VIDEO - LOMAS ON STAGS: Evans' men display much-needed qualities for play-off tilt
New-look Mansfield Town proved they have grit, determination and patience in their locker on Saturday '“ qualities they will need in abundance between now and May.
On a cold, dark, wet Saturday at home to an unambitious Leyton Orient, the Stags dug in, persevered and finally shot down their struggling opponents.
On an afternoon when the home crowd was significantly boosted by a cut-price ticket deal, Mansfield would have wanted to impress against a struggling O’s side who had lost their last three on the bounce.
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But, with the opposition time-wasting from early on and the home side struggling to put a passing game together, things were not going to plan by the break, though the smattering of boos from the Ian Greaves Stand were undeserved.
In-form left back Mal Benning came close with two shots that were saved, Ben Whiteman fired another effort over and, just before the break, Danny Rose almost netted from a scramble but saw his shot hit the ground and fly over.
However, on the restart the home side took the game by the scruff of the neck with two goals in eight minutes and the visitors had no answer, keeper Jake Kean untested all afternoon.
Loanee right midfielder Whiteman has looked a quality player so far, and he broke the deadlock on 48 minutes when he smashed the ball home from 20 yards after a Joel Byrom free kick was headed clear.
Shaq Coulthirst hit a post before Rose sewed the game up on 56 minutes, squeezing the ball home at the far post after Whiteman had drilled a low cross over from the left.
Byrom really caught the eye as the game wore on as he made the home side tick from the heart of midfield, always available and playing lots of simple but effective passes.
Hayden White also showed how powerful he can be from right back, though fellow home debutant Coulthirst had a quiet game aside of hitting the woodwork with a snapshot and firing a late one-on-one at the keeper.
The visitors had Paul McCallum stretchered off in stoppage time and also saw Callum Kennedy clip the outside of the post as their afternoon of misery was complete.
The home defence chalked up a fifth clean sheet in seven outings, that despite centre half Krystian Pearce clearly feeling unwell and twice having to race off the pitch to answer the call of nature.
After the midweek Checkatrade Trophy exit, boss Steve Evans had recalled all four cup-tied newcomers as well as striker Rose and it all paid off in the end as the Stags edged to 10th and within two points of the play-off zone.
Evans had said that while he worked hard to bring new faces in over the January window he wanted to the squad to stay within at least six points of the pack.
Well they have certainly achieved that for him and, with any new additions this week, can now look forward to a serious tilt at the play-offs.
Anything gained from this Saturday’s trip to eighth-placed Barnet will have to be earned the hard way.
But that will be followed by a home game with strugglers Hartlepool - and another big home crowd with cut-price tickets from last weekend – and then a home clash with another struggling side, Accrington, three days later by when the Stags could well be in the thick of it.
And we will all sit on tenterhooks until the end of tomorrow when we know who Evans bolsters his squad with before the window closes.