Here are five things we learned from Mansfield Town’s crucial win at Rochdale

Mansfield Town head for struggling Oldham Athletic on Saturday on a high and with automatic promotion still in their own hands after putting two successive defeats firmly behind them last night.

Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 12:12 pm

Here are five things we learned from the crucial 1-0 win at Rochdale.

1: Jordan Bowery must be in line for a start at Oldham on Saturday

Last night's late goal hero must be in line for a return to the starting XI on Saturday.

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Goalkeepers Nathan Bishop and Marek Stech celebrate the victory at the end of the match against Rochdale. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.

Bowery was a big part of the 14-game unbeaten run and has been class in every position he has played this season, though striker remains his best role.

The big forward took a lot of stick from a section of Stags fans early in his Mansfield Town career before winning them over with his goals, relentless hard work and superb hold-up play.

Stags do have a wealth of talent for forward roles right now – think how poor Danny Johnson is feeling – but Bowery did the business last night while rival Oli Hawkins, back up front, had an ineffective first half.

Clough promised to keep the side fresh in the busy run-in – he made four changes last night – and Bowery will be fresh and buzzing for his chance.

Rhys Oates in action at Rochdale.

2: Fit-again James Perch reminded everyone of his class and will now be vital on the run-in

Anyone who though veteran James Perch’s career was over can think again.

The former Forest and Newcastle star, who has missed most of the season due to a fractured skull in a freak accident was back to his very best at Rochdale last night.

Jamie Murphy pushes forward. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.

After one or two late sub appearances, he made a first start at right back at Port Vale last week.

But Perch was restored to centre half in a back line that had conceded six goals in two games and was instrumental in the clean sheet alongside the magnificent returning John-Joe O'Toole.

Ice-cool Perch's positioning was perfect, he won almost every tackle and showed no fear in being called upon to regularly head the ball for the first time since September.

One full blooded diving header in the first half showed how confident he is with how well his skull has recovered.

Mansfield Town forward Rhys Oates on the charge.Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.

Perch will now be one of the first two names on the team sheet alongside Rhys Oates.

3: Jamie Murphy seems to be the new boo boy

Like Jordan Bowery before him, Hibs loan signing Jamie Murphy seems to be the new target for a small section of fans to berate on social media.

The cheers when Bowery came on were likely to have equally have been for the sight of Murphy going off.

It is true he has not yet found top gear, but this is a player of high ability who has played for Scotland and played at the top level of UK club football.

He is a player that Nigel Clough trusts and, although he is taking longer than the other loan players, to find his groove, he should not be written off.

Mansfield Town defender Elliott Hewitt blocks the shot. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.

Murphy always excites when running at players and had his low second half shot from the right gone a few inches more to the right instead of shaving the outside of the far post he could have ended up the hero instead of Bowery.

Ironically, Murphy also made a slow start to his Sheffield United Championship career and it was Clough who sparked him into life and got his game up to a level where he went for £2 million to Brighton and then had games in both the Premier League and, with Rangers, the Scottish Premiership.

4: Stags have ended another 'jinx/hoodoo' run at Rochdale

Nigel Clough always laughs when journalists tell him the next game is against a club that have had a bit of a hoodoo over Stags down the years – and then goes on to end that barren run.

That has already happened a few times this season and Rochdale away last night saw him put an end to another poor record with a first win in 12 trips to Spotland.

Stags had lost 10 and drawn one of their last 11 games at Rochdale and failed to even score in their last four games there – all ending in defeat.

But last night they stood firm defensively, Dale rarely looking like troubling Nathan Bishop, and then poached a late winner – something sides destined for glory tend to do.

After seven games without a win at Oldham, Clough’s Stags ended that run last season with a 3-2 victory so that is one bad run they won't worry about on Saturday.

5: Nigel Clough remains committed to winning every game with positive changes

Clough insisted he would approach every game – home or away – the same and go for victory as Stags aim for promotion.

That was certainly the case last night as he threw the dice several times to try to unlock Rochdale.

Clough started out by throwing the towering Oli Hawkins back up front where he had looked so dangerous before being asked to drop back and fill in as a central defender.

Having conceded six goals in two away games he also changed two of his back four to shore things up.

When Hawkins failed to make an impact and Stags were not creating enough, Clough swapped things round at the break and pulled Hawkins back into a three-man defence to allow more freedom to the full backs as wing backs.

Eventually he threw Bowery on for Murphy to try to make a late impact which Bowery did in style with the winning goal.

Rhys Oates chases the ball. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.
Jordan Bowery wheels away after netting the winner. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.
Mansfield Town forward Jordan Bowery celebrates his goal. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.
Nathan Bishop quickly gets Stags back on the attack. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.
Mansfield Town midfielder Stephen Quinn battles with Rochdale midfielder Stephen Dooley. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.
Mansfield Town forward Rhys Oates in action at Rochdale. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.
Mansfield Town midfielder Jamie Murphy is brought down by Rochdale defender and ex-Stag Corey O'Keeffe.
Midfielder Ryan Stirk makes the tackle at Spotland. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.
Jordan Bowery - hero at Spotland. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.