Full Time Score Mansfield Town 1-0 Forest Green Rovers
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Tyler Walker
Attendance 5,265 (161)
Craig Priest writes…
After a rocky few weeks on the road with defeats at Newport and rivals Notts Couty, Mansfield Town needed some home comfort and to have a little re-think in order to maintain their grip on the top three, something they managed with a narrow but deserved 1-0 victory over promotion rivals Forest Green Rovers.
David Flitcroft’s men looked reinvigorated as they soaked up the February sunshine and could, and perhaps should, have been comfortable winners – however at this stage of the season, it’s points which count the most.
With twelve games remaining the Stags are in a far better position as a club than they were a year ago when the former manager and his dodgy assistant left for china via Peterborough (that ended well!), and boss David Flitcroft has really helped to create a much fitter, mentally stronger and professional environment where the focus will not be taken off the task in hand.
Every club has a blip in form it’s natural in a long season and I’m glad that Flitcroft has been able to tweak the system to get us back on track. The Stags may well have finished with their natural back three, but they started in a 4-2-3-1 system, allowing Hamilton to play at his dangerous best higher up the pitch, whilst Willem Tomlinson made his full debut alongside Bishop in more defensive midfield roles, allowing Mellis, Grant, Walker and the aforementioned Hamilton to rotate across an attacking line.
For weeks the Stags had struggled to get going and with injuries and suspensions playing a part looked a little hap-hazard with players playing out of position and new faces coming in who weren’t fit enough to play at the intensity demanded by Flitcroft’s brand of football.
It’s no coincidence that we dominated the first half having a more solid foundation at the back with Jones and Benning playing as full backs rather than higher up as wing backs. The solid four allowed players such as Mellis, Grant, Hamilton and Walker to not only create, but hurt Forest Green, and whilst it didn’t work in terms of breaking the deadlock, we created a high percentage of chances which we’ve not done in the last two or three games – which has sucked the energy and confidence out of both the players, and the supporters.
The confidence and spark the first half created allowed us to switch to the back three after 55/60 minutes and even though Benning was largely out of position as the left sided central defender, I thought he slotted in really well and as ever, put in the shift we’ve come to expect of him over years of service.
Sadly the game ended on a sour note with Tyler Walker being shown a straight red card for abusive language and behaviour towards the officials, he’ll be a big loss as we face Cheltenham and Port Vale over the next two weeks – but with the tweak in system to go with one out and out striker, it’s an opportunity for others to step up to the cause and show we’re not a one man team.
There are now twelve games of the season remaining, as always we take things one game at a time and keep our focus – that’s how we got back on track yesterday, every team has something to play for now, whether that be survival, promotion or for many, a job – there are no easy games – we were on the cusp of something good at this stage last season and threw it away, once bitten – twice shy. Let’s do this.
Willem Tomlinson was handed a full debut, coming in for Ben Turner in what was the only change to personnel – however the Stags started in a new system, 4-2-3-1 which saw Hamilton pushed higher up to exploit the flanks, and Mellis, Grant and Walker given a free role to rotate.
The Stags new system looked sharp from the off and stayed firm on two minutes as the visitors worked an opening – Tomlinson was on hand to snuff out the danger before two minutes later, Mansfield were pulling the strings as Grant and Walker combined but couldn’t quite break the lock.
Grant and Mellis then combined to set Hamilton racing free, the lightening winger was denied by Ward who on eight minutes, could do nothing bar watch, as Stags’ skipper Pearce flicked the ball wide from Grants’ corner.
Mal Benning then made a fine challenge on nine minutes to stop George Williams advancing before Jordan Smith made a smart save, keeping Mondal at bay.
Forest Green then nearly scored an own goal as Hamilton did real damage down the left flank on 28 minutes before eight minutes later Hamilton again caused trouble, pulling back for Gethin Jones who showed tremendous effort to connect, but sadly turned the ball wide.
Tyler Walker stung the palms of Ward from distance on 43 minutes before moments later former Stag Paul Digby was denied by Smith – the sides deadlocked at the break, but Mansfield predominantly in the driving seat.
Mansfield moved up a gear as the second half got off to a flying start as both Walker and Jones had efforts inside the opening two minutes, before on the hour Matt Preston made a sublime tackle on Williams as he found space inside the box as the Stags slipped back into a back three, a 3-2-4-1 with Benning joining Pearce and Preston, Bishop and Tomlinson anchored, Walker up top with a midfield four of Jones, Grant, Mellis and Hamilton pushing very high.
The visitors tamely tested Smith on 64 minutes but five minutes later the Stags found the breaktrough, Hamilton’s effort cannoned up into the air and Walker beat the keeper to it and headed towards goal – he was credited with the goal but replays strongly suggest it was a Forest Green defender who turned the ball in as he tried to head it away for a corner.
The dangerous Christian Doidge had two efforts inside the last ten minutes but couldn’t find the target before inside stoppage time Tomlinson was booked for a frustration induced but careless lunge seconds before he was subbed for Turner, before Tyler Walker was shown a straight red for foul and abusive language towards the match officials – the full time whistle a glorious sound as the Stags sealed three points to remain in third two points behind Bury and two ahead of MK Dons, who both picked up wins.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 1-0 Forest Green Rovers
STAGS [4-2-3-1]: Jordan Smith, Gethin Jones, Krystian Pearce ©, Matt Preston, Mal Benning, Neal Bishop, Willem Tomlinson (Ben Turner 90+3), Jorge Grant, Jacob Mellis, CJ Hamilton, Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Alex MacDonald, Otis Khan, will Atkinson, Nicky Ajose, Alistar Smith
Referee: Matthew Donohue
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