Craig Priest writes…
Mansfield Town recorded their first win of the new season yesterday, seeing off league-two new-boys Forest Green Rovers and giving a demonstration in to how to win games of football through patience and endeavour.
It was a tough game to manage really, what looked like a nice summers afternoon, had a cutting chill and a strong high wind which the Stags were playing into for the first half, making it difficult to break down a Forest Green side willing to sit everyone behind the ball and waste time from the off – a classic Mark Cooper tactic.
Previous Stags’ sides have been undone by it, by losing their composure and diving into rash tackles and being sucked into “they don’t care so we don’t care” mentality, only to be hit by late goals – this side however we’re having non-of it!
Instead they matched Rovers and called their bluff, standing off for a certain distance to see what, if anything the conference play-off winners would do – with Digby, Byrom et-el stepping in when they passed a certain point – what they did was very cleaver, they tired Coopers side mentally and you could see from the very first whistle of the second half when Mansfield upped the intensity, Forest Green knew they’d lost the game.
What we witnessed yesterday was a lesson in playing football in the mind – it may not have looked pretty and had that have been played out mid-November rather than mid-August, I’m sure a few frustrated boo’s would have crept in – but, it’s games like that and performances like that which will prove the difference between one bag of coal and three.
The attitude and commitment of this bunch plays right into that too, you could see how much Danny Rose wanted to make up for missing the penalty in midweek [not that he had too in my opinion], you could see how much Lee Angol wanted to get off the mark [what a terrific bit of goalkeeping in that one v one] and you could see how much opening his account meant for Paul Anderson, who it also turns out is an excellent hurdler!
All in all another solid team performance, we restricted Forest Green to scraps only – other than a few late corners there were no real moments that were cause for concern, whilst from the very first whistle we looked comfortable with each other – the movement for Roses’ opener highlighted that, Atkinson getting into a good position from White’s strong run whilst Rose read it well again.
One thing which did please me off of the pitch, was the reception our former captain Lee Collins got, both from the crowd and from the Stags camp. Personally I was a little disappointed with his departure, but you can never guess what players are in the pipeline can you? He’ll do well at Forest Green – but it was very nice at full time to see Evans and Lee Taylor embrace Collins, and there was a nice moment when Danny Rose was subbed between the Stags goal scorer and his former skipper.
Onto Accrington next week it is then with the Stags second in the league table – it will be a very different test indeed for Evans men on a pitch which isn’t as smooth as ours or Crewe, it’s also a lot narrower too and we’ll have to adapt our style accordingly, this will test our depth – we’ve a big couple of weeks ahead now, let’s put the points on the board and climb up that league table (sorry Steve, the coal on the trail and climb the mountain) – the grass is always greener on the other side of victory.
Steve Evans reverted back to the line-up which started the season at Crewe at week previously with the exception of two – Paul Digby came in for Jacob Mellis, whilst Krystain Pearce replaced David Murfin.
Despite the afternoon sunshine there was a strong biting wind at the One Call Stadium which Stags were kicking into in the first half, meaning the intensity of the game wasn’t as high as a packed Ian Greaves stand would gave hoped – earlier exchanges were very much breaking down the conditions as much as Coopers Forest Green Side.
Two minutes in Paul Anderson tested the elements with a cross from the left hand side, which slowed in the wind allowing Rovers’ keeper Bradley Collins to come and claim, after Anderson had picked up the ball from a Byrom free kick.
Collins then came to the visitors rescue three minutes later as a hungry looking Angol robbed the ball from ex-Stag Lee Collins thirty yards from goal – Angol raced through un challenged but was denied by the keeper who made himself big and gave Angol little option but to fire straight at him.
Former Stags captain Collins was well received by the home supporters, and it has to be said Steve Evans and Lee Taylor, who both embraced the adaptable defender at the full time whistle – however they’d have been cursing him on 13 minutes, as he denied ex-team mate Danny Rose from advancing following smart movement.
Just over a hundred travelling fans were celebrating on 18 minutes as Christian Doidge rounded Conrad Logan to stroke the ball into the empty net; however he was denied opening the scoring by the linesman’s flag for offside.
Collins nodded an effort over against his former club moments later but the Stags were as troubled at the back as they had been in the previous two games and went about looking for the opening goal – on the half hour, Rovers’ keeper Collins will have been thinking about playing the lottery, somehow palming away an effort as Byrom’s corner was thundered towards goal by Paul Digby.
Six minutes later Byrom again delivered putting Rovers in a tizz – neither Pearce nor Angol could get that killer touch as Collins greatfully smothered up the loose ball.
Angol was unfortunate not to get on the end of a couple of hopeful balls from Benning and White as the full backs looked to create from deep as the half faded away, some were left frustrated but there was a sense that Mansfild had done what they needed – frustrated and tired the opposition, would they be able to cope with a shift in intensity after the break.
The honest answer to that was no, and Mansfield did indeed step things up a gear – Danny Rose nodded wide from a Digby cross on 50 minutes, but made no mistake just two minutes later. Hayden White made a strong run down the right channel and for the first time all afternoon, tricked the defender by back heeling the ball to an advancing Atkinson – his cross was weighted beautifully for Rose, who peeling away from his marker to glance the ball beyond Collins to open the scoring.
Moments after the restart Rose nearly had a second, doing well to weave into the box Rose let fly but was this time denied by the gloves of Collins – Anderson was first to the rebound but was agonisingly denied by Dale Bennett who got back just in the nick of time to spare Rovers blushes.
Mansfield were too hot to handle and soon scorched Rovers once again on 57 minutes when Paul Anderson fired in his first goal for the club, after hitting everything but the back of the net in the opening two matches!
A neat flowing move saw Anderson slotted into the left of the box, initially his shot was saved by the keeper, who provided an excellent assist for Anderson to have another go – this time, he made no mistake in finding the back of the net and tore away like a man possessed to celebrate!
Anderson had another pop on 64 minutes, this time from the edge of the area on the volley – but couldn’t keep his effort down, since his goal, the former Forest man did not stop running and showed his expert hurdling skills a minute later, when he jumped an advertising board, ran half way up the Quarry Lane End steps before doing a U-Turn and heading back onto the pitch, when chasing in a hopeful cut back from Rose, a clear sign of Mansfield’s intent to show no arrogance.
The Mansfield vice-captain then looked to turn provider on 67 minutes, knocking the ball beyond former Notts County man Liam Noble to deliver hard and low across the box – any sort of touch and it would have been 3-0, alas the ball zipped away.
Jimmy Spencer replaced goal scorer Rose on 70 minutes, Rose receiving a standing ovation as he made way for the former Plymouth man who went onto put the ball into the empty net two minutes later, however the flag for offside was already up, as fellow substitute Omari Sterling-James held the ball for too long before playing in Spencer, who to be fair had made a very good run.
Paul Digby saw a left footed effort saved with 12 minutes to go as the Stags looked for a third, they created a few further openings as the clock ticked down but were put under pressure by the visitors from a couple of corners – but Mansfield saw it through to the death claiming three valuable points in the process, moving up to second in the league table with a fine demonstration on how to play football with patience and resilience.
FULL TIME | Stags 2-0 Forest Green Rovers
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Krystian Pearce – Mal Benning
Will Atkinson (Alfie Potter 88) – Joel Byrom – Paul Digby – Paul Anderson
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 70) – Lee Angol (Omari Sterling-James 60)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Rhys Bennett, Jacob Mellis, CJ Hamilton
Attendance | 3,826 (147)
Referee | Carl Boyeson
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