Five things we learned from Mansfield Town’s defeat at promotion rivals Port Vale

A second successive defeat in five days last night rocked Mansfield Town’s promotion push. Here are five things we learned from the 3-1 reversal at promotion rivals Port Vale.

Wednesday, 16th March 2022, 12:18 pm

1: Nathan Bishop is learning on the job

The young Manchester United loanee goalkeeper has been brilliant for Stags this season but had a costly off night.

His decision-making and kicking were below his usual standards and he knows his poor dive that allowed Vale to level the game was a huge turning point with his side in charge.

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Port Vale celebrate their killer third goal. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

The home press box were even saying Bishop did not look good enough to play at League Two level.

But that is the life of a goalkeeper. You are under the microscope much more than outfield players as far as mistakes are concerned and the youngster is still learning on the job.

2: Keiran Wallace took his chance to show his quality

After six substitute outings, Keiran Wallace finally had the chance to show Stags fans what he can do with a full debut in the heart of midfield – and he took that chance with a man of the match display.

Jamie Murphy's shot is saved by Port Vale goalkeeper Aidan Stone. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

Although still short of full match sharpness, he was involved in some of Stags' best moments at both ends of the pitch.

He kept his passing simple while his lovely through ball sent Rhys Oates on his way to put Mansfield ahead.

And at the other end of the park he produced two crucial challenges, making a point blank range block and stretching to cut out a dangerous low cross at the near post with Vale players queuing behind him to finish.

A thunderous tackle on the touchline also underlined his hunger to impress.

James Perch - back in action with his first start since a fractured skull last night. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

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3: Stags players took tackling criticism to heart

Nigel Clough told his players they were out-muscled at Tranmere on Friday night and he would have happily seen then pick up a yellow card or two had they put in the tackles they should have done.

His players took those words to heart last night and put in some bone-shaking challenges – some right on the edge of legality.

Ryan Stirk is halted. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

Ryan Stirk, Ollie Clarke, Keiran Wallace and Oli Hawkins all put in steely tackles with Stirk, Hawkins and Farrend Rawson earning bookings.

4: Key moments change games

Mansfield Town put themselves in the driving seat last night as Rhys Oates' latest coolly-taken goal had them ahead midway through the first half with Nathan Bishop having had little to do at the other end.

But this exciting game swung on two moments – both going against the visitors.

Firstly Bishop dived over what should have been a save from James Wilson's low angled drive and Vale were undeservedly level.

Aidan Stone blocks the advancing Mansfield Town forward Rhys Oates. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

Then George Lapslie was presented with a golden chance from eight yards out and the goal at his mercy to restore Mansfield's lead but somehow allowed ex-Stags keeper Aidan Stone to produce a superb save.

Inevitably the visitors were punished for that as Vale sub Kian Harratt grabbed a late brace after entering the fray on 76 minutes.

5: Double defeat is no disaster

Mansfield have had a magnificent run with some superb performances this year and these first back to back league defeats since early September are not the end of the world for their promotion hopes.

It was inevitable there would be a wobble at some stage – it's even happened to runaway leaders Forest Green Rovers.

But with three games in hand on most clubs still, Nigel Clough's men still have their destiny in their own hands with automatic promotion still in their sights.

Tranmere and Port Vale away in five days was a big ask and they fell short after a magnificent 14-game unbeaten run

But there were some key absences last night with star man Stephen Quinn out injured, alongside Matty Longstaff, who had scored three in the previous three and Lucas Akins.

Elliott Hewitt, who has done well at right back, was given a breather and that meant several players coming in who were short on regular action and full match sharpness that can only be gained by playing.

Hopefully, Clough's men will take their disappointment out on struggling visitors Stevenage on Saturday and set a new club record of 11 successive home league wins.

Goalmouth action at Vale Park. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media
Jamie Murphy takes on his man. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media
Port Vale goalkeeper Aidan Stone denies Danny Johnson. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media
Mansfield Town forward Rhys Oates celebrates his first half goal. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media
Mansfield Town midfielder Jamie Murphy looks to make the cross. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media
Mansfield Town forward Oli Hawkins is denied by Port Vale defender Nathan Smith. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media
Mansfield Town forward Rhys Oates rounds Aidan Stone to put Stags ahead. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media
Former Stags star Mal Benning - warm reception from away fans when he came on as a sub. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media