Full Time Score Colchester United 2-3 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue JobServe Community Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Nicky Ajose, Tyler Walker, CJ Hamilton
Attendance 3,546 (426
Craig Priest writes…
Desire. Fight. A willingness to never give up. Passion. Just four key ingredients that define a team and separate them between languishing in the same division year upon year, and ultimately promotion.
Mansfield Town were truly woeful for 45 minutes at Colchester yesterday and at two-nil down at half-time, few teams would turn the game on it’s head to win 3-2 – but Mansfield Town are no ordinary team.
At the full time whistle you could see how much it mean to the players to turn the game around and grab victory from the jaws of defeat, that spirit, that desire, that passion and desire runs through the very core of the Stags’ dressing room.
David Flitcroft and his staff will not shy away from how utterly woeful the Stags were in the first half, at times over playing and trying to be too cleaver and as a result, getting undone by simple tactics and a high press – highlighted in conceding two unacceptable goals, especially the second where Colchester danced through three players to double their advantage.
It could have been a lot worse had Jordan Smith not produced some outstanding saves to get us to half-time, where a simple question was all that was needed: is this what we are, is this who we are, is this who were going to be?
As Flitcroft said post-match, the comeback was about mentality and approach – getting the goal from Ajose to make it 2-1 changed the game and from then on in, only one team were in complete control.
The result was marred by the injury to Hayden White, a suspected broken ankle as the referee lost control of the game in six additional minutes as Colchester fought to claw something out of the game. Hayden has been brilliant since Flitcroft took the reigns and has vastly improved, adapting in the early season to that central role before making right-wing-back his own. He’ll be sorely missed and as Nicky Ajose said in his post match – it’s upto his team mates now to ensure that like Bobby Oljenik, his return comes into a Mansfield Town side playing League One football.
It was an unchanged starting line-up from the midweek win over Crawley, Matt Preston who was suspended for that match had to settle for a place on the bench.
The Stags boss may however have been kicking himself that one of the most solid defenders in the squad had been left picking splinters out of his backside on the bench as Colchester started brightly as Tom Eastman volleyed over on four minutes, Jordan Smith called into action two minutes later – pulling off a smart save to deny Sammie Szmodics, Smith then again had to be acrobatic on ten minutes as the hosts piled on the pressure.
Nicky Ajose came closest to an opener for the Stags on 12 minutes as he nodded wide at the far post from a teasing cross from the right hand side, but just three minutes later the hosts led though Eastman, converting from close range from a goalmouth scramble.
Smith then denied Dickenson and Pell before watching Szmodics blaze one over. The watching continued for Smith, watching Courtney Senior dance past Mellis, Benning and Sweeney before slotting the ball beneath him on the half hour – doubling the hosts lead.
Mal Benning tried to restore hope with three minutes to go before the break but couldn’t beat Rene Gilmartin in the home goal, moments later Ryan Sweeney nodded wide before the half time whistle sounded to spare the Stags blushes.
The hosts could, and should, have added a third at the start of the second half but Mansfield set about turning the game around and were unlucky to to be back in it on 49 minutes as Hamilton, now playing in a front three, saw a looping cross tipped over by the keeper.
Two minutes later, Mansfield were back in the match through Mansfield Matters’ sponsored away player Nicky Ajose who pulled away from his man to nod in at the far post.
Hamilton was denied by a fine challenge from Luke Prosser on the hour but just four minutes later it was 2-2 in a goal made in the Nottingham Forest academy, and executed perfectly in Colchester, as Walker picked out Grant on the right – Grants reverse ball back inside saw Walker emphatically drill home with his left boot.
Mansfield were not contempt at 2-2 and set about finding a third, Walker was denied before Ajose saw claims for a spot-kick waved away – 11 minutes from time the Stags did find the third goal, Ajose took down a cross field ball and dropped deep before lofting in a deep cross for Hamitlon, who timed his run to perfection, turning home inside the area before sliding on his knees to celebrate with the stags faithful.
Smith then kept Mansfield in the match with a fine save to deny Pell with four minutes of normal time remaining, six additional minutes were added and four minutes into the six a terrible challenge from Frank Nouble on Hayden White saw the stags defender stretchered off with a suspected broken ankle.
Mansfield, fuelled by anger at the injury to White, threw themselves at everything and the referee’s full time whistle sparked scenes of raw emotion and joy. That’s no ordinary comeback, that is a statement of intent – you can try to pull us down and hold us back – but you will never succeed. We are Mansfield Town, deal with it.
FULL TIME: Colchester United 2-3 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Jordan Smith, Hayden White (Will Atkinson 90+6), Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, Jorge Grant (Danny Rose 87), Tyler Walker, Nicky Ajose (Matt Preston 82)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Otis Khan, Jordan Graham, Alistar Smith
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 1-0 Crawley Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Tyler Walker
Attendance 3,739 (24
Craig Priest writes…
After two defeats on the spin, the Stags needed an injection of life – something they were well and truly granted as they bolstered their ranks on Monday with the loan signings of Nicky Ajose (Charlton) and Jorge Grant (Nottingham Forets), before claiming all three points against Crawley last night (Tuesday).
Mansfield had lost a little flair and energy in recent weeks and were in danger of a more serious collapse if the ranks weren’t bolstered, however the addition of both the highly sought after Grant and promotion winner Ajose proved to be the fuel to reignite the Stags fire.
It wasn’t the greatest of displays from Mansfield, however it is the win and the points that count – there where clear glimpses of what the fresh faces can bring once the glue has settled and bonded and perhaps if one or two things had dropped it may have seemed an easier night at the office, but to say the new faces had just the one session prior to the game – there are no complaints from me.
You could tell both players had come from player league one football (Grant on loan at Luton, Ajose at parent club Charlton) and Mansfield’s players will need to raise their game a bit further to get to that level for a more consistent and effective use of said players – but the key thing is that both fit straight into our style of play and our system.
Everyone will rightly coo over Grant, his ability is on another level and the fact we’ve made Notts County have a meltdown helps – however for me I just want people to give Ajose time to settle in, as after around an hour, he was starting to become a target for negativity from a select few.
We have in Ajose a striker who has promotions on his CV from this division, he’s got a good goal scoring record and a history with the coaching staff at former clubs which helps – but we also have a player who, similarly to Calum Butcher last season, is travelling to a new area and will need that little bit longer to settle, let’s not jump straight onto his back because he hasn’t scored 40 on his debut!
I feel the next three games for the Stags are going to act as a mini mid-season pre-season as the new boys become acquainted with their new team mates and surroundings and visa versa. The key area to get right in the back line, the keeper Jordan Smith and his back three must build trust – he is capable of playing the Olejnik role of sweeper keeper and being used to get us out of trouble, but that trust comes with minutes and games – we saw a bit of it in the second half, that has to grow.
Three games remain in January, we must be looking to push on now and grow as a unit with potentially one more player coming in, perhaps to cover either the wide areas or defensive midfield as we seem top heavy in attacking players now, hence the termination of Timi Elsnik’s loan from Derby County.
It’s all about momentum now, we have the capability to hurt teams and have shown our spark – time to add some fuel to the fire and do what we should have done two weeks ago, and put distance between ourselves and the chasing pack.
New signings Jorge Grant and Nicky Ajose were handed debuts, replacing Khan and Atkinson, whilst Bishop returned from suspension to replace the suspended Matt Preston, Hayden white moved to right side centre-half and Hamilton to right wing back to accommodate the changes.
It was a bright start from Mansfield looking to avenge their third league defeat of the season on Saturday, new boy Ajose came close to making himself a hero as he was played through on goal, he was denied at the near post by Crawley glovesman Morris.
Jorge Grant was showing some real flare in the attacking flair but it was his fellow Nottingham Forest team mate in action for the Stags on 12 minutes, as keeper Jordan Smith watched Nark Connolly strike the post before scrambling clear.
Neal Bishop stung the palms of Morris on 17 minutes before Grant’s audacious flick nearly caught the hosts out a minute later, unfortunately for the Stags the effort zipped wide.
Grant was involved again on 32 minutes with a beautiful clip over the Crawley back line to play in Hamilton, he raced forward to lob the keeper, but couldn’t celebrate as the ball landed on the roof of the net – Grant was then twice denied by Morris as the game reached half-time, locked firmly at 0-0.
Ajose was again the thick of things as the second half unfolded, sadly for the Charlton loanee he couldn’t find his first goal – squandering his best opportunity on 52 minutes as Walker squared low across the face of goal for Ajose to latch on too, his connection sailed high and over, rather than low and into the inviting net.
Mellis skimmed the bar and the palms of Morris again just past the hour mark before Jordan Smith was the man earning the applause, keeping out Dominic Poleon’s 20 yard effort with a smart right handed save.
Tyler Walker shot wide at the other end of 74 minutes before Smith denied former Stag and the ever villainous Ollie Palmer with four minutes remaining, Pearce too was strong in cleaning up any left overs allowing Stags to refocus and score two minutes from time, Grants attempted pass deflected into the path of White who literally sprang back into life to square low into the middle – an unmarked Tyler Walker made no mistake in thunderously finishing the move, putting the Stags ahead.
After the goal Mansfield sat a little too deep but terrific work from substitute Danny Rose was enough to preserve the clean sheet through five additional minutes, the referee’s full time whistle a joyous sound and a big relief – Mansfield are back on track.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 1-0 Crawley Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Jordan Smith, Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, [#23] Jorge Grant, Tyler Walker, [#21] Nicky Ajose (Danny Rose 72)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Otis Khan, Will Atkinson, Omari Sterling-James, Jordan Graham, Alistar Smith
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 0-1 Yeovil Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) /
Attendance 4,374 (132)
Craig Priest writes…
They say that when you fall, it’s not about the fact you’ve fallen or indeed why, but it’s all about how you respond, Mansfield Town took defeat last weekend hard and put in a below par performance, falling to their second loss on the spin at the hands of relegation threatened Yeovil.
Mansfield were absolutely woeful throughout and showed absolutely nothing of the fight and spirit which has carried them into the top six, and if truth be told deserved to be beaten for the third time this season – hopefully the loss can be used as a wakeup call and an injection of life can be made to prevent the Stags’ hard work starting to crumble.
I’ve absolutey loved the way Flitcroft has got the Stags playing with the 3-4-1-2 system, but like I’ve been saying for weeks, teams have us figured out and are starting to find ways to not only stop us from playing – but also punishing us.
There’s no reason why we can’t play the same fluid football and playing out from the back, but just tightening up what’s becoming a complacent back line and one which has started to become unstable since the injury to Bobby Olejnik, achieved by dropping to a back four in a 4-2-3-1 which worked well (bar the one with the numerical disadvantage) to get us back in the game at Carlisle.
It was perhaps risky to play Jordan Smith having only arrived on loan from Nottingham Forest on Thursday afternoon ahead of Logan, however he’s more of a ball playing keeper (despite appearances with nervy kicks) than Logan which will suit us more longer term.
The Stags have been a unit who have fought for the fans and each-other over the season so far and mustn’t lose sight of that through what is inevitably a rough patch of form, the saving grace is that the next game comes quickly in the form of Crawley on Tuesday – a game we need to win to keep the niggling doubts at bay.
I believe this week is going to be key to our season, we need to get some reinforcements into the building in terms of fire power, yes the visiting keeper made a stunning save and we had a goal disallowed, but we really did lack conviction in the final third – whilst in midfield we lacked leadership with Bishop suspended, although I felt Atkinson was excellent and wrongly taken off.
We move on, again, quickly.
David Flitcroft made three changes from last weekend’s loss, one enforced as Atkinson replaced the suspended Bishop – Otis Khan made his first start in the league since October replacing Elsnik, whilst new signing Jordan Smith replaced Logan in goal, having joined on loan until the end of the season from Nottingham Forest.
Mansfield made a slow start and new boy Smith had hearts in mouths early with a miss-cued clearance which fortunately didn’t lead to any danger, whilst Pearce gave away a free kick on the egde of the box – which fortunately didn’t test Smith.
On 18 minutes the Stags came alive as CJ Hamilton was denied at the near post, before Mal Benning blasted over the rebound in the Stags best move of the game thus far, a minute later disaster struck however as Yeovil countered, as Dickenson sent Jordan Green racing through – tucking the ball beyond Smith.
Hamilton hit one over the bar before Walker forced Baxter into a smart save as Mansfield looked for a way back into the game – Mellis also stung the palms of Baxter with a long range effort before right on the stoke of half-time, Smith kept Mansfield in the game, as Yeovil hit a long range set-play towards the Stags goal.
Otis Khan was replaced by Rose at the break and was involved in a goal mouth scramble on 58 minutes, Sweeney the last to connect – hitting wide of the mark.
On 56 Smith had to come to the rescue as he denied Green a second goal before his opposite number Baxter had to be alert moments later to prevent an own goal.
Will Atkinson made way on 63 minutes for Elsnik who was involved straight away as he saw a powerful drive blocked, fellow sub Jordan Graham was then denied on the follow up.
Mansfield were denied a goal on 72 when Rose was denied by Baxter, Walkers follow up which found the net flagged offside – the Stags had further efforts through Walker, Rose and Elsnik but couldn’t find a way through, Matt Preston added the misery complier late on, dismissed for a terrible lunge, fortunately NOT a straight red however meaning he’ll only miss Tuesday’s pivotal game with Crawley.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 0-1 Yeovil Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: [#14] Jordan Smith, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, Hayden White (Jordan Graham 58), Jacob Mellis, Will Atkinson (Timi Elsnik 63), Mal Benning, Otos Khan (Danny Rose HT), Tyler Walker, CJ Hamilton
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Calum Butcher, Jason Law, Alistar Smith
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Full Time Score Carlisle United 3-2 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Brunton Park
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Matt Preston, Tyler Walker
Attendance 4,563 (335)
Craig Priest writes…
It had to come to an end at some point didn’t it? Up against a Carlisle side determined to not let a managerial walk out rock their boat – it was almost inevitable, the only solace which Stags fans could reflect on during the long journey home was that Flitcroft’s men went down fighting.
When you’re on such a long run and carrying records – those records are there to be broken and shot at, the REAL test comes not in stopping that from happening, but in how your character and mindset responds, and with that I have no fear whatsoever that yesterday’s loss – only our second all season, will be a wakeup call and a mere bump in the road.
The truth is Mansfield have perhaps rode their luck a little over the last three or four games and yesterday were totally outplayed in the first half by a very good counter attacking side who suck you in and then pounce – we fell well and truly into the trap.
Players are human, they have off days and bad days at the office – three, maybe four were guilty of that in the first half and it cost us, non-more so than Neal Bishop who was booked for retaliation after a reckless challenge on him right on the stroke of half-time.
Red mist took over and a confrontation in the tunnel led to a second yellow card and Mansfield having to come back from two goals down with ten men. Personally I thought Bishop was off the pace from the start and when Rose came on after half an hour, I was surprised to see Elsnik withdrawn and not Bishop – however it’s all irrelevant as Bishop being the model pro will serve his ban, hold his hands up and come back stronger. Sometimes an enforced rest is a good thing.
Mansfield’s resolve in the second half is typical of the team that David Flitcroft has built and with 11 vs 11, I firmly believe that I’d be sitting here writing about a victory right now. Had we been just a goal down We’d have come away with at least a point with ten men, maybe a win – but they are a very good counter attacking side and were always going to make the numerical advantage count.
IF I’m going to knitpick, I would have brought Khan or Butcher on after we scored the first goal at 2-1 and given them something else to think about – as it happens we perhaps got too hyped up and, again played into their hands, by pressing too high and letting them counter and score a much deserved third for 3-1 and game over.
Yes we fought and got it back to 3-2 but with numbers and time against us, that third goal was too much to ask and to be honest – we walk away at full time knowing we’ve given it absolutely everything and go again.
This is a unified dressing room and speaking to many fellow fans on the way out and at various service stations after the game, there is a collective feeling that the loss had to happen sometime and that this side is not one to implode, but one to grow.
I wouldn’t ring the changes too much but this is a good opportunity to freshen things up, playing with a back three does suit us but it was only a matter of time before teams countered us and punished us – we’ve been lucky in the last four, maybe five games to not have that happen AND take positive results.
However in the second half in a 4-2-3 we were tough to break down and still played our passing game, I’d be very tempted to go 4-2-3-1 next weekend, with Atkinson – who I thought was excellent, taking Bishops place, Khan coming in for Elsnik and Rose for either Sweeney or Preston, one of which would be unlucky to miss out by virtue of the fact we’d need two central defenders not three and dropping Pearce is not an option!
Unbeaten runs and records are great to have yes, BUT the ultimate aim is promotion and with games in hand on the teams around us – plus lots of them still to play, that must remain the focus of our attention, and not a marginal loss at Carlisle.
We move on.
David Flitcroft made the one change, with Rose and Elsnik swapping places in the line up for the second game running and set about trying to hurt an already wounded Carlisle with good early pressing leading to a Stags free kick – which led to nothing.
Mansfield found themselves behind on four minutes after a cleaver counter attack from the hosts with Jack Sowerby getting the final touch to finish a move which cut the stags open like a knife through butter.
The Stags could have been further behind eight minutes later as Grainger’s testing free kick left Mansfield watching, second later at the other end – Timi Elsnik’s volley flew into the Cumbrian sky never to be seen again, as Mansfield hunted for a leveller.
Skipper Pearce prodded an effort wide of the home goal on twenty minutes before six minutes later, the Stags were again caught on the counter attack and punished – Ashley Neadesan squared the ball from a wide position and Hallam Hope left the Stags hopelessly watching on as the ball easily found the back of the net.
Danny Rose replaced Eslnik on 33 minutes as Flitcroft tried to inject some life and spark into a flat Mansfield who at that point looked like relegation certainty’s than a team pushing for promotion, the stags had little opportunity to draw one back and lost the game on 45 minutes, when Bishop was booked for retaliation – after Grainger had floored him. The half-time whistle followed just seconds later and with the red mist not clear, Bishop squared up to Grainger in the tunnel, not emerging for the second half having been given his marching orders.
Mansfield needed a miracle and with a man down, made their second change bringing on Atkinson for Sweeney – with Flitcroft switching to a 4-2-3 with Atkinson sitting alongside Mellis in midfield, Walker on the right, Hamilton on the left and Rose through the middle.
Walker very nearly reduced the score line four minutes into the second half flashing an effort wide of Adam Collin’s goal, nodding wide a deep Rose cross on 51 minutes – a sign that whilst the Stags were two down and a man down – they were not giving up.
Rose himself then nodded wide of the target before the Stags got a huge let off on 67 minutes as Gillesphey’s powerful effort whizzed wide of Logan’s goal.
It was game on, on 78 minutes as Matt Preston headed home Mal Benning’s free kick – at 2-1 Flitcroft rightly left Preston up front making it a 3-2-4, but that error proved costly just two minutes after the restart – Hallam Hope in acres of space to slot home his second, and the hosts third – 3-1 with ten minutes to go.
Hope then set about getting his hat-trick but fired straight at Logan on 83 minutes, he did so again on 84 but this time saw Logan make a fine save which proved just the Hope Mansfield needed to try and stay in the game – a strong run from White saw him beat the keeper and clip into the middle for Walker to nod home with three minutes to go.
Time was against the Stags and in the end they had Logan to thank for keeping it 3-2, he again made a save before Pearce swept up in the dying minutes – the referee’s whistle bringing a thrilling second half to an end, and with it, Mansfield’s unbeaten run and up until then, unblemished away record – for just over a day thanks to Liverpool’s loss at City, the Stags were the only side in the top four leagues to be unbeaten away from home this season.
FULL TIME: Carlisle United 3-2 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce, Ryan Sweeney (Will Atkinson HT), Hayden White, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, Timi Elsnik (Danny Rose 34), CJ Hamilton, Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Jake Kean, Calum Butcher, Otis Khan, Jason Law, Jordan Graham
Referee: Robert Lewis
Full Time Score Grimsby Town 0-1 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Blundell Park
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Neal Bishop
Attendance 5,931 (865)
Craig Priest writes…
When two in form teams clash, something has to give – and with the Stags always seeming to struggle at Blundell Park, there were some light fears that the Stags may come unstuck and start the New Year on the wrong foot. Fortunately, David Flitcroft’s men had other ideas.
Mansfield were structured and far more comfortable than they were against Swindon and thoroughly deserved to take the lead and ultimately the points, defending well as a unit and putting any niggles from the Swindon match behind them for a second consecutive clean sheet.
The victory puts the Stags into a really solid position in the top three, it’s important now to not get ahead of ourselves and concentrate on solidifying that place and putting distance between ourselves and the chasing pack with our games in hand, one of which against 5th placed Forest Green later this month.
With the New Year dawning, the transfer window is now open – if any additions are to be made, they have to be the right players to fit our style of play, system and most importantly, our dressing room characteristics – you could see at full time how much that victory means to the players and staff – we can’t allow egos or different personalities to upset that.
That focus, that determination, that togetherness is what sets us apart from the rest, it’s what will ultimately be the difference between Mansfield Town being a league one club or spending another in league two.
We have it in abundance, let’s not yet the bubble burst.
Front man Danny Rose made his first start since the end of November replacing Elsnik who settled for a place on the bench.
The Stags were up against a good side and were made to work early on as Elliott Embleton fired over Logan’s bar, before the Stags shot stopper produced a solid save on eight minutes – denying Wes Thomas.
CJ Hamilton came closest to a Stags goal after Rose had swung a volley wide moments prior, the lightening wing man denied by the excellent James McKeown following Tyler Walker’s pass on 21 minutes
Mansfield then found the break through five minutes later as Jacob Mellis delivered an out-swinging corner, straight to the head of Neal Bishop who curled a header from ten yards around the defenders and keeper for his third goal of the campaign.
The Stags set about finding a second and twice came close through Walker before the break, but had to settle for the one goal cushion at the interval.
Grimsby came out strongly after the restart and forced Logan into two smart saves inside the opening three minutes, Mal Benning then nearly set the Stags second on 62 minutes with a fine cross, Hamilton failed to keep his effort down at the far post.
With 15 minutes to go Mellis flicked the ball on for Tyler Walker who was thwarted by McKeown, moments later Matt Preston thundered a header wide from a Stags corner.
Substitute Timi Elsnik hit an effort wide of the mark with four minutes to play, before Hamilton called the keeper into action in the last minute with a low drive – Mansfield held on through four further minutes to seal three vital points.
FULL TIME: Grimsby Town 0-1 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce, Ryan Sweeney, Hayden White, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning Danny Rose (Timi Elsnik 62), CJ Hamilton, Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Jake Kean, Will Atkinson, Calum Butcher Otis Khan, Jason Law, Jordan Graham
Referee: Matthew Donohue
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 0-0 Swindon
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) /
Attendance 5,311 (486)
Craig Priest writes…
When you’re on a run like ours, sometimes you get an air of arrogance and expect to come out of games with all three points – it’s times like that where you get beat and start a downfall, fortunately for the Stags, the goalless draw with Swindon is one we can put down to a bad day at the office, but one where we still got the job done to the minimum requirement.
There’s always that day over the Christmas period where you have no idea what the time is, where you are, what you are supposed to be doing and frankly just can’t be bothered – I saw a bit of that in yesterday’s performance, but also know that the match was played in a tough wind and against a side who were not simply going to let us play our free flowing game.
The most concerning thing for me was that tempers began to boil over, in particular between the back three and goalkeeper Conrad Logan, as both parties had the right to be angry over either miss placed back passes, taking too long or not coming out in support.
Mansfield’s game is set to be played from the back and that trust between keeper and defenders is paramount to that being a success, we need to iron out these clear indifferences – especially coming up against teams who press high and keep teams penned in, we were very fortunate to see Logan pull off some very good saves to rectify errors from both parties.
The important thing in a game you can’t seem to get a grip in is to defend the clean sheet and the point, and then try and take the opportunities when they come – Mansfield to their credit did just that especially in the last five/ten minutes, but met their match in a Swindon side determined not to leave without a point.
All in all I’m pleased with the result, we are unbeaten in 16 league games having lost once in the league all season, we perhaps need to freshen the line-up up against Grimsby as its 1st vs 2nd in the form table for the last eight games, and given the fact the Stags always struggle at Grimsby – we have to work hard to protect our record and make progress.
2018 has been great, 2019 can be even better if we keep our heads and focus. COME ON YOU STAGS
David Flitcroft named an unchanged starting line-up once more and started early looking for the vital opener, CJ Hamilton’s third minute effort was blocked well, before Timi Elsnik fed in Walker, whose shot deflected onto the roof of the Swindon net.
At the other end Conrad Logan pulled off a fine save on 11 minutes to thwart Keshi Anderson before a cross from White nearly bounced in at the other end, Mal Benning saw an effort from a corner blocked and Tyler Walker couldn’t beat Lawrence Vigouroux in the Swindon goal, as he made a good save.
Logan was then the one making a save to deny Matt Taylor from a free kick on 27 minutes, ten minutes later his opposite number was in action – again denying leading marksman Tyler Walker’s thunderous effort.
Both sides enjoyed a chance each before the break, Ex-Swindon man Elsnik curled one over the bar, before Anderson called Logan into action – neither could impact on the 0-0 scoreline at the break.
Mansfield began the second half as they’d started the first, Mellis nodded narrowly wide from Benning’s cross with the half merely two minutes old, Neal Bishop also tested the water with a peach of a cross, CJ Hamilton unlucky to not connect at the back post.
On 67 Walker was again denied by the visiting keeper, who was again involved on 79, this time flashing an effort wide of the target.
Late on it was all Mansfield as Hamilton was next to be denied by Vigouroux before Substitute Rose saw a header deflect wide for a late corner which, sadly, led to nothing bar the sound of the referee’s whistle for full time.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 0-0 Swindon
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce, Ryan Sweeney, Hayden White, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning (Danny Rose 79), Timi Elsnik (Otis Khan 60), CJ Hamilton, Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Jake Kean, Will Atkinson, Calum Butcher, Jason Law, Jordan Graham
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 2-1 Bury
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) CJ Hamilton, Tyler Walker (Pen)
Attendance 4,959 (516)
Craig Priest writes…
Having not won on Boxing Day for ten years prior to yesterday’s clash, Stags fans were asking Santa for an added dose of luck mixed with optimism along with their three points – boy did the big guy delivery as the Stags buried the Ghost of Christmas past, against promotion rivals Bury.
Mansfield were again magnificent in their approach to the fixture and whilst they didn’t have it all their own way against a very good Bury side, Flitcroft’s men stood firm and kept on going until the rewards came, the only negative being throwing away the clean sheet by conceding a needless, cheap, penalty.
Overall Mansfield’s play is brilliant week upon week and we are really seeing the quality from individuals shine through, the pass from Mellis to CJ for the first goal a prime example, whilst Rose’s ferocious header to win Mansfield a penalty was the mark of the fine player he is.
We have a real flow about us at the moment and when you think about the players still to come back into the mix, I have to really stop myself getting carried away and thinking about what could be – it is vitally important to finish 2018 on a high on Saturday with another three points and then do the recruitment both early and well.
The Stags were unchanged from Saturday’s come from behind victory over Stevenage and were on the back foot inside the opening ten minutes, Conrad Logan called into action on two minutes to deny O’Connell, three minutes later the Stags shot stopper was back peddling but did enough to keep out O’Shea, who tried to chip the Stags glovesman from distance.
Mansfield had their first real chance on 15 minutes as Mellis and Elsnik worked a short corner, the latter feeding the former into the box where his fizzing effort was blocked well, a minute later Mellis was again denied – this time by the side netting following White’s pin point cross park ball.
The Stags were starting to get on top and typically it was Hamilton causing trouble, in over the top the lightening dinger turned defender turned striker turned legend, squared across the box to Bishop – who was denied by a perfect tackle from Ex Stag Stephen Dawson.
Mellis, Walker, White, Benning and Hamilton all had further efforts but couldn’t find the opening required, the match all square at the break.
Bury nearly found the opening for the Stags a minute into the second half as they headed the ball against their own bar, but cometh the hour and lightening struck – as Mellis lofted the ball over the top for CJ to chase and despite the excellent Joe Murphy saving the first effort – Hamilton nodded the looping lose ball into the net to put Mansfield ahead.
Rose replaced Elsnik on 68 minutes and ten minutes later both him and Walker were denied by Murphy, from the resulting corner Rose’s header caused havoc and the referee pointed to the spot, as Sweeney was upended chasing Rose’s flick – Tyler Walker took responsibility and converted expertly to double the Stags lead, netting his 15th goal of the season.
Atkinson replaced Mellis with five minutes to go and nearly made the perfect impact, collecting a loose ball in the middle and dancing his way through, firing wide of the mark once inside the Bury box.
Five minutes of time were added and in the fourth, Matt Preston’s sliding challenge inside the Stags box was too heavy – Jay O’Shea beat Logan from the spot to make it 2-1, fortunately – the full time whistle soon followed and Mansfield sealed three festive points.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 2-1 Bury
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce, Ryan Sweeney, Hayden White, Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson 85), Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, Timi Elsnik (Danny Rose 69), CJ Hamilton, Tyler Walker (Jordan Graham 88)
Unused Subs:  Jake Kean, Otis Khan, Calum Butcher, Jason Law
Referee: Ollie Yates
Full Time ScoreStevenage 1-3 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Lamex Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Ryan Sweeney, Tyler Walker (2)
Craig Priest writes…
Mansfield Town delivered the perfect early Christmas present with a commanding display at Stevenage, and despite having to come from a goal behind, reinforced the belief that this could be the season to be jolly – Merry Stagsmas everyone!
After last weekend’s wash out at half time to Forest Green, there were fears that the Stags would be rusty having lost momentum in the horrible winter rain, however if anything – that downpour did nothing bar strengthen the Stags focus and desire to fight, something which was clear yesterday at Stevenage.
From the very first whistle Flitcroft’s men looked thirsty and played some wonderful football and, as has been the story for many a game, should have perhaps been a goal in front – Stevenage saw little sight of the Stags goal and left Logan (who now has a chance following the disappointing injury to Oljenik) as a spectator for long periods of the first half – yet with seconds to go before the break, a cross from the Stevenage right wasn’t deal with and against the odds, the hosts led.
There are two ways to react, blame and crumble, or move on and fight back – this Mansfield Town side is only capable of the latter and set about turning the game on its head with a terrific second half display full of energy, and somewhat anger, to claim the win and protect their reputation as the toughest side to beat in the EFL and the second toughest in the top four leagues, bettered only by unbeaten Liverpool.
This is a team who battle and fight for each other, this is a team who battle and fight for their manager and backroom, this is a team who battle and fight for its fans and who share the same passion – I can honestly say, even going back to the winning run which saw us promoted back into the league, that I’ve never felt this from the players and manager. I’m not daft, I know that the bubble will burst or at least take a hit at some stage, BUT we are on the cusp of something special here and I for one can’t wait to see it continue.
We’ve two tough home games over Christmas in Bury (Boxing Day) and Swindon (29th) where we have to pick up wins now and put together a real forceful run, Bury we owe not only for the late draw at their place, but also the recent loss in the Checkatrade, whilst Swindon fans will want to burst Flitcroft’s bubble and climb up the table.
Finally, Merry Christmas to you and your family – Thanks for reading my ramblings and listening/ watching the podcast – let’s hope Santa brings what we’re all wishing for!!
The Stags named an unchanged side from the one who played 45 minutes at Forest Green, sorry enjoyed 45 minutes of water football! Conrad Logan continued in goal with Oljenik out for the season, Jake Kean on the bench – returning to the club on a short term deal top bolster the goalkeeping department.
Mansfield started with a real intensity and should have been ahead inside the opening two minutes as CJ Hamilton was denied by Scott Cuthbert, Jacob Mellis and Neal Bishop also saw efforts land off target during a first half which the Stags enjoyed lots of the ball.
With ten minutes to go before the break Walker was denied an opening goal by Paul Farman in a one vs one, ten minutes later disaster struck as with what must have been their third sight on goal if that, Stevenage took the lead as Ben Nugent converted a right sided cross.
The stags set about turning the game around after the break and nearly pulled level on 52 minutes as Elsnik found Mellis, his long range effort flew over the bar before three minutes later former Stag Joel Byrom gave the ball away and saw Walker pounce, the loanee’s effort looped over the bar.
Second later though and the goal the Stags needed came as a corner saw the ball fall for Ryan Sweeney who smashed home his first goal in Stags colours to send the visiting fans into raptures.
The travelling support never stopped singing and were momentarily breathless as Stevenage found a rare opening on 76 minutes – Conrad Logan earned heroic status with a venomous save to keep the match at 1-1
Logan’s brilliant save spurred on the Stags and just two minutes later substitute Danny Rose made an impact as he headed a cross back across goal, Tyler Walker made no mistake in converting to put Mansfield back in front.
Mansfield weren’t contempt at 2-1 and set about in search of a much deserved third, they bfound it with four minutes to go as Hamilton burst down the left and whipped in for Walker who was denied by Farman at the first attempt, but at the second, slammed home – three goals for the Stags, two for Walker and another win in the bag.
FULL TIME: Stevenage 1-3 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce, Ryan Sweeney, Hayden White, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning (Danny Rose 69), Timi Elsnik (Jordan Graham 87), Cj Hamilton, Tyler Walker
Unused Subs:  Jake Kean, Calum Butcher, Jason Law, Will Atkinson
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Full Time ScoreMansfield Town 2-0 Notts County
Competition Sky Bet League Two (Matt Salmon Trophy)
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) CJ Hamilton (2)
Attendance 6,604 (1,140)
Craig Priest writes…
After a below par cup exit in midweek, the Stags needed to step-up their game as they welcomed rivals Notts County for the start of a brand new era for the Magpies, that’s exactly what happened as lightening struck twice – to ensure a new error at Notts County had begun.
David Flitcroft was hurt by the midweek exit and wasted no time in putting things right with a thoroughly professional display from his players to ride an early County storm and then control the game to silence their relegation troubled neighbors.
CJ Hamilton naturally takes the plaudits with two goals and to be fair, totally deserves them, the work his has put in and the attitude he has shown to develop under Flitcroft has turned him into a real asset who is capable of playing anywhere, yet currently as an out and out front man is giving teams headaches.
Notable mentions go to Pearce and Benning who being the clubs longest serving players know exactly what the fixture means and put in a fitting display, whilst Neal Bishop knew too from the other side of the fence, but didn’t let his past dictate his present and future, with another phenomenal display in the middle.
The whole team spirit is unreal and to be in December having been beaten just once in the league is a real achievement, despite the early draws and lack of fire power it shows we are a real force as a unit who, like a fine wine, seemingly get better with age and time.
We are the hardest team to beat in the league right now with just one loss (and one of three teams in the Football League to have lost just once), which is a record to be proud of – a lot of that comes from being patient and resilient from the back with the second best defence (only by one goal to leader MK Dons) in the league.
Flitcroft has built a tight family unit who are really buying into what we are doing, our core is far stronger than where we were a year ago and as we head into the festive set of fixtures and move towards the next transfer window, we are making real progress to where we dream of being.
The Stags boss may have missed out on manager of the month, but we don’t need accolades yet – we need to be focussed and prepared, and IF we get our recruitment right in January, the rewards WILL come. Recruitment is a BIG thing for us and I’ve no doubt that Flitcroft will get it right however that is another story for another day – let’s enjoy the derby day victory and keep our focus on the bigger picture, starting with a trip to Forest Green next weekend getting back to back victories and like our CJ, prove that lightening, really does strike twice.
There were only a few minor tweaks from midweek as Flitcroft switched keepers, and also brought Elsnik into midfield for Khan, whilst Hamilton replaced Rose to lead the front line.
Notts County under new management were keen to show their new boss they were up for the fight and had early chances to open the scoring, a combination of solid Stags defending and a smart save from Olejnik kept the Magpies at bay, before at the other end on 14 minutes, it was County who were throwing themselves at shots, as Mal Benning pounced on a poor clearance from Ross Fitzsimons – his long range curler cleared off the line.
Hamilton, Walker and Benning all saw further efforts go a miss before Olejnik again pulled off a good save at the other end.
Former Notts man Bishop nearly came back to haunt his former side with ten minutes to go before the break, he was denied by the legs of Fitzsimons before the Notts County glovesman denied Walker.
Olejnik was then involved as the pendulum swung again, he denied Will Patching before the Stags broke the deadlock with a fine flowing move on 37 minutes, CJ Hamilton the man converting – showing great pace to connect with Bennings’ pitch perfect cross.
After the break Mansfield searched for a second as Walker and Hamilton had a pop, the latter hitting the bar, Hayden white also struck the woodwork as his effort smashed against the post as the match approached the hour mark.
CJ Hamilton made it 2-0 on 63 minutes as quick feet saw him dance around the Magpies and turn home, Walker should have made it three just three minutes later as he punced on a Turley mistake, but dragged his effort wide.
Olejnik then had to be alert to keep out Elliott Ward but it was Mansfield who looked the most likely to get a third, Hamilton, Walker, White, Bishop and Substtiute Rose all had efforts, but Notts wouldn’t grant the Stags a third – the full time whistle sealing another derby day victory.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 2-0 Notts County
STAGS [3-4-3]: Bobby Olejnik, Matt Preston, Krystain Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, Hayden White, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop (Will Atkinson 90+2), Timi Elsnik (Otis Khan 81), Mal Benning, CJ Hamilton, Tyler Walker (Danny Rose 86)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Calum Butcher, Jason Law, Jordan Graham
Referee: Jeremy Simpson
The Wembley dream is over in terms of a cup competition as following a well-deserved break, the Stags returned to action and crashed out of the Checkatrade Trophy – losing by a goal to nil to Bury.
It’s disappointing to be out at this stage however after a prolonged rest, I did anticipate a slow and sluggish encounter to get back into the match routine, and in the grand scheme of things I’d much rather get that out of our system on a cold Tuesday night where nothing is truly lost, than in a local derby against the struggling neighbours itching to get off to a good start under new management.
Bury are a very good side as we saw at Gigg Lane earlier this season and I still believe they’ll be challenging in the top seven at the end of the season, they took advantage of our prolonged rest early doors and got a cheap goal, and then marked us out of the game – the lack of spark and desire did worry me a little but again, when Saturday comes I know it will be a whole different story.
Players who needed minutes got minutes and players who needed to be protected got protected – we weren’t played off the park and had opportunities to get back into the game, it just simply wasn’t to be.
We now put all focus on the league and give it our everything, we have made great strides over the last six months of so – this set back, as disappointing as it is, is just that – a set back and a chance to try again.
David Flitcroft put out a strong side having not played since the 24th November, he made three changes from the side which faced Lincoln – Conrad Logan replaced Oljenik between the sticks, Hayden White replaced Atkinson, and Otis Khan replacing Hamilton.
Click HERE for a full comprehensive report from the club
STAGS Logan (GK), White, Benning, Preston, Pearce © (Elsnik 46’), Bishop, Mellis, Khan (Hamilton 46’), Sweeney, Walker, Rose (Davies 46’)
Unused Substitutes: Olejnik (GK), Atkinson, Butcher, Graham.
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