Craig Priest’s Mansfield Town blog: Small squad is digging deep to defy the odds

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When you are operating with a small squad there is far more that could go wrong as Paul Cox is perhaps already experiencing.

One or two injuries and suspensions and all of a sudden, it may become difficult to fill the match day squad.

Another danger of the small squad is defeat, as with a small group one of two things can happen after a defeat, you either sink with sorrow and become the whipping boys or you dig your heels in and fight.

That is something that Cox’s men did on Saturday as they saw off Oxford United 2-1 at the One Call Stadium to claim their first victory of the new season.

Defeat at Northampton came in such a manner that I feared the Stags would go down the sorrow route, yet at Sheffield United midweek, despite defeat, the boys showed a glimmer of fight and came mightily close to an upset.

It came then as no surprise that on Saturday Mansfield seemingly picked up where they left off, keeping possession well and hardly letting what was a lacklustre Oxford have sight of Sascha Studer’s goal.

Fair enough there were frustrating times, for a while it looked like the ball wasn’t going to drop for a Stags goal, but unlike past seasons when you could see and feel the frustration grown, there was a constant sense that a goal was coming.

The white knuckle nature of following Stags was evident too when Oxford levelled through a second half spot-kick, despite the best efforts of Studer.

However there was a sense that it was Mansfield’s game and who better than Adam Murray to make the points certain.

There’s a great photo of Murray after the goal being booked by referee Richard Clark for celebrating with the fans, he’s got a massive grin on his face as if to say ‘Job done.’

His energy, passion and flare seems to have spread to the squad, take for example Sascha Studer – the mind games he was playing with the U’s Danny Hylton was fascinating to watch, he shouldn’t be disheartened that it didn’t pay off – it will in the future.

At the final whistle, Studer turned to the Oxford fans and danced in jubilation as if Mansfield had won the league, you can’t teach passion like that.

All the players are seemingly happy at the minute and the desire to be successful and defy the critics seems evident, it’s almost frightening and yet intriguing to wonder what can be achieved if the energy and desire is channelled and used to full effect.

The new additions seem to be settling in well, Simon Heslop looks a star buy in midfield, being able to spot passes that others can’t – almost like Gary Roberts but without the notion to get stupidly sent off.

Alex Fisher in attack makes some quality runs off the ball and with time will open the floodgates with the goals whilst Rob Taylor offers that quality and experience last held by a certain Mr Todd.

What a feeling it is to have three points on the board, I look forward now to Newport tomorrow night and see where this new elite group of Stags takes us.