Mansfield Town 0-0 Stevenage | Sky Bet League Two | Saturday 24th August 2019 | One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Craig Priest writes…
Following the ridiculous capitulation in midweek as the Stags lost to Leyton Orient, Mansfield Town needed a big reaction to spark this stuttering season into life – a 0-0 draw against struggling Stevenage hardly suggests we saw the reaction we wanted, or – does it?
On paper you’d say no, but when you factor in the fact John Dempster’s men were extremely thin on the ground with numbers due to injuries, you’d probably say yes.
I have to admit that walking away from the One Call Stadium, I did so with a massive weight of disappointment and frustration hanging over me as given the number of chances created by the Stags, three points should have been ours.
Yet on reflection, you have to give immense credit to Stevenage who defended for their lives and pulled off some unbelievable blocks, whilst Paul Farman in the Stevenage goal also made a string of incredible saves.
Also whilst we’re on the subject of defending well, you’ve got to praise the Stags who so far this season, apart from Carlisle away, have been weak at best at the back – so to keep a clean sheet and reduce the visitors to just one clear cut effort, saved well by Logan, is certainly a step in the right direction.
Mansfield were without several key players and were pretty short across the pitch, missing Pearce, White and Gordon from the back, Bishop from midfield and both new strikers Cook and Maynard – meaning the bench was made up entirely of young players with the exception of Sterling-James, although to be fair he’s hardly got much Football League experience under his belt either.
With all those big hitter missing, Dempster was forced into a system change as players failed fitness tests prior to kick-off – the line-up including 19 year old James Clarke who made his full Football League debut. Whilst during some stages of the match it felt like square pegs in round holes and looked very disjointed, you have to say the Stags did enough to control the game in their quest for three points.
Many will argue that given Stevenage hadn’t scored all season and had injury problems of their own, it wasn’t a massive thing to achieve and match up to – but given how turbulent, and sometimes toxic, things have been – a 0-0 draw on reflection now is a positive.
The games however come thick and fast and with the Stags already thread bare any more injuries or suspensions could prove the straw that broke the camels back, and whilst we don’t need numbers of the sake of numbers, we perhaps need one or two more experienced reinforcements to come in and bolster the ranks to kick-start our campaign – especially in midfield and up front.
Ending on a positive, whilst Dempster was forced into naming a young bench – it’s good to see them given the opportunity to shine which will undoubtedly happen further on Tuesday evening as the Stags welcome Everton U23s in the Leaasing.com trophy (EFL Trophy) for the first group stage game.
Let’s get behind them and pull together in the face of adversity – because if we do, getting through to the other side and reaping the rewards will be more special, and certainly more deserved.
-- match recap --
John Dempster was forced into changes as the Stags’ injury crisis worsened – Hayden White & Kellan Gordon both picked up knocks as a resilt of Tuesday’s defeat whilst striker Nicky Maynard missed out with a Grade One hamstring tear. Skipper Krystian Pearce failed a fitness test ahead of kick-off, with an ankle injury sustained during training.
Dempster was also without Bishop in midfield but welcomed back Matt Preston and Jacob Mellis from suspension, the latter issuing a statement prior to kick-off regarding his off-field conduct.
19 Year Old James Clarke came into the fold as the Stags went 4-4-2, joining the aforementioned duo in coming into the starting line-up, CJ Hamilton was also recalled as was Khan, who partnered Rose up front – Mal Bennning was handed the captaincy.
Matt Preston was on hand five minutes in to make a strong block from Taylor’s early effort as the visitors looked for their first league goal of the season, a minute later at the other end Hamilton found MacDonald inside the box – but the midfielder sliced his effort wide of the target.
Played in blistering heat, Danny Rose was keen to continuing his blistering start to the season but was denied a backwards header on nine minutes from Khan’s free-kick, Alex MacDonald then unleashed a beauty from distance, spilled but quickly recovered by Farman with no Stags body quick enough to pounce.
Conrad Logan rescued the Stags on 12 minutes with a good save to deny Taylor before a wonderful fluid move from the Stags moments later accumulated with Tomlinson driving wide from the edge of the area – further efforts from Khan and Benning tested Stevenage before Sweeney converted on 36 minutes – denied by the offside flag.
After the break more frustration followed for the Stags as they did well to keep the visitors at bay, Jacob Mellis hit a powerful drive just wide on 51 minutes before further efforts from Rose, Khan and Benning all went unrewarded before Sterling-James replaced Khan.
Alex MacDonald was next to strike but sent a free-kick over the bar on 71 minutes, before five minutes later being involved in what looked a certain goal – Rose denied by a fine save from Farman before the Stevenage keeper and a defender both threw themselves in the way of MacDonald’s goal bound effort.
MacDonald was denied again with two minutes to play and saw his strike cleared off of the line by Wildin, before youngster Jimmy Knowles came on for his Football League and Stags debut as the clock moved towards injury time – deep into which Knowles crossed beautifully for Rose, who was so unfortunate to not connect at the far post for what would have been a match-winning strike, alas the full time whistle followed with the scores firmly locked.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 0-0 Stevenage | Attendance 3,982 (97)
STAGS: [4-4-2] Conrad Logan | James Clarke, Matt Preston, Ryan Sweeney, Mal Benning © | Alex MacDonald (Jimmy Knowles 89), Willem Tomlinson, Jacob Mellis, CJ Hamilton | Otis Khan (Omari Sterling-James 69), Danny Rose Unused Subs: Aidan Stone, Jason Law, Lewis Gibbens, Alistair Smith, Tyrese Sinclair
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