New no-nonsense Mansfield Town boss Graham Coughlan the perfect man to end Stags’ defensive frailties

Mansfield Town's defensive woes should be quickly sorted by their new manager whose reputation as a no-nonsense centre half goes before him.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 4:30 pm
New Stags boss Graham Coughlan.
New Stags boss Graham Coughlan.

Graham Coughlan arrives at a club whose defending almost saw them to glory last season but this time around has been awful.

Coughlan arrived at Rovers at the start of last season as a defensive coach, and the impact he had at the back was immediately plain to see.

It was only due to Rovers' defensive solidity that they were not in a worse position when Darrell Clarke left in December and Coughlan took over as caretaker manager, building a resolute side that slowly but surely started to take their chances more than they had previously.

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He focused on building a solid spine to the team and being hard to beat, which served them well in the second half of the season, particularly when Rovers signed Jonson Clarke-Harris in January. Coughlan had worked with Clarke-Harris before, and head of recruitment Tommy Widdrington knew the striker well from his time as Coventry's recruitment chief, so they were able to coax the best out of him.

It suddenly gave the Gas more of an attacking threat, and they could defend with the confidence of knowing an in-form striker at the other end of the pitch would take the chances that came his way.

This season has been more of the same.

There has been a little more fluency at times, but their defensive resolve has won them plenty of points this season.

For example, Rovers have conceded just two goals from set pieces, the joint lowest in League One.

They do not create hatfuls of chances and sometimes have to huff and puff to break teams down, but he has got the best out of some attacking players who had underperformed last season.

Rovers initially lined up in a 4-4-2 narrow diamond last season when Coughlan took charge, with four central midfielders making them very hard to break down.

Over the summer, Coughlan spoke about how he likes attacking full-backs, and this season Rovers have mainly played in a 3-5-2 formation with wing-backs that push high up the pitch.

No doubt partly due to being hamstrung by his budget, he has regularly played young players such as Alfie Kilgour and Rollin Menayese, and restructured the coaching staff in order to try and create more of a pathway from the academy into the senior squad.

Whether this proves successful over time remains to be seen, but it is clear that Coughlan wants a single club mentality.

As a person, he demands hard work from his players and is not afraid to call a spade a spade.

He wears his heart on his sleeve, which can sometimes lead to comments in the press that raise eyebrows among fans, such as last season when, after a defeat, he claimed the squad had driven previous manager Clarke crazy.

However, he also has a warm sense of humour and is a friendly person, so Stags fans are expected to quickly warm to him, particularly as he arrives after doing such a good job with Rovers.