Mansfield Town 2-2 Morecambe (Pearce, Sterling James) – Morecambe win 6-5 on Penalties | Carabao Cup First Round |Tuesday 13th August 2019 | One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Craig Priest writes…
Three games into the John Dempster era at Mansfield Town and already questions are being asked about the rookie manager’s capability to deliver the goods. Whilst it’s easy to get wrapped up in the emotion and frustration of not winning games, I think it’s time to take a step back and look at the two different perspectives, before we all implode.
Last night’s cup exit to Morecambe, via a penalty shootout, puts more pressure on the already thinning ice of the Stags support – and I’ll come to that in a minute, but first, lets look at the two perspectives rather than get caught in the headlines.
It all boils down to if three draws from three games is good enough or not? I think I’ve got serious splinters where I don’t want them, because on the one hand it’s a rookie manager coming in to manager a senior team for the first time with a large proportion of players who aren’t his – and yet despite some woeful errors at the back, the team has fought back and been very close to winning all three games.
Yet on the other hand, there’s a massive hangover from last season – did Flitcroft really deserve to go, would he deliver with this squad? Should we have appointed a more experienced manager? Do last season’s players want to play under this manager? The questions go on.
I will always support whoever is the manager of Mansfield Town FC, unless it’s David Holdsworth, and give John Dempster my 100% backing to erase the errors and get some wins on the board – however I do believe he’s got a big task on his hands to eradicate those errors, because whilst we may have an unbeaten start and some fight about us – something isn’t right, especially at the back.
Like I said after the league game with Morecambe, I’ll never target one particular player – but I can’t ignore that Conrad Logan is taking a fair amount of abuse at the moment. His performances haven’t been up to scratch for me and the defence don’t entirely look comfortable, yes they need to shoulder the blame too somewhat, but the root of every team is the goalkeeper, and Logan’s form at the moment – similar to a star striker unable to find the net or a midfielder who can’t pass or tackle – has to be questioned.
Aidan Stone was brought in to provide some competition until Oljenik is ready to compete, I honestly felt he may get an opportunity last night being a cup game but wasn’t – if the management team feel he [Stone] isn’t ready for first team football, then I’d possibly look at brining another keeper in on loan who has that extra layer of experience to at least make Logan fight for his shirt – serious competition is healthy and could have a positive effect on the Stags number one as it did towards the back end of last season, bringing out some of his best displays.
I’m not targeting Logan, I simply want to see him at his best for his sake as much as ours because being jeered by your own supporters must be woeful to take, and is embarrassing from our perspective. Have an opinion by all means, but it’s no wonder players snap and react when things like that are happening.
Honestly reading this blog back so far is reminding me how much of a toxic environment we’re creating at the moment and that makes me sick, I’ve not felt like that since we were relegated and we’re creating it ourselves through this pent-up frustration and hurt which has been created since promotion failed and Flitcroft was sacked.
We’ve got to get over it and quick, this is a new season with a new manager with new ideas. We 100% should be winning a game in normal time playing against ten men for 70+ minutes but for whatever reason this EARLY in the season just can’t get that click – the important thing for the league games is that we don’t lose and that we fight to turn draws into wins – just as we did under the old regime.
This attitude goes for us as supporters, but likewise the players, many of whom – to end on something which resembles positivity – have already showed signs of moving on and getting better.
Otis Khan and Danny Rose are two examples of that in more senior terms, but as last night’s showing proved – the younger players are going to develop too with Alistair Smith having a fine game in the middle of the park last night, looking composed on the ball.
We have a good opportunity now to up our game and create a good run of form as we head to Carlisle on Saturday, I for one thoroughly believe the management and the squad have enough about them to iron out the creases – who knows in a weeks’ time, our perspective could be very different indeed, in a positive way.
You know, I found a £10 note this morning, crumpled in an old coat pocket. I’ve not thrown it because it looks tired or doesn’t have the feel of a new one – it still has the same value and the same possibilities for me as a new one – that’s the same for the Stags, we may be a tad crumpled and disjointed right now to what we expect and desire it doesn’t mean we can’t thrive.
With Matt Preston joining Jacob Mellis in the stands suspended, a tweak in formation saw Hayden White reintroduced as one of five changes from Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the same opponents – as Ryan Sweeney, Dion Donohue, Alistair Smith and Andy Cook were also brought into the starting line-up.
Mansfield began well with Andy Cook particularly impressing, with the front man having a couple of early chances to test the visiting keeper but as has become customary, the visitors took the lead on 18 minutes as Steve Old nodded in from a corner which Mansfield should have dealt with.
A red card then followed, shock, not for Mansfield! Morecambe’s Conlan shown a straight red card for a challenge on Gordon.
Against ten men the Stags should have fought their way back into the game sooner but were denied by the crossbar on 25 minutes as Cook connected with Benning’s delivery. Further efforts from Cook, Gordon, Smith and Benning followed, but at the break Mansfield trailed by a goal to nil.
Willem Tomlinson replaced Donohue as the second half got underway but despite having a number of chances, the Stags couldn’t beat the visiting keeper nor break down the visiting back line, marshalled expertly by former Stag Richie Sutton.
Logan then did well to deny Cranston on 54 minutes before two minutes later Pearce levelled things for the Stags, converting the loose ball from Sweeney’s saved header.
Mansfield being level lasted a matter of two minutes, as Steve Old was allowed another free header to restore the ten-man visitors advantage – Mansfield were all over the place.
Danny Rose and Omari Sterling-James were brought on with 66 minutes played and it was the latter who drew Mansfield back level three minutes later with a fine low strike.
The Stags then set about trying to find a winner but desire a man advantage couldn’t find away through – Alistair Smith came the closest to finding a winner with seconds remaining as his long range drive grazed the top of the bar.
A penalty shootout then followed and for the second shoot-out in a row, Mansfield were beaten, this time the Stags spot-kicks were better than the ill-fated Newport shootout which ended the 2018-19 campaign, but ultimately a poor penalty from Sweeney which sailed over the bar during sudden death, saw Mansfield dumped out of the cup at round one.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 2-2 Morecambe | PENS Mansfield Town 5-6 Morecambe | Attendance 1,884 (66)
Shootout | Khan SAVED, Sterling-James MISSED, Benning SCORED, Rose SCORED, Pearce SCORED, Tomlinson SCORED, Smith SCORED, Sweeney MISSED
STAGS: [3-4-1-2] Conrad Logan | Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney | Kellan Gordon, Alistair Smith, Dion Donohue (Willem Tomlinson 46), Mal Benning | Otis Khan | CJ Hamilton (Omari Sterling-James 66), Andy Cook (Danny Rose 66) Unused Subs: Aidan Stone, James Clarke, Tyrese Sinclair, Lewis Gibbens
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