Monday, 26 December 2016

Mansfield Town 0 v Morecambe 1 - EFL League 2

Monday 26th December 2016
SkyBet EFL League 2
at the One Call Stadium (Field Mill)
Mansfield Town (0) 0
Morecambe (1) 1
Andy Fleming 13
Admission by Season Ticket
Programme £3 Attendance 3237 (inc. 79 away fans)
Mansfield Town:
Shearer, Bennett, Pearce, Howkins, Collins, Clements, Hemmings, McGuire (Thomas 76), Henderson (Hamilton 45), Green, Hoban (D. Rose 61)
Unused subs - Jensen, M. Rose, Baxendale, Hurst
Roche, Conlan, Winnard, Edwards, Jennings, McGowan, Murphy, Fleming, Rose, Ellison (Wildig 83), Turner (Mullin 76)
Unused subs - Nizie, Molyneux, Massanka, Jordan
Revenue wise, I do feel that the Football League... and particularly the non league fraternity, missed a trick this weekend; with hardly any games being played on either Friday 23rd or Saturday 24th December, when the full quota of public transport options would've been available to all, unlike today.
The non league clubs who did (re)schedule fixtures on these dates, had a marked increase in their attendance figures.
The only decent thing on TV over this extended weekend, was that 'An audience with Dame Shirley Bassey', which even the narration and presentation of David Walliams couldn't put a damper on.
So other than that there was no reason for the public at large to get outdoors and seek some live entertainment.
Just one or two games staggered across the leagues, would have made a killing, but while plenty of other innovative industries used the festive season as an opportunity to make a financial killing, football merely stood back, watched and listened the to the 'kerching' of the tills of those who had used a bit of nous and some forward planning to give people something to shell their money on at this frivolous and free spending time of year.
But that opportunity has been and gone now, so hey ho!
Just a thought innit?
The ladies in my life had decided that it was a slobbing out 'chick flicks' in pyjamas day at my des res on the scenic borders of rural north Nottinghamshire... and after learning, much to my horror, that they wouldn't be viewing any of the Hunger Games films, I decided to leave them to it and headed to Field Mill instead..
Tomorrow, they'll be hitting the sales in Meadowhall, so, not wanting to add to the overcrowding at that monstrosity of a place, I've unselfishly offered to head to Derby to watch Birmingham City in action instead.
Incidentally, the US of A version of spellcheck on this laptop offered pajamas as an alternative to pyjamas just then.
Tsk! They can't even put an X in the correct box over there, so they can 'bogger' off trying to advise me how to write in my native tongue, I'll tell thee!
And while we're at it, it's colour not color, civilised (but never civilized) nations drive on the left hand side of the road and your national sports are all crap.
But I am meandering away on a tangent here, aren't I? Now where were we?
Oh yes! Mansfield Town, the home of the mighty Stags, who were playing against Morecambe.
So without further ado; bring it on!
Hmm, truth is, I was stalling for time and trying to use up my word count limit, because I didn't really want to say too much about this game, because, truth be told I have just wasted 90(+4) minutes of my life that I won't ever be able to get back... it was piss poor!
Morecambe weren't very good at all, but they had more than enough about them to see off and embarrass the Stags, in whatwas a truly awful excuse of a game.
These two sides have only ever played against each other eight times before today... and they had both recorded four wins apiece against each other thus far.
In the run up to this game their current form was identical too, with the Stags and Shrimps last four consecutive games throwing up the same sequence of results: lost - won - drawn - lost.
Steve Evans side went into today's in 17th place, just two places and three points ahead of their visitors.
Given those statistics, today's odds of 11/4 on a draw seemed pretty generous.
But alas, by half time, I would have torn off my right arm (possibly even my left one too) for such a result; because any kind of all square outcome was already never likely to be on the cards, given that this was, by far, the worst performance from a Stags side that I have witnessed for a very long time.
The last time that Morecambe visited Mansfield, the game was a very niggly and bad tempered affair.
Mansfield won that one 2-1, thanks to goals from Matty Blair and Krystian Pearce... and two penalty saves from Scott Shearer, after Kevin Ellison had given the visitors a first minute lead.
Starting the day five points behind the play off places, but just five above the drop zone too, it would be fair to say that since Steve Evans became the new Stags manager recently, the club hierarchy and fan base have fairly high expectations for an improvement in results and upturn in form as they end 2016 with a brace of home games against Morecambe this afternoon and Doncaster Rovers on Saturday (at 12.15pm).
I like Adam Murray, he's always been pleasant enough whenever I've had dealings with him and he has served the club well. But it was becoming increasingly evident that 'Muzza' and the club had both gone about as far as they were going to together and it was probably best for all concerned that the two parties went their separate ways, sooner rather than later.
Once the flesh wounds are open and that infamously hard to please core of fans at Field Mill have shown their teeth and started to gnaw away at anyone; be they players, managers, fellow supporters or even boardroom personnel, their victims continued tenure around these parts, seldom lasts very long... they aren't the kind of wounds that will ever heal.
Today I heard a growing trend of animosity and teeth grinding being directed towards another club legend: Matt Green.
Nothing (and nobody) is sacred, once the critical element of the Stags faithful decide that your number is up. And they have very short memories to. That said, Green wasn't especially pulling upany trees in an attempt to win people over this afternoon and show the new incumbent(s) of the hot seat(s), that he still has a vital role to play in the Stags first team. Not that I'm singling Green out, you understand, because there were worse players than him out on the park today.
That same element of supporters will soon be demanding virtually instant success from the Steve Evans/Paul Raynor partnership any time soon. but I personally see the remainder of this season as an opportunity to underpin next term's promotion push and putting some solid foundations in place to build on. I rate Steve Evans as a football man, through and through. He's got a proven track record and getting him to come to Mansfield Town, is a massive coup for John Radford and the club, regardless of what the anybody might think of the man.
Take the time to meet him, talk to him and give him a chance I say.
Good luck to the guy... Mansfield Town need Steve Evans more than he needs them. And that is certainly true on  today's showing.
However, any more shambolic no shows like this afternoon and his could be the shortest ever manager's honeymoon period on record. I'm pretty sure that I saw a divorce law specialist lurking in the shadows at the reception.
Seventy nine Morecambe fans
Maybe I have become a balding, rapidly ageing realist of late, but I would prefer too see a period of sustained, long term progress, over any kind of quick fix 'charge of the light brigade' gallop towards the play offs.
Don't get me wrong, I will be rooting for the team every inch of the way if the Stags do manage a surge towards the business end of the table in the new year, but numerous 'if only' scenarios and cunningly disguised 'false dawns' since the beginning of time itself, have instilled a wholly pragmatic mindset into my psyche as regards all things Mansfield Town FC.
And it must be said, that in all seriousness, it wouldn't take many more performances as bad as this one, for the Stags to slump into such a position, that it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility that they could get out of this division in the opposite direction at the end of this season and take the plunge back towards being a non league team again.
An overly pessimistic analogy you might think, but the fact of the matter is, that worse case scenario is far more of a mathematical possibility than a lot of us would care to contemplate...  and all of a sudden each and every game is taking on the mantle of a 'must win' one.
In truth the Stags only created two decent opportunities in the first half today, with Matt Green seeing his looping header tipped over the bar just before the half hour mark when Ashley Hemmings had crossed the ball after being released on left flank by Chris Clements... and Pat Hoban turned the ball just the wrong side of the upright from Green's knock down a couple of minutes before the break.
There were a few other flickers of hope and crumbs of comfort along the way for the home faithful,
but nothing that was clear cut enough to warranted relating at this juncture.
Morecambe however, did find the back of the net after thirteen minutes, when Rhys Turner skinned Kyle Howkins with a burst of pace through the left channel, before knocking a sideways pass to Pete Murphy, whose shot from twelve yards was well blocked by Scott Shearer, but Andy Fleming gratefully rammed the ball past the stranded Stags keeper as the rebound fell kindly for him.
Barry Roche in the Morecambe goal, was seldom troubled, but on the few occasions that they did puncture the Shrimps rearguard, the visitors custodian was just about equal to the (very limited) threat that the Stags posed.
Danny Rose came on in place of Hoban and livened things up a bit, hitting the crossbar just moments after his introduction and then pouncing onto a rebound off of Roche from Howkins shot, but striking the ball against the upright.
CJ Hamilton, who had  replaced Darius Henderson at half time, raced forward thirty yards through a static Morecambe midfield, but gave the ball to the Morecambe fans in the North Stand as a late Christmas present with a shot that would best be described as wayward.
It was of great concern that although the Stags had plenty of the ball, it was seldom in critical areas of the pitch... and the fact that they had at least thirteen corner kicks this afternoon, possibly more, but created nothing of note from any of them, while repeating the same tactical set piece maneuver time and time again, must surely have set some fairly loud alarm bells ringing somewhere.
If Evans is looking to bring in players in the forthcoming transfer window, who he is familiar with and knows can slot into his proven, tried and tested methods, then in the interim a plan B (at the very least) geared to suit the 'talents' that he has at his disposal, must be implemented forthwith before league leaders Doncaster Rovers roll into town on Saturday lunchtime.
This Stags team are entering a period on transition and seismic change and though one must always look forward and never back, I think that if Mansfield had played as completely atrociously as they did today towards the end of Adam Murray's reign in charge, then some sections of the crowd wouldn't have stopped at any less than a public beheading tonight.
Steve Evans and Paul Raynor have never flinched from a challenge and they now know the enormity of the task they have taken on. Hold ontothe edge of your seats this ride is just about to get bumpy.
I guess I should say a bit more about Morecambe in my final analysis: To their credit, they knew that they had to kill the game off today and chisel out a result, with a typical lower league, bottom half, away performance. Their time wasting, gamesmanship and non stop haranguing of the match officials
was off the scale at times, but they got the job done and if Mansfield want to climb up the table to safer height then they are at times, in a horses for courses sort of way, going to have to man up and meet fire with fire when the need arises.
FT: Mansfield Town 0 v Morecambe 1
For what it is worth, I'd happily take a 0-0 draw against Darren Ferguson's Donny Rovers now.
Being the ever helpful sort of guy that I am, I nipped into my local corner shop on the way home to
pick up a magazine for Matt Green, because he seems to have mislaid his somewhere.