Mansfield’s defeat at Plymouth on Saturday was their first of the season in the league and followed a heroic performance last Tuesday when they beat Yeovil Town having played for a total of 93 minutes (including stoppage time) with ten men after the sending off of Danny Rose.
I was concerned that Tuesday that would have taken too much out of the players just four days later at Plymouth especially with the Stags making the longest journey of the season on Friday in terrible traffic. How the Stags could have done with a week between games on this occasion.
Whether all that had a major influence on Saturday’s performance is impossible to say, but there was no doubt that the Stags had a nightmare first half, in which they were completely outplayed and could have been more than two goals down by half time.
After just four games, Mansfield are handily placed in the play-off places, but Adam Murray revealed after the game on Saturday that the club have turned a bid down from a club in a higher division for Matt Green.
Mansfield’s chances of building a promotion bid this season rest squarely on keeping Green in my opinion, and the chances of finding a suitable replacement at this stage of the transfer window would be next to nil.
Match gallery: Plymouth 2 Mansfield Town 0
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Mansfield Town turn down bid for Matt Green
Match report: Mansfield Town beaten at Plymouth
Plymouth were outstanding in that first half and that was almost entirely due to one player, Graham Carey. Carey is a left-footed attacking midfielder who had also terrorised the Stags in two games last season. He was playing on the right on Saturday, always looking to get the ball onto his left foot, and it looked like no-one in the Stags side could put a tackle in on him. Mansfield had no answer to his quality and he produced the best performance I have seen by a League Two player against the Stags since Mansfield returned to the Football League.
Plymouth fans I overheard chatting in the loo at half time all agreed he’d been gone by the end of August and Stags manager Adam Murray conceded afterwards that Carey is too good a player for this level.
Carey opened the scoring with a free kick from wide on the right, about 5 yards diagonally in from the corner flag, that went over the two man wall and straight in.
If I’m critical I would say that Stags keeper Brian Jensen might have done better with it, though my angle from the stand, and that of our pitchside video footage, does not show it from the best angle, and he may have been partially unsighted.
Carey’s second goal was brilliant.
Cutting in from the right touchline, he bamboozled Mal Benning, gliding past him, and firing over Jensen from a tight angle from six yards. Carey also brought one excellent save from Jensen, and he set up Jimmy Spencer who brought another great save from Jensen.
Mansfield were without the suspended Danny Rose and the injured Pat Hoban, and with Darius Henderson not match fit enough for more than half a game, Murray’s hand was somewhat forced into playing one up front for the first half of the game, bringing on Henderson at half time. I
n that first half, the Stags were playing too many long balls forward, which were skipping off the surface and giving Green no chance up front on his own.
It was clear that two up front in the second half looked much more effective in Murray’s preferred 4-1-3-2 formation that he has used all season including pre-season. Henderson and CJ Hamilton, another second half substitute, freshened the Stags up hugely and both impressed, as Mansfield were the better side in the second half, creating a number of chances but unable to take any of them and force themselves back into the game.
Hopefully Henderson can play a longer part in the game at Leyton Orient on Saturday, with Danny Rose still suspended and I expect Hoban to still be out.