Full Time Score Colchester United 2-3 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue JobServe Community Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) Nicky Ajose, Tyler Walker, CJ Hamilton
Attendance 3,546 (426
Craig Priest writes…
Desire. Fight. A willingness to never give up. Passion. Just four key ingredients that define a team and separate them between languishing in the same division year upon year, and ultimately promotion.
Mansfield Town were truly woeful for 45 minutes at Colchester yesterday and at two-nil down at half-time, few teams would turn the game on it’s head to win 3-2 – but Mansfield Town are no ordinary team.
At the full time whistle you could see how much it mean to the players to turn the game around and grab victory from the jaws of defeat, that spirit, that desire, that passion and desire runs through the very core of the Stags’ dressing room.
David Flitcroft and his staff will not shy away from how utterly woeful the Stags were in the first half, at times over playing and trying to be too cleaver and as a result, getting undone by simple tactics and a high press – highlighted in conceding two unacceptable goals, especially the second where Colchester danced through three players to double their advantage.
It could have been a lot worse had Jordan Smith not produced some outstanding saves to get us to half-time, where a simple question was all that was needed: is this what we are, is this who we are, is this who were going to be?
As Flitcroft said post-match, the comeback was about mentality and approach – getting the goal from Ajose to make it 2-1 changed the game and from then on in, only one team were in complete control.
The result was marred by the injury to Hayden White, a suspected broken ankle as the referee lost control of the game in six additional minutes as Colchester fought to claw something out of the game. Hayden has been brilliant since Flitcroft took the reigns and has vastly improved, adapting in the early season to that central role before making right-wing-back his own. He’ll be sorely missed and as Nicky Ajose said in his post match – it’s upto his team mates now to ensure that like Bobby Oljenik, his return comes into a Mansfield Town side playing League One football.
It was an unchanged starting line-up from the midweek win over Crawley, Matt Preston who was suspended for that match had to settle for a place on the bench.
The Stags boss may however have been kicking himself that one of the most solid defenders in the squad had been left picking splinters out of his backside on the bench as Colchester started brightly as Tom Eastman volleyed over on four minutes, Jordan Smith called into action two minutes later – pulling off a smart save to deny Sammie Szmodics, Smith then again had to be acrobatic on ten minutes as the hosts piled on the pressure.
Nicky Ajose came closest to an opener for the Stags on 12 minutes as he nodded wide at the far post from a teasing cross from the right hand side, but just three minutes later the hosts led though Eastman, converting from close range from a goalmouth scramble.
Smith then denied Dickenson and Pell before watching Szmodics blaze one over. The watching continued for Smith, watching Courtney Senior dance past Mellis, Benning and Sweeney before slotting the ball beneath him on the half hour – doubling the hosts lead.
Mal Benning tried to restore hope with three minutes to go before the break but couldn’t beat Rene Gilmartin in the home goal, moments later Ryan Sweeney nodded wide before the half time whistle sounded to spare the Stags blushes.
The hosts could, and should, have added a third at the start of the second half but Mansfield set about turning the game around and were unlucky to to be back in it on 49 minutes as Hamilton, now playing in a front three, saw a looping cross tipped over by the keeper.
Two minutes later, Mansfield were back in the match through Mansfield Matters’ sponsored away player Nicky Ajose who pulled away from his man to nod in at the far post.
Hamilton was denied by a fine challenge from Luke Prosser on the hour but just four minutes later it was 2-2 in a goal made in the Nottingham Forest academy, and executed perfectly in Colchester, as Walker picked out Grant on the right – Grants reverse ball back inside saw Walker emphatically drill home with his left boot.
Mansfield were not contempt at 2-2 and set about finding a third, Walker was denied before Ajose saw claims for a spot-kick waved away – 11 minutes from time the Stags did find the third goal, Ajose took down a cross field ball and dropped deep before lofting in a deep cross for Hamitlon, who timed his run to perfection, turning home inside the area before sliding on his knees to celebrate with the stags faithful.
Smith then kept Mansfield in the match with a fine save to deny Pell with four minutes of normal time remaining, six additional minutes were added and four minutes into the six a terrible challenge from Frank Nouble on Hayden White saw the stags defender stretchered off with a suspected broken ankle.
Mansfield, fuelled by anger at the injury to White, threw themselves at everything and the referee’s full time whistle sparked scenes of raw emotion and joy. That’s no ordinary comeback, that is a statement of intent – you can try to pull us down and hold us back – but you will never succeed. We are Mansfield Town, deal with it.
FULL TIME: Colchester United 2-3 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Jordan Smith, Hayden White (Will Atkinson 90+6), Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis, Neal Bishop, Mal Benning, Jorge Grant (Danny Rose 87), Tyler Walker, Nicky Ajose (Matt Preston 82)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Otis Khan, Jordan Graham, Alistar Smith
Referee: Brett Huxtable
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