OPINION: Mansfield Town press self-destruct button at Pompey
Mansfield Town pressed the self-destruct button to fall to a 4-0 defeat at Portsmouth on Saturday.
The Stags more than held their own for the first hour and were unlucky to be behind at the break.
Portsmouth took the lead through a penalty when Matt Green slid in on the wet surface with a badly-timed tackle in his own area following a corner.
Even though Green got a slight touch on the ball, the referee was always going to give a penalty and it was a rash challenge in the conditions.
The Stags came close to equalising on three occasions in the first half with Green firing into the sidenetting from a good position, James Baxendale so unlucky when he sent a terrific header against the inside of the post with the keeper beaten from a fine Ashley Hemmings cross, and then Kyle Howkins blazed over the bar from eight yards when it seemed easier to score.
Pompey also went close to scoring in the first half when Carl Baker cut inside from the left and fired a great effort against the post.
It was a hugely entertaining first half with plenty of action at both ends.
The game changed on 57 minutes when Howkins, who had just been booked three minutes earlier, slid in with a reckless challenge wide on Pompey’s left, and gave the referee no choice but to give him a second yellow card. It was idiotic from the West Brom loanee.
Still Mansfield continued to attack and came very close to equalising when a great shot from Hemmings was just punched over his own bar by the keeper.
The Stags continued to attack but were completely undone by another reckless challenge on 73 minutes, this time on the halfway line, and right in front of the referee, which saw Alex Iacovitti given a straight red card for a lunging studs-up tackle.
Iacovitti had only been on the pitch 14 minutes after coming on shortly after Howkins was sent off.
Down to nine men, Mansfield continued to attack and Hemmings fired wide after a good lay-off from Henderson.
The home fans were getting increasingly impatient with their team, who were trying to knock the ball around and stretch the nine men of Mansfield.
There was plenty of booing from the home fans. That doesn’t happen often when a team is winning.
The home team shut their fans up on 84 minutes with a second goal, more or less walked into the net with the Stags completely stretched and still trying to push forward.
Carl Baker then added two more goals, on 88 and 90+5 minutes, both times driving into the area and firing home, and in the end Portsmouth could have had more goals in those final stages.
The Stags were beaten 4-0 and completely over-run from the 84th minute when Pompey scored the second goal.
That should not disguise a good performance up until that point, though.
Mansfield were very let down by the reckless challenges from Howkins and Iacovitti, and the rest of the players gave everything for the cause.
In particular, midfielders Hemmings, Clements, McGuire and Baxendale looked good.
The Stags have a week to lick their wounds before important back-to-back home games with Crawley and Blackpool.
Mansfield have put in good performances against Plymouth, Derby’s academy and Portsmouth in the space of seven days.
If they can keep that level of performance, I think the Stags can pick up at least four points from those two home games.
An improvement in results is needed, as the Stags have slipped down to 18th in a very tight league table, three points from the play-offs, but three points from the relegation zone.