Craig Priest writes….
You know it’s funny this writing lark, there are many days where you know exactly what you want to say, and then you get the polar opposite of staring longingly at a blank screen. But also there are those rare occasions where you know exactly what to say, but what for whatever reason the words are held back – almost as is if, if you don’t write them – then it never happened.
Today is one of those days.
You know, of all the scenarios that were swirling around my head prior to kick-off yesterday being two-nil down inside ten minutes and then four-one down inside half-an-hour was not one I saw happening, and yet here we are – reflecting on the oldest cliché in football “a game of two halves”.
Firstly there’s something I want to address in brief – the reason for the snap poll on Flitcroft’s future is not me being negative or saying I want him gone, it’s merely for the purpose of judging the raw reaction of supporters after such a turbulent afternoon, in retrospect I broke my own rule of allowing emotion and anger take over when thinking ahead to the next podcast [Today (Sunday) 5pm on our facebook page] – it retrospect I shouldn’t have posted that and for that I hold my hands up and apologise – I’m not usually a negative supporters, I’m quite the opposite, but yesterday for once, emotion and hurt won.
Since his appointment I have backed Flitcroft and still believe that deep down he will come good for us, I also still believe a lot of the situation we find ourselves in, is on the head of Steve Evans. That said, and I’m calling myself out here, yesterday I wouldn’t have battered an eye-lid if the news of his departure had come out – because that Mansfield Town performance was beyond dreadful.
Again I think he got his team selection wrong, as proved by the second half turn-around which I’ll stand and applaud – Ricky Miller should have started, and we as a collective should have started with the rampant lust for victory – trailing 4-1 at half-time should NEVER be the catalyst for that.
What I question, and no player regardless of the effort they show is exempt from this, is collectively has David Flitcroft got the backing of the dressing room – because every time teams come forward we look like we are about to crumble and these tiny cracks are starting to break into gigantic holes which just make me question if any of that dressing room actually want to achieve the play-offs and deliver on what they signed up for?
I’ve said it before, it matters not who the conductor of the band is, just how good collectively the music sounds. Seven games into his tenure and Flictroft should in my view have installed some direction into the music he wants his band to play, and yet we sit here on the back of another defeat having listened to racket of out of tune, lost souls.
Are there injuries in the camp that are preventing certain players from getting a start or in the match-day side, what for instance has happened to Paul Anderson whose leadership and desire we have missed? Jimmy Spencer too seems to have evaporated from thin air when, certainly in games like yesterday when you’re throwing the kitchen sink at sides, he’s be a pivotal part?
Above all else, was Zander Diamond injured yesterday when he was taken off – or is there something more there, because if it’s the latter, then to take your captain off after half-an-hour says to me there is something very wrong in the dressing room.
Several times writing this today I’ve had to walk away and go and have five minutes in fear of welling up because we as supporters know that we are being the masters of our own downfall right now. I have full faith in John and Carolyn Radford’s appointment and I feel sick to my stomach that I crossed the divide into wanting Flitcroft to go yesterday, what sickens me more is that I know that anything less than victory on Tuesday at Stevenage I’ll want exactly the same thing and will find it even harder to drag myself back to the rational thinking of the bigger picture – which is a summer rebuild, his squad, his players, his methods, his way – basically promotion, just a year later than planned.
The reason for that is simple, having travelled countless miles this season in not missing a game – I’ve watched this bunch of individuals become a squad on the brink of achieving something special, and over the past seven games I watched that crumble away like a melting flake.
Within that dressing room the ability to achieve THIS SEASON, is still there – Ok 7th is perhaps the best we can hope for right now, maybe 6th at a push, but it’s still there, but time is against us and a failure to beat Stevenage on Tuesday puts the final nail in the coffin for me, as it’d leave David Flitcroft without a win heading into a game against our relegation threatened rivals, and that fills me with utter dread.
What is baffling about this whole situation is the ability to fight back – we lost the game 4-3 in the end and in truth should have won it, how crazy is that considering how utterly woeful we were in the first half?! I will back Mansfield Town Football Club to the death, I’ll stay with them through the good, the bad and the ugly – but please boys, for the sake of all our sanity, sort whatever issues there are out right now and get out there and deliver what you are capable of.
As I said I let anger and emotion rule yesterday with the Snap Poll, and I hold my hands up to that – can you do the same? Can you as a collective say “we are not good enough, but we WILL put it right” rather than “Ah well, it’s just not dropping” or “it’ll come soon enough” – Nothing happens in this game until you make it happen. You got us into this position, it’s upto you all – regardless of whatever underlying issues you have, to get us out of it. We’re behind you, never think otherwise – you’re Mansfield Town Football club afterall.
Winger Alfie Potter was back in the fold after an appearance from the bench of Monday as he replaced Will Atkinson in the one change to the starting eleven. Striker Ricky Miller was on the bench despite his hat-trick for the reserves in midweek, whilst Youngster Jordan Graham was also a surprise addition – showing that, long term, a partnership and development strategy is in place with the academy.
The Stags started well but were left shell shocked on seven minutes as Crewe grabbed the game’s opening goal as Alex MacDonald’s miss placed pass was picked up and swept forward to James Jones who centrally, evaded the challenge of the Stags defence and hammered beyond Logan.
Three minutes later the visitors doubled their lead as Mansfield fell apart at the back, a cross from the left hand side wasn’t dealt with by Hunt and then Diamond – allowing a shot which Logan half-palmed away, into the path of Jordan Bowery who tapped home.
The stags pulled one back on 14 minutes as Kane Hemmings dropped deep to cross from the left hand side, Lee Angol rose highest but sent his header against the post, he reacted quickest however to turn home the rebound on the stretch for 2-1.
Any hope of a Mansfield comeback was dented once more on 25 minutes as Crewe netted their third of the afternoon, Alfie Potter was disposed inside the centre circle by Charlie Kirk who sent Harry Pickering on his way down the Crewe left – unmarked and unchallenged, Pickering set himself and drilled past Logan.
A fourth followed just two minutes later, Kirk turned from provider into goal scorer as he went untracked and unmarked by White and Potter as the Stags failed to clear their lines from an initial long throw.
Pearce then replaced Diamond with the damage somewhat done already, the Stags did however limp towards the half-time whistle without sustaining any further damage – Rose and Miller then introduced at the break for Potter and Angol as the Stags went 4-3-3 in an attempt to mount what at the time, seemed like the impossible comeback.
And yet they nearly managed it, with Ricky Miller setting up Kane Hemmings on 50 minutes to make it 4-2, Miller’s right sided left footed cross nodded in at the far post by Hemmings.
Danny Rose then had two chances to narrow the scoreline in as many minutes but failed to do so, Hayden White also flashed one across the face of goal but with no end reward.
Conrad Logan then made a fine stop on 70 minutes to prevent a Crewe fifth, before Danny Rose tried to recreate his volley at Shaw Lane in the FA Cup – this time hitting narrowly over.
The Stags to their credit were finally having a go and made it 4-3 on 77 minutes as Ricky Miller got the goal he deserved, turning his man well to anticipate CJ Hamilton’s cut inside and pass – chipping over the grounded keeper from an acute angle.
At 4-3 the Stags deserved another, but despite efforts from Miller, Hamilton, Rose and Mellis to name just a few, couldn’t grab a point from the jaws of destruction – Rose the closest as he struck the underside of the bar.
FULL TIME: Stags 3-4 Crewe Alexandra
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © (Krystian Pearce 31 ©) – Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Alfie Potter (Ricky Miller HT) – Jacob Mellis – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Lee Angol (Danny Rose HT) – Kane Hemmings
Unused Subtitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Will Atkinson, Adam King [#29] Jordan Graham
Attendance: 3,480 (238)
Referee: Richard Clark Assistants: Paul Graham and Mark Cunliffe. Fourth Official Richard Wild.
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