Analysis: Steve Evans has his work cut out in transfer window

Mansfield Town v Morcombe
Rhys Bennett in second half action.
Mansfield Town v Morcombe Rhys Bennett in second half action.

If Mansfield Town are to maintain a genuine play-off challenge this season, new boss Steve Evans has his work cut out in the January window.

The current squad’s shortcomings were plain for all to see in Monday’s dismal 1-0 home defeat by Morecambe.

It was a third game in a row without scoring, a fourth League game without victory and the boos that greeted the side at half time and full time confirmed Evans’ honeymoon period was over.

There was so much promise and excitement over the squad previous boss Adam Murray looked to have compiled in the summer.

But a run of one win in 11 League games did for Murray and, after the rush of blood that comes with a new manager’s appointment when Stags won two home games on the bounce, reality has set back in.

A Boxing Day crowd high on the Festive season gathered for a Christmas cracker against the visiting Shrimps.

Instead they were treated to a damp squid of a game, low on excitement, quality and genuine goalscoring opportunities on a day further marred by a freezing cold wind.

Evans shook things up by playing Matt Green wide and bringing in Darius Henderson to combine with Pat Hoban for what should have been a powerful, physical strike force.

He also pushed Lee Collins across to left back to cover for the suspended Mal Benning with Kyle Howkins returning from injury into the centre and Rhys Bennett at right back.

But only Howkins shone in the back four, defending some worrying moments with strength and intelligence.

However, the entire defence disappeared for the game-settling moment on 13 minutes when Andrew Fleming bagged the winner.

Krystian Pearce failed to get any distance on a headed clearance and that set up the visitors for a raid that saw Rhys Turner attack down the left. His squared pass inside saw Peter Murphy given time and space to fire in a shot that Scott Shearer could only parry and Fleming then reacted quickest to bury the loose ball from five yards.

Jamie McGuire gave a typical all-action display, but the rest of the side lacked a creative spark and, having nicked a goal, the Shrimps were in no mood to look for another and played a spoiling game that Stags simply has no answer to.

Pat Hoban lashed an effort wide and saw another shot saved at the near post while Matt Green had a header tipped over by Barry Roche from an Ashley Hemmings cross.

But the closest we came to a Stags goal was on 63 minutes when Roche stopped a fierce shot from Kyle Howkins from the edge of the box and sub Danny Rose, only on the field for two minutes, could only send a follow-up against the post with the goal at his mercy.

Mansfield chalked up 12 corners to Morecambe’s two and completely dominated possession.

But Morecambe, who had only won two of their previous 10 League games, sat back and ground it out.

Stags needed a moment of magic from Chris Clements or a burst of pace and perfect cross from second half sub, winger CJ Hamilton, or full backs Collins or Bennett to push on and create something.

But it wasn’t to be.

Mansfield have not even managed a goal in any first half at home this season - an amazing and appalling record.

The wily and experienced Evans now believes he knows what he needs to remedy things and is tearing around the country to persuade those players to join in January and revitalise a Stags side now closer to the relegation mire than the play-offs.