Craig Priest writes….
Over the past eighteen or so years of following the Stags, football has been played with many an interesting backdrop – but not as ironically apt as last night at Stevenage where the circus came to town.
The Stags have become their own circus in recent weeks and have been walking a tightrope….. Badly - giving us, the fascinated on-looking audience heart palpitations as our beloved artists look like they are about to fall from a great height.
The second half on Saturday at home to Crewe gave us some hope that we could turn something around, but yet again I’m left feeling frustrated that we haven’t killed a team off and that, yet again, we’ve had to go a goal down to start caring.
The first half last night was completely unacceptable in my book and there are clear problems starting to boil over, the goal was a playground set play where we lost a runner and allowed a shot to come in – but rather than rally, we stood for a good two minutes hands on knee’s looking like we wanted to walk off and go home.
Performance wise in the first half there were only a few times where we got going and strung more than two passes together, our clearances were flat as was our energy – and if you add to that Alex MacDonald ignoring the game to argue with fans, something is not right there.
And yet, the second half was a vast contrast which was highlighted in our excellent play for Will Atkinson’s goal – pass and move! If we play like that constantly for 90+ minutes on Saturday and for the remainder of the season, we might JUST sneak in – and it feels crazy to say that when you look at our results and performances.
Over the last eight games, no wins obviously gives Flitcroft the worst start of any Stags manager – but we’ve shipped 13 goals, scored eight in reply as you’d expect with the form, but the concerning thing over all is the change in discipline.
According to my records over the last eight games we’ve picked up 23 yellow cards and three reds (2.8 bookings a game, so round that up to three) in vast contrast to just the eight yellows and one red picked up in the last eight games under Evans [all competitions] which, doesn’t take a genius to work out, is an average of one booking a game.
If discipline is slipping on the pitch, which as stats show is very much the case, then what about behind the scenes within the dressing room, I personally believe the two go hand in hand, I can’t be the only one who is concerned with that.
You can only put so much blame onto a manager, at the end of the day this is the same squad who only two months ago were being ruthless in their quest for points, ala Newport at home – and fighting back to the death to carry on, ala Morecambe away – other than the big Scot, his mate dodgy and fitness coach Lee Taylor leaving and being replaced by the chess player, big ben and the interim coach – what has changed? Why has their professionalism and work ethic swung on a trapeze from one side of the tent to the other? The ring master’s hat may have been passed on, but the acts are still the same, so please get out there against Chesterfield and put in the show we know you’re capable of!
Four games to go, four wins and the chance to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat – anything less, league two it is for another year! We believe, we back you – believe in yourselves and back yourselves boys!
Striker Ricky Miller dealt the first blow of the evening tweeting that he was injured and would be out for about two weeks, so a deserved start for him didn’t happen – but FOUR other changes did, as Krystain Pearce replaced captain Zander Diamond, Will Atkinson and Joel Byrom replaced Potter and Mellis, both benched, whilst leading scorer Danny Rose replaced Lee Angol, also benched.
The Stags started well with Kane Hemmings’ attempted lift over home keeper Tom King earning an early corner which the hosts cleared, Hayden white also earned a corner with a testing cross but again the stags couldn’t convert
Stevenage then had a corner of their own on 14 minutes an inevitably took the lead, as Danny Newton pealed away from his marked, to hammer home to low corner routine.
Kane Hemmings then nodded Hayden White’s cross over the bar with twenty minutes on the clock, CJ Hamilton and Alex MacDonald also had pop shots which caused little damage – at the other end, Conrad Logan on hand to palm away another effort from Newton with two minutes to go before the break.
The Stags seemed fired up after the break and in act two of the circus display, scored a fine team goal on 51 minutes to pull level as Hamilton and Hunt linked up on the left hand side – Hunt squaring into the mix for Atkinson to latch onto and fire into the roof of the net.
Joel Byrom was then replaced by Jacob Mellis as Flitcroft tried to give the Stags a more attacking edge, Danny Rose denied on 53 minutes as Hemmings tried to feed him in on goal before four minutes later, Hemmings hit over on the volley as the ball zipped around the area like pinball on heat.
Cometh the hour cometh the save from Conrad Logan to keep the scores level, before substitute Alie Potter went on a mazey run which nearly led to a goal, moments after replacing CJ Hamilton.
Mansfield peppered the hosts box but Stevenage remained firm to keep the game finely balanced before heading down the other end to put on pressure, to their credit the Stags turned the screw back and defended well amidst a barrage of shots.
Into the final ten minutes and the stags had two chances to win the game, first Kane Hemmings was denied by a fine save from King, before Alex MacDonald zipped one wide of the post with a minute to go, the full time whistle calling time on a fair result – but the Stags search for victory goes on as they prepare to face rivals Chesterfield on Saturday.
FULL TIME: Stevenage 1-1 Stags
Hayden White – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Alex MacDonald – Joel Byrom (Jacob Mellis 52) – Will Atkinson – CJ Hamilton (Alfie Potter 58)
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Paul Digby, Zander Diamond, Lee Angol, Adam King
Attendance: 2,294 (274)
Referee: Seb Stocksbridge Assistants Carl Fitch-Jackson, Paul Yates Fourth Official Kevin Howick
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