Wednesday’s midweek trip to Blackpool had given us a little taste of defeat, but the fact it was via a penalty shoot-out meant we headed to Crawley still optimistic of maintaining our unbeaten run of form and making progress.
Alas, a day in the freezing cold quite literally left us short of breath and made the long trip home confused - or was that just me?
For me Mansfield were looking okay for the first half.
The game wasn’t the greatest and will not go down in a hall of fame to watch again – but the bare minimum of taking a point home looked a cast iron certainty.
Yet a lapse in marking from a set-play (again) saw us go a goal down and, as we pushed players forwards to chase the game, we got caught out and conceded a second – which to be fair, I’ve no problem with as at least we tried.
However, this is where my mind is getting all confused! Why on earth did it take us going 1-0 down to start playing with an urgent energy and any real flair, and what on earth was Evans doing with 15 minutes to go, bringing Pearce on and throwing Diamond up front?
Because he withdrew Johnny Hunt, we had no natural left sided cover (as Hamilton had already been replaced by Butcher) and as such went into a 2-4-1-3 formation with Butcher in attacking midfield and Diamond, Rose and Angol as a front three!
Unless Hunt was injured, which he didn’t look from my vantage point, and you were bringing Pearce on – you’d take White off and move Bennett across.
It made no sense with 15 minutes plus to go, especially with Sterling-James and Mellis, both attacking players, on the bench?
I’ve no issue with Diamond being throw up there, it’s the kitchen sink tactic.
But don’t you do that with five minutes to go after playing one of your attacking substitution cards?
I’m actually surprised it took the hosts until the last minute to get the inevitable counter-attacking goal.
The whole game just left me bamboozled as we looked a far cry from the team that had done so well in going on an unbeaten run.
I fear for the dressing room actually. If I, a humble fan, am questioning the tactical switch – what must a bunch of pros be thinking?
Evans questioned the players’ mentality in his post-match assessment, noting that they didn’t train properly on Friday.
If you spot that during the training session, surely you halt the session – give them what for and run it again rather than just leave it to wallow and get worse?
We have a lot of football to come over the next few weeks and, with the transfer window opening again soon, there are bound to be changes.
It’s now more than ever that we need to be settled, and so, to make such comments makes bright warning lights start to flash.
We have to improve against teams lower than us in the table, we have to be together as one top to bottom and we have to stop this pendulum swing between being world-beaters and so bang average that a team of snowmen could beat us!