Craig Priest writes…
It was far from pretty, it was far from stress-free and it was a million miles away from what we are capable of, but at the end of the match, we took home all three points and Morecambe were left with nothing in their Christmas stocking – THAT is all that matters.
I actually feel a little for Steve Evans tonight for once, he’s there to be shot at of course – but one thing that really annoys me is perspective, and those who riled him over the Hemmings substitution need to take a long hard look at themselves.
The on loan front man was in top form, so naturally I understand the frustration of taking him off, but the lad has just spent a good three weeks out injured and has barley trained – I’d guess too it was advised he shouldn’t start today and there was no way he was going to last 90 minutes. I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did.
I won’t even start the Digby argument, go back through the blogs and read ‘The Interceptor’ and the next game he plays, don’t follow the ball – follow the game.
Our problem comes from not being settled, Evans just about knows his back four and his preferred from two, but he hasn’t got a clue about the midfield and that is seriously costing us, highlighted in the goal they scored to level the match.
Late on it the game they were always going to throw bodies upfront and Kevin Ellison was always going to come on and throw bully boy tactics around, it’s how Morecambe get results from negative situations, I honestly think even at 2-1, five more minutes we’d be talking about a draw now.
Barry Roche coming up for the late set play highlights Morecambe’s attacking mentality, they never say die – someone somewhere was smiling on the Stags in that moment, it was utter carnage in the box and I don’t know how we’ve got away with it – but again that’s an attitude of togetherness that we lack.
Steve Evans said in his post match comments that he’d go away and reflect, he’ll have a glass of wine, kick something, swear and then move on – the heat of the moment emotion is all just part of the game and we perhaps need to take a look at this under a different light of day.
We were poor and far from good enough, but we are two matches away from being able to add those key ingredients, if we can stay within that pack during those games then we should be ok. In retrospect we are three points from third place and just outside the play-offs, we could be in a far worse position – we could have just been thumped 5-1 away from home and spending Christmas in the relegation zone, Merry Christmas dearest neighbours!
We need to click, we need to find our feet and gain momentum again, but we are going to Grimsby now on Boxing Day two games unbeaten and with one defeat in what, 15/16? Maybe more. Time to draw this year to a close and make 2018 the year of positives, not the year of what ifs.
Steve Evans mixed things up, reverting back to the 4-4-2 system but changing the midfield to a diamond shape with Digby, one of four changes, sitting in front of the back four, and Calum Butcher behind the front two of Hemmings, back from injury, and Rose – CJ Hamilton was the fourth change.
Both sides had early opportunities and Rose miss-hit a MacDonald cross in the opening minute before the lively Adam Campbell saw a shot cannon off Benning, before dragging the rebound wide.
The pendulum kept swinging as CJ Hamilton hammered into the side netting on four minutes from Hayden Whites cross – two minutes later Conrad Logan was on hand to keep out Luke Conolan, after Campbell had thread the ball through the eye of a needle.
Mansfield then grabbed the opener as Kane Hemmings showed what the Stags had been missing, the front man latched onto the ball from Roses flick on – slotting beyond Barry Roche in the Morecambe goal.
The Stags kept on the pressure in search of a second but it was the visitors who had a better sight of goal through former Mansfield man Vadaine Oliver, the Stags clung on to clear before missing a guilt edge chance at the other end to double their lead on 26 minutes, Rose pounced on a lapse at the back feeding Hemmings who then [icked out Hamilton – the left sided winger tamely hit wide.
Logan then had to pick out a looping Oliver effort, before on the stroke of half time, Zander Diamond headed a pin point MacDonald free kick.
After the break the Stags looked shaky and we’re pegged back on 51 minutes as Callum Lang skipped down the left hand side and slotted beyond Logan.
Three minutes later there was up roar as Evans withdrew the struggling Hemmings for Anderson and the below par Butcher for Mellis, it was enough just yet to get Mansfield firing however as Michael Rose smashed a long range effort towards goal – narrowly wide.
Danny Rose and Jacob Mellis both had efforts go astray for the Stags whilst Morecambe also tested, but neither side could find the goal as the game progressed – with then minutes to go Hamilton twisted his way down the left hand side before firing wide.
Zander Diamond threw himself into the path of Kevin Ellison’s shot three minutes later before sheer drama with two minutes to go as Anderson found space down the right hand side, peeling away to deliver a testing cross, which Danny Rose duly nodded past Roche to put the Stags into a 2-1 lead.
The Drama didn’t end there, Rose looped the ball over Roche from MacDonald’s directional pass but saw it drop wide, Roche himself nearly become the Grinch at the Stags Christmas party, racing forward to meet a late Morecambe corner – which Logan some how kept out to the sound of the full time whistle.
FULL TIME: Stags 2-1 Morecambe
STAGS [4-4-2 Diamond]
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Paul Digby (Will Atkinson 70)
Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Calum Butcher (Jacob Mellis 54)
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Paul Anderson 54)
Unused Subs Bobby Olejnik, Krystain Pearce, Lee Angol, Jimmy Spencer
Referee: Ross Joyce Assistants Alix Pashley, Matthew Jones Fourth Official Anthony Tankard
Attendance: 3,058 (63)
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