JOHN LOMAS STAGS BLOG: To boo or not to boo? That is the question!

Matt Rhead causes chaos in the Carlisle defence -Pic by: Richard Parkes
Matt Rhead causes chaos in the Carlisle defence -Pic by: Richard Parkes
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I don’t think my nerves can stand too many second halves like we had in Saturday’s 3-2 home win over Carlisle United.

Without even thinking about it you suddenly realise your body is twitching into every clearance and every header as you will the team on to victory.

The game was a roller-coaster of emotions for home fans, an absolute delight for a neutral and an encouragement to the suffering Carlisle fans.

But for a section of the Stags supporters it still wasn’t good enough as boos accompanied the substitution of the exhausted Rakish Bingham, along with some abuse for manager Paul Cox, followed by abuse shouted at striker Matt Rhead near the end as Stags clung on to what they’d got.

Contrary to some of the comments on my report, I do know it was only a section of the crowd and far from the majority.

But it was many more than it needed to be and really did need reporting in the hope that some fans wake up the next day and take a reality check. Look at the table and see where the two sides are and realise just how much you should pleased right now and fully behind the team.

Some fans are telling me they were not booing at Cox as such, just angry that Bingham was being taken off while the equally exhausted Rhead stayed on the field. So that’s all right then?

The pent-up anger in that ground is unbelievable right now.

Did the Carlisle fans boo their side off at half-time at 3-0 down? Did Morecambe boo their side’s substitutions in midweek?

I also heard chants of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ at Cox and ‘Get off the field’ to Rhead.

If these are people who wanted to see Stags end up with three points I really hope they don’t work in man-management Monday to Friday.

This is not a Stags side on the sort of poor run that last Autumn brought for us to suffer.

This is a Stags side – yes, on a halved budget – that is surprising teams left, right and centre and only outside the play-off spots on goal difference.

This is a side that is trying hard to get the ball down and play a bit more as well as going long and it is a side that has just won back-to-back home games in a week.

Fans pay their money and are entitled to an opinion and when things are going badly, we know football fans do boo.

But the facts are that Carlisle, who once even tasted top flight football, were League One last season and, despite their poor start to the new campaign, are a far bigger club than Mansfield and will get themselves off the bottom and out of trouble soon.

Stags had no divine right to beat them. But a superb first half display saw Mansfield 3-0 up at the break.

Ex-Stags boss Keith Curle must have done a superb job with his half-time team talk as they came out and made a real fight of it.

Let’s not forget also that influential Stags midfielder Chris Clements limped off soon after the break, disrupting a starting XI that had done so well for three games.

With just seven minutes left and the game on a knife-edge, why couldn’t the boo-boys have simply given Bingham rousing applause and shouted encouragement at Rhead in an effort to help their team over the line?

Sometimes managers, teams and certain players do deserve a boo here and there. It’s part and parcel of the game. But this wasn’t one of those occasions.

The atmosphere in the tunnel afterwards felt like one of defeat as manager and players wondered what they had to do to get people onside.

Cox is certainly not perfect and is still learning all the time. Some critics on Saturday said they felt he should have sent on new boy Reggie Lambe as a sub for Clements instead of the more defensively-minded Jamie McGuire and I wouldn’t argue with them.

I would have liked to see Stags go for the jugular and score a few more goals to rub it in. But possibly Cox could see how Carlisle had come back out and sensed he might need the cavalry?

The critics’ biggest bug-bear with Cox was taking off Bingham instead of Rhead. On that one I would say I’d have done the same with Bingham still playing catch-up on his lack of full fitness.

Both were out of their feet, but you fancy Rhead to be more effective defensively with his heading ability and a better outlet to send the ball up to long and hope he can hold it up.

As it happened, Rhead’s touch let him down a couple of times near the end and he didn’t hold it up as well as he can, immediately incurring the wrath of the crowd.

I felt that frustration as much as anyone but surely a growled ‘Come on Rheady’ would have been better than some of the nasty unprintable comments he got.

In the end the side hung on anyway and ruined Curle’s return to the game and his old club. But it was great to see him back in football and I sincerely hope he does well and they finish above the drop zone, though below Stags!

Stags have now won four of their five home games, pushing then then leaders Burton all the way in the other, but the players must still feel One Call Stadium could start to become a bit of a bear pit for them again and probably feel relief they are away again this weekend where the support for them is always so much warmer.