Stags boss Adam Murray made one of the possibly toughest selections of his managerial career last week.
Dropping Matt Green, after the striker failed to score in five matches, for the midweek trip to Accrington was a brave and surprising move as the manager looked to end the club’s goal drought.
But Murray was rewarded for the bold switch. First Mansfield Town ended the search for a goal when Chris Clements’ struck direct from a free-kick – the first goal in 482 minutes of football.
Then on Saturday the manager named an unchanged line-up – a rare luxury or choice for the boss – and was further rewarded when Green’s replacement, Pat Hoban, headed his first Stags goal in the 1-1 draw at Crewe.
Murray had said a couple of weeks ago that Green, a talisman striker for the club, had not been himself or at his best during September after being unsettled by being linked to other clubs.
Despite that, it was a big call by the manager to relegate Green to the substitutes’ bench. Imagine the furore if the Stags had lost those two difficult away trips and the goal drought had continued!
So fair play to Murray. He is the manager, he is paid to make tough calls and he did.
Thankfully he seems to have got this one right with the boss also praising Green’s positive reaction to the news by still being a positive, encouraging voice in the dressing room - and twice coming on and looking lively as a substitute.
Green last scored at Orient, on 27th August - ironically the last time the Stags won. That is now a long seven games ago and, having ended the goal drought, the search for a win also needs to end soon.
Despite a winless September, the Stags remain just three points outside the play-off positions.
And the last two away performances have been encouraging. At times the Stags were pressing harder and showing more fight than the disappointing matches at One Call Stadium against the likes of Barnet.
Perhaps it was midfielder Clements’ cracker of a goal at Accrington that put a bit of confidence back into the Stags’ step?
Certainly, Clements’ return from injury has definitely helped the side, which continues to look solid at the back, whoever is playing the defensive midfield role and whoever is the central defensive pairing.
Now the players need to build on the last two matches and have the confidence to go and look for a second goal once they have scored. At Crewe, just like at Accrington, they surrendered the lead after appearing to be on top and playing well.
At this level confidence is such an important factor, together with lady luck. The Stags have not had their fair share as balls have not dropped kindly for them in front of goal.
This coming Saturday and the big derby would be a good time for that luck to change and, more importantly, for the Stags to end that run without a win.
It will be interesting to see who Murray selects up front for what will be a crackling atmosphere.
Will he again give Hoban and Danny Rose the nod up front or will Green, the leading scorer on three goals, return? There were signs against Crewe that Hoban and Danny Rose were linking up and posing a threat – and, of course, Hoban headed in a fine first goal from a good Kevan Hurst cross.
Strikers need to score goals and that will have done Hoban’s confidence the world of good after a frustrating time through injury at the start of the season.
It would be harsh for Hoban to have to make way for a returning Green, but Green is seen as the leading striker at the club - and how long can he remain on the bench?
Whoever he selects to lead the Stags attack against Notts County, Murray knows that victory in the derby and bragging rights in the county once again would be a great way to end the winless run and could be a massive springboard for the rest of the season.