Craig Priest writes...
When Alfie Potter saw his pivotal penalty saved by the home keeper midway through the shootout, the 1981 japan only release by ABBA never seemed so apt, as Mansfield allowed prize money and distant Wembley dreams slip through their fingers.
Penalty shootouts are always pot luck and given our indifferent relationship with penalties this season, I didn't fancy us much anyway!
As the supporters coach makes it way out of Blackpool, I write this fresh from the match refusing to let the frustration of a loss eat away at me.
I could sit here and question why Olejnik failed to dive to his right, bar once, in the shootout. I could question also why Pearce didn't thunder forward and take one rather than putting the pressure on Jack Thomas, who because he missed, will again see his name linked with a move out of the club.
Instead, in a cold and soulless stadium a stone's throw from the sea, over 90 minutes we drew with a League One side and kept our unbeaten run going.
There were something’s that concerned me in game, the attitude and commitment levels of Lee Angol, the pathetic marking which led to what at that point was an undeserved goal, the poor delivery from both wings in good attacking positions and, the fitness of Mirfin who went off injured during the second half.
Yet besides essentially what are little niggles, we showed spirit to fight back and deserved at the very least the draw over 90 minutes which in fairness we got agaisnt a fairly decent league one side.
A shootout defeat is hard to take as is the exit from the competition, one I felt we could have made further progress in given our squad.
We weren't embarrassed, we weren't particularly poor over 90 minutes and we've shown willing to compete. We can't ask for much more than that, so long as we don't let it affect us on Saturday at Crawley where it must be business as usual.
Steve Evans made numerous changes as promised to the line up with just two players keeping their place from Sunday's 3-0 victory in the FA Cup in the form of Will Atkinson and hat-trick hero Jimmy Spencer
It was a relatively competitive start to a checkatrade encounter with both sides enjoying early spells, Jacob Mellis the creator for Stags early on as he tried to play in Lee Angol, Alfie Potter also fizzed a shot over the bar whilst at the other end, Olejnik watched on as D’Almedia’s 25 yard effort flew wide inside the opening ten minutes.
On 21 minutes half hearted shouts for a Mansfield spot kick were turned down after Mellis made a cantering run and saw his effort brush an arm, captain for the evening Pearce then had to be strong to halt the run of Quigley on 33 minutes – before seconds later at the other end, Mellis saw an effort beaten away by Mafoumbi in the Blackpool goal.
Seven minutes before the break the hosts opened the scoring as lapse marking from a corner allowed Kelvin Mellor space inside the area to glance a free header into the back of the net, Jimmy Spencer nearly levelling things up two minutes later – Mafoumbi on hand to palm the ball away.
Mal Benning then had space inside the Blackpool boss as he volleyed a Potter cross wide of the target – Bobby Olejnik then on hand to keep the score at 1-0 before the half time whistle, getting low to cling on to Gnanduillet’s effort.
After the break Mansfield started to try and find a way back into the game, on 51 minutes the post came to the hosts rescue as the home keeper fumbled a cross into the path of Mirfin – his lofted ball back into the mix found Pearce, who was denied by the woodwork.
Sterling-James replaced Angol upfront on 66 minutes and injected some life into the game, however it took another eight minutes for a shot to trouble Blackpool – as Butcher slipped in the Stags substitute, only for him to tamely drag a shot wide.
Sterling-James then crashed a free-kick against the wall with ten minutes remaining before Mansfield were forced to re-shuffle as Mirfin pulled up injured, substitute Jack Thomas moved to right back whilst youngster Zayn Hakeem moved up to partner Sterling-James.
With a minute to go Mansfield got their reward as Thomas was felled on the far side, Mal Benning delivered a deep free-kick, turned home by Calum Butcher.
Both sides then had chances to win the match, Hakeem closest for the Stags lifting an effort just over the bar before, in the last minuted of added time – Bobby Olejnik beat away D’Almedia’s hopeful effort, sending the game to an ABBA style penalty shootout.
Blackpool went first with Danny Philliskirk scoring to put them 1-0 up however Paul Digby and Mal Benning both scored their spot-kick’s making it 2-1 Mansfield. Callum Cooke then levelled things up before the hosts went again – Andy Taylor squandered the chance to put the hosts ahead as he fired over the bar.
Sterling-James made it 3-2 to Mansfield and as Alfie Potter stepped up, all he needed to do was score to heap the pressure onto the hosts – the winger saw his spot kick pushed onto the post and agonisingly bounce away from goal.
Nathan Delouneso made it 3-3 before Kelvin Mellor put the pressure on Stags by dispatching Blackpool’s 5th spot kick of the shootout – Jimmy Spencer however made it two penalties from two – 4-4 and sudden death with Mansfield up first.
Jack Thomas then saw a very weak kick saved, but cudos to him for having the bottle to take one. At 4-4 Scott Quigley had the simple job of putting past Oljenik – which he did, winning the game for Blackpool
FULL TIME Blackpool 1-1 Stags - Blackpool win 5-4 on penalties
Paul Digby - David Mirfin (Zayn Hakeem 82) - Krystain Pearce ©
Alfie Potter - Jacob Mellis - Will Atkinson (Jack Thomas 70) - Mal Benning
Jimmy Spencer - Lee Angol (Omari Sterling-James 66)
Unused substitutes Conrad Logan - CJ Hamilton
Attendance 587 (60)
Referee Seb Stocksbridghe
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…. But not in early December on a Wednesday night! But that’s the magic of the Checkatrade Trophy for you – a competition fancied by few, but one in which I [like a parrot] keep saying we’re good enough to win.
Tomorrow night’s trip to Blackpool (7pm) see’s the Stags face League One opposition who are in a poor run of form with one win in their last seven and despite wholesale changes from Evans, Mansfield as a squad are in rich form – meaning those who come in will play like it’s an FA Cup final to stake a claim for a start at Crawley on Saturday.
If you look at the players likely to play too, your Mirfins, your Angols, your Butchers and Potters – a lot of them have league one experience and above so the divisional gap, will count for very little and make for a very competitive game indeed.
Blackpool are a vulnerable side at the back and if we play like we did on Saturday, quickly from back to front, then we’ll cause some damage.
Aside from the players making a claim for a starting place in the bread and butter of league two, financially progression is worth it too as I’ve said before, the competition may be heavily overlooked, but as a cash booster – well I’m sure John & Carolyn wouldn’t complain as there’s another £20K up for grabs for the winner tomorrow night – which would add to the £40K already earned (£20K for participating and £10K per victory in the group stages).
That money could be pivotal not just in January but over the course of the next season or two as we continue to develop things off the pitch – success costs investment and like every football fan up and down the land – I want to see my club be successful and win trophies, I’m not going to turn my nose up at it just because it’s the checkatrade trophy.
We’ve a big squad, some competitive competition only bodes well to keep everyone hungry and driving us on - and if all else fails, it’s a trip to blackpool and if we’re lucky, we might get to see the illuminations!
Craig Priest writes….
On an evening where frights were common, the Stags avoided a scare against Everton Under 23s in their final group game of this season’s Checkatrade Trophy – Zander Diamond’s goal giving the Stags a 1-0 win, £10,000 and a chance of qualification to round two, depending on the outcome of next Tuesday’s game between Lincoln City & Notts County.
Mansfield will go through if Lincoln beat Notts County, or it is a draw. If Notts County win by 1 goal or 2 goals, then Mansfield will go out. If Notts County win by 3 goals, then Lincoln and Mansfield would have the same goal difference, and it would depend on who had scored more goals. If Notts County win by 4 or more goals, then Mansfield would go through. Who designed this competition again?
Back to the pitch and moving away from the maths, naturally changes were made with Evans able to name a completely different starting 11 from Saturday, including the return of captain Zander Diamond whose leadership has been sorely missed. I was disappointed by Everton, who for a Premier League academy side, lacked any real flare or zip that you’d expect at that level, Bobby Oljenik was rarely put under any significant pressure in what was a bang average ‘going through the motions game’.
Between the sticks for Everton they had Louis Gray who made three or four top level saves, he’ll go far in the game – had it not been for him, Mansfield would have won more comfortably in a game they controlled.
I felt a few (very few to be fair you could just hear them more with a sparse crowd) of the frustrated boo’s were uncalled for – this was practically a pre-season friendly which neither side really wanted, Mansfield were professional in their approach and did what they needed to do – keep the ball, take a chance, win the game. They did just that – this one was never going to be a classic.
It was however the opportunity for one or two players to step up and prove doubters wrong, Paul Digby alongside Diamond was solid and won everything at his more natural centre half position, Will Atkinson did a lot off the ball in the middle, whilst upfront – I felt Jimmy Spencer’s hold up play was excellent, I think I’d put him in Saturday against a Shaw Lane side that’ll be tired but running on adrenaline, he’ll frustrate defenders and cause Shaw Lane errors – with Rose running off him causing mischief!
There were a few players who I felt couldn’t be bothered, it’s these types of games where they have to step up and make a claim, positive attitudes in negative situations are what make the difference – however the Stags were professional enough to see the game out, collecting a vital clean sheet too.
If we go through, great, if we don’t then fair enough – We’ve done as much as we can do and that is all I’ve ever asked and will ask.
As predicted by everyone, it was a full eleven changes from Saturday – the key addition to the line-up was skipper Zander Diamond who returned for his first start since mid-august.
Mansfield started well and Jimmy Spencer flicked on a Hayden White throw within the opening two minutes, keeper Louis Gray out quickly ahead of Sterling-James – his opposite number Oljenik was called into action at the other end on six minutes, the Stags glovesman turning the ball away for a corner from the effort of Anthony Evans after a cleaver splitting pass from Nathan Broadhead.
Two minutes later it was back at the other end and Butcher who provided the pass with neat control, Lee Angol turned away from his marker and fired over the bar, much to his own frustration.
Angol was then fouled on ten minutes and from the resulting set play, Potter stepped up only to be denied by the fists of Gray, who then recovered well to beat away Will Atkinson’s fizzing half volley on the follow up.
Alfie Potter headed over from a Sterling-James cross on 22 minutes, but chances few and far between, the Stags saw out the first half controlling the play – Spencer did have the ball in the net on 36 minutes but the referee had already blown the whistle for handball – Sterling-James also tested the water on 43, but Gray was behind it firmly.
After the break, more of the same followed – Sterling-James the first to really test Everton on 51 minutes following a good turn inside the box, his shot dragged wide of the target. On the hour, terrific control from Spencer then brought Angol into play inside the box – Toffee’s skipper Luke Garbutt getting back to block.
A minute later, Gray made a fine save as Butcher connected with a White cross – before a well wprked Potter corner saw Digby draw out three players allowing Spencer to nip in at the far post – his thunderous volley turned behind on the line as Mansfield applied the pressure.
Skipper Zander Diamond then headed a golden chance over on 65 minutes before Gray again produced the goods for Everton, palming away Alfie Potter’s curling effort as the wing man cut in from the left hand side.
With 15 minutes to go, Spencer played in Sterling-James who placed a shot under Gray, only to see Grabutt again clear off the line, seconds later Lee Angol thought he’d broken the deadlock – Butcher in an offside position as Angol fired home.
Angol then set up Butcher on 79 minutes but Gray again was on hand to deny the Stags – but an arror from the youngster just two minutes later, saw Zander Diamond head home from a corner to give Mansfield the breakthrough they thoroughly deserved.
At the other end, the skipper led by example with three minutes to go, recovering well to prevent Evans from getting a shot away inside the box, substitute CJ Hamilton nearly sealed the win in the final minute of four added on, his curling shot out for a throw.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-0 Everton U23s
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Paul Digby – Johnny Hunt
Omari Sterling-James (CJ Hamilton 80) – Calum Butcher – Will Atkinson – Alfie Potter (Paul Anderson 90+2)
Jimmy Spencer – Lee Angol (Jack Thomas 90)
Unused Substitutes: Conrad Loganm Rhys Bennett, Kane Hemmings, Zayn Hakeem
Attendance: 964 (36)
Referee: Michael Salisbury Assistants Peter Gooch, Stephen Wade Fourth Official Mark Heywood
The final group game of this season’s checkatrade trophy campaign is upon us already – and having beaten Notts County with an excellent dosplay last Tuesday, the ball is now back in our court in terms of qualification as we welcome Everton Under 23s to the One Call Stadium tomorrow night.
It’s a game that will again feel like a reserve team fixture with Evans promising once more to make ‘wholesale changes’ – but as with a week ago, I hope those who come in step up and give the scot, who celebrates his birthday today, a selection headache ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Shaw Lane.
Above all else, tomorrow I want to see a clean sheet and Mansfield, continuing to play the fluid football that they have done in recent games, holding out from start to finish against a young, but pacey and physical side who are going strong in the Premier League Two Division One, sitting second in the table.
Under the caretaker stewardship of Francis Jeffers whilst usual youth boss David Unsworth flirts with become a premier league manager, the youngsters will be hungry and eager to show any potential eyes in the stand what they are made of – and after two defeats in the competition, will want to do put a win on the board – qualification for the Toffee’s youngsters still faintly possible, should they beat us and Lincoln beat Notts County.
This would put Lincoln on nine points and then all three clubs (us, Notts and Everton) on three points meaning second placed qualification would be down to goal difference.
Anyway, Martin Shaw has done all the working out on Stagsnet – click here to see the full permutations, but the upshot is, if Stags win by three clear goals – they are through regardless of the Lincoln V Notts County result (played next Tuesday at Sincil Bank). Anything less than a win by three clear goals, and it’ll be in the hands of County.
As I’ve said in various articles, the Stags are vastly improving and in truth have been since Barnet away – it’s only the niggling conceding of goals late in games that’s killing us really, but if Stags – regardless of the team they put out – can produce the same style of quick, fluid, hungry football – a win will not be a problem.
Evans constantly plays the competitions importance down and of course he is right to do so, however I think in January to boost our league ambitions, we have to make two big, if not three big, signings to fuel to fire, and whilst John Radford I’ve no doubt would back that with his own funds, we are already running the risk of over spending which could kill us two or three years down the line – so why not use a competition such as the checkatrade, as an extra earner?
The prize pot has been increased this year and without kicking a ball clubs get £20,000 and then per group stage win it’s £10,000 – so already the Stags have netted £30,000, which would become £40,000 if they see off Everton’s youngsters.
£40,000 isn’t a bad amount to chuck into the transfer pot really and could make a difference, and with another £20,000 up for grabs for winning at round two – well, it wouldn’t hurt would it. We’ve a big enough squad to achieve that end goal afterall.
With skipper Zander Diamond back in the fold tomorrow, I predict a full 11 changes – which of course is well within the rules as the names Evans is likely to name, will be “first team players” – I predict it’ll be Oljenik, White, Digby, Diamond, Hunt, Sterling-James, Butcher, Thomas/Potter, Atkinson, Spencer and Angol.
This is a big week for Mansfield Town, we are trying to find our way again and we really need to cut out this late goals thing. This is a big week for characters to show they want to be a Mansfield Town player – who wants to turn up in front of a sparse crowd on a cold October night to play Everton’s kids? Who wants to go to a non-league ground and ensure what will be very different facilities to what they’re used to? Who wants to be a winner?
I said it before Notts County and I’ll say it again – Football is a game, regardless of the competition, that is there to be won. Winning breads confidence and confidence breads success. Let’s stand up, be counted, be winners and above all else – be the Mansfield Town we know we can be.
Craig Priest Writes…
Steve Evans made no secret that he wasn’t fussed about winning this evening’s game at Meadow Lane, and in fairness in the grand scheme of things we can understand that – however the one thing we wanted for the players who came in, to stand up, be counted and get a win under their belts.
And that they did, running out 2-1 winners at Meadow Lane in what was actually one of the, if not THE, best display of the season thus far.
From the off, the players looked up for the game, they wanted to play for the shirt and given recent weeks that was my big worry tonight, that we wouldn’t want it and get pummelled into the ground.
But we played with confidence and hunger and even when Notts County grabbed a goal back to level the game, I felt we had more in us and that we could go on and win it.
The competition may not matter to many, although again I’ll highlight the fact the additional money wouldn’t go a miss, and whilst tonight’s result puts the ball in our court – above all else it breeds confidence back into the dressing room and makes us unbeaten in three games on the road, perfect for Saturday against Exeter at the One Call Stadium.
Evans will no doubt have some questions to answer too over some players and positions, Joel Byrom I fear would be a risk to start him again in such a short space of time, but it was evident how much we’d missed his flare in the middle of the park. Paul Digby was excellent at centre back alongside Bennett whilst Paul Anderson was solid at right back and led the side well.
Mellis and Angol obviously deserve mentions but the player who gives Evans the biggest headache for me is CJ Hamilton, who showed his quality and pace throughout and capped the display with a wonderfully taken, and well deserved goal, if anyone deserves a run in the league it’s him.
Overall that was the Mansfield Town I’ve wanted to see for a long time, a team who moves the ball with fluidity, a team who defends well from start to finish and a team above all else who want to play regardless of the competition and who want to bring home success. The important thing now is just too go on, manage it within the squad and keep the momentum flowing.
Steve Evans said ‘significant changes’ would be made and stuck to his word, Rhys Bennett the only made who kept his place following Saturday’s rain swept draw at Newport. Bobby Oljenik, Paul Anderson, Paul Digby, Mal Benning, Omari Sterling-James, Joel Byrom, Jacob Melliss, CJ Hamilton, Lee Angol and Jimmy Spencer all came in – Jack Thomas was also named on the bench, having been recalled from Boston earlier in the day.
Mansfield got off to a flyer with Lee Angol staking his claim for a league start within the opening minute, the hungry front man capitalised on Haydn Hollis’ mistake on the edge of the county box, opening up his body and driving low into the bottom corner, being Branislav Pindroch in the county goal.
Four minutes later it should have been two-nil to rampant Mansfield as Joel Byrom’s deep cross was turned behind for a corner, Byrom himself delivered into the middle and Paul Digby met the inviting ball with a forceful header – Pindroch somehow clinging onto the ball on the line.
Jimmy Spencer then saw an effort blocked by Dan Jones, and it was he who tested the water for the hosts on 14 minutes, dragging an effort wide of Olejnik’s goal from 20 yards.
Spencer again then nearly doubled the Stags tally on 27 minutes as he was played into the area, Omari Sterling-James with the assist with a soft lob over the top, Spencer spun his marker well and fired a fierce effort against the woodwork – the loose ball fell to Angol who was robbed of an open goal as Shaun Brisley put in a brave challenge.
The Stags had a spot kick turned down on the half hour, before five minutes later were pegged level as the experienced Alan Smith converted from a corner with a well timed run, Mansfield however claimed a foul on Digby as Smith appeared to throw him to the ground, but as always – play to the whistle!
From the restart the Stags looked to regain their advantage as Sterling-James came close with a low effort, Mellis and Spencer also saw efforts fail to find the net before the referee drew a close to a first half which the Stags pretty much controlled.
CJ Hamilton was causing Notts County all sorts of problems and sent in a testing cross which Sterling-James connected with, turned behind for a corner by Jones from which Byroms’ delivery nearly caught Pindoch out.
Liam Walker dragged one towards goal on 55 minutes which Oljenik turned behind, the Stags survived the set-play as County failed to find a way back into the game.
At the other end Hamilton saw a header held by Pindoch on 68 minutes as the ball zipped about in the area, the home keeper nay have won that battle but it was a role reversal just five minutes later, as Anderson’s cross was punched out into the path of Hamilton, who controlled with his chest, span his marked and blazed into the top corner with his right foot from 14 yards – a thunderous strike to put the Stags back in front.
Mal Benning nearly added the Stags third with 11 minutes to go as a free kick zipped up off the surface, Pindroch quick to push the ball up and away – the home keeper was on hand again a minute later, this time Hamilton curling one from 25 yards towards the top corner.
The Stags saw out the final moments of the match with solid defending, Evans men now can still qualify for the knockout stages – if they beat Everton U23s next Tuesday, it’ll then all depend on the outcome of the Lincoln V Notts County match the following week.
Full Time: Notts County 1-2 Stags
Paul Anderson © - Paul Digby – Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Omari Sterling-James (Alfie Potter 89) – Jacob Mellis – Joel Byrom (Jack Thomas 58) – CJ Hamilton
Lee Angol (Kane Hemmings 90) – Jimmy Spencer
Unused Substitutes: Conrad Logan, Krystian Pearce, Danny Rose, Will Atkinson
Referee: Graham Horwood Assistants Duncan Street, Joe Simpson Fourth Official John Brooks
Attendance 2,290 (405)
‘Neque deditionem’ is latin for ‘No Surrender’ however I can’t help but feel that even before kick-off, Steve Evans has thrown in the towel and his team talk will be geared more towards getting fitness up than actually going out to win the game. But hey, what do you expect when the match is in a competition which very few actually care about.
Evans is open with his opinion on the Checkatrade Trophy, he doesn’t care about it and insists the league takes priority.
Whilst of course he is right, it’s disheartening to think that tomorrow night the Mansfield Town management will be putting out a team not in the mind-set to win a game against a fierce local rival – a win which after a slight up turn in form, would have possibly helped to reignite our fire.
‘Significant Changes’ will be made by Evans as he rests legs for Saturday, fair enough – however I was hoping for a more impassioned Steve Evans whose body language screamed that he wanted anything other than this game – in fact he might as well have said “I’m leaving Paul Raynor in charge tomorrow, I’m washing my hair whilst watching repeats of The Bill” – yes be open in the fact you’re making changes, but at least play the media a little by urging the fringe players to come in, get a win and steak a claim for three points.
There are three things that worry me about this situation, the first is what message to his body language send to the players – surely they’ll be like ‘well if the gaffer doesn’t care why should we?’ That’s not an attitude I would want, it certainly wouldn’t motivate me to go out and steak a claim for a shirt on Saturday.
The second is, if the game we’re a dead rubber I’d be 100% behind resting as many legs as possible – but it’s not, not only is it a local derby, but we also have a chance of qualification and the opportunity to bank some extra money by getting through which could buy us a striker in January and impact us in our bid for promotion. Given the depth we have, that shouldn’t be an issue and I’m sure that John Radford would welcome an extra source of income having paid out what he has thus far, for little return!
People have criticised the Trophy and the continued low turnouts don’t help, but financially the prize money for a club of our stature can’t be ignored, looked at what winning the competition did for Coventry last season, the money they earned has been invested and the rewards are bound to come.
That leads me nicely onto my third worry – if we lose tomorrow we are pretty much out, as will Everton U23s should they lose to Lincoln tomorrow – meaning our game next Tuesday at the One Call is dead and our lowest ever attendance may be recorded – no footballer wants to play in somewhere soulless and play a game that means nothing.
Regardless of the competitions stature or reputation, I look at tomorrow like this – it’s a competitive match against our local rivals who will want to get one over on us following our recent league game. It is an opportunity for players to get out there and claim a shirt and for the entirety of the group, it’s a chance to get a few goals and a win – bringing some more confidence back into the dressing room.
Not for a second am I saying going and play the strongest side available, I’m saying at least give it a go and start sending the right messages out to supporters and to our competitors – a game of football is a game of football, and victory is victory.
‘Per Angusta Ad Augusta’ means ‘through trial to triumph’ – a football season is just that a trial, a test of ability, desire and courage – triumph is the end goal we all seek, so why not go away, game by game and find some?
Mark Plumb writes...
Mansfield Town suffered a disappointing defeat against league 2 newsboys in the checkatrade trophy group match at one call stadium. As expected 10 changes were made to the line up giving the fringe players a chance to prove their worth and in other cases fighting for their contracts.
The first half I thought we played well in spells, created chances and looked comfortable on the ball. Stags took the lead courtesy of Alfie Potter, who was one and one with the keeper to convert his effort past the Imps keeper to make the scoring 1-0 Mansfield.
We should have doubled the league when Sterling James found himself in a good position but saw his shot wide of the post. As the half wore on we looked dangerous on the counter and for most of the half looked solid defensively, most notably George Taft and Johnny Hunt, making his stags debut. Then came the equaliser when Lincoln hit us on the counter by whipping in an inviting ball into the area for Whitehouse to head home to make the scores level 1-1.
It was a cruel blow for how well we played but we switched off defensively and they took advantage of poor marking. At half time their wasn't much of a concern at 1-1 we showed signs of the quality that we know we have within the team, so was expecting more of the same if not better in the second half. Second half began with the Imps wasting no time in going all out attack, causing the Stags defence and forcing Oljenik into some good saves to keep the scoring one a piece.
They made it difficult for us by playing direct and out muscling us in most areas of the pitch, most notably when the ball was being pumped up to Spencer & Sterling James who found it difficult to work along side each other. At one point in the match I thought we should have had a penalty when Spencer got into the box and did well under pressure to turn and have his shirt virtually pulled to the floor, any claims were waved away by some dubious decisions by the referee.
Paul Digby came close to opening his account for Mansfield from the resulting free kick his looped header clipped the top of the bar. On the 79th minute mark they went ahead courtesy of former Stag Ollie Palmer when he found space evading the defenders to make it 2-1 Lincoln in front of 800 Imps who travelled.
A disappointing goal to concede but they kept on pressing and got their rewards but again go back to the awareness of players marking their men, just hope they learn from these mistakes. Both teams made changes with Steve Evans bringing on Hamilton, Atkinson and Rose to try and have an impact on proceedings for the Stags.
Then in the 95th minute another former Stag in Matt Green raced forward from a Mansfield corner to score from a resulting Stags corner to convert into an empty net, having came on as a sub. For me I think the manner in which we lost the game made it all the more painful to take. We all knew this competition was never going to be a priority and that it was a match for players who needed more minutes and a chance to prove their worth.
On paper you look at the players we had out with the likes of Macdonald, Potter, Pearce, White and others to add to that list and still came away empty handed. I am sure Evans will be reviewing the performances of some of the players and knowing whether or not they feature in his plans going forward but just can't help but feel frustrated with the strength in depth we got in the team, that we should be doing better.
On the flip side of that the longer they play together the more they will gel but felt that some of the players let the fans down by not putting enough effort in. It is still early days for us to panic but as said in previous blogs/ podcasts we need to stop making silly mistakes that costs us in games, whether that be league or cup as teams punish you for it.
The positives from it was no injuries and minutes of the pitch. Other than that struggling to find anything to be positive about from the match. Onwards and upwards UP THE STAGS !!!
Craig Priest writes…
Once again a team switched to three up front against Mansfield Town, and Mansfield Town can’t handle it – honestly, can anyone say they believe this current crop of players is going to come up trumps, when it’s the little mistakes which are starting to make huge dents in our armoury?
It’s that old saying isn’t it, a ripple in the ocean can soon create a tidal wave – I honestly don’t understand how someone as experienced, knowledgeable and successful as Steve Evans and Paul Raynor, can allow such a simple thing to hurt us again, and again, and again.
The competition is irrelevant, as is the team selection – there we’re spells where our desire, hunger and sheer lust for the game really showed – sadly, it was about as frequent as someone either swiping right to me on Tinder or sending me a message on other dating sites!
Cheap gags are all I can do right now to not swear and throw this laptop across the room in anger and how simple we’ve been beaten, not once – but twice, in the same way. What concerns me more is how we react, nobody rallies the troupes, nobody holds their hands up, nobody seems to care – a goal going in, is like a mint being dropped into a bottle of fizzy coke.
With the transfer window slamming shut soon, Evans must work fast to find a solution to the problem we’re facing – instability and fear of failure, have we hired too many cooks for the kitchen?
Fortunately it’s not all over in terms of the Checkatrade Trophy considering the format, we lost to Doncaster at this point last year and still managed to pocked some pivotal funds – and perhaps more critically, tonight’s collapse against the power of three doesn’t impact on our League ambitions.
Alfie Potter was different class as was Alex MacDonald – both will be very hard done by to not start at Carlise, especially the former who ran the show and gave us something we haven’t had all season so far, a counter attacking outlet – Even though it were his side two of the goals came from, I felt Hint had a steady game too – I can’t help but wonder two things, one – would a system change suit us more, with wings back rather than full backs and two – given that four of the last five goals we’ve conceded have been from that side of the pitch, is it a players-error or has Evans’ set-up cost us?
George Taft too alongside Pearce looked assured, again I can’t help but wonder what a back three, with Diamond or the improving Murfin would perform like – but ifs and buts only get us so far, it’s a long trip to Carlise on Saturday – and an ever long road home without any coal to show for it, the power of three has unstitched us twice in a row now, to go back to that ripple in the ocean analogy – as we head for the lake district, how about we cause some waves for once, rather than fail to swim in deep water?
Unsurprisingly Evans made ten changes from Saturday’s 2-2 draw with only Krystain Pearce keeping his place and taking the skippers armband – had Zander Diamond been fit, it would have been 11 changes - Perhaps the most surprising of all was the inclusion of Jack Thomas.
Mansfield started very much on the front foot, Alex MacDonald swung in some testing free-kicks and crosses within the opening minutes, but it was the magic feet of Alfie Potter that broke the deadlock on six minutes.
Jimmy Spencer played a key role in holding the ball up against two Lincoln defenders, before poking the ball into space for Potter to latch onto – a burst of pace and quick feet saw Potter inside the box, he made no mistake as Paul Farman came out to try and narrow the angle.
Ten minutes later Alex MacDonald nearly provided the Stags second after goalscorer Potter was felled, MacDonald’s whipped set-play found the head of George Taft who headed over a greatful Farman’s bar.
The Stags were keeping position well and restricting Lincoln to little, however just before the half hour – Lincoln had a real chance to pull the game level, as skipper Pearce hacked down a swift moving Billy Knott, Sam Hebergham stepped up from 25 yards but fired well into the empty Quarry Lane End.
Mansfield then missed the golden chance to make it 2-0 on 33 minutes a goal which, at that point, may well have killed the game. Alfie Potter was once again instrumental with a breath taking box to box run, he slipped in Omari Sterling-James to the right of the box – his touch to set himself allowed Farman to narrow the angle and the physiology worked, Sterling-James dragged his effort agonisingly wide.
Moments later, Sterling-James tried to feed Jack Thomas, but one of Lincoln’s many former Stags cut out the pass – Luke Waterfall staying strong.
At the other end Bobby Oljenik, in a fetching purple and orange cross fade kit, stood firm to deny Maguire-Drew from a free-kick, before the pendulum swung the Stags way once more, Paul Digby heading MacDonalds’ 39th minute free-kick over.
Seconds later at the other end, Lincoln got in behind Johnny Hunt down the left and side and clipped a cross into the middle, Elliott Whitehouse nodding in Long’s chipped cross to level the match.
Imps boss Danny Cowley was then sent to the stands before the half came to a close, 45 minutes where all Mansfield’s hard work had been undone in one moment.
After the break Mansfield just didn’t look as sharp and had to be rescued by Oljenik who made a fine save to deny Long on 50 minutes – a minute later and Potter was off on another counter attacking run which saw him play a 1-2 with Thomas, Lincoln recovering just in time before Potter was able to wave his magic wand.
Alex MacDonald drew a smart save from Farman on 58 minutes following a nice pass from Sterling-James, but on 65 minutes – a double substitution from the Imps changed the game, they gambled by switching from a flat 4-4-2 to a 3-4-3, no doubt having watched how Mansfield collapsed against Luton when they went up front 2-0 down on Saturday.
And fourteen minutes later, the switch worked – Long again got the better of Hunt down the left hand side and another ex-Stag in Ollie Palmer nipped in to put the Imps ahead.
Mansfield had a go at trying to force a draw, and subsequent penalty shootout for a bonus point and threw Olejnik forward for a corner – sadly the gamble didn’t pay as Lincoln cleared the corner, countered and Stags legend Matt Green had the simple task of slotting into an empty net.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-3 Lincoln City
Hayden White – Krystain Pearce © - George Taft – Johnny Hunt
Alfie Potter – Jack Thomas (Will Atkinson 72) – Paul Digby – Alex MacDonald (CJ Hamilton 82)
Jimmy Spencer (Danny Rose 82) – Omari Sterling-James
Unused Substitutes Conrad Logan, Rhys Bennett, Mal Benning, Joel Byrom
Attendance: 2,495 (898)
Referee: David Webb, Assistants Stephen Wade, Duncan Streete, Fourth Official Thomas Bramall
Tomorrow night see’s the most underrated competition return as the 2017/18 season’s checkatrade trophy journey begins – however, whilst some might see it as one huge irrelevance, I think Mansfield Town’s name should be the one engraved on the trophy at Wembley at the end of the season.
No, I’ve not gone mad, I’m simply looking at the strength we have in depth and thinking – if those players want to stake a claim for league two action – they need to perform, and its games such as the checkatrade trophy where they’ll get the opportunity to do so.
There are other benefits too which I’ll come onto in a minute, but first put yourself into the frame of mind of say Johnny Hunt, George Taft, Alex MacDonald and Bobby Olejnik to name but a few, after Saturday’s unacceptable complete bottle job of dropping two points – those players who will more than likely feature tomorrow, have a perfect opportunity to perform well and say to Steve Evans “this is why you need to be picking me on Saturday at Carlisle”.
First on my “Check List” for tomorrow night is to see Mansfield Town, regardless of how many keep their place from Saturday, come out fighting holding nothing back in a way of saying “we messed up Saturday and we’re sorry” – it’s not about the 11 players who are on the pitch at a certain time (aka when mistakes are made), it’s about winning and losing together, taking the highs and the lows of the roller-coaster (sorry, wrong season) together, Rhys Bennett’s comments should be pinned up in the dressing room along with the still image of his face – they say a picture say’s a million words, only one was needed on this occasion, HURT.
Second on the check list is really testing this co called strength in depth, Bobby Olejnik is too good to be sitting on the bench and must be eager to dislodge an ever frustrating Logan from the starting line-up in games other than cup games, whilst George Taft, Johnny Hunt, Alfie Potter and Alex MacDonald have barley had a look in – fair enough, the latter has been injured, but again he’ll be keen to prove a point.
We have a really strong squad from top to bottom, regardless of the niggles that have plagued us so far this season – looking at naming an eleven that didn’t start on Saturday, it’s a team any manager would give their right arm for… Oljenik, White, Diamond, Taft, Hunt, MacDonald, Potter, Digby, Hamilton, Sterling-James, Rose… I could make an argument for every single one of those players as to why they’d want to impress.
ALL of those players are FIRST TEAM players which means, according to the rules of the competition, Steve Evans could name that exact line-up and not be in trouble for making 11 changes, the wording is no long “five players who started the previous league match” as it used to be.
Away from the on pitch stuff for number three on the checklist – financial return. John & Carolyn have put in a lot of money and will be slightly nervy of failure, as frustrating and irrelevant as some may see the Checkatrade Trophy, the trades regulator has bumped up the prize money again for this season – we did quite well out of it last season and if you look at Coventry, who won the competition last year despite being relegated from league one, the prize money they accumulated has no doubt been reinvested and will aid them in their promotion ambitions.
We have a winnable group and tomorrow will see some familiar faces return to the One Call Stadium, but please whilst we’ll give Green a rapturous reception – can we not go back down the “we should have kept him” route? Living in the past isn’t going to get us anywhere.
Lincoln will be up for it and whilst they won’t know exactly what to expect, let’s treat it as another game, three bags of goal will help massively in the dressing room to lift the mood and to get us up and ready for the long trip to Carlise, a game we really need to win to kick start our season ahead of some more tasty local encounters.
The checkatrade trophy is not a competition we should ignore, it gives players the opportunity to keep challenging to make a difference in the league, it gives us a nice, not massive I grant you, but nice all the same income without doing too much for it – and furthermore, gives us supporters the chance to visit Wembley again – if ever we were strong enough to last the distance and do so, it’s not – Steve, make it happen!
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