Coventry City 0-1 Mansfield Town Six Things: MacDonald stunner wins it

Conrad commanding at Cov – coventrytelegraph.net

Mansfield Town moved within two points of the League Two play-off places after Alex MacDonald’s impressive late strike helped them to a 1-0 win at promotion contenders Coventry City. Here’s six things from the game.

McNulty’s early movement

Coventry started brightly, with Marc McNulty getting into good areas in the gaps between Mansfield’s defenders, his clever movement allowing the hosts possession in the final third. Mansfield needed the impressive Conrad Logan to keep them in it: the goalkeeper saved from Jordan Ponticelli on 10 minutes after Liam Kelly’s corner.

Cautious Kelly and defensive Doyle

That opening spell came when Ryan Haynes got into the opposing half to stretch play and create space for Jodi Jones, who looked bright early on, while Kelly and Michael Doyle got to second balls quickly. Paul Anderson soon doubled up with White on Haynes and Jones though, negating the home side’s threat. Equally, Kelly and Doyle soon dropped into deeper positions and both trends coincided with an improvement from Mansfield. CJ Hamilton got away from Grimmer on 20 minutes and pulled the ball back for Paul Anderson, who fired straight at Lee Burge in a period of pressure.

Coventry’s poor passing

Both teams were quick to recover their defensive shape in the transitional phases, which contributed to a tight game. The Sky Blues didn’t help themselves though because once Jones was afforded less space on either flank, their only plan was high balls, despite having two strikers who couldn’t be described as target men. Peter Vincenti was the only aerially-competent attacking player as McNulty and Ponticelli struggled when asked to do battle physically with Bennett and Diamond, who grew in confidence for the Stags.

MacDonald’s stunner

Mansfield had looked the more likely side to find a winner in the second half. Danny Rose’s appeals for a 64 minute penalty were turned away, then five minutes later, his partner Kane Hemmings curled wide after MacDonald’s free-kick had hit the wall. MacDonald though would have his moment, driving forward on 84 minutes to hit a wonderful 25-yard strike into the corner, leaving Burge with no chance and away fans in delirium.

Coventry must open up

Mark Robins likes his sides to keep their own house in order and steadily take control of games, which has often worked this season. However, today’s blank means that no League Two team has failed to score more often than Coventry. The Midlanders defended well but that does not make them immune to the occasional opposition wonder-strike, which no defensive masterclass can legislate for. It has still been a good start for Robins’ men.  but to get promoted this season, they must pass the ball better in midfield, add a physical presence up top and become tactically braver.

Turning point for the Stags?

Before the game, Mansfield supporters appeared confident, both in Steve Evans and in the team’s capacity to put a run together and make the top seven. Many sung all game and helped drive their team on, leading to a feeling of collective jubilation at full-time. If the momentum from this victory carries on, maximum points or something similar from November looks within their grasp. After an underwhelming start, they might just be just be building the foundations for a sustained promotion push.