Cheltenham Town 2-2 Mansfield Town Six Things: Walker double saves Stags

Neal Bishop tries to stop Jacob Maddox – @ctfcofficial

Tyler Walker’s injury-time leveller rescued a 2-2 draw for Mansfield Town at Cheltenham Town, who must wait longer still for their first home victory of the campaign. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Stags strong start

Mansfield appeared to be showing the superior quality early on and they took the lead as early as the seventh-minute. Mal Benning, who has been arguably one of the best left-backs in League Two over the last four years, delivered a peach of a cross from deep: Tyler Walker made the most of it with an instinctive glance into the far corner. That goal hinted at potentially a dominant performance from David Flitcroft’s side, so Cheltenham fans can take great encouragement from their side’s extremely spirited response.

Defenders on the offensive

Cheltenham’s game plan in open play was long balls to Luke Varney, whose willingness to duel aggressively with Matt Preston and others created extra space for the silky-footed Jacob Maddox and the athletic Ryan Broom. Although, it was defenders who made the telling touches: after the impressive Chris Hussey’s corner, Chris Clements set up Ben Tozer to fire home. Tozer, a midfielder by trade, had been fielded in the middle of a three-man defence, but he made as big an impact in the opposing penalty area as his own. The former Newport man turned provider late in the first half, crossing for the aerially dominant Will Boyle to head the Robins into the lead.

Robins resolve

When defending a second half lead, especially a one-goal lead against expensively-assembled opposition, many League Two teams would have kept 11 men in their defensive third and invited pressure. Instead, what Cheltenham did very well was close Mansfield down even in deep areas, so as to make it as hard for them as possible to get their deliveries in the box. Every player played their part in a system that was largely very successful, as Mansfield created next to no chances in the second period and didn’t hit the target more than twice.

Walker delivers the heartache

The Nottingham Forest loanee was not especially eye-catching in open play; for much of the contest he was successfully shepherded into wide areas. However, a player who has shown promise at Championship level as recently as last season was always likely to have the quality to make a telling mark on the game. That showed in the third minute of stoppage-time, when he tapped home from close-range.

Mediocre Mansfield 

The draw means that Mansfield Town have still lost just once this season and they remain undefeated on the road, but their record of 10 draws from 16 is hardly one to aspire to – especially with on paper one of the division’s strongest squads. David Flitcroft, who has won promotion from this level with Bury, is clearly a passionate manager, but his side lacked composure in possession and at times confidence in their game plan. For that reason, John and Carolyn Radford would be entitled to question whether they are getting enough bang for their buck.

Small step forward for Cheltenham

Walker’s goal also means Cheltenham are yet to win at home – and yet to win in the league under Michael Duff’s tutelage. Those are two big psychological hurdles and in both senses, holding out for an extra two minutes would have provided a much-needed shot in the arm. In terms of the game plan however, there was a hell of a lot that Michael Duff and his coaching team got right and the performance was unquestionably one of a side that has full support for their manager. Replicate that performance against teams that do not possess a Championship-level finisher and results should improve.