Craig Priest writes…
In the blockbuster movies and bestselling novels, the protagonists when faced with a challenge find it within themselves to stand and make a challenge. They’ll stare down the face of a shotgun, they’ll walk through fire and crawl on broken glass. They’ll be heroes. Imagine Mansfield Town FC’s players to be the protagonists, imagine the match against Colchester to be the setting – did they stand and deliver? A 2-0 defeat say’s quite simply… No.
There are always inspiring figures in these setting’s – someone to say something like “You’re never going to live if you’re too scared to die” in this instance, that man would be Steve Evans, but rather than channel his inner Churchill, all he does in his most match comments is over-hype the players and have a pop at the fans – and not only does that frustrate me, it also disappoints me.
Naturally they’ll have been a selection of fans who went OTT as the players came across, but also they have a right to show their frustrations after working hard to come and watch what was essentially a gutless display, with no heart or desire to play for Mansfield Town Football Club.
The way Evans describes it, it’d seem like for the entirety of the second half, Mansfield played fluid and slick football firing shot after shot at goal, only to be denied by everything possible. He describes it like Mansfield ran their socks off and did everything in their power to mount a comeback – the fact is, they didn’t. Nobody seemed to care. Had they cared, had they battled like galactic warriors to get back into the game, 100% they’d have been applauded off and any frustration would have been non-existent.
The reality is, we were out played by a dull Colchester side who scored two easy goals and saw the game out – we were flat, we lacked energy and leadership, we had no bite or urgency about us whatsoever. I hate comparing us to Luton BUT in the game where we capitulated and drew 2-2 from a 2-0 lead, Luton were poor but never gave up, they had hope and flare and THAT is the difference. In the same position, the only hope we had was ‘none in hell’ and the only flare? Well that’d be in Paul Raynor or Steve Evans wardrobe circa the 1970s and 80s.
I can picture it now, the intense music is blurring as the battlefield comes into view and tension rises – Mansfield Town your supporters need you, a leader must step up, and then, Mike Bassett Manager (The ITV Series) “Run away lads, there’s no shame in running away” bellows the manager. Pathetic, I might do that at work next week and then see how I pay my bills for the rest of the year.
In places we we’re OK, I thought Sterling-James was excellent and showed the spark we needed going forwards, we looked hungry to be fair at 0-0 but as soon as we conceded such a week goal we fell apart and you could read from the body language that even at 1-0 down with all that time left to play, it was going to be a long way bloody home.
We had about five minutes in the second half where, had we scored, I’d be writing about an epic comeback – but we ran out of steam far too quickly, and resorted to smashing the ball forward – which the two centre backs lapped up all afternoon.
It’s fair to say yesterday is a memory that won’t ever last – we need to come together now and get our house in order, otherwise – kiss goodbye to your dreams of something special, because gutless runaways never make heroes.
Steve Evans made one change from the previous week’s victory over Notts County as Omari Sterling-James replaced the injured Alfie Potter, the hosts started well with Pearce clearing a first minute drive into the area from Kane Vincent-Young, before moments later the ball dropped free for Mikael Mandron – the frenchmans effort sailed over Logans bar.
Kane Hemmings did well to pick out Sterling-James on seven minutes the wide playing front man dragged a shot into the middle which Frankie Kent scrambled away, the Stags then had another opportunity three minutes later as Will Atkinson sprayed the ball wide to Johnny Hunt – Atkinson then bombed on into the area to meet the full backs cross, heading narrowly wide of the target.
Atkinson would come close again on 17 minutes, this time firing over from the edge of the box, after a neat give and go between Rose and MacDonald created space – Danny Rose then called the home keeper Sam Walker into action, Rose firing a dipping following after an Ariel 1-2 with Hemmings.
The host sprung the Stags backline on 27 minutes, Brandon Hanlan was denied by on rushing Logan – however two minutes later, Logan was beaten and the Stags undone. Sterling-James tripped Sean Murray on the edge of the box, and from the resulting set-play, the ball was rolled short to the feet of Murray who drove the ball low into the net.
In replay Johnny Hunt swung in a cross for Danny Rose, his header was held by Walker before Alex MacDonald went on a mazey run only to fire harmlessly wide. The hosts then grabbed their second with ten minutes to go before the break as the Stags stood and ball watched, Murray turned provider as he swung in a left sided cross – Mandron the first too it to nod the ball home.
Rhys Bennett replaced Sterling-James at the break with Anderson moving from right back to right wing – Alex MacDonald had half shouts for a penalty turned down on 52 minutes, before two minutes later, the golden chance to turn the game fell the way of Danny Rose – throwing himself at MacDonald’s cross but turning the ball over.
The hour mark came and went and went and on 64 minutes, Anderson and Hemmings were replaced by Angol and Mellis as the Stags went 3-4-1-2 with Hunt moving onto the left hand side of midfield, MacDonald to the right and Mellis just behind Angol and Rose in a free role.
The creative spark failed to ignite the fire however and Conrad Logan had to prevent a Colchester third on 76 minutes as Murray beat the offside trap to race into the box, Mansfield’s number one blocking with his legs.
Lee Angol tried his luck with seven minutes to go but the host just mopped up like routine pub cleaners – at the other end, Murray squandered another chance to make it three-nil with four minutes to go and with that, the sound of the referee’s full time whistle couldn’t come quickly enough for the Stags faithful.
FULL TIME: Colchester United 2-0 Stags
Paul Anderson (Jacob Mellis 64) – Krystain Pearce © - David Mirfin – Johnny Hunt
Omari Sterling-James (Rhys Bennett HT) – Calum Butcher – Will Atkinson – Alex MacDonald
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Lee Angol 64)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Digby, Jimmy Spencer, CJ Hamilton
REFEREE: John Busby
Attendance: 3,262 (339)
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