Mansfield 0, Halifax 1
by Martin Shaw at Field Mill
Well this was truly a disastrous defeat for Mansfield. After Saturday`s disappointing draw at home to Southend, Stags were desperate for three points this time round. But it wasn`t to be as Stags had no cutting edge and created very few chances. Halifax played well - defended very well and attacked on the break very purposefully.
Mansfield made two changes, bringing in Tony Ford and Darrell Clarke in place of Walker and Tallon in midfield. According to Parkin`s pre-match interview, Ford was brought in to do a man-marking job on Halifax`s danger man Jamie Paterson. But presumably to Parkin`s surprise, Paterson was ruled out through injury.
The game started quietly and the Stags created a handful of chances in the first half. The best two chances fell to Darrell Clarke. But he put a free header over the bar when he really should have hit the target, and then sent a free shot from 15 yards skimming towards the corner flag. Peacock and Kerr also had half-chances but it was Halifax who were deadly on the break.
The Halifax goal after 30 minutes resulted from a break when former Notts County striker Justin Jackson hopelessly outpaced Linighan, to pull back a cross for the completely unmarked Thackeray to fire low under Bowling into the net from 10 yards, with Allardyce and Ford seemingly frozen to the spot.
It could have been much worse shortly afterwards when Halifax player Newton, on the break, went over Bowling in a 1 on 1 situation. The referee immediately signalled for a penalty and it seemed for a split second that Bowling would surely be sent off. But the assistant referee was signalling that it was not a penalty, and so the referee changed his mind. Instead he gave a goal-kick and booked Newton. This was a real let-off as the Stags could have been 2-0 down, with Bowling off (and no substitute keeper of course, plus no senior keeper to replace Bowling during his suspension).
Half time 0-0
The second half was more of a disappointment as Mansfield hardly created any chances at all. Christie replaced Lormor with half an hour left but once again looked out of sorts, though he did create one shot for himself which the keeper saved low down at his near post. And in one other incident he nearly went down when it seemed a penalty was on the cards. But in truth, the Stags did not really look like equalising. In my opinion, this was not through any lack of commitment - there was just no cutting edge in the team.
One clear problem as I have repeatedly stated is that the new central defence, whilst undoubtedly looking solid (with the one exception of the Halifax goal), continually hoofs the ball upfield thus breaking up the style of football that had got the Stags into the top seven. In addition, the midfield seems incapable of creating much in recent matches. It is such a shame that Cyrille L`Helgoualch had told manager Parkin that he did not want to play in midfield, where Parkin wanted him to play, so the Frenchman has returned home. In my view, he would certainly have helped sort out the problems in midfield.
At the end of the game, many of the home crowd slaughtered the players with booing. This wasn`t fair in my opinion as the players have given 100% all season but on the night weren`t good enough to break down a resurgent Halifax team.
Swansea`s win over Hartlepool means that Stags are now out of the play-off zone: one point behind Swansea, but Swansea also have one game in hand. With 5 games left for the Stags, it is now time for them to recover some away form, where they haven`t in truth looked like winning for some time. Four wins from the last 5 games are almost certainly required to make the play-offs and this needs to start with victory at Barnet on Saturday. If they can win at Barnet, then the prospect of consecutive home games against Hartlepool and Exeter (both with appalling away records) may see the play-off ambitions back on track. However failure to beat Barnet will leave Swansea (who do not play until Sunday) with 2 games in which to pull away from Mansfield.
Come on the Stags!!!
Bowling 6 Fair performance, possibly lucky with the penalty incident
Williams 5 Another poor performance. Crossing was again poor
Harper 5 Terrible run of form for the talented wing-back, but Parkin has few other options
Willis 6 Hardly noticed in defence but did make one magnificent sliding tackle to prevent a free shot on goal
Allardyce 6 Competent in defence though found missing for the only goal. Dreadful distribution
Linighan 5 Hopelessly outpaced for the goal. Again, poor distribution
Kerr 5 Tough tackling but totally unable to create anything
Ford 5 Created nothing
Lormor 6 Given very little chance but did nothing wrong. Probably should not have been substituted
Peacock 6 Again little chance, though still looked a good player
Clarke 5 Created nothing
Walker 5 No improvement on the other midfielders
Christie 6 Looked slightly sharper than on Saturday but still way below his best form
Schofield 6 Little opportunity but created nothing