OPINION: Two games to save the season for Stags?
The hope of pre-season has truly passed and Mansfield Town fans are now mired in the cold and damp of an unsuccessful autumn.
Winter is coming and, for Adam Murray, it is beginning to feel like it’s one he might not survive as manager.
A run of 10 league games with only one victory, albeit against Notts County, and of only eight goals scored, has undone the good start to the season and has set the stage for two crucial home games.
So, can Murray turn around the recent League results and push us back towards the play-offs?
In the eight home games so far this season Mansfield have chalked up two wins, three draws, and three defeats.
That isn’t a good record, and extended to a full season, nine points every eight games will leave us perilously close to the relegation zone, with just over 51 points total.
The Stags’ away record has been slightly better, gaining 10 points from their eight games.
Repeated over a full season that record would see the Stags finish with 58 points, and safety would be assured.
It is in that context why some of the Mansfield faithful are unhappy.
Not content with being another small club dwelling in the lower reaches of League Two, Stags fans are hoping for a team that can make some noise in the play-offs.
On this season’s evidence that hope is fading.
Whilst the Mansfield defence has been resolutely steadfast against League Two opposition — particularly at home where they have conceded only seven goals, fewer than table-topping Doncaster — it is the lack of ruthlessness in the opposition’s box that is hurting the Stags.
Murray’s commitment to a solid frame of a team, populated with powerful defenders, is not a problem itself, but the impediment lies in the ability of the Stags to build upon their solid foundations and penetrate the opposition’s defences.
Murray has built his reputation thus far with defensive shape and solidity.
His future at the club depends on making it work at the other end of the pitch.
The upcoming home games present a fantastic opportunity for the Stags to change the narrative of the season, and to get their offensive weapons firing.
Both Crawley and Blackpool sit in the bottom six in the away form table, and in 16 combined away games the sides have conceded 26 goals.
What needs to happen to make it work?
First, it is evident that the midfield is okay, but possesses no dominating force with which to hurt other teams.
Chris Clements is by far the most skilled technician, and is clearly capable of threading accurate passes to unlock a defence, but he is rarely in a position to do so, with a foot on the ball and the opposition in retreat.
More often, the pressing of the opposition limits the Stags’ ability to move the ball forward, and neither Collins nor McGuire at the base of midfield, or Clements and Rose further forward, have been able to link play quickly and consistently.
The result is a disjointed offensive game plan that is rarely effective.
This battling yet indecisive approach works if Mansfield steal the first goal, but looks impotent when the side go behind.
If these two games don’t bring positive results JR will not want him to, but Murray might walk.
Make no mistake Stags fans, there are no managers out there with a silver bullet for our troubles.
This is Murray’s team, and, on the evidence of his players’ interviews, it is a squad that is behind him.
Nobody else is better positioned to get the most from them. Murray has two games to save himself, and our season.