LOMAS ON STAGS - Derby day was a great occasion but poor spectacle

Despite Notts County's wretched recent record, there were many reasons for Mansfield Town to be happy to come away from Meadow Lane with a point on Saturday.

Monday, 16th January 2017, 11:58 am
Updated Monday, 16th January 2017, 12:01 pm
Mansfield Town's Jake Kean wins the ball - Pic by Chris Holloway

County were on a club record run of 10 straight defeats, but with a new owner and new manager in place in midweek, the task of extending their poor run changed hugely with those appointments, and form books always tend to go out the window on derby day anyway.

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As an occasion it was a magnificent day, with almost 3,500 cheering Mansfield on, but as a footballing spectacle it was poor, as derby matches often can be.

With three successive wins in these games under their belts in the league, Stags fans have been spoiled this last two seasons, but on Saturday no one deserved the extra two points as defences dominated.

So desperate were they for a point, new Notts boss Kevin Nolan had his side playing a very cautious and unambitious game at home, failing to test loanee Stags keeper Jake Kean with a single shot in anger in the 90 minutes.

Mansfield created little though were always the side that looked more like they had ambitions for all three points; and twice they almost stole them.

In the first half Ben Whiteman’s dribble into the box saw his finish deflect up and almost over Adam Collin, who made the game’s only real save to claw it away.

After the break Yoann Arquin then missed a golden chance to be the hero on his return to one of his former clubs as he put debutant Hayden White’s low cross wide at the far post with the goal gaping.

Otherwise it was a typical highly physical derby which, to his credit, referee Darren Bond did his best to let flow.

With the background changes at Notts during the week, they managed to attract many of their stayaway fans back to the ground and the pressure had swung strongly back onto Steve Evans’ men pre-match.

Make no mistake, this was the sort of situation that has seen Stags crumble in the past.

So while they may not have spoiled County’s big day with a win, they were at least party-poopers in that their local rivals’ new era was not allowed to start with a win.

Although Mansfield could not find the killer finish on the day, there were plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

It was a fifth game unbeaten, it was a fourth clean sheet on the trot, and the back four were excellent with new boy White making a superb debut at right back, looking strong and powerful.

Krystian Pearce, also returning to his former club, and Rhys Bennett were outstanding in the centre and easily snuffed out the threat of County goal ace Jon Stead, while skipper Lee Collins also did a superb job in front of then back four.

New keeper Kean has now enjoyed four clean sheets in his four games for the club and, so well have his defence played, we have barely seen him have to make a save either.

So the foundations are there for all to see as Evans fashions his new-look side over this month for a push at the play-offs.

It was amazing to see the entire Jimmy Sirrel Stand packed with Stags fans, more than turn up for home games, which proved the floating fans are there to be lured back with some on-field success and ticket offers.

It is the noise those fans made that will be the lingering memory of the day rather than the football, and their backing offered as much hope for the future as Steve Evans’ mid-season overhaul of the playing staff he has inherited.

We have a four-month rollercoaster ahead of us that still has the possibility of two trips to Wembley. This is Mansfield. Anything can happen – and probably will!