Mansfield 2-1 Newport: Six Things We Learnt

Gordon’s dismissal a turning point –

Shaquile Coulthirst’s scored the winning penalty as Mansfield came from behind to beat 10-man Newport 2-1 – but what have we learnt from the game?

Mansfield attack early

Under previous regimes, Mansfield Town played direct football that was safe and aimless. Under Steve Evans, they still play direct, often to the industrious Pat Hoban, but do so at a higher tempo and with more men in the box. The lively CJ Hamilton was a constant threat down the left and saw his shot saved by Joe Day at the near post, while Rhys Bennett could have done better with his header from eight yards out. This was not a dominant Mansfield performance, yet they always looked capable of creating chances.

Poor defending from the Stags

Unfortunately, Mansfield also created chances for their opponents, as was the case for the opening goal on five minutes. Jaanai Gordon put in a cross which Jake Kean spilled for Ryan Bird to tap home. The striker also had his shot blocked after Newport stole the ball on the half-way line, Bennett coming to the rescue by diverting the ball behind.

Newport were too reactive

Newport seemingly waited for Mansfield to give the ball away in dangerous area, or make a mistake, for them to show some intent. Home full-backs Lee Collins, arguably out of position and Mel Benning looked passive, yet Newport did not use the ball well enough, or play with the required width to stretch them. Wing-back roles for Alex Samuel and Dan Butler were more ‘back’ than ‘wing’, but the one time the former’s shackles were off, he drove forward and put in a good cross. That ball forced a fumble from Scott Shearer, who had just replaced injured Jake Kean with the goalkeeping position another problem area for the hosts. Mansfield’s rear-guard was there to be got at – Newport should have smelt blood and managed more than their one shot on target.

Mansfield created chances

Krystian Pearce made a bigger contribution in the opposing penalty box than his own, turning the ball home on 16 minutes after Joe Day had gone out of his goal. The keeper saved one-on-one from Hoban, before the striker’s rebounded effort was cleared off the line by Micky Demetriou. Hoban’s strike partner, Shaquile Coulthirst, used his pace and tenacity to get in behind while CJ Hamilton was a constant threat down the left. Hamilton combined with Benjamin Whiteman on two occasions in the first 10 minutes of the second half. The former header wide at the back-post after the latter’s cross, before roles reversed and Whiteman’s tame close-range shot was saved. The Stags were not exactly dominating, but they looked the more likely to score.

Fiery game

With Steve Evans and Graham Westley in the dugouts, a flaring of tempers was always likely and that is what we saw midway through the second half. Gordon was controversially sent off for an a late challenge on Jamie McGuire, who himself was not shy to the dirty side of the game. Mansfield stepped up a gear with a man advantage and won a penalty on 74 minutes for Craig Reid’s handball. After some amusing difficulty getting the ball to stay still on the spot in the wind, Coulthirst’s powerful penalty meant Day could not get a strong enough contact to keep it out. Mansfield looked in control until injury-time when defensive jitters resurfaced and Bird lobbed the keeper, but it hit the roof of the net.

‘As you were’

Hartlepool’s defeat means Newport remain the six points from safety they were at the start of the day. Graham Westley’s sides have historically improved in the latter stages of campaigns and a repeat of that will be essential to any survival hopes. Colchester’s victory means it’s also a case of ‘as you were’ for Mansfield, who remain outside the play-off places on goal difference. They have enjoyed better performances and defensive deficiencies must be addressed, but the improvement under Evans is clear to see.