Mansfield Unleashed!

Adam Murray promised in midweek that he was ready to remove the shackles from his Mansfield side, following three consecutive home draws. The result of the removal was a 4-0 thrashing of a Crawley side who looked bereft of any football ability thanks to the constant pressure placed upon them by a rampant Mansfield Town. It was the Stags biggest home win in the Football League since the 3rd November 2007, when Mansfield beat Macclesfield 5-0 thanks to a Simon Brown hat-trick. His modern day counterpart Matt Green was unlucky not to register the same feat on Saturday afternoon.

After cries from the terraces for a switch to 4-4-2, the Stags started with what you could call a variation of it. It looked like a 4-4-2 from the stands, with Nathan Thomas coming in for Reggie Lambe and starting on the left. Mitch Rose played wide right and Westcarr was up top with Green. As it transpired, Westcarr played half way between the midfield and attack, prepared to track back if necessary. Nathan Thomas also played as a very advanced winger on the left, whereas Mitch Rose sat a little deeper along side Clements and Chapman. Before kick off, the teams were switched around so that the Stags were shooting towards the Quarry Lane End.

Another thing mentioned in the midweek press by Murray was the lack of tempo against AFC Wimbledon last weekend. It had clearly been drilled into the players to start quickly, as straight from the Crawley kick off, Matt Green pounced on the lay off with a sliding tackle. It was a challenge that really set the tone of the game, with Crawley straight away under pressure.

An opportunity to provide the inaugral goal was presented to Westcarr in the opening minutes. Nicky Hunt intercepted a ball forward and galloped towards the penalty area. He slid a ball through to Westcarr with just a little too much power and the striker could only manage a poked shot which was deflected behind for a corner. From the resulting corner, Tafazolli nodded the ball forwards and Matt Green swung a leg but failed to make contact with the ball. A great start from the Stags.

With the yellow shirts still applying pressure, they went close again. A cross from the right was cleared to Adam Chapman 30 yards from goal. Chapman controlled the ball on his chest before volleying inches wide of the keepers right hand post. Chapman spoke of his delight earlier in the week at being a Mansfield player again, and this was an aspect of his game which we have not seen enough of since his return due to the deeper role he has played in previous matches.

After a promising start, Mansfield were struggling to create but were still the better side. Fans were treated to a few glimpses of what Nathan Thomas can do if given the ball in the right areas. He was fouled on 8 minutes after a jinking run to win a free-kick. On 16 minutes, he switched the ball superbly for Westcarr, the latter playing a ball across the face which was well smothered by the Crawley keeper Woodman. On 20 minutes, he burst through the centre of the pitch before making the wrong decision when releasing the pass. He was fouled in the process but the referee waved play on.

The visitor's had shown little ambition from the very first whistle. The keeper was shamelessly time wasting at every opportunity and the outfield players kept kicking the ball as far away as possible after the referee had already blown his whistle, including over the Bishop Street Stand on three occasions. Even manager Mark Yates prevented the fourth official from rolling a new ball onto the pitch. It is understandable teams playing for a draw but a manager should be embarrassed to show such little intent to attack. Crawley had a glimpse of goal on 21 minutes. A long ball over the top set Matt Harrold away, after Pearce was caught out gambling on the ball being played to the strikers feet. Pearce made up for his error with his pace and managed to block Harrold's shot. The striker hurt himself in the process and was replaced by Lee Barnard.

On 25 minutes, Clements scuffed a shot wide of the target. 3 minutes later, Simon Walton was lucky to escape a booking following a heavy challenge on Westcarr. Walton looked unfit and is one of those players that opposition fans love to hate. He is the type of player that must take every possible set piece and stands around waving his arms, without actually doing much himself. Another foul on Thomas a minute later just outside the left hand side of the box. Still no card from the referee, at least you could say he was being consistent.

Mansfield continued to be on top but were struggling to make a breakthrough. Two long range efforts from Nathan Thomas, one on, one off target arrived either side of a Lee Barnard shot which was comfortably held by Jensen. A half chance for Green on 37 minutes at he failed to get the required contact on his header and it went wide of the post.

Finally on 44 minutes, the Stags were in front thanks to a piece of individual brilliance by Nathan Thomas. Lee Barnard played a loose pass 25 yards from his own goal which Thomas immediately pounced upon. He nipped in ahead of Jimmy Smith and then drove into the area, evading the sliding challenge of Jon Asthon. Just when it looked like Thomas had delayed the shot too long, he lashed a thunderbolt high into the keepers near post. It was Thomas' first goal for the club, deserved after a lively first half performance by both him and the team.

Into first half stoppage time, the Stags nearly had a second. Another corner aimed towards Tafazolli at the back post was headed back across goal, just too far in front of Green's outstretched boot. Tafazolli may have been better served going for goal himself.

The Stags trotted off down the tunnel with a deserved 1-0 lead after a much better first half performance than in recent weeks. Thomas and Westcarr were providing ample support for Green, backed up by Clements and Chapman. Apart from a momentary misjudgement by Pearce, the Mansfield defence had barely been troubled.

As the second half got underway, the Stags were again quick out of the blocks and doubled their lead. A corner was won on the left following a Chapman long throw. Benning's delivery was cleared by what appeared to be the upper arm of Jon Ashton. It ran loose to Rose just outside the right side of the penalty area. The youngster hit a low shot, which was on target, through a number of bodies and off the legs of Barnard into the back of the net. A further contribution to the Stags cause by Barnard and a first goal for Mansfield for Mitchell Rose. Up until that point, he had not had the best of games, still looking uncomfortable as a winger, but credit to him for sticking to the task. It was just what the Stags needed to settle their nerves.

On 50 minutes, Crawley were down to ten men, right in front of the managerial dugouts. Clements played a bit of a hospital pass to Nicky Hunt and Gwion Edwards went over the top of the ball, catching Hunt on the shin. Cue the Stags bench to erupt in anger at the dangerous tackle, Hunt left rolling in agony for the second week running. It was a surprise to see the referee produce a straight red card, not because the challenge did not deserve it, but because he had been so reluctant to show a yellow card in the first half. Crawley's task had become even more difficult.

On 59 minutes, another chance for Green as the ball ran loose to him in the area, but he directed his shot straight at a defender. Thomas picked up the ball inside the area and went down looking for a penalty, but to no avail. Another chance for the striker on 67 minutes, as Chapman scooped the ball into right channel for Green to chase. Sonny Bradley tried to clear the ball but booted it straight at Jon Ashton, the ball running kindly into the path of Green. Green dribbled with the ball to the edge of the box in a central position where he pulled the trigger with his left foot, only to see the ball hit the keepers left hand post. The Stags made their first change a minute later, as Reggie Lambe replaced Mitchell Rose.

A beautiful piece of play by Chris Clements with 20 minutes to go. After running towards the edge of the box and twisting a defender inside out, Clements tried a rabona shot, which was deflected wide of the target. Outrageous stuff from the midfield player. From the resulting corner, Mansfield added a third. The corner itself was cleared by Crawley and ended up with Thomas on the left. Strangely, with Westcarr and Benning unmarked down the line, he played the ball backwards to Clements in the centre circle. Clements had spotted the two unguarded players and switched the ball magnificently to Westcarr in the left hand side of the area. Westcarr took a touch and put the ball on a plate for Green to volley home, unmarked from 3 yards out. An excellent move from Mansfield, taking advantage of terrible marking by Crawley.

The Stags were now in no mercy mode as they added a fourth straight from the kick off. Clements initially won possession back in the centre circle but Nathan Thomas could not quite reach the loose ball ahead of the defender. Benning picked up possession in the left back spot and swung a ball forward to Green. A great first touch by Green bought him the space to turn and hook the ball through for Westcarr in the left hand side of the area. Westcarr steadied himself and slotted the ball low in to the left hand corner of the net. Great link up play by the front two, despite strong suspicions of offside.

With 79 minutes on the clock, the Stags should have added a fifth. After patiently retaining possession between the defence and midfield for a total of 30-40 passes, Thomas broke up the keep ball and dribbled with the ball down the left. Having got to the byline, he stood the ball up brilliantly towards the back post where Green somehow headed over from more or less on the line. He appeared to have mistimed his jump, and perhaps should have received a shout from Lambe who was arriving behind him.

A chance to give some game time to some substitutes then for Adam Murray, as Lee Collins and Adi Yussuf replaced Nicky Hunt and Craig Westcarr. Just before the two substitutions, Lee Barnard headed over at the back post after losing Benning. A momentary lapse by the Stags and a day to forget for Barnard. On 86 minutes, Lambe got into the area down the right, his shot was saved and came out as far as Thomas, who curled an effort straight at the keeper.

Crawley produced a few good moments as the game drew to a close but failed to trouble Jensen. They had been on the end of a comprehensive thumping from Mansfield Town, as the referee blew the final whistle with the score at 4-0. It could easily have been more for The Stags and Crawley would have had no complaints.

Credit must go Adam Murray as he remained true to his word and let the handbrake off his side from the very first minute. He was at pains to reassure fans in midweek that the somewhat reserved home performances thus far have all been part of the plan, making sure the team is set up to be solid at the back first of all before understandings can fuse between the attacking players. The move towards a more attacking formation definitely helped and also led to an improved performance of Adam Chapman. Crawley had only lost one game prior to Saturday and it remains to be seen whether they are as poor as they looked or if it was a masterful performance by the Stags.

This blog has been a staunch supporter of Nathan Thomas since the start of the season and he proved yet again that if you can get the ball to him within 30 yards of goal, he can create goalscoring opportunities, either for himself or his teammates. He was direct from the off today and hopefully it will have served as a confidence boost after a couple of below par displays. Chris Clements was again excellent as he continues to prove the doubters wrong so far this season.

The Stags head for Kenilworth Road next week to face Luton, an opposition Mansfield have seen a lot of in recent years. The Hatters are yet to win in front of their own fans in the league and will head into the game on the back of a 3-2 defeat against Notts County, having failed to keep a clean sheet thus far. The Stags are sure to be full of confidence, but it would not be too much of shock to see Murray revert to a more defensive formation which has produced 2 wins from 3 on the road.

Player Ratings :

Jensen - 7 - Hardly anything to do but saved a couple of shots with easily. One worrying moment where he dropped the ball in the six yard box. Distributed quicker today.
Hunt - 7 - Better than in the last couple of games. Protected well by Rose.
Pearce - 8 - One excellent recovering challenge.
Tafazolli - 8 - Dominant in the air, little else to do.
Benning - 6.5 - A couple of poor set pieces and caught out a couple of time. Generally did well.
Rose - 7 - Nice to seem him get his first goal for the club. Worked hard but looked uncomfortable on the wing.
Chapman - 7 - A better performance with more license to get forward. Still a little over-elaborate with his passing.
Clements - 9 - Fantastic performance. Played a part in two goals, excellent tackling and passing throughout.
Thomas - 8.5 - Brilliant first goal to break the deadlock. Constant menace in final third.
Westcarr - 8.5 - A goal and an assist. Very clever movement throughout.
Green - 8.5 - A goal and an assist. Unlucky not to have a hat trick. All round play much better in previous home games.


Lambe (Rose 68) - One good run and shot. Should have given Green a shout for Thomas cross.
Collins (Hunt 80) - Did not see much of the action.
Yussuf (Westcarr 83) - One good pass, no sight of goal.