Craig Priest writes…
“You see what happens when we play football” were my words at half time, praising the players for yet another mouth-watering display with the ball, and do you know what – even at full time having again thrown the points away in another 1-1 draw I still stick by my words and on the whole, praise the players and performance yesterday.
We played slick, stylish and most importantly penetrate football which punished the opposition, yes we should have won the game 5 or 6 nil and had it not been for some excellent saves from Pym in the Grecians goal and some goal line blocks – would have done. In fairness and in the interest of being positive, I’ll give the players the element of bad luck and on a whole be pleased with yesterday.
If we play like that on a consistent basis – we will win more games than we lose I totally agree, yet no matter how delighted I am with improving football, I don’t look at football game by game, I always look at the bigger picture – and that is why I sit here on Sunday morning at my desk, having a full blown fist fight with my conscious over if yesterday was a positive or a negative.
I can’t decide who will win and as such, have to back up my argument here as no doubt those of you reading this in team positive, will just say I’m being overly negative!
Our problem is we can’t hold onto a lead and are suffering as a result – from a drawing or winning position in the 16 league games so far, we have dropped nine points – four wining positions (Luton at home, Barnet and Newport away and Exeter at home yesterday) and a draw (Accrington away when we we’re drawing 1-1 and lost in the last minutes). Those nine points, depending on goal difference and the permutations of the other teams involved would put us at least fourth with 31 points from a possible 48.
Looking at goals which have cost us points, we’ve conceded six goals in the last 15 minutes of games that have seen us drop points – whilst as a whole, in all competitions regardless of the result – we’ve conceded 10 goals in the last 15 minutes of the game.
I know my maths is terrible, but of 19 games in all competitions, that’s very nearly one goal per game conceded in the last fifteen minutes and that really, really frustrates me.
Is it a complacency issue, are we as a group thinking the game is wrapped up? Is it a management problem – for example Bryom and Rose as ever were fantastic but in the last ten minutes were tired and in those two key areas, a pair of fresh legs may have proved the difference, but again those changes didn’t happen.
On the slip side of it all, we are now four games unbeaten in all competitions and have a real chance to make that six by this time next week – taking real momentum into the league with games against Coventry, Stevenage, Port Vale and the enemy to come. And I firmly believe if we keep playing like we have done against Notts County and Exeter this past week, fluid and energetic, we’ll come out of November unbeaten and in great spirit, we just need now to close games out, as the longer this goes on – the more teams will know how to hurt us.
Evans keeps saying “It’ll be different in January” yes maybe so Steve, but we’ve NINE more league games until January – I really don’t want to think about how much damage could be done to our long term aims in that space of time by not seeing games out, so how about this? Let’s get two wins and two clean sheets from the next two cup games, reinstall some confidence that we can see games through and forget “It’ll be alright in January” and start the party early?
Come on boys! We’re all behind you 1000000%
Steve Evans made five changes from the draw at Newport, meaning five players kept their place from the win over Notts County game in midweek, and if we’re honest – it was those players coupled with strength in other areas that was the catalyst to such a good performance.
Keeping their place from Tuesday were Paul Anderson at Right Back, Rhys Bennett at centre half (who also started against Newport), Mal Benning at Left Back, Jacob Mellis and Joel Byrom in the centre of midfield, and the most important of all in terms of creativity and flare, CJ Hamilton on the left hand side.
Back in from the Newport game, Conrad Logan between the sticks, skipper Kyrstan Pearce, wing man Alex MacDonald and front two Danny Rose and Kane Hemmings.
In midweek Lee Angol had found the net within the opening minute, a feat nearly matched by Danny Rose as the Stags started with a spring in their step – as the ball was whipped in from the right hand side, Rose controlled well but on the spin – fired his effort into the side netting.
Neat football from Mansfield then saw Mellis heavily involved with both MacDonald and CJ Hamilton, however good Exeter defending prevented Mansfield from taking advantge, Conrad Logan on hand at the other end to keep out a seventh minute cross that looped up in the strong afternoon wind, moments later denying Kyle Edwards with his legs after the visitors had worked a neat give and go inside the Stags box.
The Stags then applied their own pressure with a series of set-plays, the delivery of Joel Byrom really teasing the visitors – Rhys Bennett stayed up from the back on 15 minute for the first of two efforts in as many minutes – MacDonald’s cross headed by Bennett against a red and white shirt for a corner – from which MacDonald’s delivery found Benning who curled wide from distance.
Three minutes later and excellent refereeing from Anthony Blackhouse saw advantage played on the half way line – Hemmings picked up the ball and swept it into the feet of Mellis down the left hand side. A energetic burst of pace from the creative midfielder opened up and as Hemmings continued his run – he completed the give and go by converting beneath Pym to open the scoring with his left boot from close range.
The Stags should have had a second on 27 minutes when MacDonald slotted through CJ Hamilton, the wingers touch let him down and Exeter got back to scramble clear, MacDonald then let fly two minutes later from range – but saw the ball thump wide.
Mansfield continued to play flowing football but for all their possession couldn’t find the second goal before the break.
Danny Rose came close to adding a second for the Stags on 53 minutes with a double chance, both efforts blocked after more quick football had opened up the visitors – Dan Moxey then kept the visitors in the game five minutes later as Hamilton played a lovely cut back from the byeline on the left – Mellis was in the right place and hit a well struck effort, blocked by a desperate Moxey three yards from goal.
The Stags would come even closer on 62 minutes as MacDonald played Hemmings clean through one vs one with Pym, the front man, eager for his second, opened up his body and hit a good effort which Pym just about got enough on the take the sting out of the ball – however it was still going in and only a phenomenal burst of pace from Moxey saw the former Derby County and Crystal Palace man get back, this time clearing the ball off of the line.
Troy Brown was next to thwart the Stags, blocking a Hemmings effort following a Rose flick on on 63 minutes as Paul Anderson threw the ball long into the box – three minutes later Brown got in the way of a MacDonald effort, destined for the back of the net.
Christy Pym then earned the plaudits for the visitors a minute later as Danny Rose let fly from 25 yards with a dipping volley, a flying save pushed the ball away for a corner. Pym was nearly embarrassed by his opposite number Logan on 82, as the Stags number one nearly ‘Did a Marriott’. Spotting Pym off his line, Logan smashed the ball long up park and, with a gust of wind behind it, saw the ball fly towards goal – Pym raced back and palmed the ball over.
With three minutes to go, the Stags hard work was undone as Exeter cut in from the left hand side and fired a shot towards Logan – he saved the initial effort but beat the ball away, straight into the path of Mansfield born Lee Holmes who got ahead of his markers to put a dagger through the heart of his fellow Mansfieldians and level the game.
The visitors were reduced to ten men in added on time as Kane Wilson, who’d been walking a tightrope since the first half, picked up his second yellow card for kicking the ball away – sadly, Mansfield failed to make it count and once again – had to cling on and thank Logan – his last minute save to deny substitute Jordan Storey a goal with his first touch, the last action as Mansfield dominated for the majority, but again – couldn’t make it pay.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-1 Exeter
Paul Anderson – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alex MacDonald – Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson 83) – Joel Byrom – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Lee Angol 88) – Kane Hemmings (Jimmy Spencer 78)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Ojejnik, Paul Digby, Omari Sterling-James, Calum Butcher
Attendance: 3,608 (360)
Referee: Anthony Blackhouse Assistants: Gary Holton, Paul Graham Fourth Offical Alan Clayton
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