JOHN LOMAS STAGS BLOG: Team and fans find their form

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It was great to see the team firing on all cylinders as Mansfield Town beat Morecambe 1-0 at One Call Stadium last night.

No, I am not talking about the 11 on the field, though that was definitely their best showing of the current campaign.

I mean the team and the crowd uniting as one against the common enemy from Morecambe Bay and creating a decent atmosphere in which the Stags thrived.

I fully understand that this is a symbiotic relationship in which the fans want the players to serve up some decent entertainment and the players want the fans to get behind them for the 90 minutes.

But, as at Notts County in the JPT, when it seems your own supporters are against you from the start, players get nervous, make mistakes and go long with the ball all too often.

Last night it just underlined how good it can be when supporters are patient and stay behind the players.

It gave them the confidence to get the ball down and pass it around and make high-flying Morecambe look second rate.

When Stags did go long, there was no dissent, just encouragement for Rakish Bingham to beat the defenders to the ball or Matt Rhead to get the crucial flick-on.

It was then both ironic and very funny to hear the home fans instead shout ‘hoof’ every time Morecambe lumped the ball forward instead.

I said it after the Notts game and, despite getting stick from some Stags fans, I won’t change my mind, I believe some of the shouts from the away section at Meadow Lane were an absolute disgrace.

The constant cries of ‘hoof’ every time Stags didn’t play a short pass were hardly a help away to a very decent side from a division above.

But to see a young lad like Liam Marsden clearing his lines down the touchline with an opponent racing at him to close him down and then shout hoof at him was awful.

He was simply doing what he has been taught to do since he could kick a ball – don’t get clever in that position under pressure, put a foot through it.

He wasn’t the only one who suffered thoughtless heckles. Some fans that night just need to differentiate between safely getting the ball away from danger and a pointless lump forward to no one in particular.

I have broached the subject of ‘hoofball’ with manager Paul Cox several times and he assures me that he has never changed his intended style in the three and a half seasons he has spent at the club.

We all know he likes to get the ball into dangerous areas quickly and that he likes to feed off a big target man. But Stags have also played some decent football along the way and Cox insists that when the players lump it to no one and nowhere, that isn’t from his his instructions.

That is simply players. They are human beings and sometimes panic, feel the pressure or make a bad decision.

Let’s face it, if they were able to play their way up the field with the football some of the more extreme Cox critics are demanding, they wouldn’t be plying their trade in League Two.

Having seen the top two sides in League Two at One Call Stadium in the last two home games, it is fascinating to see how they have played less football than Mansfield.

Burton and Morecambe are two big, strong, direct and efficient sides, and the Stags have proved they can live with them. They can live with the best this division currently have to offer.

That is something of a minor miracle which some fans are not really appreciating.

Having slumped into non-League mid-table obscurity, Mansfield Town had no divine right to get back into League Two last season - or ever.

But return they did and then, against all the odds and up against some massive clubs, Stags managed to finish in the top 11.

However, in the summer the carpet was well and truly pulled out from under Cox’s feet with the halving of his budget and slashing of his squad size. Times are very hard indeed.

At that point you feared a desperate relegation battle this time around and Cox appealed for fans to stick with the club more than ever.

Yet, after eight games, they sit a magnificent 10th, just two points off the play-off zone with a squad that doesn’t boast enough numbers for a fully fit bench.

Look below Mansfield. There are some massive clubs not doing half as well.

To even match that 11th place finish of last year would be amazing on half the resources. But you get the sneaking feeling that Cox’s men could continue to bother the race for the play-off places.

So Stags fans should be proud of their side’s achievements so far this season.

In a cut-throat business and with a large number of people in the town not bothered about going to see their local team any more (2,120 home fans on Tuesday), mid-table for Mansfield this season would be a massive achievement under all the circumstances.

However, you suspect Paul Cox will not be settling for that and at the moment he knows they do not have to really fear anyone.

Look at the plight of Carlisle United, once a top flight club, relegated last year, and now propping up the entire League without a win or manager.

I suspect they may come along and park a bus in front of their goal on Saturday at One Call Stadium and it will be up to Stags – and their fans – to be patient.

But I can’t see anything other than a home win and that could take Mansfield into the play-off spots - then things could start to get really exciting.

What do you think? Email your views to Chad Sport

To read our match report CLICK HERE