On New Year’s Eve people often make a list of resolutions, whether that be to stop smoking, cut down on the booze or get fit – these resolutions give the people who make them a sense of optimism and hope. Alright if we’re being honest, 99% of our resolutions are broken probably before the twelfth chime of Big Ben – but sometimes those resolutions are stuck too…
Here I am, attempting to stick to mine – It’s just a dam shame that as I sit down to blog for the first time in what seems like an eternity about Football and in particular Stags, I’m sat having to reflect on a defeat.
In my opinion, we’ve made real progress under Adam Murray (since he’s had the chance to mould his own squad in the summer) and that has shown with a patch of good form, some positive results and prior to the festive/new year fixtures – a healthy position in the league table within touching distance of the play-offs.
What comes with that teetering league position is a sense of optimism and that age old question of “can we do it?” If I were to give a direct answer, I’d say yes providing we make the right additions, but having reflected on the last few games (that I’ve seen – I’m not going to be hypercritical and talk about games I’ve not been at) I’d say that our early season form has lulled us all into a false sense of security and that without Murray making the right additions, we will again be an average mid-table side.
From the get-go I’ve been supportive of Murray as Manager (and for the record will continue to be), however I believe at this stage of the season, we will see if he has the mentality to see the job through – the answer to this for me will lay in the transfer market.
I don’t think there is a question of “Is the backing from the chairman?” He’s stated on a number of occasions across a number of platforms that if Murray wants a player, the money will be there. When Mal Benning’s fine form was cut short, straight away Murray swooped for Blair Adams from Notts County – I can’t help but wonder why the same action wasn’t taken when skipper Nicky Hunt picked up his injury.
OK if you were Murray, you could argue that adequate cover was NOT available in the Benning situation it WAS with Hunt – Collins being the obvious choice along with Rose and Marsden, however it seems clear to me that Murray has very little intention on playing Marsden this season which leaves two. Collins for me performs much better in the middle whilst Rose is not a natural right back and admits so himself.
I like Rose and I can see why Murray fancies him as a Right Back; however his positional inexperience as a Right Back is something which should be nurtured in the reserves and not in senior first team action when you are going for a play-off push. We’ve been conceding early, and from the right hand side, and with that we’ve made it so difficult to turn things around – especially with Green isolated on his own up top.
We’ll come to that another time. Rustiness (and the fact I’m half watching LiarLiar on ITV2) is leading me astray. What I want to focus on is three things which, if improved and built upon, can reignite that sense of dying hope about a play-off push.
The first is something I flirted with above – the reserves. The fact Mansfield opted out of having a regular reserve team this season is a tragedy. The powers that be will argue about the finance and costing of competing in the reserve league, but does that really outweigh the importance of having regular competitive football against similar opposition for players on the fringes of the first team that are crying out for game time. The likes of Nathan Thomas, Adi Yusseff, Chris Beardsley and Jamie McGuire – all players than can positively affect the first team and provide that pivotal boost, but all players being made to wait for Nike Academy to agree to another friendly run out to get some game time.
Tactical tweaks (such as developing Rose as a right back) and injury recoveries (Benning, Hunt, Beardsley et el) are again something the reserve team is made for, yet without it tactical tweaks are having to happen at senior level (where at this stage of the season, the mistakes which WILL happen as part of the process, prove costly) and players returning to fitness are perhaps a good 3-4 weeks behind where they would be with a reserve team in place.
Secondly, and I’m disappointed to be writing this about a team with Murray at the helm – commitment, desire and urgency. Today against Accrington from the very first whistle, it was obvious that we weren’t up for the fight. We wasted valuable time, especially chasing the game, with throw-ins and set-plays. Accrington had fire in their belly and we allowed them to dictate the game, Josh Windass was outstanding for the visitors box to box and dragged us all over the place whilst Terry Gornell completely changed the game for Stanley from the bench, teeing up Billy Kee and netting himself. His running was powerful; he closed play down and limited our options of getting forward – who have we got that is capable of that at the moment?
Those types of players, a box to box midfielder and a determined “get up your nose” front man was the difference today – if we want to pursue a playoff charge, then we need these characters.
Thirdly, and I won’t harp on about it too long, is the isolation of Green. He played well today on his birthday, the Green of old – latching on to little reverse passes and directional through balls, but that’s not a regular occurrence – it would be if he had support. We tried it against York with a 4-4-2 starting Westcarr alongside Green, only for Murray to moan to the press afterwards saying “we gave it a go but it didn’t work” – we tried it for about ten minutes before reverting to type, hardly time to find a rhythm really, also – why not Beardsley (a strong physical target man ala Rhead who Green himself has a burning desire to play with again) or Yusseff?
Anyway, there’s no point me angrily typing rhetorical question after rhetorical question – the proof will be in the pudding. I don’t think I sit here typing this out of anger/ disappointment from one negative result though either, I type in hope.
That’s it for now, come on Mansfield give me some positives to keep the resolution from joining the long list of broken ones and reach that potential you have within.
Until next time, whenever that may be!
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