Saturday, 7 January 2017

Mansfield Town 3 v Crewe Alexandra 0 - EFL League 2

Saturday 7th January 2017
SkyBet EFL League 2/Division 4
at the One Call Stadium/Field Mill
Mansfield Town  (1) 3
Yohan Arquin 5
Ben Whiteman 48
Rhys Bennett 84
Crewe Alexandra  (0) 0
Admission by Season Ticket
Programme £3 Attendance 3,040 (226 away)
Back in October these two sides drew 1-1 at Gresty Road, with Pat Hoban giving the Stags a fifty first minute lead, before Chris Dagnall equalised shortly afterwards.
Steve Davis' Crewe side arrived at 'Wonk Hall' on  the back of a six game run (including four defeats) in which they hadn't won a game. 
Today they offered a multitude of clues as to why they're struggling at present, their shape and rhythm was almost as poor as the one being being beat out mundanely on a drum, that one of their supporters was banging in the sparsely populated North Stand, from where the most audible chant of the afternoon was "We want Davis out!" 
Passing the ball around an infinite amount of times, across the width of the pitch, before squandering possession again and again (and thrice again), isn't going to help get the Railwaymen out the sidings that they have found themselves shunted into any time soon.
226 Crewe fans
A hungry and eager looking Stags side, tracked the 'Alex' down and pounced at the optimum time to claim the ball on numerous occasions, but the visitors seemed to lack the flexibility to change tact.
On New Years Eve, while Mansfield were being held 1-1 at the Mill against title favourites Doncaster Rovers, 'Alex' lost 1-0 at home against Accrington Stanley.
Bank holiday Monday saw the Stags claim all three points from a trip to Blackpool, thanks to a solitary goal from Matt Green, which moved them up one place in the table, ahead of Crewe, who didn't have a game that afternoon, so coming into today's game, Steve Evans side were sat in sixteenth place in the table, eight points away from the play offs, which are still just about attainable; but more importantly, in my opinion anyway, nine points above the drop zone.
As expected, the new Stags manager has wasted no time in bringing in some new faces as soon as the transfer window opened and four new signings made their debuts at Bloomfield Road earlier in the week, namely: striker Yoann Arquin, who recently left Swedish side Syrianska, having previously spent time with Notts County, St Mirren and Ross County. Midfielder Joel Byrom, who has joined Mansfield from Northampton Town after having been released from his contract there. Goalkeeper Jake Kean has come in on loan, until the end of the season. And finally Ben Whiteman, a midfielder has also joined on loan until the end of the season, from Sheffield United. They all started this afternoon too.
And of course, besides the newcomers, as recently as yesterday afternoon, West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis agreed to extend centre half Kyle Howkins loan period until May 31st... and that can only be a good thing in light of his recent form.
Wow! Someone's been busy at the Sports Direct January sale.
Meanwhile, heading in the opposite direction; Adi Yussuf has left the Stags and joined League 2 rivals Grimsby Town on an eighteen month contract (he has scored in his first two games for the Mariners), Alex Lacovitti, who was at the club on loan, has returned to Nottingham Forest, and Oscar Gobern and Darius Henderson haven't had their contracts renewed.
By all accounts, the management team are looking to trim down the first team pool to twenty two players once any further transfer/player registration business is concluded.
Driving home from this  convincing Stags win, we tuned into BBC Radio Sheffield's always entertaining football phone in show 'Praise or Grumble', that this evening was besieged by Rotherham United supporters demanding changes at the New York Stadium, with the most popular suggestion by a country mile being that they take Steve Evans back as manager.
The Millers are a club that I personally bear no grudge against whatsoever, in fact you have to admire the way that they fought back from losing their fine old home at Millmoor, before keeping the club alive while playing at a (now demolished) athletic's stadium in Sheffield and finally hitting the dizzy heights of the Championship in their newly built all seater arena in the middle of Rotherham. Fair play to them and much respect too... but might I suggest that they should have tried a bit harder to keep hold of Neil Warnock as their manager at the end of last season. And that they can bugger right off as regards enticing their former, highly successful manager Steve Evans back.
Love him or loathe him, and I know people who fall into both camps, even among the Stags support,   Evans is doing a job for Mansfield Town now... and after a bit of a start/stop/start reintroduction into the murky pool of basement division football, the signs are definitely there, that the Stags faithful are on the verge of having an attack minded, pressing, passing, high tempo and ultimately, winning side to watch from this point forward.
The game was just under five minutes old when Yohan Arquin rifled a shot front through a crowd of legs from just outside the six yard box, to give the home side the lead.
Mal Benning dropped a long cross over the Crewe six yard box from out on the left, which Ben Whiteman met at the back stick and nodded the back across the face of the goal, Arquin got his head to it and divetrted the ball towards the goal, where it fell back kindly to him off of Jon Guthrie and Matt Green who were both challenging to get a touch on the goal line... and Arquin added the finishing touch. 
This was his first Stags goal, on a day that would mark several other firsts for the home side.
Ladies and Gentlemen, put you fingers in your ears, because... CRASH-BOOM-BANG!!! 
There goes the curse of Field Mill, the evil hex placed on the club that has prevented them from scoring in the first half of any game at home, in any competition, all of this season, has been blown away forever. Now let the floodgates open wide and just watch these Stags boys go now!
Who could ever have doubted that Mansfield Town were about to turn the corner all along, eh!?
Hmm, a majority of Stags fans that have at least one vowel in their name I would have thought, and though they have only just entered that rather long curve, please allow me to believe, that for a change, just once, that this time, all of the inevitable twists and turns are actually going to lead to a worthwhile destination.
Not that I'm getting carried away (yet), you understand.
Mal Benning, who spent the best part of the afternoon winning and then dispatching the ball down the left flank, more often than not to CJ Hamilton, picked out that very player with a lofted pass, who combined with Conor Whiteman to force a corner, from which Benning found the head of Arquin, but the 'new lad' headed over from close range.
Whiteman was tripped eighteen yards from Crewe's goal and took the resulting free kick himself, that Ben Garratt got his body behind and held onto.
Jake Kean got down well to save from Zoumana Bakayago and Benning (who else?) was on hand to clear the loose ball away.
The Stags rode their luck when Bakayago went down in the Stags area after Rhys Bennett caught his heel with a stray kick, but the visitors number fourteen continued his run before stumbling unconvincingly to the ground several yards after the event. If he had gone to ground when contact was made he would definitely have won a penalty, but in choosing that option several seconds too late, he actually ran the risk of a yellow card for assimilation.
He'll know exactly what to do the next time it happens.
The Stags were pushing forward in search of a second goal to cement their advantage before the break, but the final touch kept evading them as they swarmed around the visitors area.
Crewe for their part were still knocking the ball around aimlessly to very little effect, nibbling at the Stags rearguard occasionally, but never actually having anything like a proper bite.
HT: Stags 1 v Railwaymen 0
Almost straight from the restart, the home side doubled their lead, with what wasn't just Whiteman's first Stags goal, but was actually his first ever first team goal ever.
Ollie Turton unwittingly became the provider of the Stags second goal, when he blocked Hamilton's goal attempt but could only divert the ball into Whiteman's path, who thumped his shot home from the edge of the box, that had enough power in it to end up in the net even though Garratt got his hand to it.
Bennett had two chances to increase the Stags lead, including one where he hit the outside of the right hand post from around eight feet out, that led to a cruel jibe from somebody within earshot of me who called out "...and that is why you're a full back!"
Matt Green ought to have done better with a shot on goal, but seemed to get caught in two minds about whether to lay it off for Arquin or go for glory himself.
Predominantly, Green has been moved to the role of a wide attacker, but he is adapting really quickly and is offering even more options to the team, from making this small but significant tactical switch.
Crewe had all but thrown in the towel and their angry supporters were upping the volume of dissent towards their beleaguered manager, as the game moved into it's final stages.
The Stags ruthlessly finished off their poor opposition with six minutes to go, when yet another Benning/Hamilton move forced a corner out on the left wing, from which Baxendale delivered the ball to Bennett, whose first shot was blocked by Garratt, but he made no mistake from the rebound.
Another first! That was the first time that Bennett has scored for the Stags, "... and the bloody last time too!" joked his nearby detractor, in jest. At least I hope he was joking.
The second of two back to back clean sheets, is also something that the home side achieved for only the first time this season today too.
FT: Mansfield Town 3 v Crewe Alexandra 0
North Stand floodlights from Bishop Street
Okay, granted, it was a fairly substandard outing from Crewe, on the Stags day of many firsts, but you can only apply yourself professionally and beat what is in front of you in games like this.
Mansfield won this game at a canter and in a manner that suggests that there is still more to come once this side really gels together.
The Stags are at home in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night against Oldham Athletic, before they travel to Notts County for a 1pm kick off on Saturday. 
While Crewe face two in form sides in their next couple games, namely Luton at home and Doncaster away, over the next two weekends.
FOOTNOTE: Following this result (and performance), Crewe have dismissed their manager Steve Davis and replaced him with the former Stags player David Artell. Small world innit!?