Stats on Stags - Walsall (H)

The Stags drew their first game following the departure of Graham Coughlan on Saturday afternoon, being held to a 1-1 draw by Walsall. It was a positive performance under the temporary guidance of academy manager Richard Cooper, the players seemingly playing with more freedom and less rigidity than in previous weeks.

Due to illness and suspensions, Cooper's options were limited, but nevertheless he made some bold decisions. He switched to a flat back four, with James Perch installed into the heart of the defence with Faz Rawson, and given the captains armband . Kellan Gordon and Stephen McLaughlin, not natural full backs, were tasked with supplying the width. In midfield, Cooper opted for a diamond set up, with George Maris as the base and Nicky Maynard at the point, probably the Stags two most creative players. Harry Charsley and George Lapslie, both of whom have very good engines, were entrusted with box to box roles. Andy Cook and Jamie Reid started together in attack for the first time. 

The two players who excelled in their new roles were the ones with the most experience, James Perch and Nicky Maynard. Perch, who has played most of his career as a full back or a defensive midfielder, slotted into the centre of defence with ease. His passing from a deeper position was as reliable as it has been all season, with an 82.7% completion rate, and mostly in a forward direction. He also made 6 clearances in the game, the most of any player, using all his experience to read attacks and ensure he took up the correct positions. His performance was a real plus and provides any incoming manager with an alternative option at the back.

Nicky Maynard was another who stood out in an unfamiliar role. The arch poacher turned attacking playmaker, picking up dangerous positions between the lines in order to give the Stags a platform to build attacks from, rather than the constant cross and hope we have seen for most of the season. Even when playing in his usual role, Mansfield always look more dangerous when they get the ball into Maynard's feet on the half turn. George Lapslie was particularly adept at finding Maynard in space, you will see from his pass map below a number of successful passes into the number ten position. Maynard's touch map is also below to further demonstrate the spaces he was able to find. It was the Lapslie-Maynard combo that came up trumps for the opening goal, albeit inadvertently, as Lapslie's wayward shot was controlled by Maynard, instinctively following in as defenders were pouring out from a corner, before dispatching the ball beyond a helpless goalkeeper. He might have won the game for Mansfield, uncharacteristically snatching at an Andy Cook knockdown and failing to make the desired contact in the second half.

Maynard touch map

For all the positives the diamond formation provided going forward, it did leave Mansfield vulnerable down the flanks, and it was no surprise to see Walsall's equaliser materialise from a cross. After gathering a Kellan Gordon ball from the right, goalkeeper Liam Roberts started a counter attack by bowling the ball out to George Nurse on the left, in the space just vacated by Gordon's foray forward. Maris and Charsley appeared to have the situation under control, but seemed to switch markers inexplicably, allowing Nurse to exchange passes with Wes McDonald before sending a low cross to the far post, were Elijah Adebayo was waiting to sweep the ball into Stech's left hand corner. A lovely counter by Walsall, but a preventable one. George Nurse has a good game down the left for Walsall. Only opposing left back Stephen McLaughlin (91) had more touches of the ball than Nurse (69).

Any prospective new manager doing their research on iFollow would have seen plenty to build upon, with all players performing adequately. He would probably like to see more from his two strikers with the ball though. Andy Cook was dispossessed 3 times, whilst Jamie Reid's touch let him down on 3 occasions They did work well out of possession though, it must be said.

The Stags move on to fellow strugglers Bolton Wanders away from home on Tuesday evening, the hosts fresh from a 4-0 drubbing at Leyton Orient. It remains to be seen whether caretaker Richard Cooper will get a second stab at recording a first Mansfield win of the season, or if a new gaffer will be at the helm. Regardless of whether he is in the hotseat, Cooper will still have a big role to play, as any new manager is likely to look to him for advice on the squad at his disposal until he is more acquainted. There's no reason to fear the Trotters, despite their lofty reputation in the not too distant past. 

Top Stats : 

Shots : Maynard (4) Reid (3) Charsley (2)
Key Passes : Charlsey (3) Bowery, Cook, Lapslie, McLaughlin (1)
Passes : McLaughlin (54) Perch (52) Maris (48)
Passing Accuracy : Reid (92.9%) Lapslie (91.3%) Maris (83.3%)
Aerial Duels Won : Perch, Rawson (4) Cook (3)
Touches : McLaughlin (91) Gordon (68) Maris (64)
Tackles : Maris (5) McLaughlin (4) Charsley (3)