OPINION: It is still a good start to Mansfield Town’s season

Mansfield Town v Cheltenham
Mitchell Rose gets the congratulations from provider Matt Green after his second half goal.
Mansfield Town v Cheltenham Mitchell Rose gets the congratulations from provider Matt Green after his second half goal.
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Stags manager Adam Murray has prioritised league points over cup competitions since taking over as manager from Paul Cox in December 2014.

He hinted last week ahead of the midweek EFL Cup tie with Blackburn Rovers that would still be his policy.

However, his decision to start the first round tie without a recognised striker raised a few eyebrows among the Mansfield Town faithful.

Some fans complained after the 3-1 defeat that they felt short-changed by the manager’s selection, which saw him rest Matt Green and Danny Rose who had scored in the opening day win at Newport and play with wingman CJ Hamilton up top.

They argued that they might not have attended the match and spent their money if they had known the Stags would not be naming their strongest possible side.

They also said that a win could have led to a tie against a leading Premier League club at some point and bring in major revenue to the club.

Murray, who has already commented on the busy midweek programme ahead, would have wanted to protect his players from injury and try to keep them fresh.

The best way for him to have answered those critics would have been to start the home season with a win on the back of a terrific 3-2 success at Newport on the campaign curtain-raiser seven days earlier.

Six points out of six would have been the perfect start for what many Stags fans believe could be a season challenging for promotion.

Sadly for the manager, the Stags and the fans, they failed to do that – with the boss again coming under fire from some in One Call Stadium, one or two of whom booed at the final whistle.

They perceived his substitutions and tactics after the Stags took a 1-0 second-half lead through midfielder Mitch Rose, my man of the match, as unduly negative.

It was all a little like déjà vu for the home fans after a couple of seasons that have seen Mansfield Town fail to turn their own ground into a fortress – and fail to hold on to leads.

Murray withdrew striker Danny Rose, who was on a booking, for winger Ashley Hemmings and seemed to switch from a 4-1-3-2 formation to more of a 4-1-4-1 with 20 minutes remaining.

Up to that point Murray’s possession style of play had won plenty of support from the home fans.

But they wanted him to be more positive and to try to get another goal to secure all three points, rather than try to preserve and hang on to the slender single goal advantage.

The substitution was seen by many in the stands as negative, so when Finnish international Daniel O’Shaughnessy struck an equaliser out of the blue from long range to pinch an unexpected point for newly-promoted Cheltenham, you could hear a few groans in the stands – and sense the ‘we told you so’ feelings of some fans who predicted the equaliser after Murray’s substitution.

You could see where the frustration of the home fans, which would have been far worse if Cheltenham had pinched a late winner as they threatened, was coming from.

Last season the failure to regularly win at One Call Stadium ended hopes of making the play-offs.

But surely just three games into the new season – two in League Two – it is too early to be questioning the manager’s tactics with boos at the final whistle as he tries to bed in several new players, a new formation and a new style of play?

The Stags’ defence, punished for failing to defend set pieces a week earlier, were only beaten by that long-range strike against Cheltenham.

At the other end, a quicker tempo, more width and a little more incisive play up front would help them to cash in on their possession dominance under this new style of play.

And crucially, the manager’s substitution options were slightly restricted. Pat Hoban, the big striker who would surely have come on for Danny Rose, is injured and Murray clearly feels that his most recent striker signing, Darius Henderson, is not fit enough to play for half an hour.

As Murray pointed out just after the final whistle, after two matches the Stags are fifth and level on points with the leaders. It has been a good start to the season.