Another game ticked off, with the Stags earning three more points in a fantastic game, which saw six goals, Alex ‘Macca’ MacDonald returning and Will Atkinson scoring a rare goal in the process. Over the years, we have always had high-scoring games against Cheltenham, and this was match was no different, with both sides having a real go.
In the first half, we dominated large spells and went into the break with a comfortable lead, with CJ Hamilton bagging two goals. It could have easily been four, with missed opportunities from Nicky Ajose and Hamilton, who was kept out by a wonderful save from Scott Flinders. We offered a lot going forward and restricted Cheltenham really testing us in the first half, giving Jordan Smith very little to do.
Not just for his goals, but I thought Hamilton was back to his old self by taking defenders on and causing no end of problems. Hopefully, his performance and goals will give him the confidence to carry it on until the end of the season. It was a game where the majority of the side played well, including Willem Tomlinson, Neal Bishop and Krystian Pearce, to name just a few.
In the second half, Cheltenham mounted a comeback in controversial circumstances when Mal Benning made a great tackle and managed to get the ball from Luke Varney, who looked to go down too easily just outside the box. It led to a goal, which was well taken by Chris Hussey, who gave Smith no chance. The goal gave the away side hope, and little under ten minutes later, they got the equaliser, once again from a set-piece when the defence just went to sleep, allowing Charlie Raglan to nod in at the far post.
Now we had a game on our hands, but even though Cheltenham had pulled it back, I still felt confident with the players we had on the pitch that we could go on and win the game. During the break, we had made a change, with Atkinson replacing Gethin Jones, who wasn’t having the best of games. The change was the right one, and Atkinson was on the end of a header, getting us back in the lead, which we more than deserved for the chances and pressure we were creating.
Even when we went in front, the game was far from over, with Cheltenham still pumping balls into the box and making it squeaky-bum time. Another change David Flitcroft made was the return of MacDonald, who came on in place of Jorge Grant, who wasn’t at his best. Macdonald made an instant impact, cutting out a pass and running towards the Cheltenham goal before slotting home calmly, putting the game out of reach for Cheltenham and giving Mansfield all three points.
They say a picture tells 1,000 words and that’s exactly what it did with ‘Macca’, who has been out a lot this season through injury. The goal really capped a fantastic day for himself and Mansfield. We all know what he is capable of and he will be like a new signing as he offers so much.
Once again, I give a lot of credit to Flitcroft, who made the substitutions which changed and won the game. It was a massive win as all of the top four teams also won, so it still leaves us in a great position going forward. It was another good attendance, with the U18s offer proving to be successful, bringing the next generation of Mansfield Town supporters through the gates.
The thing that I was impressed with was, even when Cheltenham levelled the game, none of the Stags’ heads dropped. They just battled to win the game. Another thing that really says a lot about this Stags team is whenever we get beaten, we react well by going on a winning run of games. Credit to everyone for that.
The next game against Port Vale will be another tough test because it is against a side who are hovering above the relegation zone. Hopefully, we will take plenty of fans and we can carry on with this winning run, cementing ourselves in the top three.