Mansfield secured a second successive away point on a rainy afternoon in Gloucestershire, as they held promotion chasing Cheltenham Town to a 0-0 draw. This was the Stags first away clean sheet since November 2019, on a similarly wet afternoon at Macclesfield Town. It was a pretty forgettable game in terms of chances created, with both teams managing just two shots on target, the away sides two resulting in simple saves. As with the Morecambe game in midweek, if Mansfield were in a respectable league position, a point would have been a good result against a side in good form, but until the Stags start to climb the table, only three points will do for Graham Coughlan.
Having switched to a back four to start the previous game, the Stags boss reverted to to type by restoring his wing backs system, but employed a diamond in midfield rather than starting with two strikers. The absence of Corey O'Keeffe, isolating after contact with COVID positive Mal Benning, perhaps forced the issue, as well as a possible desire to match Cheltenham's three at the back formation. I think if Coughlan wanted to keep the same 4-5-1 shape, he had the personnel available to do so.
The Stags had the better of the first half, working smartly to win possession high up the pitch time after time. The Cheltenham defenders were rattled, making unforced errors on numerous occasions. Despite gaining possession in positive areas, Mansfield's quality in the final third was severely lacking, only managing 2 successful passes into the opposition area from open play in the first half, a real failure to capitalise when in the ascendency. The two shots on target managed were a Rawson header from just inside the box which was straight at the keeper, and a low effort from George Lapslie which was again comfortably saved. 7 other shots were unleashed without troubling Josh Griffiths. Despite the lack of a killer instinct, it had been a decent half for the away side, with the Robins mustering just 4 off target efforts and creating very little.
After the break, Cheltenham came into the game, presumably after receiving a rocket from manager Michael Duff at half time. They forced a very good save from Marek Stech when one of Ben Tozer's trademark long throws finally caused some commotion. Will Boyle flicked the ball on at the near post, but the right hand of Marek Stech produced a second great save in a few days. The rebound fell to Alfie May, whose goalbound shot was blocked on the line by Harry Charsley. A few minutes later, May squandered the chance of the game. After good approach play down the left between May and Hussey caught out Gordon and Menayese, May found himself bearing down on goal from the left of the area. He set his sights on the far corner, but sent the ball narrowly wide. It was the kind of chance you hope for at the start of a game, and also the kind of chance Mansfield are finding it so hard to create for their own attackers.
It was a frustrating period of the game, both for the Stags players, and certainly as a viewer at home. The game seemed to be drifting away from Graham Coughlan's side, having less and less possession, and struggling to create anything of note. Between the 46th and 70th minute, we didn't have a single effort on goal, whilst the home side had five. The game was crying out for a shake up from the bench, but it didn't materialise until the 78th minute. Nicky Maynard and Jamie Reid replaced Andy Cook and George Maris. So two strikers on for one striker and an attacking midfielder, which Coughlan described as a brave change, due to Cook being a defensive marker from set pieces. In my opinion, it was not a brave change, it was purely common sense when your team is drifting towards an 11th winless game of the campaign. In fact, it would have been 'braver' to leave Cook on, and pair him with the other proven striker at the club in Nicky Maynard (no disrespect to Jamie Reid, who did well when he came on). There seems to be a reluctance from the manager to pair Cook and Maynard, he hasn't started them together since he took over, and they've only been on the pitch together for 35 minutes so far this season.
The two substitutes did combine to create a good chance for Maynard. Jamie Reid brought a long ball down fantastically on his chest on the half way line, before cutting inside his marker and releasing Maynard on the right hand side, one on one with the last defender. Maynard couldn't beat the defender, getting the ball caught under his feet before angling a low shot wide of the far post. You would fancy Maynard to work the keeper from there. It rather summed up the form of Mansfield's strikers, with only Andy Cook bagging from open play, and even then, only once. In stoppage time, a chance which you would hope would fall to a striker instead fell to probably the last person you would want on the end of it, Farrend Rawson. The central defender found himself in acres of space in the centre of the goal, but rushed his effort with his weaker left foot, volleying the ball miles wide. He would have been better served taking a touch.
The draw was a fair result, with neither team doing enough to earn all three points. In my opinion, it's 'beat Barrow or bust' on Tuesday night for Graham Coughlan, especially with chairman John Radford seemingly asking fans what he should do regarding the situation after Saturday's game. After an 8th league game without a win, this is the Stags worst league start for 106 years in terms on winless games, and the worst in 13 years in terms of points gained. Whilst I have previously pleaded for patience, and still would do so in an ideal world, football is a results game. It would be extremely rare to see an owner allowing 9 games without a win to go unpunished, especially without a previously successful period at the club to demonstrate Coughlan's credentials. Barrow are also winless in the league, so there can be no excuses for another draw or loss if Coughlan's side are to build on the two well earned away draws.
Top Stats :
Shots : Cook (4) Maris, Rawson (2)
Key Passes : Cook, Gordon, McLaughlin (2)
Passes : Maris (41) McLaughlin (38) Gordon (35)
Passing Accuracy : Maris (87.8%) Perch (78.1%) Lapslie (71.9%)
Aerial Duels Won : Cook, Rawson (3) Menayese, Perch, Sweeney (2)
Touches : Mclaughlin (62) Gordon (56) Maris (51)
Tackles : Lapslie, Maris (4) Menayese (3)
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