Chris Clements was quickest off the mark last night as his second minute goal proved the difference against Newport County. It was a long 88 minutes that followed for Stags however as they were guilty of missing several key chances to double their lead and fortunate to see Newport fail to punish defensive errors at the other end.
Justin Edinburgh’s side have always been tough to beat for Paul Cox’s men yet despite numerous openings for the welsh side; they didn’t look as creative as they have done in bygone seasons. That too can be said about Stags, but in a more positive light – had we seen the same game played out last term, we’d be reflecting on defeat right now, another example of the current crop of Stags’ positive character and work ethic.
The performance consisted of many dull spells from Cox’s men as they failed to settle on whether to play the ball on the deck or play a more directional game with Matt Rhead back from suspension. However that indecision should not mare the determination to protect the one goal lead or search for a second, sometimes it matters little how the points are won, it’s the fact they are won that matters.
Sascha Studer undoubtedly kept the Stags in the game with a series of fine saves including one excellent palm following a Newport free kick which looked destined for the back of the net late on in the first half, his passionate embrace with Jamie McGuire at the full time whistle, almost like they’d just got engaged to be married, again highlighted the passion and the delight of Studer on keeping his first clean sheet.
Simon Helsop was voted sponsors man of the match and did put in a positive display for the cause, Lee Beevers too has been constantly improving since his return from his shoulder operation and last night, again took his ‘Iron Man’ crown with a dominant display at right wing back.
One concern would be the amount of yellow cards that we seem to be picking up, with Amari’i Bell now back at Birmingham after the Blues opted to recall the young full back, numbers are even lower so a suspension here or there could have serious consequences, Ritchie Sutton and Simon Heslop both picked up their second booking of the season already last night.
Clements opened the scoring just two minutes in, grabbing his second goal in Stags colours after being threaded through into the area by Lee Beevers. The attacking midfielder had it all to do though as he was closed down and marked tightly, however he managed to fend off the defence and trickle the ball home in what seemed like slow motion.
On 18 minutes Clements should have grabbed his second of the night as Mansfield fluently calved their way through the visiting defence. Alex Fisher’s angled run down the right channel saw Newport a yard behind the pace, Fisher had two options and opted to pick out Clements in a pocket of space which neither Newport, nor half of the ground, saw. Clements hit first time but found Pidgley well placed to keep the Stags at bay.
Two minutes later Studer was on hand to deny Chris Zebroski before Lee Minshull was allowed pace from one of many Newport corners, fortunately for the Stags his header went wide of the mark.
Heslop, Clements and Dempster came close before the break but Stags couldn’t find a second, as the second began, it was Newport who stepped up a level. Matt Rhead came close at the other end but it was largely the visitors that racked up the chances as Minshull, Wilmott, O’Connor and Howe all saw opportunities go astray.
In the final two minutes, Ollie Palmer should have grabbed Stags’ second following a sublime burst of pace from Taylor – the full back drove forward from the half-way line before chipping a ball back into the middle, Palmer nodded over when it really was easier to miss.
Stags: Sascha Studer, Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster ©, Ryan Tafazolli, Lee Beevers, Simon Heslop, Jamie McGuire, Rob Taylor, Chris Clements (Adam Murray 75), Matt Rhead (Sam Clucas 84), Alex Fisher (Ollie Palmer 60)
Unused Subs: Luke Jones, Fegus Bell, Liam Marsden, (23) Dimitar Evtimov [Signed before the match on a six month loan from Nottingham Forest, replacing Cameron Belford who leaves the club]
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