from the back, not once did the keeper take a long goal kick, this is like handing a thief your house keys on Christmas Day and telling them the secret to opening that back door! As soon as you allow the visiting team to dictate play you’ve lost the game, Bury did it all night. Rhead, Stevenson, Daniel and Clucas gave chase when they could but the visitors just kept moving the ball around them making them look silly, it was embarrassing to watch.
Bury’s opener on 25 minutes should have been enough for Cox to shake the pack as Danny Mayor cantered unchallenged a good twenty yards or so before drilling low beyond Alan Marriott into the bottom corner. The opener wasn’t enough for change however the visitors created a number of opportunities for another but fortunately, didn’t find one before the break – Stags created very little of note, nothing that was ever going to change the course of the game.
Had the system changed to a 4-4-1-1 at half time, introducing Hutchinson behind Rhead and perhaps Lindon Meikle to the flanks, we may have witnessed another outcome. Sadly, there was no change and subsequently Bury took full control, adding a second on 56 minutes as Danny Nardiello rattled a shot in-off the post following a crisp low cross from the Bury right, another run which went unchallenged.
Nardiello netted his second and Bury’s third eight minutes later from identical build up play, an untracked run was followed by an unchallenged cross which fell kindly for the Bury hit man to fire crisply home on the half volley.
Still the system remained and still we watched on as Bury kept the ball and dominated play, Sam Clucas’ 71st minute tap in following Junior Daniel’s sweeping cross failed to shake the shaers as Stags clawed it back to 3-1 as a mere 15 seconds from the restart, Jake Carroll made a fool of Marriott as the Bury man lobbed him from distance to make it 4-1.
Laughably, Cox then altered the system, withdrawing Ryan Tafazolli for Ben Hutchinson with eight minutes to play – switching to a 4-4-1-1, Hutchinson went out right, Clucas out left whilst Stevenson supported substitute Ollie Palmer in attack. Question One: How is an attacking midfielder / deep lying forward going to effect the game at 4-1 down on the right hand side. Question Two: If question one can be answered how can he do that in eight minutes and finally, Question Three: why did the change not happen at half time!!
With Martin Riley and James Jennings injured, defensively our options are limited when it’s clear we need a fresh input. Get on the blower too Macclesfield and fetch George Pilkington back, maybe even give Paul Black (left back who signed in the summer for those who can’t remember him) a shot if he’s fit – seriously, what is there too loose?
Drop the system in favour of a 4-4-1-1 and bring in wingers, Junior Daniel playing a wide mans role rather than wingback would be an advantage in my opinion whilst on the right, Louis Briscoe and Lindon Meikle would welcome the opportunity to shine and get at full backs. Bring Murray or McGuire back into the middle and stick the captain’s armband on their arm and you’ve got your flair whilst Hutchinson, just behind Rhead, Palmer or Dyer would provide the goals.
Oh it seems so easy on paper doesn’t it? I’m angry like the rest of you but deep down, I do believe we’ll stay up – I just hope, maybe even beg, that Cox finds the bottle to hold his hands up and admit the system plays into the hands of the opposition far too often and then change it. In January 2013 on a cold night in Stockport he did just that, what followed was something none of us will ever forget, In February 2014 on a cold night in Mansfield, he should have done the same again, don’t let it cost us.
Written by Craig Priest
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