Sky Bet League Two, Saturday 7th August | Mansfield Town 2 (Maris, Clarke) Newport County 1
Goals from midfielders George Maris and skipper Ollie Clarke were enough to see off Newport County, sealing back to back league two wins for Clough’s men – making home turf feel very comfortable indeed.
Yet the manner the Stags exited the cup in midweek against Preston North End had sent ripples through the squad, with Newport County capitalising on another defence error to get back into the game immediately after the Stags had scored the first.
The error saw a goal kick from Newport bounce straight over both central defenders in Perch and Rawson – both at fault, however we should not ever be vulnerable from an opponent’s goal kick, and if one misses the first header, the other must be switched on enough to sweep up – rather than play the role of a mimic!
I do rate both Perch and Rawson, the latter has shown tremendous improvement since Clough came in – BUT, he’s still a relatively young centre half at 25, I’m not for a second saying I want him out of the team, I just think, he and the other young members of the squad, would benefit from another experienced (29+) commanding defender whose played consistently at a higher level – and that’s not doing Perch a disservice either, it’s easy to forget that up until last season, Perch was predominantly a central midfielder who would occasionally fill in at right back.
Negatives out of the way, yes that’s all I have bar the fact the club REALLY need to utilise the space on the car park for a new club shop / programme booth, it’s time for the positives!
Our counter attacking play was sublime to watch and every time we went forward I genuinely felt we could score, and that’s not just from the front two of Johnson and Hawkins – they really compliment the midfield with the cleverness to hold and drop deep – almost like a coiled spring in the Stags armoury ready to ping.
What that does is really allow George Maris to showcase what he made his name for, albeit in a far deeper role than the one he operated so successfully at Cambridge United. He’s the heartbeat to our side when we counter, finding pockets of space to come, collect and move the ball on from – winning tackles all over the pitch, almost like a coin pusher, trying to tip the Stags over the edge.
Proof was in the pudding for his goal, Clough has given his midfielders (and front line) licence to get shots off from outside of the box, even if the Newport keeper gets a clean save on Maris’ shot – he pushes back out into play and you’ve got four or five bodies who probably tuck home the rebound.
There’s still work to do and other options to play, Colchester and Bradford will prove tough opponents – I’d be happy at four points from those games. I’d be even happier with those errors being rectified and a new face to come in and take the number five shirt! For now though – I’ll take yesterday’s three points, and a third place standing in the league table – it’s great having football back isn’t it!
STAGS: Nathan Bishop | Kellan Gordon (Elliott Hewitt 72), Farrend Rawson, James Perch, Stephen McLaughlin | George Maris, Ollie Clarke ©, Stephen Quinn (Jordan Bowery 90), Rhys Oates (George Lapslie 65) | Danny Johnson, Oli Hawkins UNUSED SUBS: George Shelvy [GK], Ryan Birk, Ryan Strirk, Tyrese Sinclair
Attendance: 3,793 (156)
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