Craig Priest writes…
A 91st minute goal from former Mansfield front man Billy Kee sent Stags fans home from horrible Accrington what on earth the bookmakers had seen in backing the club for Promotion as Champions – as the Stags were beaten 2-1.
On a horrible day afternoon were the cutting wind, spitting rain and then blinding sun couldn’t make their minds up over who would stay at the front of the weather cue, Mansfield in my view we’re below par and didn’t do the one thing that “champions” need to do – the nitty gritty, the dirty and ugly jobs – the smash and grab.
According to the stats, Accrington had three shots on target – two of them found the back of the net – proving once more it’s not about how many chances your create or how pretty you try and play – goals win games.
The hosts were made to play into the wind for the first half and seemed contempt to play the ball for the back, for the most part we closed down and kept the club that wouldn’t die penned into their own half – yet a lack of creativity absolutely cost us dear.
Steve Evans opted to effectively play three wings across the midfield with four at the back, having watched us pen Accrington in for 45 minutes [OK we got caught and punished one but levelled] – I’d have gambled with three at the back and brought Byrom, then Mellis, on and really gone for the Stanley juggler, it was there for the taking and we just didn’t accept the invitation – instead Accrington did with a late corner, the less said about that the better. Losing the game from a set-play again… shock horror.
I’m a huge fan of Atkinson, Anderson and Digby – I think CJ Hamilton has bags of talent too – not for a second am I questioning the work rate of any of them, but there was one key ingredient missing – Joel Byrom! If you add Byrom in and make it a midfield five, you’ve three creative players [Anderson/ CJ wide and Atkinson box to box] with Byrom and Digby sitting in front of the back line [which would be a three in this instance] to break things up – the latter (Digby) can play in the back four if there are spells where we have to go to a flat four-four-two.
Evans has assembled this squad to compete and be flexible, yet when it comes to being and playing ugly – they didn’t utilise it. My frustration comes in not losing the game, I saw that coming a mile off, it’s how John Coleman’s sides have always been successful – it comes in having the ability to go swimming in the deepest waters, but shying away and having a paddle in the shallow end – that’s not going to win you promotion.
What’s needed now is a response [and YES an out and out goal scorer – another topic for later in the week] to ensure that when it comes to the crunch, this defeat won’t cost us. You have to go to Accrington and places of that ilk and not get beat, it’s the fine lines.
Boss Steve Evans made one chance from the side to beat Forest Green, Winger CJ Hamilton replaced central midfielder and former Accrington man Joel Byrom - a move which saw us play a flat 4-4-2 with three wingers in the midfieler, Atkinson and Anderson alternating between the central role, again with tremendous work rate.
Playing with the wind behind them was a key ingredient and it appeared that skipper Zander Diamond had won the toss and opted to switch ends, meaning Accrington had the horrible task of playing into the gusting wind and thus – restricting them to playing short.
Mansfield needed to start on the front foot and did, Will Atkinson’s trickery saw him weave through the middle and win the Stags a free kick in a central position - Lee Angol stepped up to try and curl one in… the ball sailed over.
The Stags were playing some good stuff early doors despite the testing conditions, fluidity between White and Hamilton saw the latter cut in and fire across the box – Angol unfortunate to see the home keeper Aaron Chapman gather first with four minutes played – Paul Anderson then tested the water four minutes later, but after finding space, dragged his long range shot wide of the target.
Accrington then proved that all you need is one chance to chance the game, and did so on ten minutes as a right sided throw in found the feet of Janoi Donacien who clipped the ball into the box – the dangerous Kayden Jackson beat both Pearce and Diamond and controlled the ball, drove the ball into a pockt of space and cooly slotted beneath Logan.
The Stags looked for a response and tested the water with a few teasing crosses and a deep Benning free kick which the keeper had to punch clear on 20 minutes, five minutes later pulling the game level as Lee angol grabbed his first league goal, after a successful spell in pre-season.
With the wind behind him, Conrad Logan went route one and smashed the ball up park to Danny Rose to beat Mark Hughes in the air – his flick on played Lee Angol into the box who span away from his marker Ben Richards-Everton, before a lucky touch evaded the keeper, the former Peterborough man composed himself and did the rest with his left foot in front of the travelling supporters.
The goal to bring the Stags level had given them a much needed second wind and they began restricting Stanley to very little beyond the half way line, Mal Benning nearly delivered for a Stags second on 33 minutes – skipper Zander Diamond sending a forceful header wide from the left backs deep free kick.
Five minutes later the interceptor Paul Digby popped up from nowhere to fizzled an effort hard and low, but ultimately wide of Chapman’s goal, before with the clock running down, Ziamond again connected with Benning ste-play, this time a corner on the stroke of half-time, again the same result though as the Mansfield Captain sent the ball wide.
After the break Mansfield had the wind to contend with but started OK, Accrington were again contempt to play short from the back and Danny Rose nearly embarrassed Chapman as he close down a clearance, fortunately for the hosts – nothing came of it.
Lee Angol won the Stags a corner on 65 minutes with Mal Benning again sending in a ball which the Stags headed wide of the target, this time Krystian Pearce guilty of heading wide as Mansfield looked to get ahead.
Danny Rose looked hungry on 73 minutes after being slotted in by Angol, but strong challenges denied the Stags leading scorer his third in as many league games, whilst at the other end a matter of minutes later – Mal Benning had to make a last ditch clearance, as the Stags completely lost all focus and allowed the ball to run free in the area – Benning denying the consistent threat of Jackson his second of the game, what an inspired purchase he looks to be for Stanley, after joining from Barnsley for an undisclosed fee in the summer.
Mansfield had done all they needed too to take home what would have been a fair but scrappy point as the game moved into stoppage time, the Stags switched off and Accrington did what Accrington do best – smash and grab.
Sean McConville delivered what seemed a poor corner in the 91st minute, not one Mansfield player moved or jumped, the ball bobbled down via Richards-Everton and neither Diamond, White or Logan spotted the run of Kee, who unlock three points for Accrington.
Conrad Logan should have come and got something on the ball, in the last minute of the game you want your keeper to barge everyone out of the way and be safe – again, that didn’t happen and we we’re rightfully punished – the defence too, it’s not a crime to jump or track runners, a woeful goal to concede and something needs to change there if we’re to be a success.
FULL TIME | Accrington Stanley 2-1 Mansfield Town
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Krystian Pearce – Mal Benning
Paul Anderson – Will Atkinson – Paul Digby – CJ Hamilton (Omari Sterling-James 74)
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 79) – Lee Angol (Jacob Mellis 86)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Rhys Bennett, Dabid Murfin, Joel Byrom
ATTENDANCE: 1,645 (481)
REFEREE: Darren Bond, Assistants Nick Greenhalgh & James Mainwaring, Fourth Official Peter Gibbons
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