Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 16th October 2021
Last week I had a sympathetic shoulder for Nigel Clough, but I can honestly say that after a 2-0 defeat to Northampton where more effort was shown by an opposition player to applaud the travelling faithful who’d witnessed 90 minutes of zero effort, that the same old excuses don’t wash anymore.
OK, that player was Danny Rose, absolute hero – what a guy, but still – you get the point!
“I find it very difficult to win games with the players we have out there” – Wow, what a thing to say about your squad, a majority of the players YOU brought in – it’s no wonder the players looked so uncomfortable, there’s a real lack of togetherness and that is worrying.
Another Clough gem was “We had second choice players pretty much everywhere today” – I find that frustrating to hear, nobody should be ranked in terms of number one, two, three etc – it’s a squad game and everybody should be given the opportunity to fight for their shirt, what confidence does that give the likes of James Clarke to know that when someone else is available, they’ll get straight back in ahead of him – I’m singling out James Clarke here either, he’s been excellent!
Clough says it’s a shadow between the team that were out at the start of the season and now, and yes we’ve got players missing – but what frustrates me is the absolute lack of desire and effort from the majority to fight for ball, to dive into a tackle, run at players and that comes from him – he’s the manager, he shouldn’t be blaming the injuries, the missing players and the questionable referee’s – he should be doing his job, managing what he has, motivating what he’s got!
I guess that the frustrating of losing a game can put a perception on a quote, take something with one meaning and give it another one entirely. At the end of the game, a lot of talk was about Clough losing his job – pointless. Woeful results, yes. Awful performances, yes – but if Clough goes, we have to pay him and what, four other staff members off? AND then get someone else in, who gets the SAME GROUP of players and the cycle repeats.
Clough is the right man for the job, his comments will continue to frustrate me as will his lack of reaction within games – but he’s here for the long process and I believe he will get the results and has my backing, but PLEASE acknowledge the fans and change this blame culture of the factors – it’s oozing negativity and sucking us towards the black hole of doom!
We go again Tuesday night at home to Port Vale, with Quinn and Sinclair back in contention, let’s freshen things up completely and get a positive result, something which is long overdue.
Football eh, what a load of cobblers!
STAGS: Bishop, McLaughlin (Burke 66’), Hewitt, Rawson, Charsley (Ward 46’), O. Clarke, Bowery, Johnson (Oates 76’), Hawkins, J. Clarke, Lapslie UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Forrester, Law, Gale
Attendance: 6,034 (1,019)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 2nd October 2021
A few weeks ago when the Stags’ problems with injuries started to set in, Nigel Clough said that when it rains, it pours – well, add in seemingly endless suspensions and poor decisions to the mix and now, the Stags are in real danger of getting drowned by the rain.
A second half penalty and a red card to Farrend Rawson were the main talking points from yesterday’s 1-0 loss at home to Barrow, a defeat which has fans arguing on social media over if Clough is the right man for the job and is his name is the only thing keeping him on the employment roster – absolute rubbish!
Firstly, let’s take nothing away from Mark Cooper’s Barrow who under the experienced managers early leadership, are fighting to develop as a football league side, have signed some good players and are grounding out some good results the way Cooper does – they should have been out of sight by half time.
Secondly, the matter in hand – Clough wasn’t going to come in and transform things overnight – IF we have a FULL SQUAD available and were getting these types of results, I’d perhaps have a different perspective, but we haven’t and are literally surviving game by game right now.
One transfer window (technically two but I don’t think January should be reflected as a main one, it’s more of a fuel stop) was never going to fix the Stags problems, I do think we got it wrong and took too long, but also the volume of change we needed to transform into a successful club was never going to happen in one window – you’re looking at two minimum, with a fuel stop in between.
Clough was clear at the start of the season – we’ll try and compete, we’ll try and win promotion if we can, but if it doesn’t happen this season, we’ll be better placed to push the following season – we as fans have to accept that.
There’s no use whatsoever in a change again, we DID need it last season under Coughlan because it was clear he wasn’t the man to streamline budgets AND build a squad capable of GROWING OVER TIME – Clough is, he’s proven it everywhere he’s been. Of course if we’d played 20-25 games, were rock bottom shipping goals for fun, unable to score with a FULL COMPLIMENT OF PLAYERS, it’d be different, but that’s not the situation we’re in – it’s not sustainable to repaint the wall every time there’s a bit of muck or dirt that blots the colour.
This goes back years to Flitcroft – I HATE mentioning this, because it’s such a tired point of discussion but it’s true, we are STILL rebuilding from his sacking two and a bit seasons on whereas had we kept him and given him until Christmas to go again, we’d probably have progressed now because we’d have healed TOGETHER, rather than fall apart from the core – if you don’t know what I mean, listen to our Stags Stories with Neal Bishop.
Back to the here and now, yesterday was a tad unlucky – the penalty is bemusing, there’s no foul there from what I can see, no handball and no shouts for it from Barrow – but it’s given, scored and again we fail to react – mainly because our best centre forward, is our best central defender!
As for the sending off, my initial feeling was that the Barrow player is coming back from offside – I’ve just watched it back and it appears Rawson gets the slightest of touches to therefor play him ONSIDE – the foul is lazy and clumsy and by the letter of the law is a straight red, HOPEFULLY it’ll be one game like Ollie Clarke’s was, but I won’t hold my breath, enjoy your three game rest Faz!
The problem is who comes in, will Clough go for James Clarke at right back, moving Hewitt back central, Burke at left back to put McLaughlin central, young George Cooper or maybe a back three of Hewitt, Hawkins, McLaughlin – whatever, we need to back the boys and power on through the storm!
Go back to basics, let’s be tough to break down and keep a clean sheet – that way we’;re guaranteed a point, if our strikers can find some fire at the other end and nick us a goal, even better. For now though, togetherness and basics will do!
STAGS: Bishop, McLaughlin, Hewitt, Rawson, Charsley, O. Clarke, Bowery, Maris (Law 83’), Hawkins, Oates (Johnson 65’), Lapslie UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Burke, Ward, J. Clarke, Cooper
Attendance: 3,931 (190)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 25th September 2021
Mansfield Town had a three step plan after weeks of error fraught defeats; stop the rot – keep a clean sheet – win a game of a football, simple. Yesterday’s 0-0 draw at Leyton Orient saw stage two executed ALMOST perfectly, as heroic Nathan Bishop finally claimed his first shutout of the campaign.
In the capital, it’s the Stags who should have been charging for congestion late on, as with ten men thanks to Tyrese Sinclair silly sending off, the divisions second placed team looked certain to break the deadlock and flooded the Stags box.
Nathan Bishop and his back four, which included striker Oli Hawkins, were determined to stand firm and did, roared on by vocally proud Stags fans – with Bishop making a string of fine stops, and the back four throwing themselves at everything, including Elliott Hewitt at right back.
Sinclair’s sending off typified the Stags luck, keen to impress from the bench there was no need to kick-out after he was fouled to win his side a free kick, inexperience cost us the opportunity to perhaps steal all three points, but cost him the golden opportunity to break into the side more frequently, with injuries mounting up and Stephen Quinn still missing for three more games.
He’ll learn from that and to be honest, that’s all we should say – he’s a young and eager player who will bounce back – there’s no need to crucify him for it.
Focus, rightly, should be on the vast improvement defensively – driven in my view by moving Hawkins to centre half. With Kellan Gordon injured (and likely to be out for another 2-3 weeks) and joining the list of absentees at the back – Clough had two choices; play Hawkins at CB and switch Hewitt to the right, or bring in James Clarke for a straight swap.
I’m disappointed he didn’t opt for the latter as I think Clarke is a fantastic talent and has a big future, however we needed authority at the back and as much experience as possible – so in hindsight going with the Hawkins/Hewitt option was the right one.
The two problems Clough now faces are that, firstly, consistency is key. Hawkins was brilliant and brought a calmness, he won 99% of everything and marshalled the game – it’s not a coincidence that we kept a clean sheet which we have to build on, and in order to do that – he has to stay there!
That however brings around the second problem – Hawkins is also the best chance we have of being clinical in attack! He’s a big outlet for us and we have nobody that can do the same job as he can, you can’t ask Bowery to do it, because he’s doing Quinn’s job, you’d then look at Sinclair to do that but he’s now joined Quinn in the banned club – Johnson? He’s not that type of player and without Hawkins to feed off, isn’t firing! So what do you do?
It’s a big question and one only the experience of Clough and his team can solve – but that is what they’re paid for really!
Fundamentally, I think for the short term, we’re better off leaving Hawkins at the back and being more stable there, because if you keep a clean sheet – you’re guaranteed at least a point, and if we can utilise set plays more, Hawkins can be a threat from those so you almost get the best of both worlds.
Stage two of the three stage plan complete – Barrow up next at home, time to complete stage three!
Come on you Stags!
STAGS: Bishop, Hewitt, Rawson, Hawkins, McLaughlin, Lapslie, Maris (Charsley 54’), O. Clarke (C), Oates (Burke 88’), Johnson (Sinclair 67’), Bowery. UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey (GK), J. Clarke, Ward, Law.
Attendance: 5,252 (347)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 18th September 2021
When you’re on a poor run of form shipping goals like there’s no tomorrow, you need to really work hard to balance the scales and get the ship steady again. What doesn’t help is losing your best defender for the season, and having your two deadline day signings both out injured too!
That’s exactly the situation Clough finds himself in, Richard Nartey will be out for 6-8 weeks, whilst the yet to arrive Will Forrester won’t be available until October.
Add into the mix the only two other actually fit defenders having shockers, it could have been a nightmare afternoon as Rochdale came to town – as it was, both Rawson and Hewitt showed improvement – sadly, they passed the ‘I’m going to make a mistake’ bug onto Kellan Gordon!
His second half error led to Rochdale netting an easy goal, but Danny Johnson came from the bench to grab his second goal in as many games – earning a deserved point for the Stags.
At one point I did think Clough had forgotten what a substitution actually was, however when he did introduce Johnson and Stirk for Oates and Maris on 70 minutes, the Stags looked like they’d FINALLY found what they’d been missing and caused problems – intensified with four minutes to go when Charsley came on, I’d start with the team that finished next weekend, apart from Stirk, who is a real asset to bring on from the bench rather than a starter.
Rawson out of the two defenders really showed what he can do, going in with strong tackles early to stamp authority on a hungry Rochdale attack, I was pleased with him, but more pleased with Bowery, playing on the left side of a front three – I thought he was excellent, I’d love to see what he, Quinn and McLaughlin could do…. Shame we’ll have at least four more games to wait for that with Quinn suspended!
There’s not much more to say to be honest about yesterday, the rot was stopped, a point was earned and a base set – we are where we are with injuries at the back, we can’t do too much about it, so let’s crack on and focus on staying tight, making as few mistakes as possible and moving onto the next rung of the ladder – a cleansheet, followed by a win!
STAGS: Bishop, Gordon, McLaughlin, Hewitt, Rawson, O. Clarke, Bowery, Maris (Stirk 70’), Hawkins, Oates (Johnson 70’), Lapslie (Charsley 86’) UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Burke, Sinclair, Law
Attendance: 4,336 (318)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 11th September 2021 | Mansfield Town 1 [Johnson] Walsall 3
Stepping on lego. Stubbing a toe. Having a tooth extracted, and getting repeatedly flicked on the air in the peak of Winter – all things I’d rather do than watch another performance like that from Mansfield Town FC.
Nigel Clough labelled his players inept as they handed Walsall three points, the hosts running out 3-1 winners – capitalising on three pathetic pieces of defending, making it five losses on the bounce in all competitions,
Clough was without the injured James Perch and suspended duo Ollie Clarke and Stephen Quinn, but there’s no room for using that tipple absence as an excuse – it’s a squad game, and as a collective, that squad wasn’t good enough AGAIN today – something has to change.
People can say ‘it’s early’ but all we’re delivering at the moment is a constant negative, pathetic defending and several performances which scream ‘I don’t care’ – and as supporters who travel and pay to back them, that’s not on. No desire, no fight, no energy and no idea! If we allow this to go on any longer, someone will unmask Clough, Scooby Doo style, and it’ll be Graham bloody Coughlan putting that team out!
He’s a good manager, no doubt, and he’s not quite assembled the squad he wanted – BUT, he and his coaches pick the team, so whilst he can throw the ‘Inept’ label around, he has to shoulder some responsibility.
We have a clear issue at centre half, Hewitt isn’t performing well at all for me and Nartey has had a nightmare start – we can’t start either of them next week and I was very surprised at half time when only one of them was taken off. I don’t want this to sound like a witch hunt and a blame game, it’s not, but sometimes stepping back to take a look at how you can improve is very beneficial in the long run – for all concerned.
The question is, who comes in? Rawson, I still think is getting better and needs that perfect partner, he’s a no brainer – it’s more who partners him? The new signing from stoke Forrester when fit is the obvious choice but when will that be? If he’s ready next week then yes, if not – my choice is simple, Jordan Bowery!
You may laugh and think I’m mad, but he’s clearly not fancied as a starter up front – he’s good enough in the air and can play with the ball at feet. He’s also got the experience to read the game and lead from the back, and whenever he’s played centre half seems to have brightened up and actually looked interested.
Seriously, ask yourself, whatever have we got to lose? Some are saying James Clarke, don’t ruin him by playing him out of position, play him right back where he can, and will, thrive.
I’m far too annoyed to keep typing, I want to forget about that game and utterly woeful display – let them scrap, argue, or whatever to get it out of there system and really come out and bury Rochdale next week.
Enough is enough.
STAGS: Bishop, Gordon, Hewitt (Rawson 46’), Nartey, McLaughlin, Maris (Bowery 62’), Stirk, Lapslie, Oates (Johnson 46’), Hawkins, Sinclair UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Charsley, Burke, Law
Attendance: 5,203 (1,008)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 4th September 2021 | Mansfield Town 1 [Oates] Harrogate Town 3
Red cards to captain Ollie Clarke and midfielder Stephen Quinn within seconds of each other sent a red mist over Mansfield Town’s performance, however I’m determined to see through that today and say that even at 11 v 11, Nigel Clough’s men were far from good enough – slumping to a second successive 3-1 defeat at the hands of Harrogate Town, this time on home soil.
Rhys Oates goal just three minutes in gave the Stags a fine start and pumped some belief that a tweaked system could get us back to winning ways, however a minute later, woeful defending from a corner saw Harrogate level and from there, dictate the game.
Clough switched from the diamond in midfield to (in my opinion) a 4-2-3-1, with Clarke and Maris as deep lying midfielders, Oates, Lapslie and Quinn as an attacking three, with Hawkins the target man lone striker.
The system is one I think WOULD suit us, it suits slick passing, quick movement and stretches the game playing on the counter whilst importantly at the other end, helping to tighten the midfield and prevent sides playing through us. That’s the theory anyway.
For whatever reason Mansfield couldn’t string a pass together and forgot how to pass – how Clough can come out and say we played OK is beyond me, we were sloppy, made far too many mistakes and errors of judgement – and failed to really trouble the Harrrogate keeper.
The ONLY positive is that we had more aggression to our play, trying to close down and press more rather than inviting on – naturally that leaves you exposed to cards and you need a referee to bit a little stronger, but still – we need to fight.
I have to say I thought the officials were poor with some decisions, we should perhaps have had a penalty and Mez must have painted the lines in invisible paint because the referee and his team had NO IDEA when the ball was in or out of play!
As for the red cards – my views is, they’re both reds. Clarke’s is a soft red, granted – but, by the letter of the law, he’s the last man on a clear goal scoring opportunity and pulled his man down so had to go – Clough and his team may have grounds for appeal with Nartey arguable quick enough to be getting back in to cover, but still – the law says red card, and to be honest, it won’t do us any harm to be missing Clarke for a while!
Quinn’s I didn’t see, I’m looking at the bench to see what Clough and his team are thinking to play with ten and get back in the game (2-1 at the time) – but if he’s kicked out or whatever, again it’s a red. I doubt they’ll be much footage to review, as cameras will have been on Clarke.
Quinn, will be a loss, but an excellent opportunity to freshen things up in there, let’s face it – we need something.
Finally, and I’m holding back for the Podcast, Richard Nartey had a debut to forget – I can’t get my head around why he started with what, only 2-3 training sessions under his belt?! Let him settle, start him next week, don’t throw him straight in!
One game doesn’t make a terrible player though, so for once, let’s get behind him and back him – we need him, Perch apparently will be out for a few months.
Four defeats in a row in all competitions – it’s not good enough, time to stop blaming officials Mr Clough, because whilst I agree, they’re not the ones wearing a Stags shirt making costly errors week in week out, sort your own house out first before criticising others.
STAGS: Bishop, Gordon, Nartey, Hewitt, McLaughlin, Maris, O. Clarke, Quinn, Lapslie (68’ Johnson), Oates (76’ Rawson), Hawkins (82’ Bowery). UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Burke, Sinclair, Stirk.
Attendance: 4,599 (155)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 28th August | Swindon Town 1-0 Mansfield Town
Down in lowly league two, instinct is still very much the match officials best friend and worst enemy – that split second judgement perhaps cost the Stags yesterday, as Tyrese Sinclair was denied what seemed a clear goal from a free kick, as Clough’s men fell to a 1-0 defeat at Swindon Town.
The Stags never seem to do well at Swindon but should have taken a point home – however it wasn’t just the officials’ split second decision making Clough’s men can blame, they need to take a harder look much closer to home.
Personally, I can pin point THREE other points in the game where split second decisions need to be questioned.
The first comes in the way we conceded the goal – Clough not as angry as last week, but again mistakes were plenty in the build-up, as Mansfield’s clear reluctance to press early and step-up late cost them.
First skipper Ollie Clarke doesn’t close down options for the full back as Swindon played out from the back, before a miss timed tackle from Maris saw Rawson needlessly step up and away from his marker – who happily ran through and put in the fatal cross.
That for me, and I’m not pinning all blame on Rawson, is why we desperately need a central defender who can read the game – there’s no need to step up, stick with your man and allow others to see him down the line, ensuring you’re there to try and win a header or put a challenge in, if a cross comes in.
Second comes at the other end, Hawkins does really well to beat his man and skip a challenge to go one vs one – fair enough, he’s perhaps over ran the opportunity to get a shot off with the keeper quick off of his line, so rightly squares it for Johnson.
Sadly, he over hits the ball but the opportunity is still there – Johnson then needed to look up when he cuts back inside to his left – Lapslie is on rushing, un marked on the edge of the box – lay it off and we probably score.
Finally comes the management – Clough has his plan but for me is very reluctant to tinker and be reactive, that’s both in systems and in making changes. We start with more of a front three and control the game, we drop back into the diamond and get out played and ultimately end up conceding – before finishing, strongly, as a front three!
When they score, why aren’t we freshening things up – Lapslie wasn’t having his best game and Charsley is chomping at the bit to get on, he could have stripped in front of Clough with a big neon sign saying “bring me on” and he’d have still been sat down!
Don’t even get me started on Sinclair’s long throw – he comes on after 72 minutes, we have numerous throws in key areas with three/four players over six foot on the pitch, yet don’t utilise the throw until the 94th minute!
Remember what they say, if you’ve got it – flaunt it!!
James Perch missed out through injury and we missed his authority, he’s likely to be missing next week’s double header with Harrogate – we really need some cover, competition and strength there, imagine if Hewitt or Rawson get injured or sent off? Maybe we’ll register Bowery as number five!!
The gaffer say’s we’re after two defenders before Tuesday’s deadline, let’s hope that we can get both done otherwise this could be a frustrating season of what ifs! We have a talented squad capable of doing serious damage, but we’re relying on our front line to score two/three a game – they have off days and that, coupled with our obvious ability to make stupid errors, will prove our undoing.
It’ll be an interesting few days for sure!!
STAGS: Nathan Bishop | Kellan Gordon, Farrend Rawson, Elliott Hewitt, Stephen McLaughlin | George Maris, Ollie Clarke © (Tyrese Sinclair 72), Stephen Quinn, George Lapslie (Jordan Bowery 86) | Danny Johnson (Rhys Oates 64), Oli Hawkins UNUSED SUBS: George Shelvey [GK], Ryan Burke, James Clarke, Harry Charsley
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 21st August – One Call Stadium | Mansfield Town 2 (Hawkins x2) Bradford City 3
Scoring twice at home should, nine times out of ten, ensure victory – however old habits refuse to go away for Mansfield Town as old acquaintances played a pivotal part in Bradford City inflicted the Stags’ first defeat of the season – coming from 2-1 down to win 3-2.
Boss Nigel Clough was not a happy man at the full time whistle and refreshingly threw his players under the bus for throwing away the lead – Elliott Hewitt in particular will have wanted to avoid the interview, accused of being “very good friends” with Bradford winger, because he [Hewitt] “has not tackled him all game”!
Clough also quested Rawson and the defence for not doing their jobs, and he’s right – again far too many times, balls were pumped forward from the opposition keeper and getting in behind, whilst every time Bradford came down their left hand side, they looked dangerous and sliced us apart.
You can’t give wingers that much space because eventually they’ll get shots off and we’ll get punished, he’s unmarked for Bradford’s second goal, and for the third, is allowed to step inside and get a good shot off, which is saved well by Bishop – but followed up instinctively by Andy Cook – who was destined to score against his former club!
I felt at the other end that we were a little timid at times, we didn’t test the keeper enough who was susceptible to spilling the ball and miss-kicking, yet the pressure on him was minimal.
Hawkins was fantastic and as expected, hungry after missing out at Colchester, both goals showed what a competent all-rounder he is, peeling off at the far post to head home Ollie Clarke’s thunderous cross, dropping back into a pocket of space to volley home the second.
In midfield I have little complaints, it’s a shame Maris picked up a knock and probably should have gone off earlier, but Stirk is a good young player with a calmness and composure that we need – I’m looking forward to seeing more of him, and to see what the returning Charsley can add to the mix and dynamic upon his return.
A manager pulling no punches can go one of two ways, but we’re not here to be wrapped in cotton wool, we’re set up to be successful and to be fair, were going forward – but the overall success rate is measured by EVERYONE doing their jobs and not making stupid, timid, school boy errors.
We are STILL screaming out for a commanding central defender to come in and take command of that back line, Clough said we’re getting closer last week, but with the window closing soon, we need to push on and get it sorted.
Right now we’ve got a gazebo up to protect us from the rain – it’s doing it’s job, but it’s not firm or stable enough to withstand a strong wind – if we want to compete for that top seven, we need to address that, because (and this is not the defeat talking) we’re not stable enough to go the distance with what we have.
A week to stew, a week to argue, fight and put it right – watch out Swindon, there SHOULD be a Stags backlash coming.
STAGS: Nathan Bishop | Elliott Hewitt, Farrend Rawson, James Perch, Stephen McLaughlin | George Maris (Ryan Stirk 59), Ollie Clarke © (Tyrese Sinclair 88), Stephen Quinn, Rhys Oates (George Lapslie 72) | Oli Hawkins, Danny Johnson UNUSED SUBS: George Shelvy [GK], Ryan Burke, Kellan Gordon, Jordan Bowery
Attendance: 6,058 (1,589)
Sky Bet League Two, Tuesday 17th August | Colchester Utd 1-1 Mansfield Town (Hewitt)
Getting back at gone midnight, getting stuck in traffic and freezing your bits off – all things we’ve not missed about midweek away games! Those things are balanced out by winning, so when you concede in the last minute – it’s a huge downer and makes the journey home even longer.
What makes it worse is when you’ve played well and fully deserve to win, but that said – could Mansfield have done more to see the game out, as Colchester were awarded a soft last minute spot kick, to tie the game 1-1 and take a share of the spoils.
For me we have to take some of the blame, questions over if it was a penalty or not are irrelevant, as Colchester should have got nowhere near our area!
A minute or so before the incident, the Stags are awarded a free kick on the half way line, but rather than ping it into the corner flag with both Hawkins and Bowery on at this point, we play it short and give the ball away. Fair enough, it then goes out for a throw – a Colchester throw which they take quickly, we don’t respond too quickly enough to stop a deep ball being pinged into our area, from which – the penalty is awarded.
Yes, we can question if it was a foul or not, they didn’t really appeal and it did seem soft – BUT, we have TWO opportunities to stop the ball being pumped into our box and FAIL to take them both – we left ourselves open to that possibility and really need to address that.
I’m sure will be as frustrated at that as he will the questionable call from the referee, but also pleased, as I am, with the rest of our play – we struggled to be consistently fluid, but when we got the openings, we looked dangerous – only the Colchester keeper prevented us from doing real damage, especially in the first half with a fantastic save from Johnson’s header.
Our goal typified the way we play, good quick build-up followed by a delivery from the left – credit to Hewitt for getting forward from right back to turn a simple header home, I thought he played very well and deserved the goal.
Colchester are a good side with a way of playing which works for them and Clough mentioned he was worried we wouldn’t have the height to match, with Hawkins benched due to illness – but that may play in our favour on Saturday against Bradford, where we need to be dominant in the air.
Other than the mentioned focus issues, the only concern I have is Perch who had to be bandaged up in the second half, we only have Hewitt as cover as a natural central defender – we really need another body in there!
Back at home on Saturday, let’s make some noise and send Bradford home empty handed – seven points from nine so far – I’m happy at that!
STAGS: Nathan Bishop | Elliott Hewitt, Farrend Rawson, James Perch, Stephen McLaughlin | George Maris, Ollie Clarke ©, Stephen Quinn, George Lapslie (Ryan Stirk 79) | Danny Johnson (Oli Hawkins 82), Rhys Oates (Jordan Bowery 87) UNUSED SUBS: George Shelvy [GK], Ryan Burke, Kellan Gordon, Tyrese Sinclair
Attendance: 2,354 (224)
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 7th August | Mansfield Town 2 (Maris, Clarke) Newport County 1
Goals from midfielders George Maris and skipper Ollie Clarke were enough to see off Newport County, sealing back to back league two wins for Clough’s men – making home turf feel very comfortable indeed.
Yet the manner the Stags exited the cup in midweek against Preston North End had sent ripples through the squad, with Newport County capitalising on another defence error to get back into the game immediately after the Stags had scored the first.
The error saw a goal kick from Newport bounce straight over both central defenders in Perch and Rawson – both at fault, however we should not ever be vulnerable from an opponent’s goal kick, and if one misses the first header, the other must be switched on enough to sweep up – rather than play the role of a mimic!
I do rate both Perch and Rawson, the latter has shown tremendous improvement since Clough came in – BUT, he’s still a relatively young centre half at 25, I’m not for a second saying I want him out of the team, I just think, he and the other young members of the squad, would benefit from another experienced (29+) commanding defender whose played consistently at a higher level – and that’s not doing Perch a disservice either, it’s easy to forget that up until last season, Perch was predominantly a central midfielder who would occasionally fill in at right back.
Negatives out of the way, yes that’s all I have bar the fact the club REALLY need to utilise the space on the car park for a new club shop / programme booth, it’s time for the positives!
Our counter attacking play was sublime to watch and every time we went forward I genuinely felt we could score, and that’s not just from the front two of Johnson and Hawkins – they really compliment the midfield with the cleverness to hold and drop deep – almost like a coiled spring in the Stags armoury ready to ping.
What that does is really allow George Maris to showcase what he made his name for, albeit in a far deeper role than the one he operated so successfully at Cambridge United. He’s the heartbeat to our side when we counter, finding pockets of space to come, collect and move the ball on from – winning tackles all over the pitch, almost like a coin pusher, trying to tip the Stags over the edge.
Proof was in the pudding for his goal, Clough has given his midfielders (and front line) licence to get shots off from outside of the box, even if the Newport keeper gets a clean save on Maris’ shot – he pushes back out into play and you’ve got four or five bodies who probably tuck home the rebound.
There’s still work to do and other options to play, Colchester and Bradford will prove tough opponents – I’d be happy at four points from those games. I’d be even happier with those errors being rectified and a new face to come in and take the number five shirt! For now though – I’ll take yesterday’s three points, and a third place standing in the league table – it’s great having football back isn’t it!
STAGS: Nathan Bishop | Kellan Gordon (Elliott Hewitt 72), Farrend Rawson, James Perch, Stephen McLaughlin | George Maris, Ollie Clarke ©, Stephen Quinn (Jordan Bowery 90), Rhys Oates (George Lapslie 65) | Danny Johnson, Oli Hawkins UNUSED SUBS: George Shelvy [GK], Ryan Birk, Ryan Strirk, Tyrese Sinclair
Attendance: 3,793 (156)
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