Mansfield Musings: Oliver and Rhead absence is a big loss for Mansfield Town

The One Call Stadium, home of Mansfield Town FC.

The One Call Stadium, home of Mansfield Town FC.

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Filtering out of this week’s press conference was the announcement that the Stags will in all likelihood be without both Vadaine Oliver and Matt Rhead ahead of Saturday’s clash with Stevenage.

A huge blow to a team who have spent the majority of the season playing direct football.

Even under Murray, to create chances Mansfield tend to rely on flick ons from Rhead or more recently Oliver.

Since the signing of Junior Brown there has also been an emphasis on getting crosses into the box.

So far in 2015, the Stags have scored four goals. Two from crosses, one from a flicked on long throw and the other from a flicked on (albeit by an opposition defender) long ball.

The absence of the two recognised target men will surely mean that Mansfield will have to get the ball on the deck.

Stevenage are a big, physical side who take no prisoners. With the three likely candidates to start up front being Billy Kee, Alex Fisher and Rakish Bingham, Adam Murray will surely be reticent to deliver the ball down the throats of the oppositions sizeable central defenders.

Billy Kee has looked short of fitness so far, whilst Fisher has not started a league game since mid October due to injury.

Despite both players only league goals for the Stags so far this season being headers, neither are renowned for their aerial prowess.

Rakish Bingham returns from a loan spell with Hartlepool, where by all accounts he has been impressive.

Having said that, Bingham will surely be worried that he was initially deemed surplus to requirements by Murray, despite being the club’s joint top scorer at the time.

As we have been told by Murray, Kee is a poacher. His stature dictates that he does not win many aerial duels and his lack of pace means that he needs the ball into feet, where he can either pull the trigger or divert the ball into the path of on-rushing midfielders.

He has shown glimpses of being able to link play effectively and create chances when receiving passes along the floor.

Alex Fisher is 6 feet 3 inches tall so you would perhaps expect him to win his fair share of headers.

Unfortunately, of what we have seen so far, he is somewhat lightweight and struggled in the early season when asked to be the focal point of the attack by Paul Cox.

His best performance to date came in pre-season against Notts County when playing alongside Matt Rhead. He lurked on the shoulder of the last defender, and gambled on the big man’s knock downs.

Rakish Bingham is far from the finished article. If he was, there is no way he would be playing in League Two.

But what he has proven is that he can score goals at this level. He is a quick, tricky player and someone who can create something out of nothing.

Like many of our strikers however, he needs to improve his strike rate. He is another player who would benefit from having the ball played to his feet or into channels.

With Chris Clements likely to return from illness, boss Murray will be hoping that he will be able to dictate play, claiming that the Stags missed his guile at Carlisle on Saturday.

It is true that whilst Clements clearly has ability to pass a ball, he can at times ‘go missing’ in a game.

Since Murray has taken over however, Clements has been coming much deeper to receive the ball from his defenders and looking to build from there.

He will need to deliver incisive passes through the lines and into feet if the Stags are to succeed on Saturday. He will surely be hoping to repay the faith shown in him by Adam Murray.

Wingers Reggie Lambe and Junior Brown will need to adapt their game from recent weeks, where they have looked to stand up early crosses to the back post for Vadaine Oliver.

The lack of a big man may suit, as they will surely be given license to roam and makes runs off whichever strike force is used.

If that is the case, it may be an idea for them to play on the opposite sides of the pitch, where they will be able to get cut inside and get shots on goal. If they are to get to the byline, they will need to look for cut backs and low crosses.

Both have to start bringing more to the table, having been virtually guaranteed of their places until the end of the season with the injury to Matty Blair and lack of other viable options at the club.

Former Chelsea goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley will surely be between the sticks to make his Mansfield Town debut.

He brings much needed know-how and character to a largely inexperienced defence.

Hopefully the Stags will have gone back to basics with regards to defending set plays, marking men and tracking runners instead of trying to overcomplicate. The key to Saturday will be whether the defence and midfield are able to deliver quality into the feet or in front of the diminutive Kee, who would be my choice to lead the line with Rakish Bingham.

The players and management need to prove that last weeks game was a blip and get back to creating chances and, most crucially, winning ways.