Happy Stags boss Murray surprised by ‘long ball team’ accusations

Mansfield Town Manager Adam Murray
Picture by Dan Westwell
Mansfield Town Manager Adam Murray Picture by Dan Westwell
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Mansfield Town boss Adam Murray is delighted to see his side end the first month of the season in fifth, but is bewildered to hear accusations of Stags being a long ball team.

Murray has tried to encourage his side to play out from the back and keep possession while mixing it up with longer balls to a very talented array of strikers.

It has certainly paid dividends so far, even without hitting top gear as yet.

“You look at the top seven and there is probably only us and Morecambe that are not expected to be in it,” said Murray.

“The table is starting to take shape now. The big teams are starting to take their place among the top places and it’s important we hang in there.

“If we can stay in there after 10 games, that would be a really good building block for us.

“Then we want to build on that and push on and, with what we’ve gone in the dressing room, there is no reason we can’t.

“I think we are sitting in a great place. If we’d turned one of the draws into a win we’d be top of the league, so we can’t really ask for much more.

“I feel performance levels can still go up dramatically, but to be a six/seven out of 10 at the minute and be picking up the points we are we can’t complain.”
However, comments have come from some other managers and elsewhere that Murray is employing a physical, long ball game, which he says has surprised him.

“I won’t lie, I am a little bit confused at the minute and trying to fathom it out,” he said.

“I don’t know if it just because we are a big side. You look through our sided and we are all six foot plus.

“But when you read other people’s comments about us we are a big, strong, direct team - that’s the opposite to what we see ourselves as.

“Because we haven’t been as good with the ball as we can, sometimes it does paint that picture.

“At the same time, when you’ve got centre forwards like the four senior boys we have got, you want to get it into them as much as you can and you are then relying on them to be good players.

“I think we are far from direct. Would we like to get it into our forwards and play? Yes, we do. But you look at some of our play and the way we set up and I find it (the comments) a little bit strange.

“If it was fair and we were a direct team and that’s the way we played I’d have no issue with it. It’s about winning games.

“But I think you saw last year and you’ve seen in pre-season we do have some very good footballers here and we’ve played some very good football.”

He added: “I think what does happen is it becomes lazy. “One manager will label you with it and then when you have strikers like Matt Green and Darius Henderson, without doing the homework, they’ll just say we are direct because of the kind of strikers we’ve got.

“We do need to be better with the ball. It is one area we need to progress on because when we do control games a little bit more than we are at the minute, that takes us to the next level.

“If there is still another level and we are fifth in the league then I am happy with that.

“It’s a great deflection for managers. I know Cambridge fans this season have labelled their side with being quite direct and not playing a lot of football. It’s such an easy thing to say.

“We don’t mind. We are sitting fifth in the league. We know what a good football team we are. We know what good football we can play.

“Do we need to be better at it? One hundred per cent. But we are really pleased with where we are at the minute.”

Last season Murray and his players looked at sets of games in batches and worked out where the points might come from in them.

However, this season that methodology has been abandoned.

“I am focused on game by game,” said Murray. “Sometimes you can look at a set of fixtures coming up and lose sight of what’s important.

“Before you’ve got the points on the board you are worrying about what’s happening two games down the road.

“Obviously we are aware of the fixture run-up and different challenges that we’ll face, but in terms of points hauls and points totals we’ll just take every game as it comes this season.

“We haven’t looked at it and gone, we want to be here at that point or we want that many points at that point, it is game by game.

“We believe we are strong, we are organised and very disciplined. I wanted us to be, just as we were last season, hard to beat and I think we are, and then have that attacking edge as well.”