MANSFIELD Town boss Paul Cox had high praise for match winner Ben Hutchinson after his early goal proved enough to see off Southport 1-0 at the One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Hutchinson, who has now played three games in a week, grabbed the winner after only two minutes and Cox said: “No one has ever questioned the technical ability of Ben Hutchinson.
“It was more of a mentoring role for me when he came here to try to get back that hungry Ben Hutchinson which is what we now have.
“Some of things he does in this mood are unplayable – his touches and awareness of players around him are on a different level. Let’s not forget he played in the Champions’ League only four years ago.”
On the win, Cox added: “I am not going to tell a lie – we needed that win.
“Seeing the other results today you can just see how wide open this league is.
“I thought we were excellent in the first half, our passing and our movement and getting the ball back when we were not in possession.
“I was pleased with the clean sheet too as Southport are very hard to defend against, particularly from set pieces.
“It made it harder with a few strange decisions from the referee.
“We created some good chances in the second half but couldn’t put them away. But 1-0 is always a good scoreline for me.
“The boys are starting to absolutely grasp the concept of defending as a team and all worked their socks off today.
“I also thought the fans were absolutely amazing today, the way they clapped the boys off at the end.”
Goal hero Hutchinson said: “It was really important to get that early goal.
“It would have been nice to get a second but we just had to keep on going.
“I have been patient here and hope now I can get a run of games in the team.
“I am happy to be playing and heloing us get results. It is really nice to play as we have a big squad with everyone fighting for places.
“I can only benefit from getting a run of games.”
Southport boss Liam Watson was left fuming over a penalty decision by referee Declan Ford which might have offered his side a way back into the game.
Just 10 minutes after Hutchinson’s winner, Shaun Whalley went down under the challenge of John Dempster in the box, but the referee booked the Southport man for simulation.
Watson said: “I can’t knock the lads’ work rate or effort. It had 0-0 written all over it but one slip and they’ve scored.
“We were sloppy for the goal. But after that we should have got back into it with a penalty. Everyone in the ground could see it apart from the referee and his assistants.
“But it wasn’t a surprise as I thought he wasn’t in control of the game all afternoon.
“It’s hard to criticise referees after you’ve lost as it looks like sour grapes. But I thought he was probably one of the worst I’ve seen.
“I don’t think we are very away from being a good side.”