LOMAS ON MANSFIELD TOWN: Slow starts proving so costly for Stags

referee Mr Chris Pollard shows Mansfield Town's Matt Preston a straight red card for a reckless tackle: Picture Steve Flynn/AHPIX LTD, Football, Sky Bet League Two, Mansfield Town v Morecambe, One Call Stadium, Mansfield, UK, 10/08/19, K.O 3pm''Howard Roe - 07973739229
referee Mr Chris Pollard shows Mansfield Town's Matt Preston a straight red card for a reckless tackle: Picture Steve Flynn/AHPIX LTD, Football, Sky Bet League Two, Mansfield Town v Morecambe, One Call Stadium, Mansfield, UK, 10/08/19, K.O 3pm''Howard Roe - 07973739229

Mansfield Town have shown in fits and starts over the first two games they have every chance of being in the glory chase this season.

Their fighting spirit and determination not to be beaten are attributes that will serve them well in the long haul.

But John Dempster’s men should not have to wait until they are 2-0 down before they burst into life.

They also need to make sure they finish games with 11 men as they were in the ascendency in both games with every chance of pushing for a winner only to lose players to red cards after silly challenges.

The opening day 2-2 draw at Newport was seen as a good point in the circumstances, with Jacob Mellis’ red card certainly a soft one but one he could have avoided.

However, Saturday’s home point against perennial strugglers Morecambe was definitely two points squandered.

And, having done the hard work to again pull two goals back and push for a winner, Matty Preston was irresponsible in his needless lunge at Lewis Alessandra that saw him rightly shown a straight red card.

Already on a booking, it was a tackle he did not need to make, wide on the touchline and well away from goal.

With the momentum and crowd behind them you did fancy Stags might go on to win it, but that was a major blow.

All credit to plucky Morecambe. They arrived expecting one of the division’s promotion favourites to go for their throats from the first whistle.

But, instead, it was the Shrimps that were on the front foot from the off and they burst into a 2-0 lead.

Both their goals came from magnificent crosses – the first an inch-perfect one from John O’Sullivan that Sam Lavelle could hardly miss at the far post and the second a real hanging teaser from veteran Kevin Ellison that forced Conrad Logan to leave his line but had been perfectly weighted to give Alessandra the chance to beat the keeper to it. No fault could be attributed to Logan while all credit went to Ellison.

Had Adam Buxton’s free kick from the back end of the centre circle in his own half then gone in soon after instead of hitting the crossbar, it would have gone down as one of the greatest goals ever scored at the One Call Stadium.

The width of the crossbar proved a huge turning point as, had that hit the net, Stags were dead and buried.

Instead, Mansfield’s reply from Nicky Maynard was exactly what Stags brought him in for.

Even on a day when he makes little overall impact and things don’t seem to be going for him, Maynard is the proverbial ‘fox in the box’ who will be perfectly placed to pick up seconds and pop up with a goal.

Barry Roche parried Alex MacDonald’s fierce strike and Maynard was instinctively in the right place at the right time to pick up the pieces and hit the empty net.

Danny Rose then capped a superb afternoon, pipping the equally industrious Otis Khan for man of the match, with the equaliser.

Again it came from a delicious, tempting cross, this time from MacDonald, and Rose could hardly miss as he buried the firmest of far post headers past Roche as the ball was hoisted up invitingly for him.

So, on the positive side, Dempster is unbeaten in his first two games as a Football League manager.

But a return of two points is not what he would have wanted and, with tough away trips to Carlisle and Exeter looming Stags need to find a way to come out firing on all cylinders from the start.

Tomorrow night’s home Carabao Cup return match with Morecambe is also likely to offer one or two other players the chance to come in and show they can do just that and give Dempster a few selection headaches for Carlisle on Saturday.

It has suddenly become a far more important game than just round one of the cup.