Full Time Score Mansfield Town 1-1 MK Dons
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue The One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Jacob Mellis
Attendance 4,329 (394)
Craig Priest writes…
In a few years’ time when we’re reflecting on bygone seasons, the 2018-19 campaign is going to tell the story of stubborn and frustrating draws, but yet again it’s the old adage of not judging a book by its cover, as the Stags draw with MK Dons – another of those afternoon’s where Lady Luck, just hasn’t bothered to smile.
David Flitcroft’s men faced a good side in MK Dons, a lot of whom should be playing a division higher, and where perhaps unlucky to win the match – denied a stonewall penalty and kept out by the excellent Lee Nicholls who was beaten only by Jacob Mellis’ sensational strike.
Yet for the lack of Lady Luck smiling at one end, the Stags can perhaps take a little comfort from the fact that at the other end, they got away with some sloppy defending and careless passing in what was a frustrating game to watch, played again in tough conditions which the Stags system didn’t really lend itself too!
I still have the upmost faith that the wins will come more frequently than they are doing and fully believe we can and will break free of the shackles which are making us look, on paper, a bang average team incapable of finishing the job.
It’s strange to sit typing about a “poor defence” when you consider that both sides have the joint best defence in the league, and in fairness the MK goal was similar to ours in the fact it was a long range hit and hope – both Mellis and Jordan Houghton could try that 99 more times and probably only recreate their respective goals once, but we did allow MK to get into areas where we should have been punished, and as much as I praised Nicholls – Bobby Olejnik deserves plaudits too.
His displays keep on getting better and better, I’m going into games knowing that if teams get in behind us, I’m 99.9% sure Bobby is going to mop things up however injuries like the one he sustained yesterday during the second half can be really damaging, especially with it being an internal injury – I hope it doesn’t knock his confidence and prevent him from venturing out to clean things up, I hope it doesn’t keep him out too long either should there be any damage.
Goalkeepers can be heroes and villains and they never get the recognition they deserve, a big part of our solid defence is Bobby and the way he marshals his back three/five – he’s a big part of how we play with his distribution and “sweeper keeper” role, don’t get me wrong I have every faith in Logan to come in, but losing Bobby in his current form would be a blow.
If you’re drawing at home then you need to do the business on the road, we’ve two away games this week and so six points would be the target, we need to break that back to back victory curse now and push on and build on what is for me, a good point against a side who will bounce straight back into League One.
Finally all over social media there are posts and arguments over performance and records etc, events such as last night at Leicester City bring it all into perspective really – it’s just a game, nothing more. So many people will be affected by the helicopter tragedy in different ways, as will people regarding Glenn Hoddles heart attack; football’s just a game it’s not worth all the petty, petulant, arguments – my thoughts are with the family/friends of all involved – what an ugly day for the beautiful game.
David Flitcroft named an unchanged side from the midweek win at Morecambe with Craig Davies back on the bench, along with the back from suspension Will Atkinson, CJ Hamilton stayed at wing back whilst Tyler Walker kept his place upfront.
It was Walker who started brightly and had the game’s first real chance just three minutes in as the Stags looked to get an early opener, the front man’s well hit effort saved well by Nicholls in the MK goal.
Mal Benning, Danny Rose and Walker all saw efforts go over the bar inside the opening ten minutes before Neal Bishop went in strongly to deny Dean Lewington an opening at the other end.
Ryan Sweeney then went into the referee’s book for what I have down as his fifth booking of the season, meaning he'll miss Tuesday’s trip to Crewe.
The Stags needed something special to break the Dons’ resilience and boy did they get it on 17 minutes as a Stags corner found its way to Mellis, whose first time struck effort from long range, flew into the top corner to open the scoring – what a strike.
Buoyed by Mellis’ thunderous strike the Stags wanted more and nearly doubled their lead on 20 minutes as Khan fed in Walker, the Forest loanee fired wide of the target and was then punished four minutes later, as at the other end, the stags failed to close down Houghton who, like Mellis, got a long distance shot off and directed it into the top corner to level the match.
The Stags attempted to respond through Benning but his effort was tame and easy for Nicholls, who on 36 minutes should have been facing a penalty when Walker was blatantly tripped when clean through – referee Seb Stockbridge the only person in the ground to not think it was a penalty.
Mellis, Benning and Hamilton all had further efforts before the break but couldn’t take them – the two sides level as the half came to it’s conclusion.
Calum Butcher replaced Khan at the interval with David Flitcroft revealing after Khan was carrying a knock, and five minutes after his introduction, Butcher almost put the Stags ahead, his deflected cross going just wide as the Stags started with intent, Ryan Sweeney heading Mellis’ resulting corner wide.
Bobby Oljenik came to the Stags aid on 54 minutes as he brilliantly denied Rhys Healey, ten minutes later he was at it again, this time keeping out Kieran Agard showing his former Exeter boss Paul Tisdale (now MK dons boss) what he’s missing.
CJ Hamilton saw an effort fly wide on 70 minutes before Mal Benning failed to deliver the goods with a free kick four minutes later, the remainder of the match saw few clear cut chances as the teams shared a point.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 1-1 MK Dons
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Olejnik, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton (Will Atkinson 90+1), Neal Bishop, Jacob Mellis Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Calum Butcher 45), Tyler Walker (Craig Davies 82), Danny Rose
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Lewis Gibbens, Timi Elsnik, Jordan Graham
Referee: Seb Stockbridge
Full Time Score Morecambe 0-1 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue The Globe Arena
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Neal Bishop
Attendance 1,355 (144)
Craig Priest writes…
After weeks of frustration Mansfield Town secured their first away win of the season with a determined display at Morecambe, thanks largely to a solid performance from Neal Bishop.
The central midfielder & elder statesman of the squad was sorely missed on Saturday when the Stags drew with Swindon, his display at Morecambe made up for his absence as he provided the dose of grit & determination that David Flitcroft’s men have been crying out for, highlighted particularly with his goal & the determination to not let the opposition get a break away.
On paper it goes down as another narrow victory where seemingly we've failed to land the killer blow, and whilst there's an element of truth to that, the Stags deserve credit for their resilience in the first half playing against a strong wind and a side who don't let you breathe.
I do think the Stags need to adopt that energy a little more, but to consider we've had two away games in quick succession, one with ten men for a good hour, we've still played with intent and purpose and take a bit of positive form into the next bank of games, which again includes two on the road.
The Stags can come through this period unbeaten but now need to start tightening up on the little things such as petty, petulant bookings, Jacob Mellis at Swindon where he kicked the ball away and Matt Preston last night where he needlessly chased after the ball and got into handbag spat being prime examples. These oddments add up and during this period of fixtures in close proximity, we need bodies available.
Three points are all that matter on reflection, over the past few days we've put a few things to bed, by way of keeping tight at the back and collecting three points, the objective now is get back to back victories.
David Flitcroft made two changes from the side who battled brilliantly to draw with ten men at Swindon, CJ Hamilton moved to right wing back to cover for the suspended Will Atkinson with Tyler Walker brought in up front – Neal Bishop was also back from a ban and straight into the middle of the park, Timi Elsnik having to settle for a place on the bench.
The Stags were playing against the wind in the first half but it was they who enjoyed the early gusts as the stags sent in a looping cross, which cannoned off the post before Barry Roche could beat it away.
The hosts then were at the Stags with intent, Bobby Oljenik collecting well on seven minutes as A-Jay Leith-Smith hit an effort from the edge of the box.
Mal Benning nearly scored a spectacular goal on 12 minutes as Khan sent in a lofted pass, Benning, attacking from full back, hit on the volley and struck the inside of the post, before a grateful Roche collected the goal bound effort, a minute later Matt Preston rose highest to connect with another Khan delivery – this one headed over the bar.
Oljenik gave to the Stags’ rescue on 24 minutes as Leitch-Smith found himself in space on the edge of the box, but for all the hosts attacks – the question of an opening goal was still without a reply.
The answer came blowing in the wind on 36 minutes, Otis Khan’s corner headed away but only into the path of Bishop who controlled well before rasping an effort with power beautifully into the bottom corner of the net.
Otis Khan came close to adding a second six minutes later but was denied by Roche, whilst Danny Rose flung himself through the air with seconds of the first half to go, alas he couldn’t connected properly with Benning’s hanging cross.
After the break Benning let fly just seconds in from distance as the Stags looked for a second, the ambitious effort zipped wide of the target.
Neal Bishop was at it again on 53 minutes as he hooked a volley towards goal, this one fly over the bar before CJ Hamilton got into a great area moments later, a good challenge from Sam Levelle stopped the flash of lightning from striking.
Tyler Walker was then denied by Roche as was Rose on 77 minutes as the Stags piled on the pressure, Rose was again denied by Roche six minutes from time as he hit a sweet volley.
Six minutes of time were added, during which the Stags defended smartly and saw out the match – collecting a much needed win on the road.
FULL TIME: Morecambe 0-1 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Olejnik, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Neal Bishop, Jacob Mellis (Timi Elsnik 80), Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Calum Butcher 83), Tyler Walker (Jordan Graham 90+5), Danny Rose
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Jason Law
Referee: Robert Lewis
Full Time Score Swindon Town 0-0 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue The County Ground
Stags Goal Scorers /
Attendance 6,208 (320)
Craig Priest writes…
On paper but in reality, yesterday’s goalless draw at Swindon felt to me like a win and potentially the start of something a little bigger, especially if David Flitcroft’s men can hardness and recreate the hunger and desire to see the game out when the odds are against them.
Playing with ten men for 50plus, maybe 50 minutes, following the sending off of Will Atkinson, the Stags showed great resolve to keep Swindon at bay and fight for each other, the badge and the fans to take home a valuable point.
Two or three weeks ago the stags with a man less may have crumbled, but the refreshed attitude of having to firstly protect what you start the game with was evident in abundance and with the next game on Tuesday, it’s a prime opportunity to keep that fire burning and turn up the gas.
I’ve no qualms whatsoever with a solitary point, we’re turning into a team that’s difficult to break down and yesterday set a new club away record for the most games unbeaten on the road, that acts as a physiological aid as teams will look at that and know they’re in for a tough afternoon.
Playing with ten men away from home for a prolonged period can be dangerous but I felt we coped really well and didn’t allow Swindon too many opportunities – and when we did, Bobby Olenjik really earned the plaudits with a fine display between the sticks.
The sending off ruined the game for both sides really, it was a tame decision and on any other afternoon wouldn’t have been a booking, I’ve no complaints with Atkinson’s first yellow however – that was a rash challenge.
I don’t see the point in going over every key moment, the point of the entire afternoon was our togetherness and sheer desire to take something from the game – when games come thick and fast as they will do now for the next two/three weeks, you need that energy and electricity, that self-motivation if you like. The Stags river of good luck is about to burst its banks – hold on tight.
There were two changes from the 2-2 draw at Bury with midfielder Neal Bishop suspended, Jacob Mellis came into the middle, whilst CJ Hamilton was moved higher up to partner up front with Rose ahead of Walker, Will Atkinson given the nod for a start at right wing back – facing his former boss Phil Brown, whilst Flitcroft, assistant Ben Futcher, Elsnik and Preston all returned to their former employers with mixed receptions.
Mansfield started the brighter on a sunny afternoon and nearly had a repeat of the Bury game with Rose pouncing on a keeper mistake as Lawrence Vigouroux fired a clearance straight at Rose, this time the Stags man punished by the referee.
CJ Hamilton’s strong running earned the stags a corner on nine minutes, from which Matt Preston nearly scored the opener against his ex club, the former Swindon defender denied by the home keeper to jeers from the home support.
Five minutes later the Stags broke with pace and flair as Hamilton was sent free to give the hosts nightmares, the lightening winger turned striker nee-wing-back fired over the bar.
Jacob Mellis then put an effort wide before Rose was denied by the keeper on 15 minutes after good work from Khan, Will Atkinson then picked up a yellow card for a very late challenge on Matty Taylor as the game passed the half hour mark.
The hosts then had two chances as the game started to open up, but Bobby Oljenik was on form to first deny Elijah Adebayo and then Keshi Anderson.
With three minutes to go before the break the Stags were dealt a huge blow as Will Atkinson picked up his second yellow card of the game, the Stags regrouped for the final stages of the first half with Rose as the lone striker, and Hamilton pulled back to right wing back.
Otis Khan was sacrificed at the break for Tyler Walker with the Stags mixed things up slightly – moving Preston across to Right Back, and Benning to left back as Flitcroft opted for a back four, Hamilton took up residence in midfield as did Walker – the Stags 4-4-1 out of possession, 3-4-2 in possession with Benning/Walker laterally moving forward on the left.
The Stags had a golden chance on 51 minutes as two ex Robins linked up, Elsnik’s corner finding the head of Preston who failed to generate the required power, where he had more time to control and then shoot.
Mellis hit a free kick over the bar on the hour whilst Rose caused problems, tenaciously closing everything down, earning the Stags a corner, sadly to no avail.
Swindon turned up the pressure but had nothing to really scare the Stags as they showed a togetherness, as the game entered five minutes stoppage time – both keepers made saves, Oljenik’s the more critical as Mansfield bucked the trend of conceding late to take home a valuable point, which given the numerical disadvantage, felt like all three.
FULL TIME: Swindon Town 0-0 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Olejnik, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, Will Atkinson [Sent Off 41], Jacob Mellis, Timi Elsnik (Calum Butcher 79), Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Tyler Walker HT), CJ Hamilton, Danny Rose
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Jordan Graham, Jason Law
Referee: Antony Coggins
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
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