Five things we learned from last night’s game:
1: You cannot afford to let your intensity slip for one moment in League Two.
After Saturday’s sterling display against Hartlepool United, Mansfield Town boss Adam Murray last night accused his players of turning up and expecting Exeter to roll over. The warning signs were there when Exeter won 2-1 away at league leaders and local rivals on Saturday.
But no one on the Mansfield side was quite at it 100 per cent last night and they were made to pay.
Click HERE to read the match report
Click HERE to read Adam Murray’s comments
2: Stags are still short on firepower.
Although Mansfield Town’s overall scoring record this season is not that bad, a sixth game in seven without a goal last night underlined that Murray may still need to move for a loan striker. A lot of pressure has been piled on Matt Green, who at least responded with a brace at the weekend. But the fact that Exeter keeper Bobby Olejnik didn’t have a proper save to make last night asks a big question of the club’s firepower right now.
3: Although individually they are all brimming with talent and potential, Adam Murray needs to be careful how many of the younger members of his squad he plays at once.
Murray admitted afterwards team selection is still a learning curve for him and, in retrospect, he felt he had picked too many young players all at once last night which led to a naïve performance. But he also pleaded with home fans to be more patient with them, some home fans booing the team at half and full-time.
4: Stags still need to work out how to break teams down at home.
Not for the first time this season, Mansfield Town came up against a wall of players solidly defending their box last night and drew a blank on how to break them down.
It didn’t help conceding as early as the sixth minute, which gave Exeter a massive advantage and something to hold onto.
The Grecians always looked dangerous on the counter-attack and, with the pace and footwork of Joel Grant, were able to carve out a second goal, scored far too easily, before the break.
The bus was then firmly parked in front of goal and Mansfield had no idea how to get past it, failing to get round the outside or pass their way through the massed ranks of red and white stripes.
5: It’s going to be a long season.
Last night’s defeat saw Stags drop out of the play-off spots for the first time since September and fans awoke this morning feeling down and disappointed. But Murray’s men have shown already they do have the talent to potentially go the distance.
So far Mansfield have been the surprise package amongst a clutch of sides with bigger budgets (yes, even Accrington Stanley), but last night underlined that they cannot afford to take their eyes off the ball for a single game.
No one expected Mansfield to go up this year after last season’s relegation battle and all Adam Murray wanted to see was progress.
As he keeps saying, fans just need to keep a realistic view of what the club can do this season and want and hope for the play-offs rather than expect them and then be negative when things are not going right.
What did you learn last night? Let us know via email@example.com or #ChadStags