Frustrated Stags Beaten by Wycombe

Mansfield were beaten 2-0 by Wycombe on Saturday afternoon, as the Stags endured a frustrating afternoon. Despite having the lion-share of possession, the home side failed to create the clear cut chances their authority warranted, with Wycombe having four opportunities, scoring two of them. Two home defeats now in a row for Mansfield, against a Wycombe side who were winless in five.

It had been an eventful week off the field for Adam Murray, drawing an apology from the Chad newspaper after they printed an unfavourable report which he felt did not tell the full story of the previous weeks draw against Portsmouth. He made two changes from the side that earned that point down on the coast, with Jamie McGuire replacing Mitchell Rose and Matty Blair earning his first start since overcoming his long term injury lay off, in place of Chris Clements. It must be said that the Stags substitutes bench was extremely strong and a case could be made for at least four of them to be starting, in particular Chris Clements who should be one of the first names on the team sheet. The Stags lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation.

Mansfield started promisingly and were quick to register a shot on target. McGuire initially did well to find Adams on the left with the outside of his foot. Adams cut inside onto this right and slid the ball into Green on the edge of the box with his back to goal. Green set the ball for the onrushing Chapman, whose 25 yard drive was held comfortably by Ingram. The Stags constructed a similar move two minutes later, this time starting from a Chapman throw on the left. Instead of the usual looped throw, Chapman fired the ball towards Green with a hint of a foul throw. Bean intercepted but the ball came back to Chapman who found Tafazolli on the penalty spot with a trademark first touch pass. Tafazolli laid the ball off to Green who choked his shot somewhat and it was easily saved by the keeper. You would expect Green to do better in that position.

Wycombe were starting to grow into the game and appealed for a penalty on 7 minutes. Thompson tried to thread the ball through to O'Nien following a game of head tennis between the two sides. McGuire intercepted the pass but his touch was heavy and allowed O'Nien to nick the ball off his toe. Anticipating McGuire's leg still to be outstretched, O'Nien went down looking for a penalty, but it was a clear dive. For some reason, the referee decided the dive was not worthy of a yellow card.

The visitors did take the lead on 8 minutes, in similar fashion to the way Bristol Rovers did in the Stags last home game. The goal arose from a Jensen goal kick, which should have been targeted at Green and away from Pierre, but instead was aimed at Westcarr. It was not the first time Jensen's distribution had been lacking on the day and would not be the last. Pierre won the header and found Hayes midway inside the Stags half. The Wycombe skipper hooked the ball skilfully into the right channel for Harriman to chase. Harriman delivered an excellent cross to the far post to find Thompson, who showed great awareness to nod the ball square to O'Nien. O'Nien stooped and found Jensen's right hand corner with a diving header from 4 yards, having ran off McGuire through the centre of the park. Chapman had a word with Jensen about his poor goal kick. Sloppy from Mansfield but a well worked move by Wycombe.

Mansfield looked shell-shocked following the goal, having not really got going and slowing things down too much when in promising positions. As has become a trait at home, the Stags looked to work primarily down the left. Good interplay between Adams, Chapman, Lambe, Westcarr and Green ended with Westcarr curling a shot a long way wide of the target. Nevertheless, the Stags were playing some neat one touch football. A minute later, the ball went out of play on the right and the Stags used an alternative ball to restart, catching Wycombe off guard. Green switched the ball excellently to find Adams down the left, but having made his way into the area, the full back fired over the bar.

A sloppy ten minute period ensued with little created by either side, during which the Wycombe fans had collaborated in continuous song, and the Mansfield fans had produced a wall of silence. Craig Westcarr forced an opening on the edge of the area but was unlucky to see his powerful shot blocked by a defender. On 40 minutes, Adams got free down the left but his ball into the area had way too much power and it evaded Westcarr at the far post. Adams should have executed the cross much more deftly than he did.

In first half stoppage time, Mansfield broke from a corner with a strong run down the right by Lambe. He held the ball up well and found Westcarr in support. Westcarr played an excellent pass into the area to find Blair who controlled and shot low but was denied by Ingram. The flag was up for offside against Blair but having viewed the replay he was nowhere near offside.

That was the last action of the first half, Mansfield trudging off trailing by one goal to nil. It was a similar first half to the last two home performances, against Rovers and Newport, where the Stags had seen plenty of the ball in promising areas but had not made the most of it. The game was crying out for a Jack or Nathan Thomas who can create something out of nothing in the oppositions box. Lambe and Westcarr were being too safe in possession and Blair had been anonymous but for the chance in stoppage time.

Murray again acted quickly by introducing Adi Yussuf at half time in place of Matty Blair. The Stags switched to a flat 4-4-2 with Westcarr coming to the right initially.

Presumably the manager would have got amongst his players at half time in an effort to inject some intensity and it nearly paid dividends in the opening minutes of the second period. Chapman's corner from the right was met 8 yards from goal by Collins and headed towards the top right hand corner, only for Ingram to push the ball away from danger with two hands. Collins was running towards his own goal when he connected with the ball and this seemed to take some of the sting out of his header.

On 48 minutes, Wycombe had a great chance to extend their lead. Westcarr lost the ball on the left and O'Nien broke away, evading an illegal challenge by Chapman before finding Thompson on the right. O'Nien carried on his run and was found heading towards the right byline. O'Nien delivered a hanging cross towards Wood at the back post, who Hunt did not know was behind him and was caught under the ball, but Wood made a complete hash off his header, sending it a good 6 yards wide of the target.

Two minutes later, another clear chance for the visitors as Thompson was played through exquisitely by Hayes. As Jensen advanced, Thompson attempted to dink the ball over the Dane and despite the keeper taking the pace off the shot with part of his body, the clever chip was still heading for the net before the retreating Collins headed the ball off the line. On 53 minutes, McGuire was sacrificed for Chris Clements.

On 57 minutes, Mansfield produced their best move of the match. Collins started the move by intercepting a dangerous pass on the edge of his own box and carrying the ball forward to the half way line. He found Westcarr, who in turn found Clements before the ball ended up with Adams on the left. Adams played a neat one-two with Yussuf before splitting the Wycombe defence to find the clever run of Westcarr unmarked in the left side of the area. Westcarr however, delayed his shot a second too long, allowing O'Nien to block all of the velocity out of the shot and making the save comfortable for Ingham.

Mansfield looked to be hitting their stride as the visitors began to sit deeper and deeper. On 62 minutes, Yussuf held the ball up well and found Green. Green did what the home fans have been crying out for and ran straight at the defence, powering between two players before his weak left footed effort was deflected for a corner. It looked to be heading straight at Ingram. From the resulting corner, Chapman found Tafazolli 8 yards from goal, but the towering defenders header was wayward when it should have been better under little pressure.

On 66 minutes, Adams again did well on the left, cutting inside and finding Yussuf's feet inside the area with his back to goal. In typical style, he worked himself a yard on his left side but his touch was a little too heavy and allowed McCarthy to recover and block the strike. On 68 minutes, Nathan Thomas came on in place of Reggie Lambe.

Following a Wycombe free kick on the right with twenty minutes of normal time left to play, Pierre retrieved the ball on the left and Wood crossed towards Jacobson at the back post. The full back headed the ball back across the face. Jensen came out to punch and completed missed the ball. Wycombe hooked the ball back into danger area but Tafazolli cleared to safety under pressure. At the other end, a clear sight of goal for Green inside the right of the area, but the strikers lack of confidence showed as his shot was harmlessly wide. Noticeable groans from the crowd greeted the effort and became even louder when the striker's touch let him down moments later, followed by signs of frustration from Green.

On 79 minutes, Nathan Thomas finally isolated his full back on the left. He twisted and turned inside onto his right foot but didn't catch the shot as he would have wished and was denied by the legs of Ingram. Two minutes later, Westcarr had a shot parried wide before Tafazolli's header was stopped easily on the line by Ingram.

Mansfield were piling on the pressure and from this point onwards should have set up camp on the edge of Wycombe's box and probed for openings but their ball retention let them down and the visitors were able to keep clearing their lines.. Rather frustratingly, Westcarr had abandoned his right wing berth and wondered inside to play behind the strikers, meaning on a number of occasions Nicky Hunt had no outlet. Since the 50th minute, Wycombe had shown no intention to attack.

The Stags efforts somewhat petered out but they produced one final opportunity when Westcarr did eventually return to the right with two minutes to play. He whipped in a delightful cross to the back post where Green was unmarked but the striker got his header all wrong and could not find the target.

With four minutes of added on time and Mansfield throwing bodies forward, Wycombe killed the game at the death. Following attempts to waste time in the corner, Collins cleared up field for the Stags but Pierre headed down to O'Nien. On the spin, O'Nien picked out substitute Holloway excellently inside the area on the right, the powerful striker taking one touch and rifling low past Jensen at his near post. The keeper showed Holloway way too much of the near side of the net for me, but the goal had little impact on the result with the referee blowing shortly after the restart for full time.

Mansfield left a game they would have been expecting to win having done everything but put the ball in the back of the net. At times, Mansfield's play needed an injection of pace and bravery to unlock a solid Wycombe defence. The visitors looked like a side that were there for the taking, there play generally based around clearing the ball as far away from their goal as possible. That said, they probably created the clearer chances, their final balls being a lot more successful than the Stags.

Most of the focus following the defeat has been the form of Matt Green, with fans seemingly split down the middle. He has only scored one home goal at season, put on a plate for him by Craig Westcarr. We know Green's strength is running in behind defences and converting one on one chances. Whilst opportunities are limited at home due to defences sitting deeper to counteract Green's threat, when chances have arisen, Green has been impotent in front of goal. Adam Murray and a number of fans have pointed towards his work rate as a mitigating factor and whilst that may be the case away from home, at the One Call that has consisted more often than not of mis-control and wrestling with opposition defenders. His confidence looks low and perhaps a behind closed doors friendly could be arrange to increase the strikers morale.

The first round of the FA Cup proper begins next weekend as the Stags host League One strugglers Oldham. Only eleven places separate the two sides and the Latics have only won on their last ten league games. With the focus surely on the league campaign this season, Murray may take the opportunity to give game time to a few players who have not seen much action, especially with an away trip to Northampton awaiting the following week. I would no be surprised should Scott Shearer be given a chance between he stick, as well as players such as Jack Thomas, Nathan Thomas, Chris Clements and Mitch Rose pushing for a place.

Player Ratings :

Jensen - 6 - Poorest game in a Stags shirt for me. Much of his distribution was poor or slow, flapped at one cross and positioning poor for second goal.
Hunt - 7 - Did ok, some good passing going forward.
Collins - 8 - Very good performance. Wins a lot in the air for his size and confident on the ground. One goal line clearance to keep Stags in the game and unlucky with header.
Tafazolli - 7 - Generally solid.
Adams - 8 - Good game. Everything attacking wise came through him. Has taken over the mantle from Benning effortlessly.
Blair - 5 - Anonymous. Not the return to action he would have hoped for, but should improve with time. I would stick with him for FA Cup.
Chapman - 7 - One of his better games but still a bit of a mixed bag passing wise.
McGuire - 6.5 - Lost his man for the first goal. Otherwise battled well.
Lambe - 6 - Did ok. Still needs to be braver for me.
Westcarr - 6.5 - Squandered a couple of good opportunities but involved in a lot of good moves.
Green - 5 - Wasted three good chances. Still looks out of touch.

Yussuf  (Blair 45) - 6 - Did ok bu did not see enough of the ball.
Clements (McGuire 53) - Not sure what he is doing on the bench. Did not waste a pass when introduced.
N Thomas (Lambe 68) - Mixed bag. Some good play mixed with some bad.