Mansfield Musings: Krystian Pearce and Nicky Hunt let boss and Mansfield Town fans down with needless red cards

Mansfield Town v Bristol Rovers in the Sky Bet League 2 match on Saturday October 17th 2015. A scuffle after the sending off of Mansfield player Krystian Pearce. Photo: Chris Etchells
Mansfield Town v Bristol Rovers in the Sky Bet League 2 match on Saturday October 17th 2015. A scuffle after the sending off of Mansfield player Krystian Pearce. Photo: Chris Etchells

Six minutes of the second half had elapsed on Saturday afternoon when Adam Murray made a courageous decision.

He replaced arguably the Stags brightest player on the day in Jack Thomas, for in-form striker Adi Yussuf, switching from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2.

Mansfield Town v Bristol Rovers in the Sky Bet League 2 match on Saturday October 17th 2015. Nicky Hunt is the 2nd player sent off for Mansfield and makes his way to the dressing room. Photo: Chris Etchells.

Mansfield Town v Bristol Rovers in the Sky Bet League 2 match on Saturday October 17th 2015. Nicky Hunt is the 2nd player sent off for Mansfield and makes his way to the dressing room. Photo: Chris Etchells.

Four minutes later, the manager made his two remaining substitutes with 35 minutes of the game still to play.

At the time, his side were one goal down with a man advantage after the dismissal of Bristol Rovers’ Jermaine Easter, who had lashed out after being confronted by Jamie McGuire following a blatant dive.

It was an understandable move given the circumstances, but nevertheless a strange one.

Since the start of the season, Adam Murray has spent time in press conferences persuading supporters that 4-4-2 is yesterdays news, with teams looking for overloads in midfield as the way of the modern game.

With an extra man on the field and his team in a prime position to take advantage of said overload, the switch to two strikers with such a long time to play was unexpected and seemed to contradict Murray’s principles.

What Murray had not anticipated, was his defenders becoming embroiled in pointless shirt pulling from a corner which would ultimately cost Mansfield the game.

Krystian Pearce, who had a blemish-free copybook up until the 59th minute on Saturday, decided that rather than mark at a corner as he had all season, he would focus solely on his man, lash out and then flick his boot towards his opposite number whilst on the floor, all under the watchful gaze of referee Mark Haywood and despite several warnings moments earlier.

The match official produced a red card, sending Pearce into an even greater rage, squaring up to all and sundry in blue and white checks.

Amongst a number of bodies involved was Stags Captain Nicky Hunt, who after grabbing numerous opposition players around the neck, whether trying to restrain or not, eventually emerged from the rabble to be shown a yellow card.

Having made three offensive changes, Murray had seen his man advantage evaporate and was forced to move his deep-lying playmaker in to the centre of defence.

To make matters worse, Nicky Hunt was shown a second yellow card for a needless challenge, leaving the Stags still chasing the game with eight outfield players.

Despite Ryan Tafazolli firing a long range equaliser, Mansfield were under heavy pressure and eventually crumbled in the eighth minute of added on time, with an attacking midfielder playing right back and two strikers acting as wingers.

Whether Murray had made the right substitutions at the right times or not, he was badly let down by both Pearce and Hunt.

Each of the two have been incredibly solid so far this season, in Pearce’s case even outstanding, and after the game Murray talked about appealing the central defenders red card, surely having not seen the full incident.

Whilst effusive in his praise for the way his team had battled on in the face of a perceived injustice, inside he must have been furious at his players moments of madness.

Mansfield now face two arduous journeys to Yeovil and Portsmouth respectively.

For Tuesday, unless by some miracle Pearce’s red card is rescinded, Mansfield will be without two of their first choice back five, and perhaps even four should keeper Jensen and left back Benning fail to recover from knocks sustained towards the end of the game on Saturday.

Whilst the Stags have Scott Shearer, Lee Collins and Liam Marsden who could be drafted in, the squad contains no clear replacement for Benning, and the three mentioned have seen very little first team action to be thrown in at the deep end.

The coming week will be the first genuine test of Adam Murray’s limited squad, and a chance for players who have been on the fringe of proceedings to impress.

Whilst not defenders, amongst Saturday’s substitutes were Chris Clements, Mitch Rose and Adi Yussuf, who will all be looking to force themselves into the managers plans.

Murray also has to consider how best to revitalise Matt Green, who has not looked himself of late, and address the lacklustre performances of Reggie Lambe. Despite this weekends defeat, Mansfield’s start to the season remains impressive as the side sit proudly in fourth position.

If coaches and players alike can regroup in time to capture all three points from Huish Park, with Yeovil having not won in over a month, the misdemeanour’s of Pearce and Hunt will be quickly forgiven and forgotten.