Craig Priest writes…
Resilience is a quality which many under estimate, for example a small thing like being able to resist that extra biscuit with a brew is practically nothing – but we all know that eating just one is never enough, so that resistance is actually pretty powerful over a larger scale – and that is practically the story of Mansfield Town FC of late, whose goalless draw with Championship Side Cardiff City proved Evans’ side are serious.
In all competitions, Evans men have lost just one in 19 matches (Crawley away, Blackpool in the Checkatrade being a draw across 90 minutes) and are slowly building momentum and belief that success can be achieved, something the goalless draw against the Championship high-flyers will only boost.
In truth the Stags are very unlucky not to be in the hat for round four by themselves, as they had opportunities to win the game – no doubt Paul Anderson will have been awake all night wondering how his late effort didn’t find the back of the net.
They certainly didn’t deserve to lose and Conrad Logan must take a huge amount of credit for his heroic save in the dying seconds of the game, as must Jimmy spencer who was the hero of round two – he again showed what a pivotal player he is, bringing life to Mansfield’s attack after his introduction late in the first half for the injured Kane Hemmings.
Spencer showed tremendous strength and link up play to create a number of openings for the Stags, holding up the ball against a string Cardiff back line to bring other players into play such as MacDonald, who continues to flourish in that central midfield role.
Backed by over a thousand supporters, the players could really see that we were behind them – Evans right to praise that during his post-match interview, however his petulant dig of ‘one defeat in 19 isn’t good enough’ completely took away the fact of what we’d just achieved – a draw against a side who many back to be playing in the Premier League next season despite their winter slump in form.
I could write an entire article on the perspective between management and supporters, but why tarnish what was another good FA Cup memory, five years since the Stags narrowly lost to Liverpool and the hand of a cheat, and a day shy of 12 years since Alan Shearers history levelling goal.
Take the positives out of yesterday and inject them into next Saturday’s league two encounter with Cambridge United – we must turn league draws (six in the league in the run of 19 games as mentioned) into wins, as I believe at least four, possibly five of them should have been wins – but hey ho!
The cup draw should mean nothing and shouldn’t even be addressed until the replay with Neil Warnocks side, we just take one game at a time and make progress, remembering that a journey of a million miles starts with a single step.
Steve Evans named the same starting 11 that beat Carlisle on New Years Day, brining Jimmy Spencer back onto the substitutes bench to bolster attacking options with leading scorer Danny Rose still side lined with injury.
Cardiff named a relatively strong line up as they attempted to break a baron spell of four consecutive defeats, but neither side could create any real opening within the opening exchanges, skipper Krystian Pearce coming out on top in the early battle with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.
The hosts saw their first real sight of goal on 15 minutes as the ball ran free for Rhys Healey but the bluebirds man failed to get a real connection on his volley and the Stags were able to clear – ten minutes later, the Stags nearly opened up city as Mellis sent Hamilton on his way down the left hand side – the tricky winger cut inside and sent a teasing cross in – which nobody could connect with.
Conrad Logan had to be alert on 36 minutes as the ball zipped into the path of Callum Paterson, a deflection took the sting out of it and the Stags regrouped, four minutes later Logan again beating away an effort as MacDonald was dispossessed in the middle by Healey, Logan equal to the effort.
Jimmy Spencer replaced the injured Kane Hemmings on the stroke of half time, Spencer creating the Stags best chance of the half during the two additional minutes as he held the ball up well in the corner following a splitting central pass, Spencer then picked out Anderson whose looping cross found Hamilton, who at the far post, nodded over the bar.
The Stags were fired up as the second half began as Lee Angol won an early corner, swung in by Potter, the winger got the ball back and found the run of Bennett at the far post who was very unlucky to be second in the race to the inviting cross.
On 51 minutes Alex MaxcDonald nearly repeated his goal at Coventry, cutting inside past three – before curling narrowly wide of Brian Murphy’s goal – two minutes later the Stags were very nearly behind, Healey firing a volley just over Logan’s bar following Lee Tomlin’s fizzing cross.
The Stags should then have taken the lead on the hour as Jimmy Spencer did really well to hold up play from Potter’s feed, Spencer squared into the middle for Angol who agonisingly saw his goal bound effort blocked by a combination of Brian Murphy and Cardiff skipper Sean Morrison, who both wondered how on earth the hosts were not behind after an excellent Mansfield move.
Both sides played check mate for a while before with 11 minutes remaining, the Stags again nearly had the breakthrough, Alex MacDonald played a sublime ball through the middle which was acutely flicked into the box by Spencer, Paul Anderson made a hidden run from right back, rounding the keeper before seeing his effort painfully turned away for a corner, eventually taken and cleared after Anderson picked himself from the floor, laying in disbelief at how he handed found the back of the net.
In the dying seconds of the game, Conrad Logan pulled off the heroics, somehow turning the ball away as a scramble inside the area saw the ball head towards the bottom corner – the stags number one showing real agility to push the ball away to safety, keeping his ninth clean sheet of the season and adding another fixture to the calendar in the process, as after 90 minutes of well balanced football – Mansfield held Championship Cardiff to a goalless draw.
FULL TIME: Cardiff City 0-0 Stags
Paul Anderson – Krystain Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson 90+2) – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Kane Hemmings (Jimmy Spencer 45) – Lee Angol (Omari Sterling-James 75)
Unused substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Digby, Hayden White, Calum Butcher
Attendance: 6,378 (1,063)
Referee: Lee Probert Assistants R.Merchant C.Taylor Fourth Official R.Lewis
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