LOMAS ON STAGS: Evans correct on priorities after fans boo Checkatrade defeat
Football is a highly emotional sport - so it was perhaps no great surprise to hear some boos ring round the One Call Stadium last night at the end of the 3-1 defeat by Lincoln City.
Seeing your side let slip a 1-0 lead, being jeered by a huge away following from a club classed as ‘local rivals’ and also seeing two of your club’s former players score in the final 11 minutes was hard to take for some.
But, once the dust has settled and emotions have calmed down, many of those who booed may see it a different way this morning.
Boss Steve Evans called for a ‘reality check’ and ‘some perspective’ from those irate fans last night.
It was a typically blunt statement from the Glaswegian but was very much the truth.
READ THE MATCH REPORTREAD STEVE EVANS’ REPLY TO FANS WHO BOOEDREAD STEVE EVANS ON PLAYERS GOING IN AND OUT BEFORE TRANSFER DEADLINEFans saying players didn’t try hard enough or were not bothered about the game were at a very different game to me.
With 10 changes made, I saw what was essentially Mansfield Town reserves taking on Lincoln in a ‘derby-style’ game in a competition we all know is far from a priority and largely do themselves proud.
All 11, plus those who came on, were desperately trying to make a case for a place in the first team and some to ensure their very future at the club.
Admission prices had been slashed to reflect the priority being shown to the game and most fans there will have enjoyed what they saw, if not the outcome.
It was what it was and, for me, it was one of the best Checkatrade group games I have seen. It was committed, unpredictable and whole-hearted.
Evans admitted afterwards he could have made different substitutions - and made them earlier to try to win the game if that had been a must.
But League Two is a massive priority for the club this season and his priorities last night were to get minutes into the legs of important first team players that needed them – even when they were clearly tiring – and to leave players on the pitch to show whether or not they were worth keeping for the season ahead.
Evans was absolutely right to do both those things.
Which fan really wants a Checkatrade Trophy run over League Two promotion? You have to take a step back away from your emotions and look at the bigger picture.
If last night helps settle Evans’ mind on certain players and helps fine-tune players for League Two then it was a successful night in the long term. It achieved its aims.
Mansfield made a magnificent start, took an early lead and wingers Alfie Potter and Alex MacDonald taunted the visitors with some thrilling play.
Debut-making left back Johnny Hunt also impressed in the first half, showing he likes to get forward as much as Mal Benning and only faded as tiredness caught up with him in the second half.
It took the equaliser from their first effort on goal on 40 minutes to wake Lincoln up into making a match of it and, for all the stick ex-Stag Ollie Palmer took all night, it was almost inevitable he would nick a goal – that just one minute after Paul Digby had struck the City crossbar.
Then Mansfield Town legend Matt Green rolled the third goal into an empty net, with keeper Bobby Olejnik upfield for a 96th minute corner, to make the score a little more flattering on the visitors.
Fans always need someone in their side to dislike – ask Ollie Palmer – and it seems Jimmy Spencer is an early candidate to be this season’s whipping boy.
I certainly don’t agree with Evans that he was the best player on the park last night. But I don’t think he was the worst, and he worked tirelessly for the cause.
Also, his killer return ball to set up Potter for Stags’ sixth minute opener was probably the pass of the night.
Evans said afterwards that two or three of the squad last night had confirmed his belief they were not going to be good enough to be part of his plans going forward.
He would not expand on that ahead of chats with the players concerned.
But as George Taft, Jack Thomas and CJ Hamilton have been the least involved so far, and none of them were signed by Evans, you immediately think they could be in the firing line. Doubtless we will find out tomorrow.
Evans said he has also had bids he considered below-value for two of his players and has recommended chairman John Radford to turn them down.
I would fully expect that will be the case as Radford will not want to leave his manager short of options once the transfer window slams close tomorrow night.
We will all be on tenterhooks tomorrow waiting to see if the classy attacking midfielder and promising young striker Evans wants to bring in are signed in time.
But I believe the players that can make a real push for promotion are already in the dressing room and someone soon is going to get a tonking!