Full Time Score Mansfield Town 1-1 Colchester United
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call stadium, Mansfield
Stags Goal Scorers Craig Davies
Attendance 3,909 (190)
Craig Priest writes…
After the six-one slaughtering of Accrington Stanley in midweek there was always danger of coming back down to earth with a bang, and whilst most thought the sucker punch was the frustration of not being able to break Colchester down, the reality was far more sickening – a 95th minute equalizer for the visitors who hadn’t really troubled Conrad Logan.
Arguments and debates will be had over Logan’s involvement in the goal which robbed the Stags a victory and the chance to go top of League Two, and whilst I’m tempted to weigh in on those debates – it’s pointless, as, as David Flitcroft said post match, it’s a collective problem – win together, lose together, draw together – accept errors, together.
You could see the joy within the dressing room when substitute Craig Davies scored the opening goal, but as Flitcroft hinted, there wasn’t the same pride in protecting the clean sheet and subsequently, the three points – we thought the game was dead and buried and we can’t allow that until AFTER the referee blows the full time whistle.
I firmly believe however that we WILL learn to close games out and see them through by becoming more switched on and game savvy. Other managers would come out after that and berate the referee for “playing more than the official put up” but if one of your players makes a needless foul, the referee will allow time for it and that’s exactly how, and why, Colchester nicked a point.
There’s no point dwelling on negatives though, that’s how bad form starts – yes we should have had three points, but on the other hand – if Walker makes that foul at 0-0 and Colchester go onto score from the resulting phase of play, we lose the game – there’s a fine line between positive and negative.
We’ve scored a wonder goal and not given up against one of the most stubborn and resilient teams in the division and we’ve shown that we can adapt our system to take pressure off ourselves and make the opposition panic.
In the build up to Davies’ fine strike we had a five/ten minute spell of 4-4-2 when we had the ball, with Benning dropping back, white pushing to right back, CJ to the right wing and Otis Khan to the left – those banks for four tightened our barriers for a bit and allowed us to get bodies forward and press, which is pleasing for me to see that Flitcroft won’t just stick with one way of playing – game management is key to locking the door on failure and shortcomings.
It’s how we respond now and fortunately the next match isn’t a week away, it’s Tuesday, so no time to sit and dwell, time only to work.
Trying to end on a positive or two, I thought Ryan Sweeney had another solid game – obviously losing Preston again is a blow but Sweeney had another fine game and in my opinion was deserving of the man of the match award over MacDonald, who just did what Macca does really.
We talk about the attacking signings made by the Stags boss, but the Sweeney move could be just as pivotal – he fits how we play, good in the air, composed on the floor and looks a threat going forward, I hope his form continues to develop.
After the six-one thrashing of Accrington in midweek, boss Flitcroft had a tough selection on his hands and in the end – opted to make just once change, Oljenik back to the bench for first choice Logan.
Up against a side who were yet to concede in the league, the Stags found it hard to break through and get efforts on target – CJ Hamilton the first to try on five minutes as he cut in from the right to let an effort fly.
Otis Khan delivered a corner five minutes later, the impressive Ryan Sweeney pealed away from his marker to try and connect, but was unfortunate to just miss Khans’ teasing set play.
Mal Benning then hit the wall with a free kick before, at the other end, conceding a corner – which visiting skipper Luke Prosser connected with at the far post – Logan on hand to palm the ball away.
The first half saw no more real chances of note as both sides enjoyed spells with the ball to no end product, after the break it was a similar story with the visitors enjoying the early pressure.
Craig Davies then replaced Calum Butcher on 58 minutes as Flitcroft went for two up front rather than two in attacking midfield. The tactical tweak seemed to work as the pendulum of play swung back in the Stags favour, but the hosts still couldn’t break the Colchester barrier.
Danny Rose and Neal Bishop then replaced Khan and Mellis with 13 minutes to play, Rose made an instant impact once more winning his battles and forcing Colchester deeper than they’d like, he was heavily involved with the phase of play on 81 minutes, which eventually saw the ball fall for Davies on the edge of the box – his initial effort was blocked but it fell straight back to him, and on the left foot, he unleashed a venomous volley into the top corner to put the Stags in front.
Rose then came close to adding a second with a curling effort but was denied by the keeper with the angle against him, Tyler Walker also flagged offside as he looked to pounce on Sweeney’s lofted pass.
Into four minutes of added time and the Stags thought they’d done enough, however youngster Tyler Walker lost his cool slightly after an altercation with the visiting staff and was then booked for kicking the ball away as the visitors got a free kick.
The Stags did deal with that but not the second phase of play, as they allowed a long throw to be hurled into the area – Conrad Logan came to claim it but dropped the ball under pressure, allowing Sammie Szmodics to get the final touch to take the ball over the line, as rescue a point from the jaws of defeat.
Neal Bishop tried his luck from the restart, but no sooner had the midfielders boot connected with the ball, the referee brought the action to a close.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 1-1 Colchester United
STAGS [3-4-2-1]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis (Neal Bishop 77), Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Danny Rose 77), Calum Butcher (Craig Davies 58), Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Will Atkinson
Referee: Michael Salisbury
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