Craig Priest writes…
Mansfield Town hit the spot in yesterday’s early kick-off, tucking away not one but two penalties in a much improved performance to shake off their indecisive early start and put three points on the board, beating tricky Grimsby Town 4-1.
The result for me is less about having points on the board, and more about the impact the victory will have had inside the dressing room. Week upon week has gone by where the Stags have sloped off with just a point in hand and been left angered by the fact that mistakes and indecisions have cost them – now let’s remember that anger compared with the winning feeling, I know which I’d rather have week in week out.
Yesterday’s game was very frustrating for the most, Grimsby as expected we’re resilient and it took a while for any clear cut chance, it’s very easy for sides who’ve been down on their luck to become frustrated and make individual errors which I’m sure Russell Slade & Grimsby would have been hoping on! Credit therefor to the Stags for being just as resilient themselves and playing cautiously – eventually getting their rewards.
I called for fresh legs in the middle and Steve Evans did indeed bring Alex MacDonald into the fold, I thought he was excellent across the park and added a little bite to our play which allowed us to express ourselves elsewhere, whilst Johnny Hunt also did a decent job at left back.
In a lot of articles and indeed on the podcast, I’ve been critical of us as a defence, yesterday we we’re vastly improved – there was more trust between Logan and the back four and both Pearce and Murfin seem to be forming a good partnership and good understanding which in turn allowed a little more expression when playing from the back and didn’t cost us during those spells where Grimsby we’re just pumping the ball straight down our throats hoping for an error.
As for the penalties, credit to Lee Angol, or Mrs Steve Evans, for stepping up for the first one – with all the hype we’ve created ourselves on missing spot kicks, it wasn’t an easy job to bury the first one. The second one showed his talent, James McKeown is an excellent keeper who I’ve rated for a long time – he has a good track record of keeping out spot-kicks too and very nearly saved the second one, Angol did well to beat him.
It’s now a quick turnaround as the Stags face Wycombe on Tuesday – the importance of a clean sheet is just as important as a win for us now, we we’re very unlucky to concede yesterday and Logan came close to saving it – build from the back and the rest will follow.
Steve Evans made three changes to the side which drew at Carlisle, Calum Butcher came in for Will Atkinson on the right, making his first start after netting from the bench, whilst Johnny Hunt replaced Mal Benning at left back and Alex MacDonald took the place of Paul Anderson on the left hand side of midfield – Krystain Pearce took the captains armband.
Within the opening seconds, Lee Angol nipped in behind the Grimsby back line and hit a low effort towards goal, turned behind by McKeown expertly for an early Stags corner, whipped in by Byrom but cleared by the visitors.
Grimsby saw a half chance on four minutes as Nathan Clarke whipped in a dangerous ball which fell to JJ Hooper, who fortunately for the Stags, couldn’t get his hashed effort on target.
It took a while for either side to get going, the next real opening coming on 18 minutes for Mansfield, as neat combition play between Hemmings and MacDonald down the left hand side saw the former get a shot away, once again the palms of McKeown kept the scores deadlocked.
Calum Butcher threw himself into a silly challenge on twenty minutes and received his second yellow card in as many games, whilst Grimsby then had three opportunities to find the opener, first on 23 minutes a hopeful clearance from Karleigh Osbourne caught the wind and a hastily back tracking Conrad Logan had to push the ball away for a corner as the 40 yard clearance, nearly dipped in – on 27 minutes Pearce did well to block an effort from Dembele as pinball began inside the Stags box, before moments later Zak Mills sliced a half clearance from Murfin wide, following good work from former Stag Mitch Rose who joined Grimsby in the summer.
Mansfield then had a golden chance to take the lead on 33 minutes as David Murfin was fouled isndie the Grimsby box, referee Paul Tierney showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot. There were no arguments this time, Lee Angol placed the ball on the spot and after some mind games from the Mariners, cooly dispatched the spot-kick to open the scoring and end Mansfield’s penalty jink.
In the final three minutes of the half, a chance for both sides to grab the games second goal – Conrad Logan did enough to keep Martyn Woolford’s effort at bay whilst in the final seconds, Calum Butcher picked out Jacob Mellis with a testing cross, the attacking-midfielder just couldn’t wrap his foot around the ball in time to connect.
After the restart Grimsby tried to catch the Stags out with a quickly taken free kick, Xak Mills cut inside but shaped up all wrong and drilled well wide of Logan’s right hand post.
On 52 minutes Johnny Hunt picked out the run of Kane Hemmings with a lofted ball which caught the visiting back line flat footed, Grimsby keeper McKeown did enough to race out and stop Hemmings turning and finding the Stags second.
Two minutes later however the Stags found that second goal, Calum Butcher won a corner and Joel Byrom stepped up to deliver a left footed in swinger – skipper Pearce timed his run well, arriving at the back post to volley the dipping ball high into the roof of the net to double the stags lead.
On the hour it could have been three, simply breathtaking one touch football saw MacDonald played into the box by Hemmings – the Stags winger smashed wide of the net from the angle, so unlucky not to get the goal the movement deserved.
It soon would be three-nil just four minutes later, yet again a corner from Byrom the catalyst – Bennett this time connected at the far post, drawing McKeown into a fine save, Pearce was first to the first ball and cut the ball back across the face of goal, only for Osbourne to deflect the ball into his own net, many gave the goal to Pearce but there was a huge deflection, one for the dubious goals committee to decide n- either way, 3-0 to Mansfield.
On 74 a strong challenge on the half way line from Pearce allowed the stags to move forward at pace, Kane Hemmings fed strike partner Lee Angol who curled wide from distance, as he looked for his second of the afternoon.
He didn’t have to wait long, as five minutes later, his quick feet saw him fouled in the box – the referee again pointing to the spot – a few calls called for Pearce to seal a questionable hat-trick but the skipper pointed at Angol, who again stepped up and made it two out of two from the spot, despite a touch from McKeown.
With five minutes to go, Mansfield’s clean sheet was dirtied, as Bennett was judged to have fouled Grimsby sub Diallang Jaiyesimi inside the Stags box – a third penalty of the afternoon was awarded – Conrad Logan guessed right as fellow Grimsby sub Sam Jones stepped up, the ball squirmed under Logan’s elbow to give Grimsby a mere consolation.
Logan then produced a fine save with a minute remaining – ex-Stag Mitch Rose loves a strike from distance and tested Logan from the edge of the box on the volley, an excellent strike met with an even better reaction save.
FULL TIME: Stags 4-1 Grimsby
Rhys Bennett – Krystain Pearce © - David Murfin – Johnny Hunt
Calum Butcher (Will Atkinson 82) – Jacob Mellis (Alfie Potter 88) – Joel Byrom – Alex MacDonald (Paul Anderson 71)
Kane Hemmings – Lee Angol
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Zander Diamond, Jimmy Spencer, Danny Rose
Attendance: 4,625 (1,252)
Referee: Paul Tierney, Assistants Simon Beck, Michael McDonough Fourth Official Tom Nield
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