OPINION: Derby day disappointment a measure of Mansfield Town's progress under Steve Evans
There were more than a few grumbles among the 3,485 Stags fans exiting Meadow Lane on Saturday.
The big derby clash at rivals Notts County had been a big disappointment for many Mansfield Town supporters, who felt the goalless draw was low on quality and goalmouth action.
Lowly Notts County, battling to stay in the Football League after a run of 10 successive defeats, were thought to be there for the taking by many of the travelling faithful.
But we all know that local derbies have no respect for the form book — and County were undoubtedly lifted by the arrival of a new manager, Kevin Nolan.
The Magpies were fighting for their lives and determined not to let the Stags dominate them, and try as they might the Stags could not find a way through, despite dominating the 90 minutes.
So, yes, the end result was a disappointing spectacle with the Stags creating the only real chances. Ben Whiteman was unlucky to see his deflected effort clawed out by the keeper and on another day Yoann Arquin’s close-range finish from debutant Hayden White’s cross would have gone in.
But there were still, for me, plenty of positives to reflect on during the short trip home for many of the travelling faithful.
MATCH REPORT: Notts County 0 Mansfield Town 0REACTION: Stags’ manager Steve Evans gives his verdictREACTION: Captain Lee Collins praises fansMATCH GALLERY: Photos from the big dayFANS PHOTOS: Spot yourself in the crowdTo begin with, as County fans prepare for the scrap to stay avoid non-league football, Stags’ supporters are instead looking upwards towards the possibility of a play-off challenge and can still dream of promotion. That point at Meadow Lane left the Stags 14th and six points off the play-off positions, a gap that can easily be closed over the coming weeks.
Looking at leaders Doncaster Rovers’ recent performances shows just how good the Stags’ display aas gainst Darren Ferguson’s men on New Year’s Eve in the 1-1 draws.
Since then Steve Evans has guided his side to four successive clean sheets and his new signings, all of them, have already shown that they will improve the team. His latest acquisition on Friday, Peterborough’s White, meant Rhys Bennett was able to switch from full back to central defender at Meadow Lane and did a terrific job.
Another positive from Saturday’s lunchtime damp squib was the size of the Stags following. More than 3,000 for an away match was amazing — the Stags’ largest away following for 10 years since a derby at Meadow Lane. What an atmosphere they created!
And don’t forget we are now so close to Wembley after reaching the quarter-finals of the Checkatrade Trophy too.
So yes, there are many, many reasons for Stags fans to be cheerful right now. I suppose on Saturday afternoon it was case of whether your glass was half full of half empty.
Perhaps the way Evans has quickly improved the fortunes on the pitch and the aspirations of supporters off it was the problem at the weekend. We all now look forward to being entertained at matches — and winning, after victories in the three previous matches.
But regardless of the few grumbles on Saturday afternoon, I for one am enjoying the rollercoaster ride under the colourful Evans. Roll on Saturday.