OPINION: Early season optimism starting to fade at Mansfield Town

Five consecutive games without a goal and just one home win from seven matches at One Call Stadium does not make happy reading... for fans, players, the manager and the owner.

Sunday, 25th September 2016, 6:48 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:54 pm

Early season optimism that the Stags would push strongly for at least a play-off place this season has been dampened by a sobering September.

The home hoodoo that manager Adam Murray referred to a couple of weeks ago – and something that has dogged his time as manager – refuses to go away.

But it clearly isn’t for the want of trying, despite what a minority of the more vocal fans were shouting towards the end of an admittedly disappointing second-half performance in the 1-0 home defeat to Grimsby on Saturday.

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One positive is that Murray has made the Stags a very solid side. For example, just look at the stats for the so-far scoreless September (four matches in League Two).

Yes, the goals-for column might read zero, but in the same period the Stags have conceded just two goals. In fact, just eight have been conceded in the nine league matches so far – more than half the sides in the division are into double figures.

So it is clear that the problem is at the other end of the pitch, where just seven goals have been scored in nine league outings – just four goals in the last eight league matches after the opening day 3-2 win at Newport.

From the stands it seems that the problem is down to a lack of confidence and, at times, a lack of quality – a lack of ruthlessness.

On Saturday, just as in previous weeks, some chances were created, but poor finishing, good defending and an absence of luck meant the ball stayed out.

It would be fair to say that in the first half the Stags put in a decent performance and were unlucky not to score. They dominated the goal-attempts stats while home keeper Scott Shearer barely had a shot to save, apart from the penalty his challenge conceded.

But, once the side either falls behind at home or fails to score in the first half, the confidence seems to drain away. And, coupled with a crowded back nine they seemed to be facing in the second half on Saturday, that is what happened again.

All too often crosses into the area, either from open play or set pieces, were ineffective - another failing this season.

Not for the first time, Saturday saw many fans questioning the formation and what they saw as leading striker Matt Green on his own at the head of the attack with his striking partner Danny Rose further back.

Yet in the first half enough chances were created to win the game, whatever the formation was.

You wouldn’t be surprised if the Stags went on to get a hatful of goals if they could just score one – football is quirky like that.

But for now the goal drought goes on. The good news for Murray and his players is that there is another game on Tuesday and the chance to put things right in front of goal.

It is far from all gloom and doom. My man-of-the-match, Mitch Rose, was again terrific in midfield and created chances with clever passes in the first half.

And, as I said earlier, defensively the side is looking very solid.

In fact, you could argue that one of the biggest disappointments on Saturday was the size of the crowd, 4,401 with a sizeable following from Grimsby.

The figure was undoubtedly affected by the 12.15am kick-off on police advice, meaning many Stags fans were unable to attend.

The next home match will also be an early start for the derby with Notts County and a third before the turn of the year, against Doncaster Rovers, also has an early kick-off.

By then let’s hope the goals-for corner will have been turned and the home hoodoo is just a distant memory.

Certainly the home fans need more than two goals from five matches to cheer.