OPINION: Keeping Matt Green even more important than Mansfield Town's win at Leyton Orient
Mansfield Town's late victory at early-season promotion rivals Leyton Orient should have been the main talking point for Stags fans on Saturday night.
A second win from three League Two matches away from One Call Stadium in the new campaign is a magnificent return – particularly when you consider that Saturday’s three points came on the back of a tough defeat at Plymouth Argyle.
Add to that the four points from the first two home matches in the league and you could justifiably say that the Stags have put down a real marker for the rest of the season.
Of course, last season started with similar terrific away results, but the Stags were perhaps understandably unable to maintain that form throughout the whole season – and the results at One Call Stadium were disappointing.
However, this time around there is already a growing belief that this Mansfield Town squad is made of sterner stuff. Just remember the way the 10-men somehow beat Yeovil a couple of weeks ago after losing Danny Rose to a red card so early in the game.
Match report: Leyton Orient 1 Mansfield Town 2But why was the magnificent 2-1 win at the Matchroom Stadium that took the Stags fifth – with the same number of points as second-placed Luton - not the main topic of conversation for the fans after the match?
Quite simply because arguably the biggest victory had already come the previous evening.
Rumours had grown over recent days that other clubs were preparing to make a move for Mansfield’s star striker Matt Green, ahead of the transfer window closing in just a few days, after a Bradford City bid was rejected.
On Friday those fresh reports seemed to grow stronger as it was claimed that Saturday’s opponents, Leyton Orient, had made a £500,000 bid for the forward.
Within a few hours manager Adam Murray defiantly rubbished the reports, saying the Stags had not received any such bid – and, perhaps more importantly, stressing that the player had pledged his future to the club.
Murray hails perfect away displayIn fact, Murray also made it clear that not only did the player want to stay, but owner John Radford – who had worked so hard to bring Green back to the club a year earlier after the striker’s time with Birmingham City – had no intention of selling.
Green, of course, famously spearheaded the club’s return to the Football League with a glut of goals in the Conference championship-winning season.
He will always be a hero to the fans – and this season he has looked back to his best. Before Saturday he had two goals from four league outings so, given all the speculation on Friday, perhaps it was inevitable that he would score at Orient.
And he did... not only scoring, but netting the goal that gave the Stags all three points. It showed that Green is the quality striker we all know and love as Stags fans – and that his goals could keep the amber and blue at the right end of the table all season.
It all showed that, like the rest of the side, Green does not let his head drop after setbacks during matches. In the first-half at Orient he blazed a penalty over the bar with the score at 0-0, but he was still eager to make amends and made no mistake with his clinical late finish.
Just like in the Yeovil game a few weeks earlier, the Stags fought back resolutely to overcome setbacks – this time the missed penalty and then a late Orient equaliser. There really is a belief and confidence in the side at the moment, highlighted from day one with another late winner that beat Newport..
Last season Green netted 18 goals, despite looking isolated at times. This season he looks far happier with the more offensive system and formations being played – and sharper in front of goal.
His goals and the speculation around Green’s future have meant that another success story at One Call Stadium in the early part of the season has gone under the radar.
Mitch Rose’s three goals from midfield – and overall workrate and quality – would otherwise have been the biggest success story on the 2017/17 campaign so far.
He has been my player-of-the-season upto now and has fast become one of the first names manager Murray puts down on his teamsheet each week.
As well as his welcome goals from midfield, Rose is covering a lot of ground both defensively and offensively and making sure he is getting involved in matches – one criticism that some fans levelled at him last season.
It all means that the Stags passed a really tough test on Saturday with flying colours. For added to the Green speculation, manager Murray and his new-look side also overcame the absence of several absentees through injury and suspension.
In fact, you have to say that the Stags have been unlucky with injuries already – midfielder Chris Clements the latest casualty.
But it was good to see new signing Darius Henderson make his first start up front.
The rollercoaster I mentioned a few weeks ago is currently riding high. Long may it continue.