After The Lord Mayor's Show

It was exactly what Adam Murray was so keen to guard against but it was certainly a case of after the Lord Mayor's show as the Stags turned in a lacklustre performance in succumbing to a 1-0 defeat against Accrington Stanley. Despite starting brightly, Mansfield could not muster a significant effort on goal. Accrington were neat and tidy in spells but will not be troubling the top of the league and simply outfought the Stags on the night.

After the magnificent victory over Notts County last Friday, the Stags made just one solitary but significant change. Matt Green was described as 99% fit and was therefore rested with future games in mind. He was replaced in attack by Chris Beardsley. Mansfield therefore began the game with six players starting their fourth game in ten days. Four of those six were in the most energy sapping areas of the pitch, Hunt and Benning as full backs and Clements and Chapman in the centre of the park. Mitchell Rose started from the right with Nathan Thomas in the number ten role. Accrington's line-up included former Stag Billy Kee.

In their all-black change strip, the Stags began the game on the front foot, disrupting the rhythm of the home side and pinning them inside their own half. The Accrington fans and management were beginning to become restless as they were prevented from playing by Mansfield. Despite their positive start, the Stags were limited to long range efforts by Lambe and Nathan Thomas, none of which troubled the keeper. On the half hour mark, a good move involving Chapman, Clements, Lambe and Beardsley ended with the striker rolling a weak effort straight at the keeper.

The game turned on its head in the 33rd minute as the home side took a fortuitous lead. Chapman attempted to shield the ball out of play midway inside the left of the Stags half. The linesman indicated a throw in to Mansfield but was overruled by the referee with most of the visiting team not realising. The danger seemed to be averted by Chapman as he won possession back but he gifted it straight back to the opposition. McConville seized on the ball about 25 yards from goal and was provided with ample time by Chapman in which to pick his spot. His shot deflected off the leg of Chapman and low to Jensen's left, giving the keeper no chance. A goal out of nothing for Accrington who had struggled to create anything prior to the goal.

The opening goal seemed to trigger a malaise amongst the Mansfield players as they struggled to retain possession or provide runners from midfield to support Beardsley. A lot of supporters around me where bemoaning Beardsley's performance but I felt he did a decent job at holding the ball up. The problem with Beardsley as a lone striker is that he does not have the pace to worry defences. The team philosophy is set up around Matt Green as the lone striker and his channel runs, and on a number of occasions the back four looked up for a strikers run that was not forthcoming. Beardsley likes the ball to feet or where he can challenge in the air and without runners either side that tactic is a pretty pointless endeavour. At the other end, Billy Kee was lively, causing problems for Krystian Pearce, mostly aerially.

Towards the end of the half, Accrington created a few half chances and had the wind in their sails following their rather lucky opener. They were happy to draw fouls from the Mansfield defence and midfield as the referee constantly bought their theatrics.

The Stags trudged off the field with their heads down, probably a little confused as to how they had gone from controlling the game to looking second best by the time the 45 minute mark came around. The hosts had began to prevent the Stags from playing through the midfield, causing the defence to look more hastily for Beardsley and therefore making it difficult for the midfield to make runs beyond the lone striker. Those of the 187 travelling fans who had seen the team perform so reportedly excellently on Friday were struggling to comprehend the gulf between the two displays.

The Stags emerged unchanged from the tunnel to begin the second half. Fans around me were calling for a change of formation to two up top but were not immediately granted their wish. Despite no changes to personnel, the Stags again started positively. A flowing move delivered the ball to Benning on the left. He turned his defender inside out when he would possibly have been better advised to shoot, instead opting to fire the ball low across the face of goal. The ball cannoned against Beardsley and comfortably into the hands of Accrington keeper Mooney. It was certainly a difficult opportunity if you could even call it that, but only caused fans frustration with the striker to grow.

It was then the home sides turn to attack. McConville robbed Pearce of the ball inside his own box and had his shot pushed round the post for the corner. Chapman was dispossessed in the middle of the park, not for the first time, but the move came to nothing. A few minutes later, a long ball into the the Stags right channel put Kee through one on one. Kee tried a low, prodded finish but Jensen saved well with his legs.

On 55 minutes, Nathan Thomas chased a ball into the left side of the area but must have thought the keeper was advancing as he attempted a lob. Unfortunately for Thomas and the Stags, Mooney had stayed firmly on his line and gathered the ball with ease. This was his last act of the game as he was replaced by Adi Yussuf. Adam Chapman was also replaced by Jack Thomas. Yussuf went up front alongside Beardsley. Five minutes later, Craig Westcarr replaced Reggie Lambe and went in behind the strikers as the Stags switched to a diamond midfield. The substitutions were a little early for my liking with a third of the game still to play.

Following the changes, the home side were quick to disrupt any Stags momentum by hitting the deck at the sign of any physical contact. The flow of the game was also constantly disrupted by the ball disappearing over the roof of the stand housing the seated Stags fans. The Mansfield players frustrations were visibly growing and they began to give away silly fouls, eventually ending up with seven yellow cards. Chris Clements in particular was penalised on four or five occasions, some of them harshly, including incidents where he threw the ball into the ground and physically pushed Josh Windass off the pitch following his substitution. His head had gone for a good ten minutes and this effected the Stags ability to build attacks, with Clements now at the base of the diamond.

Accrington twice fired over the bar from the edge of the area as the Stags continued to toil. Six minutes of time were added on by the referee but the Mansfield never really looked like hitting the back of the net. Supporters were however witness to a mass brawl involving pretty much every player on the pitch, the home side taking exception to a Jack Thomas challenge after the referee had already given a free-kick. It was a forceful challenge but he looked to get the ball to me. The referee, despite not even seeing the Thomas tackle, managed to randomly pluck out four out of twenty two players, two from each side, to award yellow cards to. The referee had been overly fussy all night and had lost control of the game.

The Stags did manage two attempts on goal in time added on. Following a free-kick which was headed down by Tafazolli, Pearce managed to hook an effort goalwards but his shot lacked purchase and was easy for the keeper. Jack Thomas also fired harmlessly over from 30 yards.

All in all a poor display from the Stags, who must be bitterly disappointed with their display following such a well celebrated win against County. Mansfield now have a win, a draw and a loss from the three league games they have played. Ssomeone pointed out on a fans forum that if the Stags carry on picking up four points from nine they will comfortably end up around the middle of the pack, which I think most Stags fans would have taken before the season began.

Considering that similar form would be enough to secure a safe middle of the table finish, it is interesting to observe the reaction from Adam Murray to the defeat. Of course nobody would expect him to be jumping for joy, but he clearly has his eyes set on something more than mediocrity, as I suppose every manager should.

If the Stags continue to lack intensity on Saturday against Oxford it could be a tough afternoon. Similarly though, should the team who beat County turn up and with Matt Green likely to return as the focal point of the attack, then it could be an extremely interesting game, considering that Oxford also defeated County by a two goal margin on Tuesday night. It is still early days and it would be silly to be too disheartened by last nights game, as it was to get too carried away by the Derby Day heroics.

Player Ratings :

Jensen - 7 - Commanded his defence well. No chance with the goal, two other decent saves.
Hunt - 6 - A few missed interceptions and didn't get forward as much as usual.
Pearce - 6 - Given a bit of a run around by Kee, losing several challenges against a much smaller player.
Tafazolli - 7 - Solid display.
Benning - 6.5 - Looked the most likely player going forward for the Stags. A few panicky moments at the back.
Chapman - 5 - Very poor. Gave the ball away a lot and dispossessed in dangerous areas on three occasions. Looked off the pace.
Clements - 7 - Good defensively and neat going forward. Marked down for a ten minute spell were he lost his head with the referee, however bad the referee may have been!
Rose - 5 - Could not control the ball. Looked tired and failed to get in to the game
Thomas - 5 - Played centrally in order to get him on the ball but did not make an impact.
Lambe - 6 - A couple of good pieces of play but can do more.
Beardsley - 6.5 - Probably did what Murray would expect of him, won his fair share in the air and hold the ball up well. Sadly despite his work rate cannot be replied upon to score goals.

Subs :
J Thomas (Chapman 56) - No influence on the game.
Yussuf (Thomas 56) - Didn't see much of the ball but one bullying run. Would like to see him up to speed starting a game.
Westcarr (Lambe 61) - No influence on the game.