Craig Priest writes…
With both sides battling for promotion, the Stags just three weeks into a new managerial reign and Notts County’s desperate bid to secure their first league victory over Mansfield since 2005 – yesterday’s lunchtime class was all set to be a classic.
The weather, a horrific blizzard of blustery snow, blinding pockets of sunshine and ice cold strong windy air, meant it was far from a toe to toe classic of fire – but instead one of grit, determination and bravery, as the Stags took home the point they fully deserved, thanks to a 99th minute penalty.
The result keeps Mansfield in fifth and with a firm enough grip on a play-off place going into the final nine matches – but also keeps that tiny chunk of hope of automatic promotion alive too, and given the manor in which the Stags fought back against the elements, it installs a pivotal belief back into the dressing room and of course the terraces.
There’s something ironic about having to battle the elements to achieve what we want to achieve, the consistent change in conditions acted as a barrier we overcome, as does the cloud of doubt left by our manager walking out when he did – so if we can battle against the elements to stay in the chasing pack – I see no reason why we can’t break free and achieve the finish we so desperately crave.
It’s for that reason why Kane Hemming’s successful conversion meant so much – that solitary point could be the different when it comes to the maths, but above all else, I think had we left Meadow Lane on the back of a defeat added to all the other doubts, our season would have been over there and then.
Kevin Nolan, Alan Hardy and all the Magpies can go and wallow and cry in their one for sorrow – the video replays prove a clear hand-ball less than four yards from the vision of the referee, and as for the added on time, you’ve only yourselves and in particular your ball boys to blame for trying to run the clock down.
The first half for me was a right off in terms of a game plan and judging Flitcrofts style, it was woeful for both teams and neither could really get going – Notts County’s goal was typical of the conditions and not dealing with the second ball, credit to them for exploiting the classic smash, grab and attempt to shut up shop tactic after 35 minutes.
On any other Saturday and against any other opposition it would have worked wonders and do you know what, had we actually lost that game I’d be sitting here applauding said tactic. Yet as it happens, Mansfield Town weren’t playing to that particular script and once one subtle change was made, the Blizzard was a Mansfield Town created one – well, the Met Officer did issue an Amber weather warning afterall!
Said change was the withdrawal of Adam King who couldn’t get a foothold in the game and proved, as he did against Lincoln to be fair, more of a hindrance than a help – getting around that comes with experience and game time, which sadly for us because the boy is a great talent begging to flower, we simply have time to allow.
As harsh as that may be, it’s fact and the horrible nature of football – proved by the more experienced Will Atkinson being relatively ineffective as an out and out right winger, but very much key once brought more central upon King’s exist for Angol who moved up top, with Hemmings dropping wide.
Once that change was made, we had momentum and movement about us and we peppered the Notts County back line with attack, fair enough they weathered the storm and some may have questioned why Flitcroft didn’t make any other changes sooner – simply because we couldn’t afford to disrupt the flow of our game and I’ve no problem with that. Bringing Digby on gave them something else to worry about and to be fair to him, he didn’t stop running and created the opening we needed.
However above all else, sending Logan up for the corner was the straw that broke the camels back, or in this case Magpie’s back – they panicked and didn’t know what to do and in the madness, a flailing arm was all it took.
It was far from pretty, it was far from what we’d hoped and anticipated but who cares, seriously who actually cares about being pretty right now. Pretty doesn’t win you points, grit, determination and bravery does – never saying die does – and that is exactly what Mansfield Town did.
Now to do it again, nine – more – times! COME ON!
With skipper Zander Diamond injured and Rhys Bennett back from suspension there was an obvious change made by David Flitcroft, who was dropped Hayden White in favour of Will Atkinson with Anderson reverting to right back – Adam King also replaced Byrom, whilst Ricky Miller was rewarded with a place on the bench, ending speculation he’d be heading back to Peterborough.
With the blustery conditions – it took a while for both sides to get going, the stags had a neat passage of play down the left hand side on seven minutes but Benning’s drive into the area saw him dispossessed – three minutes later at the other end Conrad Logan punched away a cross, only as far as Liam Noble who volleyed high and wide.
Kane Hemmings nearly broke the deadlock on fourteen minutes as his turn and shot in the area hit a trailing leg, the stags had to settle for just a corner before the tackle of the first half on 21 minutes, as Notts County fan leapfrogged the barriers in an attempt to taunt the 4,000+ visiting fans – the steward took no prisoners, the police, presumably, did.
Back to the action a moment of end to end just past the half hour mark, first Conrad Logan won a one vs one race between him and veteran front man Jon Stead, Danny Rose then pulled the trigger at the other end from 20 yards with his left foot, Adam Vollin in the Notts goal behind the shot well.
Conrad Logan then made a fine save on 34minutes as Jorge Grant came forward at a canter and picked out Shola Ameobi, Logan denying the former Newcastle United front man at the expense of a corner – from which, disaster struck as Ameobi headed towards goal only to be denied by Loagn again – former Stag Terry Hawkridge nodded in the rebound to put the hosts ahead.
Notts skipper Richard Duffy then made a vital clearance ahead of Hemmings as Anderson lofted in a cross before the half time whistle blew.
Danny Rose showed his credentials as a centre half as the second half got underway as he got in the way of Ameobi’s flick on towards Stead on 50 minutes – six minutes later the Stags countered beautifully through Hemming’s who reached the edge of the box and let fly – Adam Collin making a solid one handed save to retain the hosts’ lead.
On the hour it was Paul Anderson who hit one from distance following good work from CJ Hamilton, the Stags right back/ right winger/ right beard products endorser a whisker away as his shot curled towards target.
A minute later King was replaced by Angol, Alex MacDonald next to have any real chance on 70 minutes with a long range drive, again well held by Collin via a deflection.
Ten minutes later Will Atkinson picked out Rose with a fine through ball, Rose cut inside and shot but sent his effort wide of target as the clock began to run out.
A succession of corners followed before the Stags introduced an unlikely hero in the form of Paul Digby who replaced Anderson in a tactic commonly known as throwing the kitchen sink at the hosts – Digby’s relentless running saw him pick up the ball in his own half, hammer the ball forward before advancing to link up with Atkinson and then cross beautifully for Alex MacDonald who’s top corner bound header, was well saved by Collin.
The Stags looked to be done but with a corner and about a minute to go, the call came from the bench, and 4,000+ Stags fans, for Conrad Logan to power forward and join the attack for Benning’s corner….
With County under siege from a sea of Amber, Alex MacDonald again connected with the ball, looping a head back into the mix – only for the ball to strike the arm of the County defender inside the box, straight infront of the referee who pointed straight to the spot.
An agonising wait followed before Kane Hemmings placed the ball on the spot and kept his composure, running up and striking the ball with sheer power and placement beyond Collin who guessed correctly, but could only watch on as Hemmings tore away celebrating the goal which could save the season.
Notts County got the game back underway, but soon saw the Stags smash clear to the sound of the full time whistle mixed the eruption of emotional relief, felt by everyone associated with Mansfield Town Football Club, who in securing the point, also retained the Matt Salmon Trophy – long may that be in the hands of the Stags and the memory of a dedicated clubman be honoured.
FULL TIME: Notts County 1-1 Stags
Paul Anderon (Paul Digby 90+1) – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Will Atkinson – Adam King (Lee Angol 61) – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Joel Byrom, Omari Sterling-James, Ricky Miller, Hayden White
Attendance: 12,514 (4,164)
Referee: Andy Woolmer Assistants Daniel Robathan and Mark Russell. Fourth Official Graham Salisbury
Craig Priest writes….
With now ten games to go, the balloon of optimism is slowly deflating after yet another 1-1 draw at the One Call Stadium – but the real question is, who has undone the knot in the first place, does the blame lie with players, is it with the fella who legged in to Peterborough or is it in the hands of David Flitcroft.
There were a pocket after the game as I was leaving that felt it’s the latter – my tongue now has a polo-like hole in it from biting it so hard – how can you blame a man whose had what, ten days in charge?
No matter if it were Flitcroft, Dempster or any of the other names linked with the role – we’d still find ourselves in a whirlwind of bewilderment, the key is rallying together and trying to re-tie the knot and re-inflate.
There’s no shying away from the fact we were poor in the second half yesterday, as soon as the whistle blew to kick-off the second period we looked flat and lacked any energy or conviction – it’s that which dropped us two points, as our lack of flair and energy saw us slowly pulled back and allowed a bang average side a cheap way through.
Joel Byrom’s clearance was poor, but the blame isn’t just on him – why did nobody pick up the run or try and make a challenge? Why at the other end did we not create enough chances? Why were we so poor with the ball and so flat?
I’ve listened to Flitcrofts post-match and he too highlighted that first ten minutes of the second half, if we’d started with some zip and zest about our play we’d be talking about a different result here – and then if Zander hadn’t pulled up injured, we’d have used our third and final substitution to bring on a front man.
Some were saying we should have gone three at the back, but at that point Colchester were coming at us and looking like they had another goal in them, had we swapped Zander for Angol or Spencer, we’d have had one natural centre-half, brining Digby on was the right call – he won every header and worked hard to force passages of play which were never going to trouble us, we looked solid at the back when he came on and were so unlucky at the other end to not win the game, Digby’s height and physical presence looked a threat.
The game, like that Peterborough fella, has gone – we have ten games left to go we have a game in hand on Notts County in third PLUS them to play on Saturday, oh and the small matter of Accrington (1st) and Luton (2nd) to play over Easter – it’s not over, it’s just the long and hard way around!
With Rhys Bennett suspended, skipper Zander Diamond was back into the starting line-up whilst after scoring in midweek, Joel Byrom was introduced for Adam King as David Flitrcoft made two changes from the side which drew with Lincoln in the week.
The returning Stags skipper nearly gave his new boss a dream early start on six minutes, after Danny Rose had won a corner – Diamond steamed in to meet Byrom’s delivery, only to see the visitors hack the ball away from danger.
Six minutes later, Diamond’s defensive partner Pearce made a pivotal flick on to Heammings, who headed back across goal rather than thump an effort towards the net, as the Stags searched for their opener
Alex MacDonald then took the opportunity for a quick throw on twenty minutes which led to a corner through CJ Hamilton – the Stags failed to make it pay, but took a gamble two minutes later as Logan launched the ball long, finding Hemming’s who lofted the ball beyond the keeper to put the Stags into a 1-0 lead.
It should have been two just two minutes later as Byrom picked out Rose – the Stags leading marksman controlled well but couldn’t find the target on this occasion, denied by Sam Walker in the U’s goal.
Alex MacDonald then curled a free-kick from thirty yards wide of the target on 38 minutes as Rose was fouled, at the other end Conrad Logan had to be alert with three minutes to go, denying Drey Wright to send the Stags into the break one goal to the good.
On 50 minutes the Stags felt aggrieved as Logan launched long for Hamilton, he looked to have been fouled by Jackson who also appeared to have handled the ball, yet the referee awarded the visitors a free-kick.
A minute later, in a dase, the Stags conceded a soft equaliser Joel Byrom’s poor clearance saw Brandon Comley advance and place the ball into the back of the net.
A double change then saw Anderson and Byrom replaced by Atkinson and Mellis, before the Stags lost skipper Diamond on 65 minutes through injury – Paul Digby his replacement.
Digby nearly grabbed the Stags a second just four minutes after coming off the bench, his well-timed run saw him connect with MacDonald’s pin point cross – the substitute sent a header crashing against the bar.
With three minutes to go Walker pulled off a tremendous double save – first denying Benning’s top corner destined effort, before palming the rebound – a header from Mellis, away – his back line made sure it was clear, hacking off the line for a corner, from which Pearce thundered in, but headed over.
Six minutes of added on time followed, the Stags couldn’t find a winner and settled for a third consecutive 1-1 draw.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-1 Colchester Utd
Conrad Logan – Kyrstian Parce [CPT 65]– Zander Diamond © (Paul Digby 65) – Mal Benning
Paul Anderson (Will Atkinson 57) – Joel Byrom (Jacob Mellis 57) – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Lee Angol, Jimmy Spencer, Adam King
Referee: Ross Joyce Assistants: Alix Pashley, Chris Ward Fourth Official: Alf Greenwood
Attendance: 4,050 (163)
Craig Priest writes…
“There’s still a lot of work to do on the training ground” Those were the words of new boss David Flictroft speaking after the 1-1 draw against Lincoln City, his first since taking over the reins from Steve Evans last week – those words refreshing to hear from a manager determined to battle against the sands of time and deliver project promotion, with now just eleven games to go.
Each manager comes with their own style of play and own ideas, Flitcroft has inherited a team who are used to playing deep and putting us supporters through a rough final ten minutes with back against the wall, sometimes (often actually) panic station defending – yet as a manager he likes his teams to not invite pressure and close the game out in midfield.
You could see Ben Futcher (the new assistant manager for anyone hearing about these changes for the first time!) screaming (encouragingly and not in a Paul Raynor way) for the back line to push higher and force Lincoln back and as Flitcroft said in his refreshingly honest and referee abusing free post match interview – for 89 minutes the boys did just that and credit to them, but football is a game longer than that and we fell into Lincoln’s trap, we fell back into the Evans ‘soak up the punches’ mentality and we’re punished as The imps did what the imps do best.
I’m not going to sit here and be angry at that, it’s natural to play a certain way after so long – and in such a quick turnaround between the flying Scotsman leaving and Flitcroft arriving, I have no complaints about it, in fact I expected it, it’ll be interesting to see what happens in that situation in four or five games time…. The worry is we don’t have four or five games to tinker!
I want to pick up on a few things, firstly if you haven’t already guessed I’m happy with the result, no doubt I’ll go into more detail Thursday in the Podcast, under Evans I’d have feared a capitulation ala Luton.
Secondly I want to highlight Flitcroft and Futcher’s professionalism in applauding for the gentleman who sadly passed away recently during the match, the way in which they handled the fans and finally the post-match interview – not ONE word about the referee and the sending’s off late on. Luke Waterfall, another blast from the Stags past, rightly dismissed for hurling that bottle into the crowd – BUT whoever launched it FROM the crowd in the first place needs to be ejected from the ground too, I could totally understand his anger at the card but by the letter of the law, it’s a red card – as was Rhys Bennett’s second yellow – no complaints there.
Team and shape wise you could already see the difference, when we were on the attack the system became much more of a 4-2-3-1/ 4-3-3 with MacDonald and King (Later Byrom) sitting in deeper roles with Rose also dropping deeper, allowing Hemmings, Hamilton and the impressive Anderson to play freely around him – Anderson also dropped into that role just off the front two which encouraged the full backs to push forward and thus play a higher attacking game, which again given a few more games will start to really pay off.
It was natural that Ollie Palmer was going to score, but let it be – our focus is now on the final 11 games with our fate in our own hands, Flitcroft knows and admitted it wasn’t the greatest spectacle to watch, he also knows where the work needs to be done. We’re fortunate that we are at home again on Saturday so don’t have to waste time travelling – I believe that every possible second will be spent on the training ground getting things right, this is ours to lose and in David Flitcroft and Ben Futcher, we have two footballing people that are determined to battle against the sands of time and deliver on broken promises.
New boss David Flitcroft made just the one change, one I expected in Paul Anderson not playing right back – Hayden White brought back in for Alfie Potter, allowing Anderson to move forward. Interestingly there was no place on the bench for Ricky Miller, of course on loan from Peterborough – a few whispers around me suggested Evans would recall him – but then again, we could be putting two and two together and making seven thousand and four.
A tentative start from both sides saw the Stags try and find their groove against a hungry Lincoln side full of old faces – Matt Rhead the first old face to head into Logan’s arms, the offside flag up however on six minutes against a man who made the most critical flick-on in the clubs history.
Five minutes later it was one of the newest faces to be involved as Adam King picked up a yellow card for a strong, but fair, challenge on Alex Woodyard – however from then on with King on ice, he looked shaky and vulnerable.
Rhead was again in the thick of the action as he struck towards goal, Mal Benning on hand to turn the ball away near the line as the burley front man’s effort trickled goalwards, Benning again in the thick of the action on 17 minutes as another ex-Stag in Luke Waterfall hit towards goal, the Imps skipper denied by Benning before nodding the looping loose follow up wide of the target.
At the other end a minute later the first sight of flowing attacking football as Rose flicked into the path of Kane Hemmings – the Oxford loanee picked out the run of Anderson who duly delivered on a plate for Rose, who couldn’t find his former and now reunited boss a first Stags goal, as he volleyed over the bar.
The Stags kept on the pressure as Hamilton began to unpick the City back line – his weaving movement set MacDonald from a long range drive on twenty minutes, the ball zipping just wide of Ryan Allsop’s goal.
Club legend (remember that when you’re booing him the small minority!) Matt Green popped up to say hello on 29 minutes as he set up Waterfall for a stinging volley – Conrad Logan equal to it, down low in the centre of his goal.
Danny Rose again then squandered the chance for an opener on 31 minutes as Hemmings fed Hamilton – the pacey wide man squared the ball from Rose who fired over on his left foot.
At the break Adam King was withdrawn for Joel Byrom, Flitcroft admitting after the match he wanted some calm in the middle predicating a feisty second half – he wasn’t wrong with the fuel added by Bryom on 49 minutes as he tore away inside the box to head home Hayden’s White’s chipped cross, after Paul Anderson had created a gap for the anticipating White.
With the stags a goal to the good, Lincoln upped the intensity determined as they do to not go home empty handed, Matt Rhead flicking on for Matt Green (that sound’s familiar!) on 57 minutes, Green hitting over from close range.
Jimmy Spencer was introduced for Hemmings on 76 minutes, instructed to chase down everything and be the hold-up man – Will Atkinson then replaced Paul Anderson who looked shattered with ten minutes to go before Lincoln made the change which was bound to impact the game, Ollie Palmer replaced Green.
Rhys Bennett picked up his first yellow card for time wasting on 82 minutes as a tense finish lingered in the air – Jimmy Spencer unlucky not to seal the game with two minutes to go as Rose sent him on his way, the front man just lacked that extra half a yards pace to round the advancing Allsop – the Lincoln glovesman just clearing the lines.
Lincoln, with Rhead as the puppet master, pushed the Stags further back despite instructions to push out and as predicted got their reward as Ollie Palmer latched onto the loose ball unmarked to slam home and celebrate in front of the home support.
It was then it turned ugly as a bottle was launched towards the celebrating crop of Imps players and ex-Stags, Luke Waterwall the City captain and brief former Stag launched the bottle back into the crowd – spotted by the referee who subsequently produced a straight red.
The game calmed for a minute, before Rhys Bennett brought down a Lincoln player, picking up his second yellow card and taking one for the team – fortunately the sands of time in this particular encounter ran out before any more damage could be done.
Work to do, yes – is it over, grow up! A fair result between two competitive sides – the Stags remain in 5th – one point behind Notts County in the last automatic place in third with a game in hand on them AND them still to play.
This story isn’t over, this is chapter one of twelve in 'twelve against time'
FULL TIME: Stags 1-1 Lincoln
Hayden White – Krystian Pearce – Rhys Bennet [Sent Off, two bookings 90+4] – Mal Benning
Paul Anderson (Will Atkinson 80) - Adam King (Joel Byrom HT) – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Jimmy Spencer 75)
Unused substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Zander Diamond, Jacob Mellis, Lee Angol
Referee: Graham Salisbury Assistants: Gary Hilton and Grant Taylor Fourth Official Peter Gibbons
Attendance 6,091 (unknown)
The Beast from the East left a freezing chill across the country last week, but as snow fell and temperatures dropped – the Mansfield public were left short of breath in bewilderment as Steve Evans resigned with full intention of taking up the vacant managerial post at League One Peterborough United.
It was far from a posh and pleasant move from Evans who rode into Mansfield 15 months previously in a blaze of publicity, promising to turn Mansfield Town into champions, but ultimately allowed his ego to get in the way of real progress as week upon week he singled out a minority of supporters and focused on playing verbal tennis rather than the football.
Results were improving and to be fair, after a stuttered start, Evans had began to find some rhythm – yet still there was always a sense of distance between the nine-time promotion winner and the club faithful, this is something which, now he’s jumped ship, I’ll admit worried me.
Very rarely would Evans be seen applauding the fans after a game home or away, unless of course it was a win in a big game – I also know too from credible sources that the now Peterborough manager was very reluctant to agree to take part in the annual supporters forum, which he cancelled.
Regardless of all of that, Evans left the club in the critical time it needed a leader, seriously jeopardising project promotion – the club’s supporters are lucky that deep down, the Radford’s had a plan for a wee cheeky sneaky move from the Scotsman – and what a move, a masterstroke in poaching David Flitcroft from Swindon.
Flitcroft has achieved promotion from this division before and upon meeting his at last Thursday’s press conference, I got the impression that the missing community feel between management/ players and the supporters had been found.
I was proved right on Sunday when Flitcroft, staff and players brought along their shovels and joined supporters in clearing the snow covered pitch ahead of tomorrow night’s showdown with checkatrade trophy finalists and play-off rivals Lincoln City.
Straight away Flitcroft getting stuck in creates a bond, a lust to support which is pivotal at this stage as there are only twelve league games to go before the full time whistle blows on the 2017-18 campaign – something which in all the drama of the last week, you’d be forgiven for overlooking.
When a manager quits in such a manner on with the sands of time running thin on the season, panic sets in, however a swift appointment has given Flitcroft nearly a week to train with the players and get his feet under the table – couple that with the fact we’re at home tomorrow night for his first game rather than be away (Stevenage having been postponed at the weekend) and add on the togetherness bond, it may just be enough to give us that extra energy and push going into the final twelve games.
That Scottish fella is a thing of the past, and no matter how many articles try and stir the pot we have to 10000000% back Flitcroft’s appointment and HIS team – from now on, it’s HIS team selection, HIS training methods, HIS style of play and HIS guidance through the wild wilderness which is league two.
The new Stags boss inherits Evans’ staff but straight away, even before the ink was dry on his contract, they were working for Flitcroft – clearing a training area for the work to start straight away, once again highlighting that we are in this for Mansfield Town Football Club and not for egos and personal records.
I’m delighted that Lee Taylor has stayed – his work often goes unnoticed and unrecognised, yet it’s no coincidence that the likes of Danny Rose, Alex MacDonald and CJ Hamilton have all be re-born since his arrival – Adam Murray used to talk about (and get wrongly mocked) the missing percentages, those little 1 or 2% extras which win games – and that’s exactly what Taylor brings to the party.
Swindon’s fan base are naturally disappointed with Flitcroft’s switch which ironically is pretty similar to what that Scottish fella did to us – the difference is we’ve done it professionally in the best interest of both clubs – aka we’ve got a manager who I sense has been a target of the Radford’s for a long time, and Swindon have a very decent compensation package, allowing them to address some issues their fans are choosing to ignore.
Lincoln City may well be dreaming to Wembley success, but they’ll also be focussed on progression in Sky Bet League two – four points outside the play-offs with a game in hand on Swindon – they will not roll over and give Flitcroft the traditional easy early ride, there’s no time for honeymoons here, it’s all hands to the pump.
Naturally changes will be made, certain players will be better suited to the way in which the new manager wants to play and certain players may have taken the opportunity to come out of their shell and give that extra 10% which could prove the difference.
This time a week a go there was a sense of unease with the rumour mill in full swing but what followed, few actually believed would happen until the end of the season – and yet it did and once more Mansfield Town Football Club have come through the other side of the water, together as one.
What was it John Radford said? No Individual is bigger than Mansfield Town Football Club – well now, I don’t think we have anyone that fits that bill, just a manager, players and supporters all wanting one single thing, promotion.
Get yourself to the One Call Stadium tomorrow – make as much noise as possible, the sands of time on this season may well be running thin – but they are still flowing, and three points would be the perfect way to start second beginnings.
Craig Priest writes….
With the spring afternoons starting to break through the clouds, the end of the season is approaching in the distance – and with supporters up and down the land knowing what the run-in means for their team, it’s on afternoon’s such as Saturday where reactions could prove the critical difference.
In the grand scheme of things a point against Coventry is far better than capitulating and losing – however playing for a good percentage of the game against ten men, there’s a frustratingly chilling bite of air in the otherwise sunny landscape.
It’s naturally that stutters and stumbles will happen and you can’t fault the players endeavours as sometimes things just don’t fall your way, for example the penalty shout on Ricky Miller for which he was booked for simulation. Teams like Coventry won’t sit back and die with ten men, they’ll make it hard for you in every way they can – it’s how you react to that and then how your react the following week which counts.
Personally I don’t think we were clinical enough and with the early man advantage should have gambled to get that extra cushion to take the game, ultimately using just two substitutes rather than all three proved the undoing as we ran out of legs and ideas.
I can see why Evans opted for Mellis but having not played centrally with Alex MacDonald in a match situation, it hindered rather than helped as Coventry moved bodies into the middle and despite having a man less, made it difficult for us to get going.
Also, why not use that final substitution we had to get Atkinson alongside Mellis (thus solving the pairing issue) and get MacDonald wide, as Potter wasn’t having his greatest afternoon up against Ryan Haynes.
Alas though it’s all hindsight and a point onto our tally is better than all three onto someone else’s – we have momentum on our side and must just react, using the full energy of the squad to focus game by game, with our next being Stevenage away on Saturday.
It was as you were once again for Steve Evans who named the same starting line-up and bench as the previous two games, it was start as you finished too for the Stags, who found themselves under emended pressure from the first whistle as the visitors enjoyed three successive corners, Conrad Logan on hand with the second to beat away Rod McDonald’s powerful header.
The Stags nearly caught the visitors out over the top on ten minutes as Benning and MacDonald combined to feed CJ Hamilton, the pacey winger just unable to get a boot around the body of Jordan Willis who watched the ball out of play.
Direct play then saw the visitors down to ten men as Logan’s long punt found Rose free on goal, the leading marksman was brought down on the edge of the box by Willis who was the last defender, and as such protested little at the sight of the straight red card.
The resulting free-kick gave Mansfield another advantage – a goal! Alex MacDonald whipped one low through the wall, Kane Hemmings’ boot the one which was judged to have had the last touch, as the set play dribbled into the bottom corner.
A man up and a goal up saw the Stags take a foot hold of the game, but with it came fe clear cut chances – as good possession coupled with poor touches from Hamilton, Anderson and Potter equalled squandered opportunities for a second – Alex MacDonald’s long range drive caused little trouble for Lee Burge on 23 minutes, seven minutes later Rhys Bennett headed over an Alfie Potter cross.
The excellent Lee Burge then denied the Stags a second with five to go before the break as Hamilton countered down the right hand side following a poor Coventry corner – Hamilton, just inside the box, fired straight at a grounded Burge – rather than try and lift the ball over the Sky Blues number one.
Kane Hemmings also spurned a chance three minutes later, after Anderson had delivered from the right, heading wide of the target.
Mansfield started the second half with fire and hunger as Hamilton and Anderson caused problem after problem down either side, on 62 minutes Lee Burge again came to Coventry’s rescue as Hamilton picked out Hemmings’ – the Oxford loanee’s shot cannoned off the legs of Burge and away.
Alex MacDonald whistled one wide on 65 minutes from distance but five minutes later the visitors had a golden chance to draw level – as MacDonald bundled over Clarke-Harris inside the box – Conrad Logan was left with egg on his face after failed attempts at mind game with Clarke-Harris, who subsequently converted the spot-kick for 1-1 – after Logan had been yellow carded.
At 1-1 the game was balanced despite the stags numerical advantage, the introduction of Miller and Mellis did little and the Stags had to wait until the 82nd minute for another chance – MacDonald again stepping up top hit a free-kick, denied however by a good save from Burge.
With three minutes to go Miller went down in the box by got nothing bar a yellow card for simulation, whilst after four minutes of stoppage time, the game ended level and with results elsewhere – the Stags dropped a place to fifth with a game in hand.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-1 Coventry
Paul Anderson – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Adam King (Jacob Mellis 80) – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Ricky Miller 74)
Unused substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Zander Diamond, Will Atkinson, Jimmy Spencer, Matt Penney
Referee: Michael Salisbury Assistants: Peter Gooch & Duncan Street Fourth Official Mark Dwyer
Attendance 6,105 (1,523)
Craig Priest writes….
There’s an old saying in life and in football of ‘after the Lord Mayors Show’ which is one of warning to expect a come down after experience such a high. Following Tuesday’s epic 5-0 thumping of Newport County, the Stags faced their longest trip to the season to promotion rivals Exter and ensured they went the extra mile to prevent another stutter in their season.
Danny Roses’ first half goal proved the difference on an afternoon where both attacking and defensive play can take full applause and high praise as it proved that the luck won’t always be on your side when it comes to raining goals.
Mansfield really did pick up where they left off in the first half with wave after wave of attack, I couldn’t help but think at half-time that had we started with Miller or Spencer, we may have had a more comfortable cushion in terms of score line, as we lacked that physicality in the box to connect with the excellence provided by the likes of Potter, Hamilton and MacDonald.
As it is, we got the goal we deserved and naturally, as we expected, Exeter didn’t say die and had us penned in for the majority of the second half – although for all their possession, they did nothing with it – Conrad Logan a mere spectator. That’s not to say that Exeter were poor, far from it, it’s in the majority down to our defensive focus and determination to go the extra mile, keep a clean sheet and bring a massive three points the long way home.
The win opens up a six point cushion over us and Lincoln who occupy the last play-off space, they have played the same number of matches now and have us still to play – so in that respect, it’s ours to lose. The victory also creates another buffer over Exeter in 8th who despite having two games in hand, remain seven points behind – whilst we have still got teams around us to play with the points gaps tightening – automatic promotion is well within our sights, thanks in no small part to our professionalism in seeing a game out for all three points, rather than collapsing as we were doing October/November/December time.
As always it’s onto the next game with both eye’s fixed on that game and that game only, start to worry about what others are doing and we’ll trip ourselves up, start to focus on games more than one in the future and we’ll trip ourselves up – let’s not try and predict what’s around the corner because, as in every great drama or novel, experiencing the unexpected in the moment is a far greater thrill than knowing how it all works out.
Did anyone REALLY believe Steve Evans when he said changes were going to be made? No, me neither – and so no surprise to see it was as you were for the entire 18, although Joel Byrom and Paul Digby did travel with the squad, the latter didn’t drive so no speeding ticket required!
The Stags started as they did in midweek against Newport – Hungry and rampant (There’s a valentines joke in there somewhere), as Alex MacDonald and Alfie Potter both put early crosses in which Exeter scrambled away.
The Stags were denied by a great save on five minutes as a ball found its way into the mix, Danny Rose the man to strike but saw Christy Pym turn the ball onto the post and away from danger – eight minutes later the hosts again hanging on as Rose just couldn’t get MacDonald’s ball into the middle out of his feet.
Rose thrice was denied by Pym as the Stags created yet more openings on 16 minutes, before three minutes later Rose picked out Hemmings who in turn fed Potter who won a corner, this time the short routine saw the hosts turn the ball away.
Home skipper Jordan Moore-Taylor was on hand to block a goal bound effort from Hemmings on 25 minutes, three minutes later another effort from the Oxford loan man, this time on the half volley, was deflected over by Troy Brown.
Mansfield found the breakthrough they deserved on 38 minutes as Potter twisted and turned down the right following some excellent football across the park, Potter delivered in to the middle to find Hemmings who struck the bar – the rebound fell for Rose who thundered at Pym, who could do nothing bar turn the ball into the back of the net.
The hosts made two changes at the break to put an extra man forward and try to get a way back into the match, yet on 47 minutes it was the Stags again in control, as a long ball was cushioned by Hemmings into the path of Rose, who agonisingly dragged his effort wide of Pyms goal.
Kane Wilson dragged in a cross for the hosts on 52, the hosts first sight of goal since the break, but couldn’t pick out a red and white shirt – before on the hour, vice-captain Pearce, cushioned a header out of play as the hosts looked to feed leading scorer Jaden Stockley over the top.
The hosts were coming forward more and more to little effect, yet Steve Evans opted to withdraw a striker to help soak up the pressure, Will Atkinson replacing Hemmings on 62 minutes – Mal Benning the next to have a sight of goal for Stags on 66, his drive and shot, turned behind.
Jimmy Spencer replaced Danny Rose on 75 to provide some much needed ariel outlet for the Stags who were soaking up more and more pressure, on 85 minutes Logan raced out to smash away a long ball forward before substitute Kyle Edwards could pounce.
Exeter to be fair to them were relentless in their pursuit of a goal but the Stags stuck 11 men behind the ball and into the first of four minutes added time, which ended up being about seven, skipper Zander Diamond replaced Alex MacDonald as the Stags went five at the back - the full time whistle took an eternity to arrive, but eventually did as the Stags took home a huge three points.
Full Time: Exeter City 0-1 Stags
Paul Anderson – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Alex MacDonald (Zander Diamond 90+1) – Adam King – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 75) – Kane Hemmings (Will Atkinson 62)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Jacob Mellis, Matt Penney, Ricky Miller
Referee: Chris Saringson Assistants: Dean Treleaven & Marvyn Amphlett Fourth Official Ronald Ganfield
Attendance: 3,680 (244)
Craig Priest writes….
It isn’t about how or why you fall, it’s about how you stand – words heeded by Mansfield Town in empathic fashion as they delivered the thumping they’d been promising for months – play-off rivals Newport County the unfortunate souls to receive the wrath of the Stag.
In truth it wasn’t even a pasting, it was simply a professional and disciplined performance from Steve Evans men who would have ran up a cricket score had it not been for a few fine saves from Joe Day in the Newport goal – it’s easy to get carried away with the score-line and become arrogant but there wasn’t a drop of that in the air last night, as Stags remained composed and focussed from the first whistle to the very last.
Newport had a free Saturday at the weekend but looked far from rested, if anything the boot seemed to be on the other foot as Mansfield’s players came out hungry like they hadn’t played football for decades.
Alfie Potter was lethal on the right hand side and will undoubtedly cherish the match ball that will live in his downstairs loo for eternity, the injection of pace and flair was exactly what was lacking at Swindon – and do you know what? Actually it’s great to have players like Potter coming in and putting in such a display almost to say to Evans “This is why you should pick me”.
CJ Hamilton had arguably the worst game of his Stags career on Saturday and last night, one glance at Matt Penney waiting to take his place was enjoy to wake him up – what a performance from CJ who will be in David Pipe’s nightmares for weeks.
Above all else though there was one thing which won us that game, one factor which I’ll continue to bang on about for months – Alex MacDonald in central midfield. Forget him as an out and out winger, look at him as someone as a player who can move out there and do a job if needed – he is missed when he’s not playing a central role. Barnet and Swindon are fine examples of that, yes we beat Barnet with him wide but we lacked a lot in the middle that game and against a better side, we’d have been punished for it – proven at Swindon.
MacDonald is a sublime box to box midfielder and his talent shone last night as he covered every blade of grass yet again – what is more, youngster Adam King really compliments MacDonald’s style which was highlighted not only in the Stags attacking movements, but in soaking up the pockets of pressure Newport applied and in MacDonald’s excellent goal.
Keeping things fresh is the key now to sustaining our fortune, two or three subtle changes a game will be the difference between winning and losing I feel now, especially with teams still around us to play – it’s important to enjoyed nights such as Tuesday but also not get carried away, we won’t smash every team we play despite being capable of doing so, we won’t score five game in game out – but what we will do, is tackle every game with the professional attitude it deserves and that in itself will reap the rewards.
Steve Evans made just two changes from Saturday’s loss at Swindon, the back four stayed the same meaning no place for Hayden White or Zander Diamond, the latter back on the bench – whilst Alfie Potter took the place of Atkinson moving MacDonald back to the middle, alongside debutant Adam King, replacing an ill Joel Byrom.
The Stags started rampant the night before Valentines as Alfie Potter swung in a first minute cross which CJ Hamilton narrowly missed, two minutes later it was Hemmings who caused Newport to put the ball behind for a corner as Benning delivered with fizz from the left, Potter cut in following the corner but failed to keep his shot on target.
Joe Day then kept the scored level with a smart save with his legs on five minutes as Pearce flicked the ball into the path of Hemmings, the Oxford loan man denied – as was strike partner Rose mere seconds later from Hemmings’ set – Rose’s effort deflected behind.
The Stags and Rose wouldn’t have to wait long, as moments later skipper Pearce did well to keep the ball alive in the box and dribble to the bye-line, his cut back to the back post picked out Rose who converted for his 16th of the season.
Mansfield were only getting started and we’re quickly two ahead on nine minutes as CJ Hamilton’s lightening pace left Newport chasing a mere blur down the left hand side, Hamilton took on three before squaring into the mix for Potter, who fired home from ten yards.
Frank Nouble registered Newport’s first shot on 17 minutes but Conrad Logan collected with ease after Anderson had taken the sting out of the ball – three minutes later it was back to the other end as Hamilton once more opened up the visitors – this time his cut back turned wide at full stretch by Rose.
The offside flag denied Newport a goal on 22 minutes following a set-play and from then on the visitors saw little action in the Mansfield half, as Steve Evans men looked for a third – Mal Benning zipped one over the bar on 27 minutes before Potter provided the magic touch to add the Stags third a mere minute later – after Rose had been thwarted by three Newport bodies and then the bar – Potter lofting the ball over a grounded Day to ignite one hell of a night at the One Call Stadium.
A rare corner for Newport on 33 was cleared and rapid on the counter attack the Stags won their own corner, Alfie Potter delivered into the mix and Alex MacDonald converted, drilling the loose ball through the crowd Neil MacKenzie style for 4-0.
Rose, Anderson and Potter all saw chances for a fifth spurned before the break but even as the Stags were applauded off for the break – you sensed a lot more to come.
Two changes for Newport calmed the game down a little but the Stags would soon regain full control, Alex MacDonald’s 54th minute free kick turned towards goal by Rhys Bennett, denied the games fifth goal by the base of the post.
A minute later Danny Rose created a brilliant chance for Hemmings who peeled free in the box, the front man failed to hit the back of the back of the net, well with the ball anyway, lifting his effort over as forceful momentum sent him into the netting.
Cometh the hour, cometh the hat-trick (well the 61st minute but that doesn't flow as well does it!) – Alfie Potter unmarked at the back post to collect Hamilton’s cross via a Rose, let’s say flick but I think miscued shot, to drill into the bottom corner – the ball took a deflection but Potter walked home, quite rightly, with the match ball tucked safely underneath his arm.
It should have been six on 69 as MacDonald curled a free-kick into the side netting from the edge of the box, Alfie Potter then got a heroes send-off as he was replaced by Penney on 76 minutes.
Rose was then provider for substitute Ricky Miller, denied his first Stags goal by the legs of Day with nine minutes to go, after Rose did well to keep the ball alive of the bye-line and square to a hungry Miller.
Two minutes later Day raced out to clear a long ball and was nearly caught out as the poor clearance dropped to King, just inside the Newport half, who responded to cries of shoot – lobbing the ball towards the top corner – Day back peddled well to palm the ball over at the very last second.
Third and final Stags substitute Jimmy Spencer won a free-kick in the 90th minute, MacDonald this time curling into the arms of Day, who was very happy to call it a night at the sound of the referee’s whistle moments later.
FULL TIME: Stags 5-0 Newport
Paul Anderson – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter (Matt Penney 76) – Alex MacDonald – Adam King – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 89) – Kane Hemmings (Ricky Miller 79)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Zander Diamond, Jacob Mellis, Will Atkinson
Referee: Ben Toner Assistants: Declan Ford, Andrew Hendley Fourth Official Anthony Tankard
Attendance: 2,866 (57)
Craig Priest writes…
When you’re riding on the crest of a wave, there’s always a niggling feeling that one wrong move could land you splashing in the water struggling to find your feet, that’s exactly the feeling the Stags experienced at Swindon as their rich vein of form was brought to a crashing halt by fellow play-off chaser Swindon Town.
Steve Evans in his post match analysis labelled it the ‘toughest defeat to take’ and whilst he’s right by virtue of the fact we we’re the better side for periods of the game, especially late on when we peppered the Swindon back line, there was nothing about us in three key areas for me – energy, conviction, and communication.
When I saw the team sheet at 2pm I had a horrible feeling, I felt we lacked a bit of energy in midfield last weekend and would have liked to have seen fresh legs in the wide areas to drive us forward as we did towards the end of the game in young Matt Penney and Alfie Potter, but by then – too little, too late.
Moving Alex MacDonald back out wide in the past two games hasn’t worked for me, he is a fighter and wins every battle going – at this critical stage of the season he needs to be the central pivot and let the likes of Potter, Anderson, Atkinson and to a degree Sterling-James and White do the running out wide – Without MacDonald in the middle we’ve not got that clink, like in air hockey when the puck deflects with zip back towards the other end.
It’s because of that that we lack conviction, no buffer has seen us get penned in our own half and we are finding it increasingly difficult to get out, especially as the points become more precious to everyone and the pitches get heavier.
When we had a buffer, you could see how teams reacted with fear, you knew that a goal was coming – we could still be playing now and whilst Swindon may be soaking up blow after blow, we still wouldn’t score.
Finally and this is the real bug bear for me, we seriously lack communication and have been punished for it – and if it wasn’t for some sharp keeping from Logan, would have been punished a whole lot more.
Pearce and Bennett are a good pairing but they’ve become too relaxed about their selection together (which stems back to this time last season) that they are making silly mistakes. There both as guilty as each other for going wondering and straying out of position – all it takes is a long ball over the top and teams are in behind and we’re fire fighting a potential inferno.
We need Zander Diamond back in the mix and potentially Digby too (I’m not sure how far away Mirfin is or how match fit he would be, that’d be too much of a risk for me in the next three games) – those two are hungry for minutes and game time, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see those two paired together on Tuesday – especially when you consider Newport’s height, physicality and way of playing…. Pump it long, cross from deep, launch in a long throw.
Evans is right that we need to not dwell on this match, we’ve three more huge games against teams around us where we need to pick up wins and keep the momentum going – we can’t afford to do now what we did after Swindon’s win in the reverse fixture – three consecutive draws – if that happens we’ll be starting from the back of the pack again desperately playing catch-up.
Swindon left us frustrated and with a bitter taste of frustration, let’s channel that into vocal support on Tuesday night and hope the players as a collective regardless of the number of changes, I sense at least six, channel losing as a unit into fire and show league two we are serious contenders.
An unchanged 18 from Evans was no real surprise, Ricky Miller again settling for a place on the bench despite scoring in a behind closed doors friendly against Parent Club Peterborough United in midweek.
An even start saw both sides have a sight of goal within the opening five minutes, Matt Taylor swung in an early cross from the hosts which Luke Norris vollied over the bar, Danny Rose at the end other end had an effort held by Charles-Cook in the Swindon goal following a neat spin from 16 yards.
The Stags threatened from an 11th minute corner as Hemmings’ chested down the teasing delivery to Rose, his half-volley blocked by a crowd of red shirts, three minutes later it was Hemmings who found himself in behind after a long ball saw the on-loan hit man onside – sadly Hemmings lob over the on rushing keeper looped over.
Will Atkinson had the games next big chance on 23 minutes as Benning swung in a cross, Atkinson’s diving header falling just wide – a neat burst of pace from Atkinson who came so close to two goals in as many games.
Five minutes later Conrad Logan had to palm away Keshi Anderson’s thumping effort from the edge of the box, MacDonald at the other end on the half hour drove one narrowly wide after a good bit of link up play with Atkinson.
Six minutes before the break the stags found themselves behind as following a corner and then throw at the other end, the Stags lost possession and allowed Swindon to clinically break – with Stags pulled left right and centre Matt Taylor did the damage once inside the Stags box, firing beneath Logan who Evans says should have done better – difficult to tell from our view in the far corner at the other end of the pitch.
With the Stags being a goal down and all over the place at the back, I expected a change at the break but it didn’t come as the second half got under way, Logan pulling off a point blank range save to deny Richards on 51 – not that it would have stood with the offside flag already up, as the stags continued to look shaky at the back.
On 53 minutes MacDonald let one fly from 30 yards but saw the ball zip over the bar, three minutes later he’d stayed central and fed Hemmings who saw an effort blocked.
On the hour Ricky Miller was introduced for Joel Byrom as Steve Evans tweaked the formation to 4-3-3 – Fellow deadline day arrival Matt Penney also made his debut eight minutes later, replacing Hamilton.
The hosts should have sealed the game on 71 minutes as Keshi Anderson thundered a header towards goal, cleared off the line by Rhys Bennett – it gave the Stags a bit of a wake up but the clock seemed against them.
Mind games then started as the ball boys failed to retrieve the ball for any Stags throw or goal kick – Conrad Logan the expert hurdler jumped advertising boards behind the goal and vented his anger at the lack of help from behind the goal. This led to Evans getting talking to from Kevin Friend as things began to get heated.
With less than ten to go, Mansfield came forward in numbers and introduced Alfie Potter for Hemmings as the looked for pace, Rose, Atkinsonson Miller and Penney all struck efforts – but the sands of time faded away as the hosts recorded victory and did the double of the Stags.
FULL TIME Swindon 1-0 Stags
Paul; Anderson – Krystain Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alex MacDonald – Joel Byrom (Ricky Miller 60) – Will Atkinson – CJ Hamilton (Matt Penney 68)
Kane Hemmings (Alfie Potter 82) – Danny Rose
Unused Susbtitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Digby, Jimmy Spencer, Adam King
Referee: Kevin Friend Assistants Stephen child, Nicholas Hopton Fourth Official Keith Stroud
Attendance: 6,031 (unknown)
Craig Priest writes….
Mansfield Town continued their tremendous form with a 3-1 win over Barnet, moving ever closer to the automatic places – a vast difference from when the two sides last met when it looked less sweet like honey, and more a sting in the tale.
Since the sides last met back in November, a 1-1 draw, Steve Evans men have lost just once in the subsequent 17 league matches including yesterday’s 3-1 win to send excitement buzzing around the town as to what could be – should they replicate their form.
The difference is somewhat staggering as on that cold Tuesday night at the Hive, the Stags looked disorientated and it genuinely felt like the new group wouldn’t click – yet now the football may not be consistently fluid and beautiful, but it’s dam effective highlighted in every goal scored at the One Call stadium yesterday as the Stags comfortably beat the League’s bottom side.
Steve Evans is right in his post-match comments that it should have been more, intimating that his players need to be more ruthless, but that will come so long as the consistency of team work continues – it’s been a very long time since the Stags have had a set of players so adaptable one player drifting out of position doesn’t detrimentally effect the outcome of the match.
Alex MacDonald for instance can drop off right wing and cover ground in the centre for five/ten minutes to soak up pressure, and players such as Will Atkinson who has shown tremendous attitude in his substitute roles to rightly earn a start, can move wide and comfortably occupy the right wing role.
The same can be said about Krystian Pearce’s runs from the back, the stand-in skipper can wonder into the middle and the likes of Byrom will drop and sit in the hole – it’s refreshing to have that assurance, rather than bite our nails and being exposed.
Visibly you can see that pitches are getting heavier now as we come towards the final months of the season, legs are going to get tired quicker and mistakes are going to be made, ala Rhys Bennett late on, but the way in which Steve Evans’ picks his squad, the players will know that just one error, will cost them their shirt – Bennett is a class act at centre half and Evans rates him highly, he’s fortunate that the error in isolation didn’t cost is the result and will pick himself up – however that said, the importance of a clean sheet is becoming more prominent now – as in the top five we’ve the lowest goal-difference which could be the difference between automatic promotion and the play-offs, as well as that elusive ‘home advantage’ should we require the latter.
Over the next week or so we’ve a lot of football and travelling to do, playing critical teams around us where we cannot afford to play with heavy legs and make mistakes – starting with Swindon on Saturday, who are starting to pick up momentum with one loss in their last six to climb into the play-offs.
Newport naturally will be distracted by their FA Cup exploits however they will not have given up hope on reaching the play-offs, we all know what a good cup-run does for the dressing room – and playing them between a long trip to Swindon and a epically long trip to Exeter, another play-off rival in form, is a dangerous situation.
Those three games are then followed up by Coventry at home, another play-off rival, this is the trickiest part of the season now – if we can come out of the next four games with ten points, eight minimum – we’ll achieve something special, let’s do this together.
Steve Evans opted to the side which effectively won the Morecambe match in the second half; skipper Zander Diamond rightly missing out by heading to his wife’s side as she went into Labour – Alfie Potter taking a place on the bench along with the three new additions Adam King [On loan from Swansea], Matt Penney [On loan from Sheffield Wednesday] and Ricky Miller [On loan from Peterborough United].
Barnet saw the first half sight of goal three minutes in with a long range effort which Conrad Logan held comfortably, at the other end tenacious running from rose and Hemmings had Barnet worried – Rhys Bennett heading into the hands of Barnet glovesman Craig Ross on eight minutes from a Benning set play.
Five minutes later the Stags were left frustrated as Danny Rose was floured inside the area by Richardo Santos – referee Scott Oldham waved the appeals away.
Fluid movement on 16 minutes nearly saw the Stags break the deadlock as Hamilton slotted in MacDonald. A neat give and go with Hemmings followed before the tenacious midfielder curled his foot around the ball just inside the box, clipping the outside of the post with Ross rooted to the spot.
There was a stoppage on 21 minutes as referee Scott Oldham pulled up injured, he was replaced by the fourth official Thomas Bramall with Oldham heading straight down the tunnel with an ice pack.
Back underway and it was the Stags who remained in control and came close on the half hour as Hemmings had two efforts inside a minute go astray, the stags then took the lead in spectacular style on 42 minutes, as fluent football between Byrom, Benning and MacDonald saw the latter on the edge of the box let fly – giving Ross no chance – a beautiful hit.
After the break with a new fourth official in Dave Plowright in place, the Stags showed no signs of settling for just the one goal – no matter how magic it was, MacDonald and Hamilton both testing Ross before Will Atkinson nipped in at the near post from a corner, converting Hemmings’ knock down to double the Stags lead and get his first Stags goal, a decade since his original loan spell as a youngster.
On the hour, frustrated after the dubious goals committee awarded last weekend’s winner to Jimmy Spencer, Mal Benning thumped a volley towards goal which fizzed wide from 25 yards, the Stags then added a third 11 minutes later as Pearce went on a marching run from the back – eventually feeding Hamilton wide who picked out Rose – the rest was routine as the Stags front man swept in his 15th goal of the season with his left foot.
With five minutes to go, rapturous applause rang out as Ricky Miller made his debut from the bench replacing Hemmings, partnering Spencer up top after he’d replaced Rose just moments prior – The Peterborough loan man looked lively but it would be Barnet who were on the scoresheet next, Rhys Bennett’s poor back header towards Logan saw Akinola pounce and tuck beyond Logan, setting up a nervy finish.
FULL TIME: Stags 3-1 Barnet
Paul Anderson – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alex MacDonald – Will Atkinson (Alfie Potter 90+2) – Joel Byrom – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 83) – Kane Hemmings (Ricky Miller 85)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Paul Digby,  Adam King,  Matt Penney
Attendance: 3,795 (79)
Referee: Scott Oldham (Thomas Bramall 21) Assistants: Stephen Wade & Richard Wigglesworth Fourth Official Thomas Bramall (Unknown 21, Dave Plowright HT)
Craig Priest writes....
There's no better feeling than a 90th minute winner, especially when it's essentially to beat yourselves as The Stags did at Morecambe.
It was one of the most frustrating afternoon's football played on a pitch which had more sand on than the beach and more bobbles that a bobble hat convention – yet the fighting spirit and desire played a pivotal role in over turning our own wrong doings.
In the first half we broke the golden rule of not playing to the whistle, we all stood still appealing for offside before Pearce played a lacklustre and criminal back pass which was feebly weak and sold Logan short. A far too easy goal to concede.
Steve Evans has been wrong so often with his substitutions, yet the double switch at half time to introduce Anderson to right back and Atkinson into central midfield worked wonders and whilst at times it was very much trying to put a square peg into a round hole, there was a sense the result would come in the end.
It doesn't matter in the slightest about it being pretty, what counts is getting the job done and finally taking advantage of the slips around us – hence why the late winner, has taken us into third place and closed the gap on dear old Notts County.
Winning in the manner we did after making things so hard for ourselves, is all the more sweeter. The boys will be buzzing in the dressing room, the music will be booming and the energy electric. The ripple effect of that, can't be underestimated especially as the result moves us up in the league standings and gives us a real foothold to build upon.
Since the full time whistle the Stags have added highly rated midfielder Adam King to the ranks, a key addition to add some more fire to the attack which again never said die – I can’t wait to see the rest of this rollercoaster ride continue.
Steve Evans made two changes, both enforced, from the side who came from behind to beat Chetenham last weekend, skipper Zander Diamond replaced the suspended Hayden White with the injured Jacob Mellis’ place taken by Kane Hemmings – Alex MacDonald thus dropping back into his central midfield role.
For a ground opened eight years ago, it lacked soul and the pitch was awful – and as a result, the Stags really suffered to get going – the hosts too found it tough but it was Evans men who had the better of the early scraps – Kane Hemmings seeing an effort deflect behind and another also held by Roche in the Morecambe goal.
It was a game which was going nowhere and despite the difficulty to create clear cut chances, the Stags were in control enough to make a break given time as the usually do, but on the half hour – the Stags just stopped, flat footed expecting the linesman to flag for off-side. The golden rule of play to the whistle went out of the window and as Pearce deftly tried to knock the ball back to Logan – he failed to look or take in what was happening, allowing Lang to pounce, round Logan and score.
The hosts then looked sharper and should have perhaps had a second as former Stags Vadaine Oliver headed over, Mansfield fortunately limped to half-time just the one goal down, a goal essentially they’d scored themselves.
Paul Anderson and Will Atkinson replaced Diamond and Potter at the break and the Stags finally started to go through the gears and attempt to claw the game back, having a shout for a spot kick waved away when Rose appeared to be fouled by Kenyon.
Rose would soon be celebrating as on 70 minutes he levelled the game, CJ Hamilton’s give and go with Atkinson seeing the quick winger square for Rose who tucked home much to the Stags support delight.
From that moment you sensed drama was still to come, and it did – right in the final minute as Anderson and MacDonald combined down the right, the latter’s cross headed away into the path of Benning – whose shot found the back of the net, as both he and Spencer claimed the goal, the scorer doesn’t matter – the effect of it does!
FULL TIME: Morecambe 1-2 Stags
Rhys Bennett – Zander Diamond © (Paul Anderson HT) – Krystian Pearce – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter (Will Atkinson HT) – Alex MacDonald – Joel Byrom – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Jimmy Spencer 79)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Paul Digby, Lee Angol, Calum Butcher
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge Assistants Darren Stain and Mark Cunliffe Fourth Official Iain Siddall
Attendance: 1,416 (334)
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