Full Time Score Mansfield Town 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers U21s
Competition Checkatrade Trophy (North) Group H [Game 2 of 3]
Venue The One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorers Jacob Mellis, Mal Benning
Attendance 1,112 (131)
Craig Priest writes…
Following Saturday’s deflating draw this evening’s match was about one key word – progression. Despite seven changes I’m a firm beliver that we win, lose and draw as a team, and therefore a 2-1 victory is not one for the “reserves” or in a “friendly style match” – it’s a win for Mansfield Town Football Club.
In truth it was a harder win that it should have been but not because of missed chances or a lack of creativity, there was a bit of rustiness from players and a negative mindset which comes from the way we’ve performed coupled with that outside pressure and a wolves academy side who were eager to show they were not there to just make the numbers up.
The victory gives us progression in the competition which is imperative in our mission to be successful, and it also gives us progression in game management and minutes. We had to soak up pressure, we found it tough to break through at times and that’s a progression in not crumbling and imploding which will serve us well going forward.
The international break I’m thankful for as it gives us time to breathe and work on these niggles and errors, this time we must come back a week on Saturday and really kick on as a unit.
Seven changes were made from the side to draw 2-2 at Bury on Saturday with many players getting value minutes, including Omari Sterling-James – one of three players jetting off on international duty over the coming days.
The Stags started with real fire and should have been ahead within the opening minute as excellent work from Sterling-James contributed in the build up, Will Atkinson nodded wide at the far post and after a momentary pause for a potential head injury – play went on.
Mansfield didn’t have to wait much longer as Mellis, one of the seven changes, grabbed the opening goal – Sterling-James instrumental in the build-up sending the midfielder into the box, before he trickled easily beyond the keeper.
Sterling-James, Jordan Graham, Calum Butcher and Mellis came close to adding a second but the young visitors did well to defend, at the other end Conrad Logan made a fine save on 24 minutes to keep out Niall Ennis for the visitors only real sight of goal.
After the break the stags found their second goal early as Mal Benning fired in from a narrow angle on 47 minutes, before Mellis’ stunning free kick was saved by the keeper just after the hour.
The visitors looked just about done but found a glimmer of hope with 15 minutes to go as Goncalves pulls one back for the visitors with a stunning free-kick
A nervy finish was then set up, but Flitcrofts men did enough to see the game out and subsequently qualify for the next stage of the competition – they need just a draw in their final group match against league one Scunthorpe United next month to secure the group win, and therefore a home tie in the knockout stages.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers U21s
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Matt Preston, Will Atkinson, Timi Elsnik, Jacob Mellis, Mal Benning, Calum Butcher (Otis Khan 79), Jordan Graham (Danny Rose 65), Omari Sterling-James (CJ Hamilton 60)
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Jason Law, Lewis Gibbens, Tyler Walker
Full Time Score Bury 2-2 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Gigg Lane
Stags Goal Scorers Danny Rose, Matt Preston
Attendance 3,880 (640)
Craig Priest writes…
Another game passes and it’s another point of frustration as the Stags again surrender victory and have to settle for a point, again sparking the comments from those wanting David Flitcroft to swap the training ground for the job centre.
Like the rest of us I’m fed up and frustrated with drawing especially from winning positions but like I wrote weeks ago, what difference will changing the manager actually make? It’s laughable it’s even considered when we’ve lost ONE game this season, ONE.
I don’t care about his record which includes the last twelve games of last season – I care only about us under him this season. Yet again I feel the need to reiterate a point which many people over look – I firmly believe (and will continue too until told otherwise by the people that matter) that our projected budget has been hampered by the Conmen of Peterborough.
Sold a vision, the powers that be expected league one crowds, league one broadcast revenue, league one sponsorships and have had to cut cloth accordingly leading to a smaller squad and a mid-table budget.
THE PLAYERS have the ability and potential to go beyond that as we’ve seen, but it is also THE PLAYERS who have to take full responsibility for the in-game failings – what do you expect Flitcroft to do? Run onto the pitch and flick home a CJ cross to get a second goal? Or perhaps throw himself at every shot incoming from the opposition?
In comparison to this stage last season (date 7th October) I believe we are in a much better shape, and when you take into account last season we were “champions elect” – it reaffirms my belief that Flitcroft is taking us forward.
OK at this point last season (date) we were inconsistent, had no fight, no togetherness and no desire to live up to our so called billing – this year apart from the odd spell, we’ve looked a really dangerous side but without that killer touch of the second and third goal, have been punished!
Our inconsistency last season really took its toll and in October we didn’t win a single game and to be fair, never looked like winning either – I don’t see that this time around, I see a side capable of doing real damage if we sort out this sitting back mentality and see a game out.
I felt yesterday we were tested for the first time properly against a strong team who should be playing in the division above and yet despite being under pressure for prolonged spells still created chances – we even took one of them and couldn’t take three points away, it’s just our luck!
Is Flitcroft totally blameless? No, but he feels it as much as us – again when the seven minutes went up he was screaming for us to play higher up! Should he have taken Danny Rose off? No, unless of course he had a knock, in which case fair enough – he’s inform and with no real backup, do you REALLY risk losing him for three/four weeks?
It’s like pulling teeth, painful! But with a bit of gas and air and a few tweaks here and there we WILL be just fine – we go again, we might be shaken and frustrated but we're not getting battered 6-0 every week, we're not dead and buried.
An unchanged line-up was named for the third game in a row however Craig Davies was again absent, picking up another knock.
Bury started well and Mansfield were under pressure from the first whistle, yet managed to grab the opening goal ten minutes in as former Bury man Danny Rose pounced on a mistake from Joe Murphy to roll into the net, seemingly not celebrating as he grabbed the games opener.
Murphy then redeemed his error five minutes later as Hamilton fed Khan, the attacking midfielders shot palmed away by the Bury glovesman, who could only watch on moments later as Benning leaped highest to nod Rose’s cross wide of the target.
Skipper Pearce nodded away a Shakers cross as they looked to get back in the game before the Stags were dealt a blow as Neal Bishop picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign, meaning he’ll miss next weekend’s game through suspension.
On the half hour Rose came close to adding a second as Khan sent him through on goal, the marksman fired wide of the target, seven minutes later he was involved again, this time heading Bishop’s cross wide.
After the break Mansfield set about finding the killer second goal with Rose and Khan both coming close, but on 55 minutes the hosts drew level as the experienced Nicky Maynard acrobatically turned home.
Mansfield then got the lead back on 73 minutes as Elsnik’s pin point corner found Matt Preston at the back post, who thundered in a header infront of the Stags faithful.
The Stags then set about finding a third and had chances through Elsnik, Rose and substitute Mellis, but the clock ran down without the Stags finding the net.
The fourth official then held up seven minutes of additional time with the Stags leading 2-1, Bobby Olejnik made a fine block with his legs but deep into the seven minutes the Stags sat back and invited pressure, an invite Maynard took – grabbing a gut wrenching leveller seconds from the whistle.
FULL TIME: Bury 2-2 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Olejnik, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Timi Elsnik, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Jacob Mellis 67), Tyler Walker (Will Atkinson 61), Danny Rose (Calum Butcher 83)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Jordan Graham
Referee: Scott Oldham
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 0-0 Oldham Athletic
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorers /
Attendance 3,829 (411)
Craig Priest writes…
After such a high at the weekend with a flurry of goals, lady luck opted against smiling on the Stags again – this time cursing them with the same old story: missed chances and the case of what could have been.
I don’t think its apt to be drawn into the whisperings of we can’t finish under Flitcroft or we can only beat lesser, lower ranked, teams – tonight two factors played a part and as frustrating as it is, I accept that its football and take the point on the chin.
The first factor is the same old story, we created so many good and clear chances but for whatever reason just aren’t getting the rub of the green! The visiting keeper has pulled off three solid saves, we’ve put as many wide and Tyler Walker, well I thought it was his Dad Des up front when he hit that one v one – wow.
The second factor, and this sometimes gets lost in anger and frustration, is that the opponents did there homework. We were going to start strongly and attack, Oldham were happy to soak that up and then when inevitably our legs got heavy and tired, they closed the game off and left us chasing lumps.
To our credit we kept trying to run and finish the game off but we just couldn’t find the killer bounce, summed up with a fine bit of play where we head one wide after great build up.
If we weren’t creating chances I’d be concerned, but we are and I’m not – a week or two ago we’d have given up and lost that game – I firmly believe that whilst it’s a frustrating point – it’s a positive one, with no time for dwelling or pondering – we focus on the trip to Bury and putting lady luck back in the amber and blue.
Walking away from the ground there was a few, naturally, slating the manger – we’re playing good possession based attacking football and creating chances – I’d be far more worried being an Oldham fan right now having somehow survived a battering.
That’s the way football is sometimes! It’d be boring if it was the same old story, the season isn’t a poem or a few short lines of text – it’s a story, one which keeps you guessing until the end! I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Naturally it was an unchanged side from the 4-0 win over Northampton, but with his suspension completed, Jacob Mellis returned to the bench.
The Stags started extremely well with attacking intent, Otis Khan was first up to try and break the deadlock from CJ Hamilton’s square ball, the attacking midfielder striking the bar on eight minutes, before three minutes later Tyler Walker sent a ball flashing across goal – no Stags body could get their first.
Tyler Walker should have hit the back of the net on 19 minutes as he connected with Roses’ flick on, but the young loanee turned wide of the mark as Oldham looked to recover, Danny Rose also sent one over from distance as the Stags had all the pressure.
Oldham were clinging on by a thread and saw Benning and Rose come close before having to thank Daniel Iversen – he denying a beautiful curling effort from Hamilton, before saving from Walker with ten minutes of the first half to go.
As the game crept towards half time, Iversen again rescued the visitors – denying Hamilton as second goal in as many games.
At the break Tyler Walker made way for Will Atkinson moving Hamilton up front, the Stags again looked to take the lead as Benning fired into the side netting from a testing right sided cross.
The visitors saw their first real sight of goal on 53 minutes as Robert Hunt curled one over from distance, whilst at the other end Hamilton saw an effort blocked before Timi Elsnik teed up Rose on the hour mark – Rose firing over from the edge of the box.
The game entered a scrappy period where both sides struggled to get into a flow, the visitors saw sights of goal but the Stags were untroubled, late on the Stags nearly gifted Oldham an undeserved goal as Olejnik made a poor clearance – the visitors squandered that golden opportunity and could only watch on as the Stags thrice came close to stealing a late goal – Rose, Atkinson and fellow substitute Craig Davies all in the mix to score – but lady luck, just wasn’t playing ball.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 0-0 Oldham Athletic
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Olejnik, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Timi Elsnik (Jacob Mellis 74), Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Craig Davies 67), Tyler Walker (Will Atkinson HT), Danny Rose
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Calum Butcher
Referee: Thomas Bramall
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 4-0 Northampton Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorers Danny Rose (2) Timi Elsnik, CJ Hamilton
Craig Priest writes…
Mansfield Town answered their critics with a dominant four-nil win over Northampton Town, proving the difference a flurry of goals and three points can made, as the boos and ‘Flitcroft Out’ whispers, turn to cheers and a loud vocal backing for the Stags and their manager.
David Flitcrofts men showed a focussed and committed attitude to not rest on their laurels despite coming up against a Northampton side who had given up and got back on the team bus after an hour.
The Stags have shown practically week in week out that they were capable of scoring goals, however they’ve been punished when the second goal hasn’t dropped, by a lack of focus and in more recent weeks – a worried, scared and negative mental approach – a ghost Mansfield put to bed yesterday with a dogged display.
Danny Rose put in yet another committed display and capped an excellent display with two goals, after the game he apologised whole-heartedly to the fans over the Summer situation (not that he had to in my opinion) but good on him for fronting it up and repeatedly re-affirming his commitment to the cause. I fully believe that he’ll be off of the transfer list when it matters and the ONLY focus from all concerned should be ON the pitch – a focussed and firing Danny Rose, is a team climbing the table.
Prior to the match news broke about midfielder Alex MacDonald’s injury, potentially out for up to six weeks which is obviously a bitter blow – this does however open the door for Timi Elsnik (and Jacob Mellis once his suspension is over, I believe next week), an opportunity the Derby loanee seized with a fine display showing why he’s rated so highly, I felt his distribution was excellent, he settled well with Bishop and THAT opening goal – well it just goes to show that we do work on turning defence to attack.
Tactically the Stags management should be commended, especially on the first substation when Atkinson replaced Walker. A few voices where critically saying that we were closing the game off and shutting up shop in a negative way – far from it, putting CJ higher up gave Northampton something else to contend with and resulted in two more goals, whilst Atkinson again showed why he is a vital asset, solidifying the right hand side where Northampton were starting to find a bit of space.
The three points, four goals and clean sheets are what count the most and with the games now coming thick and fast – momentum is key with Oldham coming to town on Tuesday, a win would leapfrog us over Oldham and put us back up there and make things look a lot better.
October will be tough, but now we have this weight off of our shoulders, we kick on, do it again and come out of the other side smiling – a proper change in fortune.
Midfielder Alex MacDonald missed out with an ankle injury giving Timi Elsnik his first league start since arriving on loan from Derby County, Hayden White also missed out again, whilst Craig Davies returned to the bench.
The Stags knew goals would be key to shaking off their frustrating spell of draws and started with real intent as Bishop’s early cross to Elsnik was headed away before Danny Rose was next to connect to Bishop’s delivery – Rose couldn’t get enough on it to trouble the visiting keeper.
Northampton won a corner on five minutes but it would result in them conceding as, as the Stags dealt with the corner, Timi Elsnik was first to latch on to the clearance and sprinted box to box, before curling into the bottom corner left footed from the edge of the Cobblers box.
CJ Hamilton and Tyler Walker both tested David Cornell but couldn’t add that elusive second goal early on, and as the Stags entered a stale period, the visitors had their opportunity to pull the game level on 25 minutes – Bobby Olejnik held comfortably onto Kevin Van Veen’s effort.
On the stroke of half time both sides had chances but couldn’t add to the score-line, Bobby Olenik making a fine save with his legs to deny the visitors, before Timi Elsnik came close to adding his second goal of the game, forcing a fine stop from Cornell.
Mansfield headed into the second half a goal to the good but knew a killer second would be critical and nearly grabbed the goal within the opening minute of the second half, Otis Khan curling wide from twenty yards.
Four minutes later Khan forced a finger tip save from a dead ball before Walker turned Elsnik’s cross wide on 56 minutes.
The goal would soon follow just moments later as Danny Rose showed tremendous tenacity to chase down a back pass after winning a succession of tackles to forced the visitors backwards, eventually sliding home from a narrow angle.
Rose soon held an apologetic hand up as he tried an audacious lob from the half way line, on 70 minutes he came a little closer, controlling Sweeney’s pass before seeing his well hit shot saved by Cornell who prevented a cricket score.
Will Atkinson replaced Walker on 74 minutes with Hamilton going up front – any thought of shutting up shop were wrong as the Stags continued their hunt for goals – Neal bishop the closest as his near post header from a Khan corner was saved at point blank range with 11 minutes to go.
Two minutes later CJ Hamilton proved why putting him up front was a master stroke as excellent work from Atkinson set him up for the Stags third, Hamilton finishing well from a tight angle.
Three goals and three points would have been fine, but hungry Mansfield weren’t finished – Danny Rose completing a job well done three minutes from time, as he scooped in Hamilton’s assist.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 4-0 Northampton
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Olejnik, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Timi Elsnik (Calum Butcher 90), Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Craig Davies 87), Tyler Walker (Will Atkinson 74), Danny Rose
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Jordan Graham
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Full Time Score Cambridge United 1-1 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue The Abbey stadium, Cambridge
Stags Goal Scorers Danny Rose
Attendance 3,909 (475)
Craig Priest writes…
Mansfield Town’s poor run of form continued as they surrendered a one goal lead to draw 1-1 with Cambridge United which again leaves a sour taste in the mouth, and a lot of Green eyed monsters called for the head of David Flitcroft – an utterly ridiculous statement in itself.
The Stags, in their new Green third kit, controlled the majority of the match but in the second half sat too deep and allowed Cambridge space to get a pop-shot at goal, only a deflection beating the outstanding Bobby Oljenik.
Flitcroft was visibly screaming for his players to push out, play higher and close the game out – I honestly don’t know what more a manager can do other than frog march onto the pitch and physically drag them forward – the players HAVE to take responsibility when the game is in play.
Tactically I think Flitcroft has it just about right, we move the ball well (when THE PLAYERS actually decide to move) and we look capable of killing teams, again if THE PLAYERS just give that extra 10% looks will become reality.
If we were getting carved open by teams I’d be saying differently and looking at Flitcroft, but the fact is we are not – THE PLAYERS create their own pressure by allowing themselves to sit deep with the arrogant attitude of ‘one goal is enough’. Yes results are poor with draws but yet again, there are so many people out there who are looking at Flitcrofts record as a whole and judging him on that – why?
The twelve matches at the end of last season are absolutely irrelevant to what we are doing this season – different circumstances, different personnel, and different tactics/ style of play. Flitcroft tried to implement the current system at Forest Green away, but THE PLAYERS didn’t fancy it and didn’t put the effort in to make it work, hence why we got cut open and beat and ultimately FAILED.
I’ve absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the calculated revenue and budget for this season was arrogantly made with us as a League One club with that bloke from Peterborough in charge, which would no doubt have seen bigger attendances, prize money, sponsorship increases etc.
That has a HUGE impact on where we are now and the numbers we can have within the squad, Ok we’ve received a little compensation for Steve and his mate Dodgy, but we’ve also had to pay for Flitcroft and Futcher, and sell players to balance the books – with no promotion prize money, potential play-off revenue, increased commercial gain, and increased footfall to supplement that.
Not for a second am I happy to use that as an excuse for poor performance but I am realistic enough to know that these things have a knock-on effect and will turn us from promotion favourites to mid-table possible play-off contenders trying to stabilize.
I want promotion for my club, I want to follow their journey over a prolonged period of time – but for that to happen, I’m happy to grit my teeth and see my club survive rather than throw countless cash at the problem for it to backfire, ala Notts County who after splashing the cash, were woeful and ended up at the foot of the table and sacked their manager, not to mention being owned by a man whose pumped money in who now wants out.
Ask yourself this, would sacking Flitcroft help? We’d have to pay compensation for both his and Futcher’s contracts and then have to pay (as we did in the first place) to replace him because, in my opinion, there is no manager out there out of work who is capable of doing a better job with the players we have, because this squad (bar the addition of free agents who haven’t played for months) is set in stone until January.
If you do go for a new management, they’ll want their own players and where on earth are we going to fund that from without putting ourselves in debt.
David Flitcroft has won promotion from this division with an average team with very little budget in Bury, who suffered poor form from this point in September right the way through until late December (Between 23rd September and Christmas Day, they only won three games).
It’s too early to be talking about sacking a manager, what we should be talking about is THE PLAYERS – the ones who effect the game and win the points. This is EXACTLY why Mansfield Town fail, because we spit our dummies out over the smallest thing, if we were winning 9-0 week in week out there would still be fans calling for his head because we’re not getting into double fixtures and Oljenik hasn’t scored ala Alan Marriott.
We have a manager who is committed to the development of this club, from grass roots right to the top – he will be as frustrated as us that THE PLAYERS aren’t performing to their potential, but let’s buck the trend for once eh, let’s not get swept up in the emotion of one blob of paint on the canvas – let’s support the bigger picture. It’s not Christmas, we’re not bottom of the league getting ripped apart 6-0 week in week out, THAT would be a different story.
This is a long game, a long, emotionally testing journey and we are best when we are together – get to the One Call on Saturday, sing loud and let’s collectively get three points and start a run!
David Flitcroft made two changes to the side with Danny Rose starting ahead of Calum Butcher, and Mal Benning slotting in for Hayden White with CJ Hamilton moving back across to the right hand side. White had a knock, as did striker Craig Davies who again missed out.
It was a slow and steady start to proceedings at The Abbey, Otis Khan with the first real chance of note on seven minutes when he whizzed one wide from ten yards, Danny Rose was also thwarted by the offside flag as he looked to pounce on an error by United glovesman David Forde.
Alex MacDonald hit a thunderous effort against the body of former Stags promotion winner Greg Taylor on 14 minutes, before five minutes later Bobby Olejnik made a fine save to keep the score’s level – denying Barry Corr with the hosts first shot of the match.
Danny Rose hit an effort into the side netting from, MacDonald’s cross on 21 minutes before Tyler Walker flashed one wide three minutes later.
The Stags looked dangerous and deserved to be ahead, and got the breakthrough moments later, as Danny Rose latched onto a pass to rasp home on the half volley.
Ryan Sweeney made a pivotal goal line clearance on 32 minutes after Oljenik had taken the sting from the United shot with another smart save, former Stag Reggie Lambe also put an effort wide as the hosts grew in confidence – however it was the Stags who ended the half the better side and a goal ahead.
The Stags started the second half strongly and Neal Bishop came close to adding a second with a left footed drive from distance which whistled wide of the post, Otis Khan then delivered for Matt Preston from a corner – the Stags defender denied by Forde.
Danny Rose’s pledge for his own acrobatic goals DVD continued on 55 minutes as he hit the bar on the spin inside the box – Neal Bishop and Alex MacDonald also came close as the Stags looked certain to grab the critical second.
Bobby Olejnik came to the Stags rescue on 75 minutes as he smartly denied Ade Azeez at the near post, Ryan Sweeney then made his second goal line clearance with eight minutes to go, preventing George Maris from levelling the match.
However with two minutes remaining that is exactly what Maris did as the Stags sat back and allowed pressure form the hosts, Maris’ effort took a massive deflection to wrong foot Olejnik, and trickle in off of the underside of the bar – a gut wrenching goal to concede at the death, as The Stags’ missed chances, again came back to haunt them.
FULL TIME: Cambridge United 1-1 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Olejnik, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Alex MacDonald, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Timi Elsnik 76), Tyler Walker (Jordan Graham 84), Danny Rose
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Will Atkinson, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James
Referee: Nicholas Kinseley
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 1-2 Exeter City
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Stags Goal Scorers Tyler Walker
Attendance 4,443 (228)
Craig Priest writes…
After a break for international matches, we were all excited for football to return but excitement turned to frustration as the Stags were beaten for the first time in the league this season – finally being caught out and punished, repeating the same old offences.
Exeter have had a great start to their new life under Matt Taylor but in my view offered very little by way of dominance and attack, they simply did their homework and made the most of our errors.
I’m a big fan of the 3-4-2-1 (slash 3-4-1-2 slash 3-4-3 depending on your preference) system with the players we have in our ranks – but it only works if you keep moving, which the more games progress and the more the season goes on, our players seem reluctant to do.
As in life, things don’t happen because you expect them too – you’ve got to work hard, create openings and opportunity and make them happen – we are so guilt of expecting things to drop for us, it’s an arrogant and negative attitude to have. I said it a few weeks ago and got shot down for it, but I’m going to say it again – the longer we keep standing still, expecting things to happen for us and making the same old mistakes – we will start to fall and be in trouble.
Teams have worked us out, they know exactly how we play and how we like to play and work hard to shut us out – all they have to do then is pounce when we make a mistake. Exeter’s first goal I can just about accept as we forced the visitors out of the box and forced a shot – it was that one time out of ten where it got lucky and went in. The second, our defence need shooting – NEVER stop and expect the whistle or flag to go: PLAY TO THE WHISTLE!!
We always seem to start well and play with the fluidity which makes the system work, but after 20 minutes, it’s like we’re cursed and freeze after that point. If we play with fluidity, pace and movement for the full 90 we will absolutely bury teams. I can’t put my finger on if it’s a personnel issue or a tactical change – but something has to change within our approach to attacking the game, we need to be relentless before otherwise teams will continue to sit back and soak it up for twenty/thirty minutes, before scoring twice and grabbing all three points because they know we’ve no fight about us after a certain point.
Has the international break helped or hindered, after a defeat you say hindered where as a win you’d say helped – we’ve got plenty of games coming up, so let’s spend this week working on our intensity and put this right with six points from our next two games, anything less at this stage of the season won’t be good enough – we need to kick on!
After his solid display in the checkatrade trophy game at Lincoln, Calum Butcher was given a start ahead of Danny Rose whilst Craig Davies missed out due to an injury – loanee Timi Elsnik was brought onto the bench with Mellis starting the first of a three game ban for his part in the Sheffield Wednesday brawl.
The Stags started well and had an opportunity on five minutes from a dead ball as Hamilton was fouled – Khan stepped up but hit a rather tame effort into the hands of Christy Pym in the visiting goal.
Three minutes later Hamilton caused problems on the left and clipped in a cross, but with just a lone striker – it was unchallenged and easy for the visitors to deal with.
Otis Khan and Tyler Walker then both tested Pym within two minutes of each other but the visiting keeper showed class to deny the Stags an opening goal – the latter having two efforts saved by the visiting keeper.
On 23 minutes the visitors saw their first sight of goal as a cross from the right hand side wasn’t closed down – Jayden Stockley rose highest to head towards goal – the Stags were flat footed and watched on as it hit the post – before reacting to clear.
Three minutes later flat footed and lazy defending saw Boateng free inside the box, fortunately for Mansfield the visiting attacker fired over the bar.
Jayden Stockley saw another chance go begging before the visitors took the lead on the half hour mark – the Stags again failed to deal with a cross and allowed Dean Moxey to curl towards goal – the ball cannoned off the post and tricked over the line.
Calum Bucther then set Hayden White as the Stags tried to respond, White’s effort cannoned away – the Stags couldn’t carve out any more clear cut chances and went into the break a goal behind.
After the restart Walker was set by Khan but saw his near post effort blocked, at the other end Stockley again struck the bar with a far post header.
Danny Rose came on for Butcher on 55 minutes as the Stags moved players forward – Pearce used Rose as a decoy for a corner, but sent a powerful header over the bar.
The missed chance proved costly as at the other end, the visitors grabbed a second as Mansfield stood waiting for the offside flag – Boateng raced onto the loose ball and squared for Nicky Law, who bundled beyond Oljenik.
Back underway as the stags began their fight back with Khan denied by Pym, on the hour the Stags got a goal back with Rose’s powerful header well saved by Pym – Walker on hand to bundle the loose ball over the line.
Two minutes later Bishop tried a left footed curler but fired narrowly wide, Pearce was also denied by Pym from a corner as the clock hit 74 minutes.
The Stags started to play with fluidity again but in the final third, couldn’t make crosses count – substitute Mal Benning hit a tame free kick into Pym’s arms – and right at the death, two acrobatic efforts from Rose were saved by Pym, as the visitors condemned the Stags to their first league defeat of the season.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 1-2 Exeter City
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Olejnik, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney (Timi Elsnik 69), Hayden White (Mal Benning 83), Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald, CJ Hamilton, Otis Khan, Calum Butcher (Danny Rose 55) Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Will Atkinson, Lewis Gibbens, Jordan Graham
Referee: Andy Haines
Full Time Score Lincoln City 1-2 Mansfield Town
Competition Checkatrade Trophy (North) Group H [Game 1 of 3]
Venue Sincil Bank, Lincoln
Stags Goal Scorers Calum Butcher, Tyler Walker
Attendance 4,205 (260)
Craig Priest writes…
The best way to start a long journey to Wembley is by beating the current holders of the competition, and that’s exactly what the Stags did as they came from behind they beat Lincoln City 2-1 in the first of this seasons three group matches in the controversial competition.
For many seasons I, like a broken record, have said that we should be taking the checkatrade trophy seriously and feel that previous managers have done a disservice to the board and those of us on the terraces by showing a complete lack of interest in competing – therefore again I commend David Flitcrofts approach to the match – it’s there to be won.
I don’t care that much about the argument over the inclusion of under 23 sides and the whole blooding kids into men’s football – what I care about is what every TRUE football support cares about, and that is my football club being successful.
Yes the attention and dedication should ALWAYS be on league football and moving up the league ladder, but sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture and how that longed for league success can be triggered and influenced by cup football.
The prize money for the checkatrade trophy is actually very good and has risen over the past three seasons; a good run in the competition can garner the income to make those key additions to the squad, which can then be an influencer on the bread and butter of the league and long-term stability of the club. Coventry and Lincoln, the previous two winners of the cup, are prime examples of this.
A manager who shows commitment to the competition is a manger who cares about the development of the club over a longer period – it’s those managers ultimately who deliver the desired success.
I’m therefore glad, as I mentioned above, about the approach Flitcroft took last night and the approach to the game – first half I felt we were poor and the referee’s display hid that in a way, the second half however we were far better and started to compete and I felt we were always going to win the match.
To say we made seven changes, two enforced with Pearce and Sweeney on international duty, we showed that we have strong depth which is going to be vital over the course of the season and I was proud in the spirit within the group to deliver a win – winning is a habit that shouldn’t be paused or broken just because the occasion is different.
Performance wise I felt Calum Butcher was excellent, his tenacity to close Lincoln down and chase opportunity is a joy to watch and he fully deserved his goal, and was unlucky to not have another to his name – playing in the central attacking midfield role he’s showing the promise he arrived with a year ago and proving why he’s been a part of promotion winning sides.
New signing Timi Elsnik was outstanding too, he looks a real handful and I would love to see more of him – especially with Otis Khan and CJ, some real damage could be done to teams there.
Nothing is won or lost, especially with two group games to go – but I look at it as part of the whole and not an isolated competition, and with that we’ve lost once in nine competitive games, which gives us momentum to build upon.
With Pearce and Sweeney on international duty, the Stags were forced into two changes – but made seven in total. Out went Bobby Olejnik, Pearce, Sweeney, Hamilton, Bishop, Khan and Walker – with Logan, Gibbens, Atkinson, Davies, Butcher, Benning and Elsnik brought in – the latter making his Stags debut. Omari Sterling-James is also on international duty, which gave youngster Jason Law the opportunity to be involved, he got a place on the bench.
The Stags struggled early to adapt to the changes and were under pressure early doors as former Stags hit man Matt Rhead caused trouble in the air, Alex MacDonald cleared an early Rhead header but on six minutes Rhead netted against his former club as Benning failed to stop a cross, Rhead peeled off and scored the easiest goal of his career, powerfully heading past Logan, unchallenged.
Mansfield could have been in for a hammering but in true Stags spirit as they have done every time they’ve gone behind, the fought back – on eight minutes Calum Butcher’s tenacious closing down forced a Lincoln error, allowing the attacking midfielder to nip in and fizz the ball beyond Sam Slocombe in the Imps goal.
The Stags then had opportunities to take the lead as Butcher put in a low cross which just evaded the run of Davies and Rose on fourteen minutes, moments later good flowing movement with Elsnik, MacDonald and Bucther saw the latter earn a corner.
The hosts were putting the Stags under pressure playing the Mansfield Town way circa 2012-13 – find Rhead with a long ball, and on 23 minutes similar play saw the Imps through on goal – Shay McCartan denied by Logan who made a strong save.
The referee was handing out yellow cards like they were going out of fashion and booked White, Rose and Benning in quick succession in a period which saw little action – in the moments when the cards stayed in the pocket, Timi Elsnik nearly made it a debut to remember with a twenty-five yard effort, whistling towards goal – Slocombe was behind it well
As the clock ticked towards the break Davies was teed up by Butcher but his effort on the volley was blocked well, at the other end Rhead nodded one wide before on the stroke of half-time Butcher was unfortunate not to have a second, his well hit effort blocked on the line.
Mansfield showed improvement after the break and began to control the game, White, Benning, Butcher and Elsnik all had attempts to unlock the Imps backline cleared whilst Davies headed one wide at the far post on 69 minutes.
Rose and Davies were replaced on 71 minutes as Walker and Hamilton came on up front, meaning the Stags switched from playing long, directional passes in the air, to fluid football on the deck.
Within a minute, the plan worked as fluid football eventually saw Butcher send a deft touch into the path of Walker, who practically with his first touch since coming on, thundered past the keeper to put Stags into a 2-1 lead.
It was nearly a repeat performance on 76 minutes but this time Walker scuffed his effort wide, before CJ Hamilton latched onto White’s pass, turning his marker before having an effort blocked.
The referee’s cards made a comeback as the game faded out, Elsnik into the notebook with a yellow card for the Stags – before as the game entered four additional minutes, Lincoln sub Micheal O’Connor was sent off for a late tackle on Walker.
FULL TIME: Lincoln City 1-2 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Matt Preston, Lewis Gibbens, Will Atkinson, Alex MacDonald ©, Timi Elsnik [#20], Mal Benning, Calum Butcher, Craig Davies (Tyler Walker 71), Danny Rose (CJ Hamilton 71)
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Otis Khan, Neal Bishop, Jordan Graham, Jason Law [#26]
Referee: Ross Joyce
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 1-0 Carlisle United
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Stags Goal Scorers Tyler Walker (Pen)
Attendance 4,470 (373)
Craig Priest writes…
After what seemed like an eternity of draws, what a relief it was to seal all three points yesterday as the Stags saw off Carlisle United 1-0 at the One Call Stadium following a commanding display.
There were naturally a few murmurs of frustration, much to my personal annoyance, that we didn’t win the game by a bigger margin with the amount of chances we had – but after four consecutive league draws, it’s the victory above all else which matters most.
I have been worried about our system for a few weeks now but yesterday, what I’ve been saying about players playing in structured places, was highlighted as we went relatively untroubled and looked comfortable going forward – with CJ on his more natural left hand side meaning teams found it more difficult to close us down and force us backwards.
So what we didn’t scored a goal every time we went forward, that will come but its not going to happen every single week – to be successful you have to consistently create openings, be patient when they don’t come off and more importantly if you take a lead in the manner in which we did, be switched on and tight at the back so you don’t drop points – a big pat on the back there for Bobby Oljenik, who again showed his class.
During pre-season, prior to the whole “want away” Rose situation we questioned where he would fit in that system and forward line, he got his chance yesterday to start and answered those questions and silenced the critics with a dominant and passionate Danny Rose display, he was unlucky not to score a hat-trick in my opinion and that will come – only with game time.
At this stage in the season, going into the second month, it’s points that matter and clean sheets – teams will not fancy playing against us the more resilient we become – we are one of four teams unbeaten in the league and of those four, are second in terms of goals conceded with only MK Dons conceding less – mentality wise teams will not fancy trying to break that down.
The critical can argue about being tight AND ruthless, as of that unbeaten group of four – we’ve not been as clinical compared to Lincoln, who’ve conceded the same as us (four) but scored significantly more, fourteen to our eight.
The two sides meet on Tuesday in the first group match of the checkatrade trophy, Lincoln of course being the reigning champions of that completion – investing the money gained through last season’s run into their squad which is a big part of their clinical start.
It may well be a cup competition which isn’t league two and doesn’t matter when it comes to promotion hopes – but I argue it does, as its mentality, if we can go to Lincoln on Tuesday and get a victory, it shows that they are not the top dogs and that they can be beaten – giving other league teams the confidence against them which we can take advantage of with our own results, as well as giving us a platform for a cup run – you might say it’s the chicken soup trophy or whatever now, but if we get to Wembley – I guarantee you’ll be in the cue for a ticket!
Not everything has to be smashing teams in to the ground, not everything has to be pretty – a win is a win, three points are three points – and ultimately, they are ours. That hits the spot just nicely for me!
David Flitcroft was boosted by the return of defenders Hayden White and Matt Preston who went straight back into the starting line-up, with White preferred at Wing-Back than on the right side of the central three, he came in for Will Atkinson whilst Preston replaced Benning, with Hamilton preferred at left Wing-Back.
In midfield Alex MacDonald replaced Butcher following Tuesaday’s cup exit at West Brom, whilst up front Danny Rose was handed his first start of the season after the transfer window closed fully with him still very much a Stag – Craig Davies missed out. Finally there was no place for newbee Timi Elsnik, who arrived on Friday on a season long loan from Derby.
The stags picked up where they left off at West Brom with attacking intent, Otis Khan caused problems as he sent a ball across the face of goal which was dealt with, Tyler Walker then saw an effort saved by former Notts County glovesman Adam Collin in the United net, with just five minutes played.
Danny Rose then played Khan into the box five minutes later, the attacking midfielder’s claims for a spot kick waved away as he went to ground – Alex MacDonald next to try his luck with a half-volley from outside the box which he sliced wide.
A training ground corner very nearly broke the deadlock on 22 minutes as Rose peeled away from his marker to meet Khan’s deliver, the front man’s effort cleared off the line by Gary Liddle who knew very little about it!
Eight minutes later another corner routine led to Alex MacDonald putting in a second ball to Sweeney, the loanee defender hitting wide at the far post.
The visitors saw their first real opportunity of the game on 41 minutes as Jamie Devitt got in behind the back three, from a narrowing angle his lofted cross/shot landed on top of Oljenik’s goal.
The Stags then had four further chances to lead before the half-time whistle sounded, Khan sent Hamilton racing through but his effort was saved by Collin, before Hamilton again got a shot away – blocked by a sea of Blue bodies. Otis Khan then had a pop from twenty-five yards, blocked by Tom Parkes before Matt Preston’s diving header from a corner, bounced over the bar.
It was a slow start to the second half but on 53 minutes, Rose began to bloom as he found space inside the box, hitting an effort just wide – seconds later he was in again as he pounced on a united mistake, this time the legs of Collin denied Rose a much deserved goal.
A minute later the Stags were awarded a penalty, Hamilton was upended and Tyler Walker tasked with opening the scoring – he did with confidence, slotting beyond Collin to break the deadlock.
Rose then was challenged well by the visitors as he looked to add a second, then it was cometh the hour – cometh the Bobby O magic – pulling off a smart save to deny Jerry Yates as the Stags switched off.
Rose was then replaced by Davies on 62 minutes, the former Oldham front man nearly complied the misery for United as he saw an effort blocked on 69 minutes.
Khan, Pearce, Walker, Sweeney and Davies all had chances to make it two-nil, but it just wouldn’t drop as the game progressed – Oljenik then secured the Stags win and clean sheet in the 91st minute, tipping over a Yates’ effort before clinging onto the ball as the visitors pilled on the pressure – the full time whistle followed shortly, as the Stags picked up their second win of the season.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 1-0 Carlisle United
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Olejnik, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, Hayden White, Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald, CJ Hamilton, Otis Khan (Calum Butcher 90+3), Tyler Walker, Danny Rose (Craig Davies 62)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Will Atkinson, Mal Benning, Jacob Mellis, Lewis Gibbens
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Full Time Score West Bromwich Albion 2-1 Mansfield Town
Competition EFL Cup (Carabao Cup) – Second Roubd
Venue The Hawthornes, West Brom
Stags Goal Scorers Neal Bishop
Attendance 10,574 (1,183)
Craig Priest writes…
After the Stags’ static and lacklustre second half display at Macclesfield, a visit to the Hawthornes to face Championship outfit West Brom could have ended in disaster, and whilst that’s true in terms of the fact we lost – we’ve walked away proud and with the potential to really kick on as a unit in Sky Bet League Two.
A 2-1 defeat is nothing to be down about, as out of the two sides, West Brom will be walking away wondering how they’ve won that – we’ve done everything bar score.
The critical side of me wants to write here about how that’s been the case in a few games this season, but I’ll silence him in the knowledge that you could see how the players reacted to our support last night and rallied for us – I’d be far more concerned and critical if we’d have just stopped fighting after West Brom scored.
In the first half I think that’s something we were guilty of however I think a lot of that comes down to the system and management – it’s here where David Flitcroft deserves praise. He’s tried too, and I applaud this, implement the 3-4-1-2 system which has worked well – but it only works when you’ve got the players available to comfortably play the roles required to adapt to the opposition – we didn’t at Macclesfield and got punished, but last night learnt our lesson.
It was clear that (as good as these players are) Ryan Sweeney and Mal Benning were playing out of passion and were getting pulled from pillar to post – West Brom’s opening goal a prime example as Benning (and this is NOT a blame culture) was caught hogging the touch line – a central defender does not need to be there. It left us short, out numbered and exposed – and for once, we were punished.
The same can be said with Sweeney who just didn’t look comfortable playing on the right side, as a left sided player he couldn’t adjust his positioning to play the right sided role – fortunately Pearce, Atkinson and Bobby Oljenik swept up.
In the second half, Flitcroft opted for a four-four-two later four-three-three with Sweeney going to left side centre half, his natural passion and was then a rock, whilst Atkinson pushed to right back, Benning across to his natural left back.
With that structure in place and that stability and confidence within ourselves we were able to play and really threaten West Brom – adding the tenacity of Alex MacDonald and the hunger of Danny Rose to the mix where the ingredients to our success in going forward, levelling and then nearly stealing the game.
Conceding the second I’ve no qualms about whatsoever, Atkinson is not a right back and therefore pushed up higher to try and put us in front, in league two his missed header would nine times out of ten go unpunished – but we were up against a good, sharp, quick and attack-minded Championship side and the difference in class, rightly showed.
Neal Bishop’s equalizer will live long in the memory and was fully deserved, both for him in the team, but what will not be forgotten for me is the fight, enthusiasm and desire from everyone involved after we went 2-1 down – we MUST show the same in the league, week in week out.
I hope the players saw last night that our only frustration as supporters is that we, like them, want them to succeed – we applaud and appreciate wholeheartedly their efforts to fight and run, to push and never give up – and regardless of the end result, 99% of the time that is enough. Sometimes I think players stop running, stop caring out of fear of our anger, our disappointments perhaps as a hangover from last season – which was born, and is always born, from us knowing how good and effective they can be.
If anything last night showed we are together, we are one entity wanting the same thing – to one day make fixtures like last night, our bread and butter. We love you through the good times and the bad, there’s nothing in this world that will ever change that – so let’s channel that pride, passion, desire and spark and set league two alight, starting Saturday at home to Carlisle.
On the back of Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Macclesfield, David Flitcroft made a few changes – but on paper it looked very mismatched as he stuck with the 3-4-1-2 system playing left wing back Mal Benning at left side centre back, Ryan Sweeney on the right of the back three, with CJ Hamilton switched from right wing back to the left, to accommodate the incoming Will Atkinson. In midfield, Calum Butcher replaced Alex MacDonald whilst Oljenik kept his place between the sticks.
Both sides saw early chances as the game got underway – naturally it was the hosts who threatened first as Conor Townsend got in behind but failed to beat Oljenik, putting the ball over the bar – whilst at the other end, Craig Davies fired wide from Hamilton’s left sided cross.
Former Nottingham Forest man Oliver Burke put an effort wide for the hosts on eight minutes with the angle against him, two minutes later the dangerous former Red had another chance – this time nodding wide as the Baggies opened up the Stags.
On 18 minutes the Stags nearly grabbed the opener as Boaz Myhill kept out a certain own goal but parried the ball into the path of Davies – the Stags front man rasped his effort narrowly wide.
Otis Khan was next to test Myhill but couldn’t beat the former Hull glovesman who was equal to the attacking midfielder’s free kick with twenty-two on the clock, four minutes later the Stags were caught on the counter with a directional ball. Benning temporarily forgot he was playing as a central defender and not an attacking wing-back and hogged the touch line, as the Stags lost the ball – a long ball saw the Stags with two at the back – a cut back to Jonathan Leko saw the baggies man open the scoring from close range.
Bobby Olejnik then came to the Stags rescue on the half hour to deny the advancing Burke, the last real chance of the half.
After the break David Flitcroft switched systems to a 4-4-2, Atkinson at right back – Benning across to his natural left back with Pearce (right) and Sweeney (left) in the middle, Tyler Walker occupied the right wing, CJ Hamilton the left, whilst Khan partnered Davies upfront.
Calum Butcher nearly headed the Stags level on 52 minutes as he rose to meet Walkers cross, however a clash of heads saw that be Butchers last action – replaced by MacDonald who immediately tightened the Stags midfield and pushed the players forward.
Oljenik then denied Kyle Edwards, before then tipping a free header over the bar from a corner – after Sweeney made an inch perfect tackle to stop the hosts progressing.
Danny Rose replaced Davies on 64 minutes and made an instant difference with tenacious running and just a minute after coming on, cut inside well and curled a beautiful effort beyond Myhill, who could only watch the ball cannon off the bar and post and away.
Rose then set MacDonald for an effort which flew wide and you knew it would take something special – step up Neal Biship, who on 70 minutes reacted to Hamilton’s pull back to lean back and curl an un-stoppable effort into the top corner from long range.
Rose had claims for a spot kick turned down before volleying over the bar, determined to score – but it was West Brom who would strike what proved to be the winner on 75 minutes as Will Atkinson missed his header on the half way line to allow the hosts space down the left hand side, a neat run from Edwards evaded the challenge of Pearce, Walker and Sweeney to curl beyond an unsighted Oljenik.
Mansfield were not down and not out just yet and began a barrage of attack which, on any other day pays off. Rose was twice denied by Myhill, MacDonald curled a free kick wide and substitute Jordan Graham’s cut back picked out Walker – only to be denied by the experience Myhill.
Time was fast running out by the Stags were peppering the home goal – Graham looped an effort just beyond the far post as the game entered five additional minutes. Rose tamely nodded an effort wide before the Stags won a corner – which Bobby Oljenik raced forward for – the ball fell for him after Myhill saved a first effort – the shot from the Stags glovesman was heading into the bottom corner, a block saw it land at the feet of Pearce – who slotted wide!
Moments later another corner and up came Bobby O again – this time going toe to toe with Myhill, the ball ran loose but the hosts scrambled clear as the referee put the whistle to the lips and brought a thrilling piece of drama to a close, West Brom putting the stags out and ending an unbeaten run – but only just.
FULL TIME: West Bromwich Albion 2-1 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Oljenik, Ryan Sweeney, Krystian Pearce ©, Mal Benning (Jordan Graham 85), Will Atkinson, Neal Bishop, Calum Butcher (Alex MacDonald 53), CJ Hamilton, Otis Khan, Tyler Walker, Craig Davies (Danny Rose 65)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Lewis Gibbens, Jacob Mellis, Omari Sterling-James
Referee: Stephen Martin
Full Time Score Macclesfield Town 1-1 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Moss Rose, Macclesfield
Stags Goal Scorers Mal Benning
Attendance 2,624 (1,184)
Craig Priest writes…
In football there are good draws and bad draws – sometimes there are neither and yesterday’s 1-1 draw at Macclesfield was neither, it was a stereotypical ‘game of two halves’, a lesson and a totally unacceptable second half showing.
Credit must go to Macclesfield for their triple change at the break but changed the game for them, however that’s as far as the credit goes the blame (as harsh as that word may seem) is on us as a collective – we didn’t deal with or respond to those changes, we should have put the game out of reach prior to the break and above all else – we showed no heart or desire to take anything but a point, which in the end, we were VERY fortunate to come away with.
The fact we didn’t put the game out of reach before the break I can just about accept, it can be chalked off in isolation as ‘one of those days’ – BUT that particular phrase is cropping up too often now and five games in, that worries me.
What I can’t stomach is the way were absolutely peppered in the second half and if this were ‘Macclesfield Matters’ – I’d be sitting here praising our attack! A better team would have pummelled us into a four, maybe five-one loss and given us a real spanking. We didn’t deal with the pressure and looked lost.
Above all else, and this is something that’s been bubbling away for a few games now, is the absolute lack of movement and want to make things happen in the second half – especially after conceding.
Teams have figured out the way we attack and are pressing us higher up the pitch, we can easily break this down if ONE player makes a run, but everybody just stands there wanting the ball to feet and excepting things to happen for them – it’s almost spoilt brat mentality, show some desire and creativity and one point from a winning position with the taste of frustration – will be replaced with the sweet satisfaction of victory.
In football, as in life, you get out of it what you put in – so on that display which lacked heart and passion, a point is like robbing a bank really. I don’t want to use the R word as we could be in a far worse position and shape, BUT we can only carry on with this careless approach to collecting points for so long before we find ourselves in trouble.
This is not born out of frustration or an arrogant attitude, it’s born out of the knowledge that we know how good we can be, and how capable we are – a little more of as ruthless streak and we’re onto a winner.
Finally, lets end on a positive note – and a big round of applause for the Stags academy set up after the debut of Lewis Gibbens. Two years ago Gibbens was playing football on a park and has been coached, nurtured and developed into a real asset. Like with any young player, there are still improvements to be made, that tendency to slide in for one, BUT he looks a real solid defender older than his years and I’ve no doubt that he’ll add to his debut more over the course of the season.
Defender Hayden White missed out with a knock which gave 18 year old Lewis Gibbens his first start since making the transition from the Academy to the first team during the summer, otherwise it was unchanged from the side which drew 0-0 at Tranmere, with keeper Olejnik keeping his place after a fine display.
The Stags started well winning a corner within the opening minute, from which Alex MacDonald fired over.
Craig Davies and Neal Bishop also tried their luck but failed to break the deadlock within the opening ten minutes, a spell where Olejnik went untroubled in the Stags goal infront of a brilliant Stags support.
Khan picked out Benning on 13 minutes but the advancing wing-back’s touch was too heavy, at the other end Harry Smith rose at the far post but couldn’t keep his header down
Chances for MacDonald, Khan, Walker and Davies followed but despite Mansfield going through the gears – they couldn’t break the silkmen’s seal. The Stags came closer on the half hour as Walker and then Bishop saw efforts saved – two minutes later, Otis Khan delivered a chipped cross from the bye-line – powerfully headed home by Mal Benning to put the Stags ahead.
Two efforts for Hamilton plus chances for Walker and Davies went astray before the break – at the interval the Stags led, but that was about the change as the pendulum of domination swung in favour of the other MTFC.
The hosts rang the changes at the interval and Mansfield struggled to adapt, although both Hamilton and Khan did have efforts to double the Stags advantage.
Macclesfield were growing into the game and you could sense a goal around the corner, Ryan Sweeney – playing as the central of the three defenders, made a critical block to deny the hosts.
Back at the other end a goalmouth scramble prevented the Stags the critical second on the hour mark, before three minutes later – the inevitable happened as Macclesfield levelled – Harry Smith powering beyond Oljenik.
Smith should have then put the hosts ahead but put his header at the far post wide, the let-off clearly not enough for the Stags who consistently allowed the hosts away forward – fortunately Macclesfield failed to have the clinical touch they showed in winning the conference title last season.
The Stags’ own chances in front of goal were drying up and the ripple of frustration showed at the final whistle – Flitcroft’s men remain unbeaten but have won just once in five league games, twice surrendering a lead from a commanding position.
FULL TIME: Macclesfield Town 1-1 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Olejnik, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, Lewis Gibbens, CJ Hamilton, Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald (Jacob Mellis 71), Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Omari Terling-James 77), Craig Davies (Danny Rose 62), Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Will Atkinson, Calum Butcher, Jordan Graham
Referee: Anthony Blackhouse
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