LOMAS ON STAGS: Stags fans hoping Evans is Mansfield's Messiah!
Steve Evans said he felt like he was being hailed as the '˜Messiah', such was the welcome he received from the Mansfield public ahead of his first game in charge of the Stags on Saturday.
But to dominate the whole game against his old club Crawley Town, win at home for only the third time all season and score three goals was certainly pretty Messianic – and all against the ‘Red Devils’.
The FA and referees, in the words of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, probably regard him as more of a ‘very naughty boy’ from his clashes with them down the years.
But there is no doubt Evans has given the club an injection of life and hope that it seemed to be craving after only one League win in 11 games.
He stole a march on Crawley even before kick-off by moving the dug-outs from in front of the condemned Bishop Street Stand over in front of the main Ian Greaves Stand.
Click HERE to see video highlights of the game
Click HERE to read the match report
Click HERE to read Steve Evans’ post-match thoughts
Click HERE to read about Chris Clements’ pride at being skipper
That formed an immediate bond with supporters who could see (and hear) him and assistant Paul Raynor going about their animated business.
Evans was able to interact with the fans while subs warming up or going on and off were given much bigger ovations than before. It was simply a masterstroke.
Crawley had not won in any of their previous eight games in all competitions and were always likely to have to play the bit part in the coronation game of the man who brought them so much success in past years.
Keeper Scott Shearer had nothing to do all afternoon apart from watch an early shot sail over his bar and pick a late consolation out of the net.
By then the game had been won by three goals in 10 second half minutes.
Evans elected to go with two up front, a midfield diamond and solved his defensive crisis by using Rhys Bennett as a centre half, where he was superb, and Mitch Rose at right back.
Although played at a higher tempo than usual, the first half underlined Stags’ failing in front of goal, particularly at home.
And when Krystian Pearce saw his header cleared off the line by Lewis Young – brother of Manchester United’s Ashley - just after the break, you began to wonder if this was to be another of those days.
But top scorer Matt Green turned provider on the day as he set up all three Stags goals in a 10-minute burst that destroyed Crawley.
On 50 minutes Green crossed from the right, Pat Hoban’s nod-down was not properly cleared and stand-in skipper Chris Clements volleyed in from seven yards.
Four minutes later a good advantage by the referee after Ashley Hemmings was poleaxed mid-pitch saw Green cross for Hoban to volley in at the far post.
Clements then made it 3-0 on the hour after Green had pipped keeper Glenn Morris to the ball outside the box on the left and set up the midfielder for an accurate finish on the empty net from 18 yards.
With eight minutes to go Crawley had a consolation as a right wing cross seemed to be headed into his own net by Bennett, though Matt Harrold claimed it.
But it couldn’t detract from a fabulous afternoon in which Clements was the star, but not by much ahead of a storming midfield display by all-action Jamie McGuire, who ended the match with a ‘Terry Butcher-style’ bandaged head after a nasty cut with fans chanting his name.
The crowd was slightly up for the change of manager. But many more afternoons like this and surely the stayaway fans will creep back out of curiosity?
Evans said afterwards he would rather win 6-5 then 1-0 and that has to be music to the ears of the Stags fans who have given up Saturday afternoon trips to the One Call Stadium after two seasons of mostly disappointment.
Not everyone’s cup of tea, the colourful Evans has also promised fans promotion is still possible this season and he believes the club can definitely emulate his success at Rotherham and make the Championship.
If he can achieve those aims while entertaining supporters with goals, his Messiah credentials will be good enough for me and many more!