Craig Priest writes….
It isn’t about how or why you fall, it’s about how you stand – words heeded by Mansfield Town in empathic fashion as they delivered the thumping they’d been promising for months – play-off rivals Newport County the unfortunate souls to receive the wrath of the Stag.
In truth it wasn’t even a pasting, it was simply a professional and disciplined performance from Steve Evans men who would have ran up a cricket score had it not been for a few fine saves from Joe Day in the Newport goal – it’s easy to get carried away with the score-line and become arrogant but there wasn’t a drop of that in the air last night, as Stags remained composed and focussed from the first whistle to the very last.
Newport had a free Saturday at the weekend but looked far from rested, if anything the boot seemed to be on the other foot as Mansfield’s players came out hungry like they hadn’t played football for decades.
Alfie Potter was lethal on the right hand side and will undoubtedly cherish the match ball that will live in his downstairs loo for eternity, the injection of pace and flair was exactly what was lacking at Swindon – and do you know what? Actually it’s great to have players like Potter coming in and putting in such a display almost to say to Evans “This is why you should pick me”.
CJ Hamilton had arguably the worst game of his Stags career on Saturday and last night, one glance at Matt Penney waiting to take his place was enjoy to wake him up – what a performance from CJ who will be in David Pipe’s nightmares for weeks.
Above all else though there was one thing which won us that game, one factor which I’ll continue to bang on about for months – Alex MacDonald in central midfield. Forget him as an out and out winger, look at him as someone as a player who can move out there and do a job if needed – he is missed when he’s not playing a central role. Barnet and Swindon are fine examples of that, yes we beat Barnet with him wide but we lacked a lot in the middle that game and against a better side, we’d have been punished for it – proven at Swindon.
MacDonald is a sublime box to box midfielder and his talent shone last night as he covered every blade of grass yet again – what is more, youngster Adam King really compliments MacDonald’s style which was highlighted not only in the Stags attacking movements, but in soaking up the pockets of pressure Newport applied and in MacDonald’s excellent goal.
Keeping things fresh is the key now to sustaining our fortune, two or three subtle changes a game will be the difference between winning and losing I feel now, especially with teams still around us to play – it’s important to enjoyed nights such as Tuesday but also not get carried away, we won’t smash every team we play despite being capable of doing so, we won’t score five game in game out – but what we will do, is tackle every game with the professional attitude it deserves and that in itself will reap the rewards.
Steve Evans made just two changes from Saturday’s loss at Swindon, the back four stayed the same meaning no place for Hayden White or Zander Diamond, the latter back on the bench – whilst Alfie Potter took the place of Atkinson moving MacDonald back to the middle, alongside debutant Adam King, replacing an ill Joel Byrom.
The Stags started rampant the night before Valentines as Alfie Potter swung in a first minute cross which CJ Hamilton narrowly missed, two minutes later it was Hemmings who caused Newport to put the ball behind for a corner as Benning delivered with fizz from the left, Potter cut in following the corner but failed to keep his shot on target.
Joe Day then kept the scored level with a smart save with his legs on five minutes as Pearce flicked the ball into the path of Hemmings, the Oxford loan man denied – as was strike partner Rose mere seconds later from Hemmings’ set – Rose’s effort deflected behind.
The Stags and Rose wouldn’t have to wait long, as moments later skipper Pearce did well to keep the ball alive in the box and dribble to the bye-line, his cut back to the back post picked out Rose who converted for his 16th of the season.
Mansfield were only getting started and we’re quickly two ahead on nine minutes as CJ Hamilton’s lightening pace left Newport chasing a mere blur down the left hand side, Hamilton took on three before squaring into the mix for Potter, who fired home from ten yards.
Frank Nouble registered Newport’s first shot on 17 minutes but Conrad Logan collected with ease after Anderson had taken the sting out of the ball – three minutes later it was back to the other end as Hamilton once more opened up the visitors – this time his cut back turned wide at full stretch by Rose.
The offside flag denied Newport a goal on 22 minutes following a set-play and from then on the visitors saw little action in the Mansfield half, as Steve Evans men looked for a third – Mal Benning zipped one over the bar on 27 minutes before Potter provided the magic touch to add the Stags third a mere minute later – after Rose had been thwarted by three Newport bodies and then the bar – Potter lofting the ball over a grounded Day to ignite one hell of a night at the One Call Stadium.
A rare corner for Newport on 33 was cleared and rapid on the counter attack the Stags won their own corner, Alfie Potter delivered into the mix and Alex MacDonald converted, drilling the loose ball through the crowd Neil MacKenzie style for 4-0.
Rose, Anderson and Potter all saw chances for a fifth spurned before the break but even as the Stags were applauded off for the break – you sensed a lot more to come.
Two changes for Newport calmed the game down a little but the Stags would soon regain full control, Alex MacDonald’s 54th minute free kick turned towards goal by Rhys Bennett, denied the games fifth goal by the base of the post.
A minute later Danny Rose created a brilliant chance for Hemmings who peeled free in the box, the front man failed to hit the back of the back of the net, well with the ball anyway, lifting his effort over as forceful momentum sent him into the netting.
Cometh the hour, cometh the hat-trick (well the 61st minute but that doesn't flow as well does it!) – Alfie Potter unmarked at the back post to collect Hamilton’s cross via a Rose, let’s say flick but I think miscued shot, to drill into the bottom corner – the ball took a deflection but Potter walked home, quite rightly, with the match ball tucked safely underneath his arm.
It should have been six on 69 as MacDonald curled a free-kick into the side netting from the edge of the box, Alfie Potter then got a heroes send-off as he was replaced by Penney on 76 minutes.
Rose was then provider for substitute Ricky Miller, denied his first Stags goal by the legs of Day with nine minutes to go, after Rose did well to keep the ball alive of the bye-line and square to a hungry Miller.
Two minutes later Day raced out to clear a long ball and was nearly caught out as the poor clearance dropped to King, just inside the Newport half, who responded to cries of shoot – lobbing the ball towards the top corner – Day back peddled well to palm the ball over at the very last second.
Third and final Stags substitute Jimmy Spencer won a free-kick in the 90th minute, MacDonald this time curling into the arms of Day, who was very happy to call it a night at the sound of the referee’s whistle moments later.
FULL TIME: Stags 5-0 Newport
Paul Anderson – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter (Matt Penney 76) – Alex MacDonald – Adam King – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 89) – Kane Hemmings (Ricky Miller 79)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Zander Diamond, Jacob Mellis, Will Atkinson
Referee: Ben Toner Assistants: Declan Ford, Andrew Hendley Fourth Official Anthony Tankard
Attendance: 2,866 (57)
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