Craig Priest writes….
When you take a long journey but get diverted off of track, sometimes you start to panic, worry and generally get anxious about when the diversion will end and normality can be restored. The scenic route, as it’s sometimes known, contains many twists and turns of the completely unexpected – and no matter how hard I try, I can’t think of any better way than to sum up yesterday’s 3-2 win at Yeovil.
Somehow the victory has given us two opportunities to finish the 2017/18 campaign IN the League Two play-offs, one-nil down and playing with no real conviction at half-time, I did not see that coming at all.
Deep down I think we’ve left it too late as personally I think Lincoln contain more fight than ourselves and will therefore beat Yeovil next weekend at Sincil Bank, where they are always backed by a great support – whilst Coventry host Morecambe who need to win to keep distance between themselves and Barnet who will beat already relegated Chesterfield. I think the pressure will be too much for Morecambe and Barnet have something about them under Martin Allen who have lost only twice since Martin Allen’s 140th return.
BUT! Anything can happen in football and IF Mansfield Town can show the same fight and desire as they did in the second half yesterday, then this season may not be over afterall – all we can do is our job.
And do you know what, so long as the Stags come out next Saturday and fight from the first second to the last and give EVERYTHING they’ve got – I won’t care if they don’t make it, because they’ll have ended collectively fighting for the cause and that means more to me than anything else.
That’s what I saw yesterday afternoon in Yeovil – Character. FINALLY throwing bodies in front of things in an attacking situation, not folding when things went against us and importantly, having a go!
A lot is said about the pressure on the players and manager and next weekend it will be huge, Flitcroft has to get it tactically right next weekend which he didn’t yesterday – Alfie Potter must have been furious to be subbed when he was, but why on earth was CJ Hamilton NOT in the starting line-up in the first place?! That said, at least he had the gumption to throw on Angol at half-time and push bodies forward.
Next weekend needs to be the same; I do not want to see us setting up in a 4-4-2 – I want the kitchen sink being thrown at Crawley, 3-4-3 and if things aren’t happening with twenty minutes to go, let’s click the classic ‘OVERLOAD’ button and play 1-10!
Seriously though, us supporters have watched several twists and turns – and whilst sometimes we may get angry, it’s just deflation because we know good that group of players can be when you put the effort in. We’re 10000000000000000000000% behind you week in week out, YES we should have been celebrating automatic promotion now like Luton or Wycombe BUT we’re not and as such must believe in our own abilities to go on and FIGHT for the finish we want.
So from here on in, let’s banish talk of who should be in charge next season [Yes, I know we are guilty of that on the podcast] and about any dressing room fall-outs. The only talk should be 100% about how we support Mansfield Town FC and how we back them to defy the odds and deliver the play-offs.
Together we can do this – I mean, are you really ready to spend your Saturday’s WITHOUT football?
Despite penning a new deal, CJ Hamilton was left out of the starting eleven in favour of Jacob Mellis, thus moving Alex MacDonald back out wide to the right, and Potter to the left.
It was MacDonald who tried to open the scoring early with a long range first minute effort, but it was more of a range finder than anything else as the Stags knew they needed three points to stay in the play-off hunt – Danny Rose then won a Stags corner which Benning floated in beautifully for the excellent Paul Digby, who sent a header crashing into the side netting.
Another corner on 13 minutes came close to picking out Rose but the in-swinging ball was too heavy for the leading front man who is yet to score his first Stags goal since being reunited with old boss from his Bury scoring days, David Flitcroft.
Five minutes later disaster, and yet the inevitable, struck – as Yeovil took the lead through Bevis Mugabi, able to convert practically unmarked after Omar Sowunmi’s run had taken two Stags markers with him.
The Stags needed to turn the game on its head and quickly, as news filtered through that Coventry were tearing Cheltenham into the ground. Rhys Bennett came close to levelling things up but was denied by the offside flag before the tenacious Paul Digby lofted a beautiful cross into Rose, a Yeovil body getting a vital touch to divert it away for a corner as Rose loomed.
CJ Hamilton then replaced Potter on 34 minutes as the Stags looked to open up the hosts, and just four minutes later good interchanging play between the lightening quick winger and Mal Benning saw the latter send in a cross, Artur Krysiak equal to it in the home goal however.
Lee Angol replaced Will Atkinson at the break as the stags went 4-3-3 and it nearly paid off as Rose hammered towards goal, his effort was always rising though – but on 49 minutes, an absolute scramble saw Angol get the vital final touch as the ball scopped over the line to pull the Stags level.
GAME ON! Actually, the referee had other ideas and soon awarded Yeovil a penalty as Pearce appeared to foul his marker following a home corner, Francois Zoko showed no mercy as he sent Logan the wrong way and restored the hosts’ lead.
Angol then saw an effort blocked on the hour before Rose volleyed through the crowd four minutes later, sadly Roses’ effort was way off target but we all felt his frustration and the venom in which it was hit – the Stags were not quitting this time around.
Sure enough on 70 minutes the Stags pressure paid off and as a Lee Angol free kick struck a hand in the wall inside the box, a penalty was awarded – Kane Hemmings made no mistake in making it 2-2. Little celebration from the Stags front man, a draw was not enough.
The Stags needed a hero and were coming forward at a canter and were finally rewarded after CJ Hamilton was cropped on the edge of the box on 75 minutes, up stepped Lee Angol who finally converted with an excellent hit, finding the net via the underside of the bar to put the Stags 3-2 up.
Another would have made things comfortable and not require 338 travelling fans to have heart surgery but to the Stags players credit, the tried and made sure, through nine minutes of added on time which saw a red card for Sowunmi, that the job was done.
Coventry had beaten Cheltenham in style but a defeat for Lincoln at Champions Accrington Stanley meant the Stags have TWO chances to get in the play-offs, all they need to do is win and hope either Coventry OR Lincoln lose – it’s then down to goal difference STAGS are on +15, Lincoln on +16 and Coventry, thanks to their pummelling of Cheltenham, are on +17. A win for the Stags plus a DRAW for either side is NOT enough. COME ON!
FULL TIME: Yeovil Town 2-3 Stags
STAGS [4-4-2 / 4-3-3 SECOND HALF]
Paul Digby (Adam King 90) – Krystain Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter (CJ Hamilton 34) – Jacob Mellis – Will Atkinson (Lee Angol HT) – Alex MacDonald
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Johnny Hunt, Joel Byrom, Jordan Graham
Attendance: 3,500 (388)
Referee: Charles Breakspear, Assistants: Michael Webb and Simon Shaw. Fourth Official: Samuel Ogles.
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