Craig Priest writes…
As the rain absolutely thrashed it down last night walking back to my car, I couldn’t believe some of the conversations I overheard regarding last night’s goalless draw against Wycombe – some even called for Evans to be sacked! For me, I thought the goalless draw and accompanying point was the most precious and vital one we’ll collect all season.
Wycombe are an excellent side who so often hurt teams, they’ve not lost a league two away game since February and once they get on a run, as it proved last season, ended only in the FA Cup, they are hard to beat and hard to break down. Therefore to say that we’ve not let them play too much football, not let them score and taken a share of the spoils, is a very positive thing indeed.
In his post-match press conference, Steve Evans admitted that we we’re poor and should have won the game – but I’m sure as he dries off and looks at the bigger picture, he’ll look at three things and ultimately agree that a point is a positive.
The first is obvious, a clean sheet against a top side with resilient defending – something very much needed after several implosions over August. The second, the conditions and the fact we didn’t switch off from start to finish. The third, and by no means the least – the confidence the performance of Conrad Logan will bring not only to the glovesman himself, but the defenders and in turn the fans who, myself included, have been critical of him since his arrival.
On nights such as last night, you need your keeper to step up and get you out of trouble during those spells where the opposition put you under immense pressure, as Wycombe are more than capable of hurting teams. Logan did just that and his man of the match award for fully justified an excellent display where he highlighted his shot-stopping ability, the save in the first half where he was wrong footed but palmed away the close-range header was a thing of sheer beauty.
As we reflect on the result and turn our attentions to Lincoln City on Saturday, is a platform to build upon – we’re getting stronger as a unit, especially at the back as we haven’t conceded a goal from open play in 255 minutes. As an attack, we know we have the capabilities to hurt teams and to be fair, whilst we’re praising Logan – Wycombe will be praising Scott Brown for his first half display as Mansfield knocked forcefully on the door. Merge the two together and you have a strong engine to power the Steve Evans train forward and collect more coal, ask yourselves this – had the Stags gone for it in the last ten-fifteen minutes last night, would we have scored – I don’t think so, in actual fact – I think Wycombe would have caught us twice on the counter and we’d be talking about a loss.
Yes it’s disappointing, yes it’s frustrating and yes, after such a win Saturday – it’s disappointing not to continue with that intensity, but each game is different – what we do know is simple, keep that solidness at the back, make one or two tweaks and go to Lincoln and show the Imps what League Two football is really about!
Remember that old saying about pennies and pounds, well that works in football too – look after the points, and the wins will follow.
If it isn’t broke don’t fix it was the mantra of Steve Evans as he named an unchanged starting line-up – the Stags looking for their second win in as many games against a Wycombe side without “The Beast”.
The Stags began brightly and Lee Angol took just two minutes to win his first free-kick of the night, Alex MacDonald’s delivery cleared by the visitors – two minutes later however Angol was involved again, Calum Butcher provided the delivery to Lee Angol from the right hand side – the front man’s goal bound shot turned away expertly by Brown between the Wycombe sticks.
On a wet evening with the rain coming down at pace, neither side could get a real foot hold of the game, the Stags however used the water to their advantage – zipping the ball left right and centre on 12 minutes, which accumulated in MacDonald, dropping off the touchline to come into a central position, seeing a shot blocked – after excellent fluid one touch stuff.
A minute later and the Stags were in again as Angol twisted and turned, setting himself for a cross from the right hand side – Strike partner Kane Hemmings sadly couldn’t connect with the inviting ball.
Wycombe saw their first real sight of goal on 17 minutes, as Ebere Eze managed to get ahead of the back line into a pocket of space on the edge of the box, as the ballo fell to him however he got his body shape all wrong and curled wide of Logan’s goal.
The visitors then began to ramp up the pressure and it took a world class save from Logan on 22 minutes to keep the scores level. Mansfield failed to deal with Wycombe runners inside the box from a free kick, Dan Scarr met the dead-ball delivery with a bullet header from close range which Logan palmed away one handed, despite being wrong footed.
Rhys Bennett then had to produce a game saving challenge on 24 minutes before a minute later, Logan produced a hat trick of fine saves as Wycombe threw everything at the Stags. First it was Marcus Bean who tried his luck from distance, Logan parried away and the ball zipped straight back to Bean, who again hit at goal – Logan once more blocked the effort, the follow up falling at the feet of Luke O’Nien at close range – Logan threw himself in the way of the goal bound effort to spare the Stags blushes.
Just past the half hour, a break in play was required as referee Rob Lewis pulled up injured – the stoppage completely took the heat from the game which Mansfield needed as the came under pressure, Lewis took over as fourth official, Ian Smedley took the whistle and handed original fourth man Michael D’Aguilar took the flag.
With play back under way Ebere Eze called Logan into action once more, the Stags keeper equal to the effort, before at the other end – a forceful run from Butcher was met with an equal cross, meaning no Stags player could connect and the counter attacking chance was dead in the evening rain water.
With five minutes of the first half remaining, Johnny Hunt curled a free kick from twenty yards high and wide – before as the half came to a close, David Murfin sent a dominant header into the hands of Brown to end the half as it started – goalless.
Steve Evans made two changes at the break, Paul Anderson replaced Alex MacDonald on the left hand side, whilst Will Atkinson was also introduced for Jacob Mellis, Atkinson took up a place on the right hand side – pushing Butcher into the middle, where he was so effective against Carlisle on his debut.
Anderson was involved straight away, holding up the ball well on the left hand side for the advancing Hunt, his cross caught the visitors out and allowed Hemmings to nip in – his flick towards goal hitting the side netting.
Lee Angol was then hacked down by Scarr in a central position – Hemming’s stood over the set-play but hit straight at the wall before his second ball, a clipped cross, was too strong for Pearce, arriving at the back post.
On 51 minutes, Butcher picked up his third yellow card in as many games with a late challenge on Eze, before chances at both ends – first Will Atkinson’s testing cross was hoofed clear, before at the other end – Craig Mackail-Smith found space, but miscued his effort wide of the Stags goal.
Alfie Potter replaced Butcher on 61 minutes, no doubt the yellow card a huge part of the switch, as Evans opted for Potter in midfield over Rose up front – had Butcher stayed on, there’s a strong possibility his style of play, would have earned him a second yellow baring in mind those conditions.
As the game moved into the final 12 minutes, the Stags survived back to back corners from the visitors – who also claimed a penalty when Josh Umerah went to ground under Pearce’s challenge – the referee Smedley, told him to get up.
Mansfield then had a golden chance to nick all three points with eight minutes to go, Alfie Potter skipped his way down the right hand side and delivered low across the six yard box, Paul Anderson slid in at the far post but turned the ball wide as Brown came to put on the pressure, Anderson the one who ended up in the back of the net, thumping the ground in frustration at what looked a certain goal for the Stags number ten.
The Stags then rightly clung onto the point, Wycombe had two corners in the final moments of the game, which Pearce and then Hunt cleared as Mansfield protected the clean sheet and let the game role to a stop.
FULL TIME: Mansfield 0-0 Wycombe Wanderers
Rhys Bennett – Krystain Pearce © - David Murfin – Johnny Hunt
Calum Butcher (Alfie Potter 61) – Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson HT) – Joel Byrom – Alex MacDonald (Paul Anderson HT)
Kane Hemmings – Lee Angol
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Zander Diamond, Jimmy Spencer, Danny Rose
Attendance: 2,938 (154)
Referee: Rob Lewis (Ian Smedley 34), Assistants Ian Smedley (Michael D’Aguilar 34), Alf Greenwood, Fourth Official Michael D’Aguilar (Rob Lewis 34)
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