Craig Priest writes….
There’s an old saying in life and in football of ‘after the Lord Mayors Show’ which is one of warning to expect a come down after experience such a high. Following Tuesday’s epic 5-0 thumping of Newport County, the Stags faced their longest trip to the season to promotion rivals Exter and ensured they went the extra mile to prevent another stutter in their season.
Danny Roses’ first half goal proved the difference on an afternoon where both attacking and defensive play can take full applause and high praise as it proved that the luck won’t always be on your side when it comes to raining goals.
Mansfield really did pick up where they left off in the first half with wave after wave of attack, I couldn’t help but think at half-time that had we started with Miller or Spencer, we may have had a more comfortable cushion in terms of score line, as we lacked that physicality in the box to connect with the excellence provided by the likes of Potter, Hamilton and MacDonald.
As it is, we got the goal we deserved and naturally, as we expected, Exeter didn’t say die and had us penned in for the majority of the second half – although for all their possession, they did nothing with it – Conrad Logan a mere spectator. That’s not to say that Exeter were poor, far from it, it’s in the majority down to our defensive focus and determination to go the extra mile, keep a clean sheet and bring a massive three points the long way home.
The win opens up a six point cushion over us and Lincoln who occupy the last play-off space, they have played the same number of matches now and have us still to play – so in that respect, it’s ours to lose. The victory also creates another buffer over Exeter in 8th who despite having two games in hand, remain seven points behind – whilst we have still got teams around us to play with the points gaps tightening – automatic promotion is well within our sights, thanks in no small part to our professionalism in seeing a game out for all three points, rather than collapsing as we were doing October/November/December time.
As always it’s onto the next game with both eye’s fixed on that game and that game only, start to worry about what others are doing and we’ll trip ourselves up, start to focus on games more than one in the future and we’ll trip ourselves up – let’s not try and predict what’s around the corner because, as in every great drama or novel, experiencing the unexpected in the moment is a far greater thrill than knowing how it all works out.
Did anyone REALLY believe Steve Evans when he said changes were going to be made? No, me neither – and so no surprise to see it was as you were for the entire 18, although Joel Byrom and Paul Digby did travel with the squad, the latter didn’t drive so no speeding ticket required!
The Stags started as they did in midweek against Newport – Hungry and rampant (There’s a valentines joke in there somewhere), as Alex MacDonald and Alfie Potter both put early crosses in which Exeter scrambled away.
The Stags were denied by a great save on five minutes as a ball found its way into the mix, Danny Rose the man to strike but saw Christy Pym turn the ball onto the post and away from danger – eight minutes later the hosts again hanging on as Rose just couldn’t get MacDonald’s ball into the middle out of his feet.
Rose thrice was denied by Pym as the Stags created yet more openings on 16 minutes, before three minutes later Rose picked out Hemmings who in turn fed Potter who won a corner, this time the short routine saw the hosts turn the ball away.
Home skipper Jordan Moore-Taylor was on hand to block a goal bound effort from Hemmings on 25 minutes, three minutes later another effort from the Oxford loan man, this time on the half volley, was deflected over by Troy Brown.
Mansfield found the breakthrough they deserved on 38 minutes as Potter twisted and turned down the right following some excellent football across the park, Potter delivered in to the middle to find Hemmings who struck the bar – the rebound fell for Rose who thundered at Pym, who could do nothing bar turn the ball into the back of the net.
The hosts made two changes at the break to put an extra man forward and try to get a way back into the match, yet on 47 minutes it was the Stags again in control, as a long ball was cushioned by Hemmings into the path of Rose, who agonisingly dragged his effort wide of Pyms goal.
Kane Wilson dragged in a cross for the hosts on 52, the hosts first sight of goal since the break, but couldn’t pick out a red and white shirt – before on the hour, vice-captain Pearce, cushioned a header out of play as the hosts looked to feed leading scorer Jaden Stockley over the top.
The hosts were coming forward more and more to little effect, yet Steve Evans opted to withdraw a striker to help soak up the pressure, Will Atkinson replacing Hemmings on 62 minutes – Mal Benning the next to have a sight of goal for Stags on 66, his drive and shot, turned behind.
Jimmy Spencer replaced Danny Rose on 75 to provide some much needed ariel outlet for the Stags who were soaking up more and more pressure, on 85 minutes Logan raced out to smash away a long ball forward before substitute Kyle Edwards could pounce.
Exeter to be fair to them were relentless in their pursuit of a goal but the Stags stuck 11 men behind the ball and into the first of four minutes added time, which ended up being about seven, skipper Zander Diamond replaced Alex MacDonald as the Stags went five at the back - the full time whistle took an eternity to arrive, but eventually did as the Stags took home a huge three points.
Full Time: Exeter City 0-1 Stags
Paul Anderson – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Alex MacDonald (Zander Diamond 90+1) – Adam King – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 75) – Kane Hemmings (Will Atkinson 62)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Jacob Mellis, Matt Penney, Ricky Miller
Referee: Chris Saringson Assistants: Dean Treleaven & Marvyn Amphlett Fourth Official Ronald Ganfield
Attendance: 3,680 (244)
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