OPINION: Stags’ play-off push is gathering momentum

Mansfield Town's Ben Whiteman celebrates his goal - Photo by Chris Holloway
Mansfield Town's Ben Whiteman celebrates his goal - Photo by Chris Holloway

Mansfield Town produced a fantastic all round performance to comfortably beat play-off contenders Barnet 2-0 at The Hive on Saturday.

It was a great win for the Stags, cheered on by 400 jubilant fans who are sensing that the Stags push for the play-offs is gathering huge momentum after five wins and a draw in the first six games of 2017, and including successive away wins at high-flying teams.

Those six games have also included five clean sheets.

The entire Mansfield defence played very well, keeping the dangerous John Akinde quiet for the most part, apart from one impressive run the length of the pitch.

Goalkeeper Jake Kean, who has kept all of those five clean sheets, had another fairly quiet game but when called upon he made three good saves (albeit for one of them the whistle had already gone for a foul).

Going forward, Mansfield played some impressive football, and were unlucky not to be in front midway through the first half.

Ben Whiteman played a one-two with Lee Collins on the right touchline, and got a great ball back from Collins.

Whiteman moved forward into the area on the right and rolled a clever shot across the keeper and against the inside of the left post, and more or less back along the goal-line and away on the right. It was incredible how it didn’t go in.

When the Stags did finally and deservedly go in front later in the first half it was a terrific team goal.

The move was started off by Mal Benning, Danny Rose laid back to Benning, Benning’s low cross found Shaq Coulthirst, who laid the ball perfectly back into the path of Whiteman, who fired past the keeper from 16 yards.

It was another great finish from Whiteman and his third goal for Mansfield, with all three finishes being similar.

The Stags doubled the lead on the hour when Coulthirst was brought down near the byline. It was an unnecessary foul by the Barnet defender but a clear penalty nonetheless, and rewarded Coulthirst’s quick feet.

Just six minutes earlier, Coulthirst had gone down in the box again but this time it was no foul, and Coulthirst agreed after the game that the first one was not a penalty.

Coulthirst grabbed the ball himself, with regular penalty taker Matt Green still on the bench at that stage, and rolled the ball down the middle as the keeper dived to his right.

Barnet were unlucky not to pull a goal back on 76 minutes when a free kick from the right smacked against the post with Kean beaten. That evened up the woodwork count. The Stags knew it would be their game.

New signing Alfie Potter, on as substitute, twice went close to extending the lead, and impressed on his debut, looking lively.

This was a great afternoon for the Stags.

The team is playing exciting football and looks high on quality with all the new signings contributing and players who were already with the squad stepping up their game.

The Stags are up to eighth, two points behind seventh-placed Portsmouth, who have a game in hand.

The coming week sees a double header at the One Call Stadium with Hartlepool visiting on Saturday and Accrington on Tuesday. On this form, miss it at your peril!