Craig Priest writes…
Wednesday’s midweek trip to Blackpool had given us a little taste of defeat, but the fact it was via a penalty shootout meant we headed to Crawley still optimistic of maintaining our unbeaten run of form and making progress. Alas, a day in the freezing cold quite literally left us short of breath and making the long trip home confused… or was that just me?
For me Mansfield we’re looking OK for the first half – the game wasn’t the greatest and will not go down in a hall of fame to watch again – but the bare minimum of taking a point home looked a cast iron certainty. And yet a lapse in marking from a set-play [again] saw us go a goal down and as we pushed players forwards to chase the game, we got caught out and conceded a second – which to be fair, I’ve no problem with as, at least we tried.
However, this is where my mind is getting all confused…. Why on earth did it take us going 1-0 down to start playing with an urgent energy and any real flair, and – what on earth was Evans doing with 15 minutes to go, brining Pearce on and throwing Diamond up front?!
Because he withdrew Johnny Hunt, we had no natural left sided cover (As Hamilton had already been replaced by Butcher) and as such went into a 2-4-1-3 formation with Butcher in attacking midfield and Diamond, Rose and Angol as a front three! Unless Hunt was injured, which he didn’t look from my vantage point, and you were brining Pearce on – you’d take White off and move Bennett across – it made no sense with 15 minutes plus to go…. especially with Sterling-James AND Mellis, both ATTACKING PLAYERS, on the bench?
I’ve no issue with Diamond being throw up there, it’s the kitchen sink tactic, but don’t you do that with five minutes to go after playing one of your attacking substitution cards – I’m actually surprised it took the hosts until the last minute to get the inevitable counter-attacking goal.
The whole game just left me bamboozled as we looked a far cry from the team that had done so well in putting on an unbeaten run, I fear for the dressing room actually – if I, a humble fan, am questioning the tactical switch – what must a bunch of pro’s be thinking?
Evans questioned the players mentality in his post-match assessment, noting that they players didn’t train properly on Friday. If you spot that during the training session, surely you halt the session – give them what for and run it again rather than just leave it to wallow and get worse?
We have a lot of football to come over the next few weeks and with the transfer window opening again soon, there are bound to be changes – it’s now more than ever that we need to be settled, and so, to make such comments makes bright warning lights start to flash. We have to improve against teams lower than us in the table, we have to be together as one top to bottom and we have to stop this pendulum swing between being world beaters and so bang average, a team of snowmen could beat us.
It was back to the side which beat Guiesley for Steve Evans at Crawley, Jimmy Spencer and Will Atkinson again the two constants between team selections game by game.
Three minutes in, fresh from his hat-trick last weekend, Spencer played a good ball through to CJ Hamilton who nipped around Glenn Morris in the Crawley goal before rolling the ball towards goal – however with a lack of pace to the shot, the hosts cleared.
Alex MacDonald drove from central midfielder to deliver some testing crosses, leading to a corner – from which Rose nodded into the mix allowing Crawley to clear with just six minutes played.
Mansfield we’re keeping and moving the ball well but couldn’t do anything with it when it came to the crunch, but the hosts were mopping up everything the Stags had to offer and at the other end, saw little to really put Mansfield under any pressure, the game dragged out to the half time whistle.
Josh Payne nearly drew first blood for the hosts on 54 minutes following a quick free kick routine, two minutes Danny Rose sent in a teasing cross but Hamilton couldn’t connect at the far post before on the hour, Jimmy Spencer made way for Lee Angol.
Rhys Bennett then came to the Stags recue on 62 minutes, making a good challenge on Jordan Roberts to slam the ball out for a corner – from which Crawley grabbed the opening goal, as after failing to deal with the second phase of play, Joe McNerney nipped in unmarked to head home Roberts’ cross.
Paul Anderson and Alex MacDonald both saw efforts held by the keeper as the Stags suddenly upped the pace, tame calls for a Stags spot-kick were waved away with ten minutes to go following a MacDonald long throw with ten minutes to go – before the hosts grabbed the second on the counter in the final minute after a number of close calls – Ibrahim Meite latching onto a long ball, dancing round Conrad Logan and tapping into an empty net.
The Stags did claw one back through Lee Angol – his header chalked off before he’d even made contact with the ball for offside from MacDonald’s free-kick.
FULL TIME: Crawley Town 2-0 Stags
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt (Krystian Pearce 76)
Paul Anderson – Will Atkinson – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton (Calum Butcher 69)
Jimmy Spencer (Lee Angol 59) – Danny Rose
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Paul Digby, Jacob Mellis, Omari Sterling-James
Referee: Gavin Ward Assistants: Nicholas Cooper, Andrew Laver Fourth Official Stephen Brown
Attendance: 1,791 (229)
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