Here are five things we learned from Mansfield Town’s defeat at table-topping Forest Green Rovers

Mansfield Town were disappointed to have George Lapslie sent off and lose 1-0 at leaders and automatic promotion rivals Forest Green Rovers last night.

Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 12:19 pm

Here are five things we learned from the big showdown at the New Lawn.

1: Forest Green was a midweek game too far

Mansfield Town's crazy, unprecedented recent schedule took its toll on them last night with tired legs on players carrying knocks and their top scorer sidelined through injury.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Lucas Akins is held back by a Forest Green defender. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

If only this game had come earlier at the start of the run, the freshness of the players would have given them a better chance.

That's not to say Stags did not impress on the night against the best this division has to offer. But we all know they can play better and the counter-attack threat of the missing Rhys Oates is a vital weapon.

That was a month of Saturday/Tuesdays complete and thankfully after this weekend Mansfield have a rare blank week to lick their wounds, rest up and prepare for the final push.

Danny Johnson puts Forest Green under pressure. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

2: An old cliché – but goals really do change games

Games really do swing on goals in more ways than just the scoreline.

It's a tired old cliché but still rings true.

When Lucas Akins turned a golden chance wide on eight minutes it came at a time when Stags had started superbly and put the leaders on the back foot with their fast, crisp, passing game, asking continued questions of the home defence.

Lucas Akins in action. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

Had that gone in, the whole night may have unfolded in a very different way.

Instead, against the run of play and with their first foray into the Mansfield box, Rovers took a 14th minute lead which knocked the stuffing out of the visitors for most of the rest of the half.

Stags did raise it after the break, but that was with 10 men after suffering what looked to be a very harsh red card for George Lapslie.

It was so ironic that Clough had taken off two players at half-time who were looking like getting a second yellow and within four minutes were down to 10 men with a straight red.

John-Joe O'Toole looks to make the pass. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

3: Stags are sparkling, but Rome wasn't built in a day

Mansfield Town have been a revelation this season and huge entertainment.

Their rise from second bottom to challenging for the automatic promotion spots has been little short of miraculous.

But they are a work in progress.

Rome wasn't built in a day and Forest Green have built and built at the New Lawn over a succession of successful seasons.

Matty Longstaff takes a shot on goal. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

They were promoted from the National League in their third successive play-off campaign in 2017.

Since then they have continued to build on that foundation by reaching the League Two play-offs in 2018/19 and 2020/21.

Former boss Mark Cooper did the ground work that Rob Edwards is now cultivating so well and they do look ready to grace League One.

If Stags miss out this season it won't do them any harm to build on a fantastic campaign for another season at this level.

But I have a sneaking suspicion their building work could be ahead of schedule!

As Nigel's legendary father Brian once quipped: “They say Rome wasn't built in a day, but I wasn't on that particular job.”

4: Nathan Bishop continues to show his Manchester United pedigree

Nigel Clough rates his young loanee keeper as one of the best three in League Two – and last night he again underlined his potential.

The reflex save he pulled off seconds before Rovers netted the follow-up was breathtaking and he made other good stops while also making taking difficult crosses look comfortable.

At 22 and still learning his trade, he will make mistakes – everyone has to accept that.

But he looks very assured for his age, no great surprise when you consider his upbringing at Old Trafford.

Bishop said this week he has no idea what will happen in the summer and is just concentrating on the promotion push.

But, if Stags were to go up, United would almost certainly be tempted to allow him another loan season at a higher level to continue his development.

5: Danny Johnson could yet be a promotion hero

Danny Johnson has cut an increasingly frustrated figure on the sidelines this year as Stags marched on with a string of good results.

The striker was top scorer at Leyton Orient last season and arrived in a blaze of publicity in the summer with a vow to star for the Stags.

Instead he has been a spectator for much of it. And he admits Nigel Clough has had little option in terms of team selection while all is going so well.

Both Johnson and Rhys Oates started the season slowly. But just as Johnson found his shooting boots with a confidence-boosting hat-trick in an EFL Trophy game, he picked up an injury.

He could only look on as Oates found his form and became first name on the team sheet.

But Clough has reassured Johnson he could still play a big part in the season's outcome.

Last night he came on for the last half hour and had his long range snapshot dipped under instead of over the bar he might have stolen an unlikely and ultra-valuable point.

Clough was impressed with Johnson's work-rate in a 10-man side and admitted he was now a possible starter for Saturday.

Furious Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough reacts to the sending off of George Lapslie. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media
Shirt pulling during the Sky Bet League Two match against Forest Green Rovers. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media
Lucas Akins attempts to control the ball. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media
Mansfield Town goalkeeper Nathan Bishop jumps high to catch the ball. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media
Jamille Matt attempts an overhead kick. Photo by: Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media