Craig Priest’s Mansfield Town column: 4-4-2 formation is the way to go

Sam Clucas' header goes over the bar -Pic by: Richard Parkes
Sam Clucas' header goes over the bar -Pic by: Richard Parkes

It’s fair to say there hasn’t been much to write home about this season for Stags as Paul Cox’s men have struggled to settle into League Two life.

However this last week or so hasn’t been too bad as the power of four has ignited the spark at the perfect time.

Saturday’s goal-less draw with the enemy saw us take a total of four points from the C word this season, keeping two precious clean sheets.

Accompanying the result was a performance fuelled with fire and fight. The players wanted the result and worked to the very last mile-second to ensure it, coming close to a memorable winner through Ollie Palmer in the last minute.

Palmer nor us should dwell on that miss and wonder what could have been as it just wasn’t meant to be.

One noticeable thing from the match last Saturday was the fact, after what seems like an eternity, Paul Cox eventually changed to a structured 4-4-2 formation which in my opinion, made us strong enough to keep a much needed clean sheet and inspire us to go forward and grab victory, which as we know, very nearly did.

I have to admit that when I saw the team news on Tuesday prior to the game at Hartlepool, I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to see that Cox hadn’t started with a 4-4-2. James Jennings’ had put the Stags ahead from close range as we know before former Stags target Marlon Harewood netted to level.

Alan Marriott then denied the Hartlepool man a second with an expert penalty save before the break yet after the restart it seemed all to no avail as Luke James put the hosts ahead on 53 minutes.

The Stags needed that fight again and I believe the double change five minutes after James’ strike kick started the comeback. The ridiculous three at the back was gone and 4-4-2 was implemented.

What followed is perhaps the best night of the season so far as Jennings hit his second to level before Matt Rhead and Jamie McGuire sealed a much needed three points with a header on 80 minutes and a spectacular drive at the death respectively.

The season is not over by a long stretch nor are we out of danger, it’s so tight that anything could happen. Just a point lies between ourselves and Saturday’s opponents AFC Wimbledon who sit 13th.

However with four points from our last two games against good opposition, we may well have our spark at the right time – for that spark to become the inferno we desire though, implementing the power of four-four-two may well be the answer as the past two matches have proved.

A big pat on the back must go to the players for two solid results, fingers crossed that continues on Saturday! Right I must dash for another week, I need to collect my ticket for Saturday, if I bump into Paul Cox I’ll do my best to mention the power of four, if I don’t I’m sure he’ll consider it after reading this anyway – he’s an avid reader you know… at least I hope he is!