Craig Priest writes….
With the spring afternoons starting to break through the clouds, the end of the season is approaching in the distance – and with supporters up and down the land knowing what the run-in means for their team, it’s on afternoon’s such as Saturday where reactions could prove the critical difference.
In the grand scheme of things a point against Coventry is far better than capitulating and losing – however playing for a good percentage of the game against ten men, there’s a frustratingly chilling bite of air in the otherwise sunny landscape.
It’s naturally that stutters and stumbles will happen and you can’t fault the players endeavours as sometimes things just don’t fall your way, for example the penalty shout on Ricky Miller for which he was booked for simulation. Teams like Coventry won’t sit back and die with ten men, they’ll make it hard for you in every way they can – it’s how you react to that and then how your react the following week which counts.
Personally I don’t think we were clinical enough and with the early man advantage should have gambled to get that extra cushion to take the game, ultimately using just two substitutes rather than all three proved the undoing as we ran out of legs and ideas.
I can see why Evans opted for Mellis but having not played centrally with Alex MacDonald in a match situation, it hindered rather than helped as Coventry moved bodies into the middle and despite having a man less, made it difficult for us to get going.
Also, why not use that final substitution we had to get Atkinson alongside Mellis (thus solving the pairing issue) and get MacDonald wide, as Potter wasn’t having his greatest afternoon up against Ryan Haynes.
Alas though it’s all hindsight and a point onto our tally is better than all three onto someone else’s – we have momentum on our side and must just react, using the full energy of the squad to focus game by game, with our next being Stevenage away on Saturday.
It was as you were once again for Steve Evans who named the same starting line-up and bench as the previous two games, it was start as you finished too for the Stags, who found themselves under emended pressure from the first whistle as the visitors enjoyed three successive corners, Conrad Logan on hand with the second to beat away Rod McDonald’s powerful header.
The Stags nearly caught the visitors out over the top on ten minutes as Benning and MacDonald combined to feed CJ Hamilton, the pacey winger just unable to get a boot around the body of Jordan Willis who watched the ball out of play.
Direct play then saw the visitors down to ten men as Logan’s long punt found Rose free on goal, the leading marksman was brought down on the edge of the box by Willis who was the last defender, and as such protested little at the sight of the straight red card.
The resulting free-kick gave Mansfield another advantage – a goal! Alex MacDonald whipped one low through the wall, Kane Hemmings’ boot the one which was judged to have had the last touch, as the set play dribbled into the bottom corner.
A man up and a goal up saw the Stags take a foot hold of the game, but with it came fe clear cut chances – as good possession coupled with poor touches from Hamilton, Anderson and Potter equalled squandered opportunities for a second – Alex MacDonald’s long range drive caused little trouble for Lee Burge on 23 minutes, seven minutes later Rhys Bennett headed over an Alfie Potter cross.
The excellent Lee Burge then denied the Stags a second with five to go before the break as Hamilton countered down the right hand side following a poor Coventry corner – Hamilton, just inside the box, fired straight at a grounded Burge – rather than try and lift the ball over the Sky Blues number one.
Kane Hemmings also spurned a chance three minutes later, after Anderson had delivered from the right, heading wide of the target.
Mansfield started the second half with fire and hunger as Hamilton and Anderson caused problem after problem down either side, on 62 minutes Lee Burge again came to Coventry’s rescue as Hamilton picked out Hemmings’ – the Oxford loanee’s shot cannoned off the legs of Burge and away.
Alex MacDonald whistled one wide on 65 minutes from distance but five minutes later the visitors had a golden chance to draw level – as MacDonald bundled over Clarke-Harris inside the box – Conrad Logan was left with egg on his face after failed attempts at mind game with Clarke-Harris, who subsequently converted the spot-kick for 1-1 – after Logan had been yellow carded.
At 1-1 the game was balanced despite the stags numerical advantage, the introduction of Miller and Mellis did little and the Stags had to wait until the 82nd minute for another chance – MacDonald again stepping up top hit a free-kick, denied however by a good save from Burge.
With three minutes to go Miller went down in the box by got nothing bar a yellow card for simulation, whilst after four minutes of stoppage time, the game ended level and with results elsewhere – the Stags dropped a place to fifth with a game in hand.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-1 Coventry
Paul Anderson – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Adam King (Jacob Mellis 80) – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Ricky Miller 74)
Unused substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Zander Diamond, Will Atkinson, Jimmy Spencer, Matt Penney
Referee: Michael Salisbury Assistants: Peter Gooch & Duncan Street Fourth Official Mark Dwyer
Attendance 6,105 (1,523)
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