Saturday, 11 February 2017

Mansfield Town 4 v Hartlepool United 0 - EFL League 2

Saturday 11th February 2017
SkyBet EFL League 2
at the One Call Stadium/Field Mill
Mansfield Town (2) 4
Ben Whiteman 19, 76
Danny Rose 26
Alex MacDonald 71
Hartlepool Unuted (0) 0
Admission by season ticket
Programme £3. Attendance 4,309 (inc. 331 away)
When Steve Evans (and Paul Raynor) took over the managerial reigns at Mansfield Town back in November, the Stags had slid to eighteenth in League 2, today they gatecrashed the play off places (top six), with an emphatic 4-0 win against Hartlepool United.
The Stags manager had joked in his pre-match press conference, that his side needed a result today because they hadn't won since their last game.
The ominous thing (for opposition sides) as the Stags move up through the gears, is the fact that there is quite evidently still more to come from this side, who appear to have plenty in reserve as the new signings blend in.
An element of fine tuning is still required in places at times, but when that collective cohesion does come... and it will, given time, but sooner rather than later I suspect; there is no ceiling to what this rebuilt side can achieve in this division.
The feelgood factor around Field Mill, throughout the club, in the stands and even across that last bastion of the perpetual anonymous moaners: social media, is creating a tidal wave of euphoria and enthusiasm that can't (and won't) be denied.
Whatever your opinion of Steve Evans is... and there are those, even among the ranks of Stags fans, who still have severe reservations about the manager and his sidekick, he (they) will, without any shadow of doubt, lead Mansfield Town's first team towards promotion and success.
At the outset of the season, I was of the opinion that the team would be better off staying in League 2 (Division 4) for another season and building at a sustainable rate, towards a tilt at the play offs next season, because I felt that if they did somehow manage to scramble through the play offs to League 1, they weren't quite ready to play at a higher level.
But now, call it the 'Evans effect' or whatever you want, but an influx of quality performers, to either compliment and bolster the decent players who were already at the club, or replace those who were perhaps not quite up to the job of stepping up a level, as led to me reassessing my evaluation of the squad... and it needs to be said, even if they don't go up at the end of this season, because even though it is boom time at the One Call Stadium at present, there are still some mighty fine teams scrapping it out at the business end of the season besides Mansfield Town, but they now have a squad that is ready for the challenge and capable of holding their own outside the basement league. And if they fall short at the final hurdle this time round, they will be raring to go full steam ahead next season.
Hartlepool passed the ball to death in midfield at times, but truth be told, the Stags cruised to a comfortable victory today, and even afforded themselves the luxury of taking a breather and sitting back on their laurels in between the two goals that they scored in quick succession either half, before finishing the game with a flourish and putting 'Pools' on the back foot right until the final whistle.
The issue of of a slight lack of physicality, that was ruthlessly exposed by some of the big lumps in the Wycombe Wanderers side at the recent Checkatrade Trophy game, appears to have been addressed, and that is something that was demonstrated when Alex MacDonald was introduced from the bench in the sixty fifth minute.... and it looked for all the world as though the Stags were bring a prop forward on. His first action was to get tight on the biggest opposition play he could find and dispossess him with a firm (but fair) challenge in the centre circle, his second saw him pickup a forward pass from Mal Benning, charge forward thirty yards and drive the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the 'Pools' net to score Mansfield's third goal, with a precision finish.
MacDonald's first ever goal for the Stags, put the game out of Hartlepool's reach and a good number of their supporters left the ground, figuring that walking around town in the rain, or sitting on their coach for half a hour, was a better option than watching their team getting trounced.
Two first half goals had already laid down the foundations and paved the way for this comfortable win.
Ben Whiteman, who can't stop scoring at the moment scored the first, when he thumped Shaq Coulthirst's pass across the visitors goal past Adam Bartlett from twelve yards after nineteen minutes and Danny Rose added the second shortly afterwards, after Mal Benning had taken the ball off of the former Stags player Nathan Thomas, before surging forward and picking out Rose, who initially lost the ball to Matt Bates, but won it back, before rounding the wrong footed Bartlett, who had expected Bates to clear, and took his time putting the ball into an empty net.
For the record, Bartlett plays in the number thirteen shirt... unlucky!
Whiteman netted again in the seventy first minute, when Matt Green did well to play the ball out to MacDonald, who delivered a perfect cross for the in-form attacking midfielder to head down towards the visitors goal, which is where it ended up via a slight deflection.
MacDonald and Green both had chances to increase the score in the closing stages of the game, but the home side, roared on by the recently introduced singing section in block Q of the Ian Greaves West Stand had to settle for a four nil win today.
That's now one draw, six wins and no defeats in the league for the Stags in 2017.
They now face bogey side Accrington Stanley at the One Call Stadium/Field Mill in a League 2 fixture on Tuesday night, which is where I am treating my good lady to a Valentine's night out (my bad one will have to stay in watching Hollyoaks with the £3 box of Milk Tray I picked up at Morrison's garage)... and if you buy a ticket for that game you'll get one for the next home game against Newport County on Saturday 25th February free. What more could you want!?
Hartlepool United have another away game on Tuesday night, when they face a four hundred and sixty mile round trip into Bedfordshire to face Luton Town, it never rains, it pours!
FT: Stags 4 v Pools 0
For the benefit of anybody who tunes in to THE66POW looking for information about the Mansfield Town U18 team, I couldn't get to Highfields Park for the 11am kick off against Notts County this morning, but am happy to report the young Stags won 3-2