COX AND BRABIN REACTION
audio interview with Paul Cox --->
Stasg need to be more ruthless - Cox
MANSFIELD Town are close to becoming a 'competitive' Blue Square Bet Premier outfit – but must sharpen up in both boxes to do so.
That's the view of frustrated manager Paul Cox who last night against Luton saw his side have a 1-0 lead pegged back to draw 1-1 for the third time this season.
The Stags are still searching for their first win after Matt Green's first-half opener was cancelled out by Will Antwi – a fourth goal in six conceded from a dead ball situation.
Cox is pleased with the way the team is developing but insists only if their finishing and concentration at the back improves will the victories start flowing.
"It is equally frustrating that we are conceding goals from set-pieces and not taking chances at the other end," he said.
"Take the Gateshead game out of the equation and we could have been sat with nine points from four games.
"To sum it up, we just need to be that little bit more ruthless at both ends of the field.
"We have done loads of good work against Luton all over the pitch and there were some excellent crosses going into the box. How we have missed some of the chances that have come our way I don't know.
"And at the late stage of the game where they scored, it just needs wrapping up. That should be a simple header away.
"But there were so many positives to come out of the game and I don't want to be too harsh on the lads because they gave it their all.
"We played some excellent football and if they carry on a win won't be long in coming."
Cox determined to stamp out set piece failings
PAUL Cox says there are no simple answers to Mansfield Town's vulnerability from set pieces – but insists they are working hard to rectify the problem.
Of the six goals they have conceded in their first four games of 2011-12, four have come from set pieces.
?The weakness is something Mansfield are working hard on in training and Cox hopes to soon see the dividends of that.
"It's a case of drilling, drilling, drilling in training," said Cox. "Micky (Moore) worked with the lads for an hour-and-a-half on Monday on defending set pieces.
"You look at the size of the side now and we are not small, but we thought we defended a little bit too deep for the goal (against Luton).
"We are starting to show a bit of resilience but I want the finished product yesterday and there is obvious room for improvement.
"If you analyse our goals, we have usually conceded within ten minutes, but I thought against Luton we looked a lot more solid.
"I thought we had got through the period where we were really vulnerable but we still conceded.
"I don't want to be negative after such a good performance but we need to keep drilling into the lads that these stupid goals are costly."
Green happy but frustrated after opening his Stags account
MATT Green was thrilled to open his Mansfield Town goal account – but frustrated his spectacular strike did not earn a first three points of the season.
The Oxford loanee thumped home a right-foot shot from the edge of the area after 26 minutes to put the Stags ahead.
However, it was not enough to seal victory against well-fancied visitors Luton, who hit back to claim a share of the spoils with Will Antwi's header 12 minutes from time.
"I needed a goal because it's been a couple of games now where I've been close and set up goals," said Green.
"But it feels better now I've got on the scoresheet. It was just a shame that it didn't end up being the winner.
"Scoring is what strikers are paid to do and so getting one is always going to give you that bit of extra confidence."
Green was also encouraged by what Mansfield produced over the course of the 90 minutes.
He said: "I think the way we played is going to make us feel positive going forward, even though we are still looking for that first victory.
"We will take a lot of belief, that's the main thing to come out of the game, even though we feel we were unlucky with the result.
"It can get frustrating that we haven't won yet but the performance was good and there's no reason why we can't put a long unbeaten run together going forward."
Twitter, Martin Riley
Gutted not to win again tonight! We just arent getting the rub of the green atm! Lots of positives though and great support from the #stags
Twitter, Alan Marriott
Absolute spewing!! Thought we did enough tonight! Should have about 8/9 points so far! Gonna stay positive and hope for a bit of luck!
"They're a very direct physical side. They scored against the run of play. I wanted a bit more character in the second half and match them physically."
BY JAMES CUNLIFFE
Afterwards Brabin said: “We are not overly disappointed, coming away to Mansfield. It's a tough place to come and these were one of the early favourites. We've been a little bit blighted before the game with injuries and before the game we'd probably have taken a point, but I thought we deserved more.”
Brabs hails bare bones braves
SPIRITED Luton could have claimed victory at Mansfield despite being down to the bare bones according to manager Gary Brabin, writes Mark Wood.
Town failed to take their chances in the first half and if they had done so, Brabin believe victory would have been on the cards.
He said: “I thought we could have won it overall, but in the end it was good to get an equaliser. I was delighted with the spirit in the second half.
“I thought we played some good football first half. We played enough good football to go two goals up maybe three, but then we went a goal down and it seems the same old story.
“Because we've not put them away it's given them a bit of a lift.
“You go into half time thinking how has that happened. Probably before the game we would have taken a point.
“I was delighted with the way we applied ourselves to get the equaliser but a little bit disappointed because I thought we could have got all three points.”
On the injuries that have crippled his squad, Brabin continued: “After the game Saturday we had a few struggling and we were hopeful at least one would be available but that wasn't the case.
“We were down to the bare bones and I was delighted with the squad. It was pure and simply injuries. Keith Keane had a dead leg which he got Saturday, that should definitely be clear by Saturday.
“Alex Lawless had a virus Saturday but wanted to play and consequently his hamstring felt a little bit tight so it would have been too much of a risk. Robbie Willmott has struggled to shake off that groin injury he has had since the start of the season.
“It gave Adam Watkins the chance to play his first full 90 minutes and push James Dance into the midfield three where I've wanted to look at him.”
However, attackers Danny Crow and Amari Morgan-Smith were handed starting spots, with Brabin saying: “Danny and Amari were in on merit whether we had the full squad or not.
“Amari Morgan-Smith has looked more like his old self the last couple of weeks.
“He is working really hard and has got near that form (of when he signed) again and got his starting place on merit.
“I thought Danny Crow was excellent when he came on Saturday and was one I wanted to start.”
The equaliser though meant Matthew Barnes-Homer missed out on his chance to shine in the final minutes despite being prepped to go on.
Brabin spoke with his striker on the halfway line after the game, and said: “I was going to put Barnesy on and go to 4-4-2 for the last few minutes for a bit more of a strikeforce.
“You psyche yourself up to come on and something like that happens and I've changed my mind.Barnesy I think he knows where he stands with me and that's not detrimental.
“I think he knows what I think of him as a player and at the moment I want more out of him.”
But Brabin hasn't fully discarded the traditional 4-4-2 formation, saying: “I love 4-3-3 and 4-4-2. The 4-4-2 is the traditional English system everyone is familiar with.
“I think we need to be adaptable. At the moment I've favoured the 4-3-3 more because it suits our players more.
“I think it suits us but I'm not against 4-4-2 and will certainly be using it again this season.”
On the controversy that saw Stags striker Matt Green booked after a clash that left Dean Beckwith on the floor, Brabin admitted he didn't see it clearly but was disappointed Town didn't end the game playing against 10 men
Defender ups the Antwi on strikers
BY JAMES CUNLIFFE
While the search goes on for a striker it is Luton Town's defenders who are leading the way in the goalscoring stakes after Will Antwi netted his second in successive games in Tuesday's 1-1 draw at Mansfield to leap to the top of the club's charts.
His centre back partner Dean Beckwith was briefly the Hatters' best marksman after one game when he headed the equaliser in the 1-1 draw against Forest Green Rovers.
But despite Jake Howells' free kick assist that led to his second ever goal for the club the Ghanain international lemented the lack of converted chances before Stags striker Matt Green spectacularly broke the deadlock in the first half.
"It was a great ball in," he said of the delivery from the Wales Under-21 international. "Thankfully it came my way and I gave it my best shot. Thankfully I scored but it's easily forgotten.
"Perhaps we need to be more clinical, but I'm sure it will come.
"We are not quite where we need to be. We got a good score on Saturday but we will get better and kick on and we will surprise people in a little while when we get it all together."
But for now he is happy to have made inroads on his own personal targets.
"We all have personal targets. I'm just trying to be as solid as I can in our box and be a nuisance in their box.
"Scoring a few and chipping in as a centre half helps. The most important thing for me is a clean sheet and I will be looking for that on Saturday like every week.
"If you can do that you've got an 80 per cent chance of winning the game."
But the Luton Town defence is a work in progress at present with injured George Pilkington and Freddie Murray yet to feature and three of the backline, including Antwi, Beckwith and Curtis Osano still getting used to each other after signing in the summer.
The 28-year-old is nevertheless pleased at their progress so far.
"We are forming a great unit there. It's not just one player that's able to defend by themselves.
"We are slowly and surely learning to play with each other and we will only get better.
"We haven't achieved two thirds of our potential. We need to keep working too, in and out of training to make a better unit."
As well his rescue goal that preserved Town's unbeaten start to the season at Field Mill, Antwi was also handed the captain's armband after skippering former sides Aldershot, Wycombe Wanderers and Dagenham& Redbridge.
"I've never been one who needed an armband to be involved on the pitch and say what I've got to say. It was a pleasant surprise.
"The most important thing is with or without the band, all 11 players have to play like captains."
Latest | August 2011