The Quarterly Review

As The Stags have now played over a quarter of their 46 League Two games, we have had sufficient time to form an opinion on the majority of the squad assembled by Steve Evans, and given the tag as favourites to lift the trophy by most bookmakers in the Summer. I have summarised all players performances so far, and awarded them a school grade as to their progress. This is not necessarily based on their ability, but how they have contributed so far. I would say the Mansfield have made an average start, but perhaps not the blistering one that most were expecting. They currently sit in 9th position, two points outside the play-offs, five points outside the automatic spots and nine points from the summit. The scale for the Grades awarded is as follows : A - Excellent, B - Good, C - Passable, D - Below Par, E - Poor, F - Very Poor, U - Ungraded (not seen enough). The excellent pictures are courtesy of Dan Westwell and Kirkby Stag.

The Stats so far.....

Of Mansfield's 18 goals, 15 of them (83%) have been scored in the second half.
12 of 18 goals have been scored between the 45th and 70th minute (67%)
Half of Danny Rose's goals have been scored with his head.
11 of 18 goals scored have been a result of crosses into the box.
Of 15 goals conceded, 6 (40%) were conceded from the 85th minute onwards, costing the team 5 points.
10 of the 15 (67%) were conceded in the second half.
The Stags are creating around 1.7 expected goals per game, whilst allowing 1.2.
Mansfield are taking 12 shots per game and on average require 8 shots to score a goal
Mansfield, along with Cardiff, are one of only two Football League clubs to not have given a single league minute to a player aged 21 or under.
The Stags are unbeaten at home.

Conrad Logan
Apps : 12
Clean Sheets : 3
Grade : C

A mixed start to life for the big stopper. He is Evans undisputed number one, having started every league game, and not stopped barking orders at his defence since the opening minute at Crewe. His best display was at home to Wycombe, where he literally single-handedly earned the Stags a point. There are however lingering concerns about his unwillingness to come off his line, claim crosses and command his area. 

Rhys Bennett 
Appearances : 5 (1)
Goals : 1
Grade : D

An ever-present and multiple award winner last season, Bennett has struggled to establish himself so far. This can partly be put down to injury and illness, but for me the main reason is he's a far better centre back than a full back. Rhys has only started five games, heralding just one victory and home to Grimsby, during which he personally gave away a penalty. He probably has to hope for a system change to three at the back, as used in the second half in Saturday, to kickstart his season, as he looks unlikely to dislodge Pearce or Mirfin on merit in the near future. 

Mal Benning 
Appearances : 5
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Assists : 1
Grade : D

Before a ball was kicked, I think had a poll taken place on which players place in the team was most secure, Mal's name would have been high on that list. Whilst the marauding full backs best position is not in doubt, he shares with Bennett the unfortunate stat of only being part of one winning side, against struggling Forest Green. He started the season extremely well, providing an assist at Crewe and creating several chances in the defeat at Accrington. His season turned on the last ten minutes against Luton, where he had again performed very well, until being at least partly responsible for the two late goals, and then following that performance by rashly diving in on the halfway line at Carlisle, allowing Hope to surge away and open the scoring. He hasn't pulled on an amber shirt since, seemingly held wholly responsible for the dropping of 5 points in those two games. Whilst initially his exclusion from the side led to a more resolute looking defence, recent defeats at Cheltenham and Colchester and a change to three at the back may pave the way for a return, where the extra centre back would provide the necessary protection for Benning to unleash his undoubted attacking quality down the left. 

Paul Digby
Appearances : 5 (2)
Grade : D

After a tidy pre-season full of energetic displays, Digby was another player expected to play a big part, however he again only has five starts with mixed results. His best performance came in a battle at Lincoln, where a well time challenged started the flowing move which led to the winner. Despite using the ball well in pre-season, he has looked cumbersome in the cut and thrust of League Two, perhaps explaining his best display at Sincil Bank where the Stags had little midfield possession. If utilised as purely a defensive midfielder and given simple passing options, Digby can be effective. Game time may be limited at home when the Stags are expected to have more of the ball. Yet to provide a goal or an assist. 

Krystian Pearce 
Appearances : 11
Goals : 1
Assists : 2
Grade : B

Having been Mansfield's first choice centre half for the last two seasons, Pearce must have been worried when Steve Evans brought in Zander Diamond and David Mirfin in the summer, two centre backs who, whilst ageing, are proven League One standard players. Those worries would have turned to alarm bells when he was left out of the starting eleven at Crewe on the opening day. However, following a sore knee sustained by Mirfin in the Carabao Cup, Pearce got his chance and has been ever-present since, even taking the captains armband. Pearce's performances on the whole have been very good, but the odd lapse against Cambridge and Colchester have cost a couple of goals. Despite those errors, Pearce is deservedly a fans favourite and looks set to continue at the heart of the defence. His character should be commended, having proved his worth in the Stags most stacked position.

Zander Diamond

Appearances : 3
Grade : U

Having joined Mansfield as Northampton's player of the season, Diamond was the player entrusted by fellow countryman Steve Evans with the captains armband. In my opinion, not one universally shared, he was very good at Crewe and solid at home against Forest Green. He was partly at fault for the opener at Accrington. Diamond has not played since that game through injury, and has become a bit of a forgotten man, mainly due to the form of Pearce and Mirfin. There has been little update on his injury since the initial strain, seemingly picked up against Accrington in mid August. Presumably, it wasn't too serious as he played 90 minutes against Rotherham in a reserve game in early September, and against Burton in mid September, but only last week did Evans reveal that Diamond tweaked his groin in that game. He must be nearing full fitness but may struggle to get his place back. 

Alex MacDonald 
Appearances : 6 (1)
Grade : B

Having worked so hard in the summer to whip himself into career best shape according to some, the news that MacDonald required minor knee surgery was a blow. MacDonald is a Steve Evans player down to a tee. Energetic, tenacious and capable of providing special moments. He had to wait until the Grimsby game for his first start if the season, his introduction to the team bringing much needed flair. The Stags have only lost one game in which he has started, away at Colchester where he was still the best player on the pitch in an amber shirt. Having said all that, he does need to increase his output in terms of goals and assists, having yet to register one of either. For such a creative player he does tend to make the wrong final decision from time to time but that is the reason he is a League Two player. I'd like to see him given a free role more centrally where he can make things happen and have license to roam. 

Jacob Mellis 
Appearances : 6 (3)
Goals : 1
Grade : C

The majority of fans consider Mellis to be Mansfield's most creative player, yes the stylish playmaker has only started half of the clubs games so far. Those six games have only yielded one win, at home v Grimsby, and Mellis has yet to complete 90 minutes. To be clear though, my opinion is that Evans is yet to find the correct system in which to fit his most gifted footballer. His weaknesses are obvious. He's a typical luxury player who doesn't like tracking back and has a bit of a short fuse. To make the most of Mellis, he needs to play in a three man midfield with two workhorses (Digby/Atkinson), or as a number ten. He is yet to provide an assist.

Lee Angol 
Appearances : 9 (3)
Goals : 4
Grade : C

Angol has featured in every single game, making nine starts and scoring four goals. Whilst on that ratio Angol is on track to bet 15-20 goals, the jury is out somewhat on his performances. To mitigate slightly, according to Evans the striker hat suffered from a couple of viruses so we may not yet have seen the best of him. Only two of his goals have come from open play, in successive games earlier in the season, and he has been provided with at least one decent chance in the majority of games he has played a part in. He must improve his hold up play, which for a sizeable unit is mostly flimsy. He has yet to secure his place as The Stags number nine, despite wearing it on his back. 

Paul Anderson 
Appearances : 8 (4)
Goals : 1
Grade : D

Another player who has featured in every game is Paul Anderson, and in my opinion has fell below expectations. Just over two years ago he was playing in the Championship, but following a leg break early into his Bradford career, leading to his release and a below par season at Northampton, Anderson's arrival was met with excitement. Based on performances so far, he seems like a player who is still struggling to regain form after a serious injury. He was in contention for the captaincy early on, and started brightly with good performances against Crewe and Forest Green, scoring his first goal for Mansfield, but his displays on the wing since then have been average at best, perhaps stifled by Evans narrow diamond system. His most enjoyable performance for me came at right back against County, nullifying the dangerous Jorge Grant, but I cannot see that being a permanent position for him. If the manager persists with wingers there is still a place up for grabs, but a change of system would not suit Anderson. He is yet to provide an assist. 

Will Atkinson 
Appearances : 8 (3)
Assists : 1
Grade : D

Described by Southend fans as their League One N'golo Kante, Atkinson was considered a major coup for The Stags, having rejected a new deal at a club who had challenged strongly for the play-offs in the league above. Despite the glowing reviews pointing to Will being a ball winning midfielder, up until the last couple of games Atkinson had been used as a sort of half winger/half central midfielder in the narrow diamond system, the same as Anderson on the opposite side. Per the amount of minutes played, he has probably been the most ineffective player and sometimes it is hard to remember his involvement in games. However, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt with only two or three games played in his strongest position and hope there is more to come. He is still searching for a goal. 

Bobby Olejnik
Appearances : 0
Grade : U

As these judgements are taking place based on league games, then there is no judgement to make. Based on pre-season and the cup games, he looks a very good keeper and I'm sure at one stage earlier in the season he was close to breaking into the team. It's a long season and I'm sure he will get his chance. 

Jimmy Spencer 
Appearances : 0 (4)
Grade : U

The big target mans involvement has been limited to substitute appearances thus far, and I think he can consider himself a little unlucky not to have a league start to his name. He performed well in the Carabao Cup against Rochdale and was unlucky in the following game against Forest Green to see a well taken goal ruled out for offside. In fact, had he scored the last minute penalty against Luton, I definitely think he would have started a game by now. He bounced back by setting up Potter's goal against Lincoln in the Checkatrade Trophy but has dropped down the pecking order since the signing of Hemmings. Since then, he has only played less that ten minutes against County, but missed one game with a back spasm. It's clear Evans doesn't fancy him as a goalscorer, as he is yet to utilise him when Mansfield are trailing in a game. He is yet to provide a goal or an assist in the league. 

Hayden White 
Appearances : 5
Assists : 1
Grade : C

Another player who has suffered an injury hit start to the season is Hayden White. He started the season at right back ahead of the under the weather Rhys Bennett and is probably still be considered the first choice right back at this point in time. His season began poorly with disappointing displays against Crewe and Accrington leading to him being dropped, but he hit back strongly with that galloping run and cross against Lincoln and involvement in both goals at home to Cambridge, where he picked up another injury from which he is currently recovering. His time at the club had shown that he is inconsistent and prone to errors, but when on his game he adds an extra dimension to the Stags attack.

Alfie Potter 
Appearances 3 (4)
Grade : C

Having joined the Stags in January, Potter's Mansfield career has failed to ignite so far. The winger has only started three games, all of which they have won, without really playing a starring role. He battled well at Lincoln, was subbed at home to Cambridge and went off injured against County after starting brightly. He looked dangerous in pre-season and in cup games, scoring against Lincoln, but is yet to transfer that form to the league. He is perhaps another player who would benefit from playing more centrally given his lack of pace and strength.  Yet to provide a goal or an assist.

David Mirfin
Appearances : 10
Goals : 1
Grade : A

Steve Evans said when signing Mirfin that he did not really need another defender, but he could not turn down the opportunity to bring in a player of his quality. George Taft probably wishes he had never become available. After a slow start, Mirfin has won over fans and is now one of the first names on the team sheet. He has probably benefited from the injury to Zander Diamond, and as the left sided centre half, has looked much more solid since Johnny Hunt has come into the team. Hunts tendency to hold his position rather than bomb forward prevents the ageing legs of Mirfin from being dragged into wide areas. He leads by example and on league performances has been Evans best signing. 

Johnny Hunt 
Appearances : 7
Grade : B

Hunt was the least heralded of the summer arrivals and probably would not of have expected to have featured as much as he has. His profile does not really fit in with the other signings of being successful at a higher level, or even League Two level, which makes his start to the season all the more impressive. His first league start came at home to Grimsby following Bennings dip in form and he has played every game since. Whilst not outstanding, he is defensively solid and contributed to good results against Grimsby, Lincoln, Cambridge and County. His delivery into the box has been decent but perhaps not seen often enough for him to really make the full back spot his own. Nevertheless, you would have so say he has exceeded expectations do far. 

Omari Sterling-James 
Appearances : 1 (5)
Grade : C

The young winger/striker was described as a gamble by Steve Evans and due to a loophole in his contract, was able to join Mansfield on a cut price deal. Like Hunt, he also joined having impressed in non-league. His close control and ability to beat his man caught the eye in pre-season, the manager making it clear he saw OSJ as a striker rather than a wide player. Up to now, his only start came last time out at Colchester as a wide player, after impressing when replacing Potter as a sub against County. We maybe saw why Evans was not so keen to play him as a winger due to the rash challenge which led to the opening goal. He has started both cup games and shown flashes of his ability, as well as in a few fleeting sub appearances. He is a player who has a lot more to give and hopefully will show that as the season goes on. Yet to provide a goal or an assist.

CJ Hamilton 
Appearances : 1 (1)
Grade : U

The Stags turned down bids for CJ last season, but you wouldn't know he was a sought after talent by the role he has played so far. Just one league start, a poor performance at Accrington, and a sub appearance on the opening day at Crewe to his name. He hasn't even started in the cups, only coming off the bench twice. We all know CJ is pure speed and not much end product, but he's not going to improve that by not playing. He caused problems off the bench at Crewe as a striker and this is where his future lies in my opinion. It's clear his crossing is poor so turning him into a striker would best use his attributes, as his pace scares defenders to death. I suspect CJ was one of the players Evans was looking to loan out. It's a shame he's been so underused as our wide players have not exactly pulled up any trees so far.

Kane Hemmings
Appearances : 8
Grade : F

As admitted by Evans, Hemmings was not a player who had been on his radar, but his desperate search for a striker led to a loan deal until the end of the season from Oxford, with an optional recall in January. Based on his form so far, I cannot see Oxford exercising that clause. Eight starts and 0 goals has resulted in a very underwhelming beginning to Kane's Stags career. Whilst the striker can point to games such as Wycombe and Lincoln where the team created little in the way of opportunities for him, Hemmings has missed clear cut chances against Luton and County, not to mention a penalty against Carlisle. He's been afforded more patience than most by Steve Evans but it just hasn't clicked as of yet. I'm still trying to work out what kind of striker he is, not particularly good in the air, or quick over the ground. I suspect he's a poacher who just needs a goal. Yet to provide an assist also.

Calum Butcher 
Appearances : 6 (2)
Goals : 1
Grade : E

Deadline day signing Callum Butcher was brought in by Evans as an attacking midfielder, on the back of an apparent man of the match display in Millwalls EFL Cup defeat at Reading. Evans insistence on Butcher being an attacking midfielder is strange given he has a reputation as a tough tackling central midfielder, and even more strange given since joining Butcher has barely ventured out of the centre circle. He made an immediate impact with a debut equaliser at Carlisle but has done little to suggest he bossed a Championship teams midfield since. He put in solidly displays against Lincoln and County but again has been shown patience that his performances have not merited. He is too keen to get rid of the ball in my opinion, his side foot loft over the opposition defence already a familiar sight, the Butchers hook as I like to call it. He also seems to struggle to get around the field. Maybe the system is not suiting him because he is a player who has played regularly at a higher level. Yet to create a goal. 

Joel Byrom 
Appearances : 6
Assists : 5
Grade : A

Byrom has been one of my favourite players since joining in January. His set pieces alone make him worthy of a starting spot but it unfair to say that is his only quality. He is Mansfield's metronome, keeping the ball ticking over and switching play effectively. Granted, he is not the most mobile and needs an energetic partner alongside him, but his qualities outweigh his weaknesses. In only six appearances he created five goals, a fantastic record, and two of those were from open play, piercing through balls against Forest Green and Luton. Mansfield are also undefeated when he has started. He is a very important player who is sorely missed at the moment through injury, and still a few weeks off being available. Still looking for his first goal for the club. 

Danny Rose 
Appearances : 7 (3)
Goals : 6
Assists : 2
Grade : A

Danny Rose is the most popular player on The Stags books at the moment. His tireless running and aerial ability had already endeared him to supporters in his debut season, but winning goals against Lincoln, County and Cambridge has led to many Mansfield fans experiencing their first 'man crush'! After two almost identical headed goals in the opening two games, Rose hit the ground running but bizarrely found himself benched after only managing an assist at Accrington, following the arrival of Kane Hemmings. He was used as a sub here and there but, after the boisterous away faithful had spent the majority of the first half singing his name, Rose made his mark as the match winner at Lincoln from the bench. Since then, Rose had 3 goals and an assist in four starts. He's far from perfect of course, his hold up play is poor at times and his tendency to hit the deck can be frustrating. He has also started in all three games that the Stags have lost, sharing that record with Logan, Pearce, Anderson and Atkinson. Despite being the only striker at the club that Evans didn't sign, he is in my opinion the best.