Mansfield Musings Blog: Kee earns Stags deserved point at Cheltenham

Cheltenham v Stags action.
Cheltenham v Stags action.
  • Nighmare journey to Gloucestershire
  • Murray now getting the results he deserves
  • Draw a fair result

After a nightmare journey down to Gloucestershire for me which involved an oil warning light, tapping up strangers for change and a phone/sat nav running out of battery, the Stags sweetened the journey home with a well earned point, thanks to a second goal for the club for substitute Billy Kee.

Kee’s introduction meant a switch to 4-4-2, which caused the hosts a lot more problems than the first half.

Boss Adam Murray made four changes from the unexpected midweek victory at promotion-chasing Newport.

Pidgeley, Ravenhill, Lambe and Oliver replaced Studer, McGuire, Monakana and Kee.

With the exception of the on-loan Brighton man, the other three could consider themselves unlucky to drop to the bench based on reports of the midweek game, but none of the trio had played much first team football of late and perhaps were not ready for a second game in five days.

The Stags lined up in the now familiar 4-5-1 formation, which seems to change to a 4-2-3-1 when on the attack, with Heslop moving just behind Oliver.

There were not many clear cut chances on show in the first 20 minutes, with the hosts playing the neater football and the Stags happy to soak up pressure early in the game and look to hit the Robins on the counter.

Vadaine Oliver hit a weak long range effort and a header on target without troubling the keeper, whilst Cheltenham looked to exploit the flanks and deliver balls into the area.

The Stags withstood the early pressure, with good clearances by Riley and Beevers respectively.

There was a glimmer of promise on 22 minutes, as Junior Brown switched play to find a marauding Callum Elder, who chested the ball past the Cheltenham full back, only for the ball to get caught under his feet and the opportunity was squandered.

Oliver was not happy that the youthful Australian was unable to pick him out in the middle.

Prior to this game, a few questions were being asked of keeper Pidgeley, who had failed to claim a cross against Oxford in a 3-0 defeat and was perhaps also at fault for the Dagenham equaliser last Saturday.

Add to that the superb performance of Sacha Studer against Newport and there really is a fight on for the starting place in between the sticks.

On 26 minutes, an ill-advised back pass from Tafazolli hit a bobble in front of Pidgeley, causing him to miscue his kick narrowly wide of his own post.

I do not have a problem with the defence using the keeper but as a kid you were always taught to play the pass outside the width of the posts in case of any mishaps.

At the other end, the Stags went mighty close to taking the lead.

Lambe spread the ball wide to Beevers, who put in a deep cross with his weaker foot and found the smallest man on the pitch Junior Brown, whose thumping header rattled the bar.

Clements’ deflected follow-up was parried and Heslop’s goalbound effort blocked by Troy Brown. With a third of the game gone, Cheltenham had their best effort of the half as Brown turned attacker and saw his powerful header acrobatically turned over the bar by Pidgeley. The Stags broke from the resulting corner, but Oliver’s shot nearly cleared the stand.

On 35 minutes, a cross from Beevers found Oliver, who must have thought he was between the posts and flicked an effort well wide. It was poor awareness by Oliver.

Beevers was proving the Stags’ main attacking outlet and had been found in space on at least three occasions by the vision of Chris Clements.

The lively Wes Burns went on a mazy run with five minutes of the first half remaining, beating Elder with ease but only managing to drag his shot wide of Pidgeley’s left hand post.

The Stags again went close on the cusp of half-time, as the ball came back to Elder from a throw and a deep cross found the before today unforeseen aerial prowess of Junior Brown, who sent his header back across the face only to see Ryan Tafazolli’s weak effort easily saved.

It had been solid but unspectacular first half from Mansfield Town.

Oliver was lacking support up front and the Stags failure to retain the ball meant the midfield were unable to join in for fear of leaving open spaces.

Beevers had been good in both directions but both wingers had been largely quiet apart from two contributions by the afro of Junior Brown.

Both teams were out for the restart in the physical sense, but it appeared the Stags had momentarily left their heads in the dressing room as Cheltenham earned a soft lead.

Following confusion between Elder and Pidgeley, Cheltenham were awarded a throw in on their left hand side.

A long throw into the box was flicked on by Haynes at the near post ahead of Riley and Tafazolli did not move his feet quickly enough to be in a position to control the ball.

The ball brushed of his chest and into the path of Wes Burns, who turned and shot all in one motion to slam the ball into the bottom left hand corner. Elder should perhaps have been tighter to his man. It was another soft goal for the Stags to concede with two opportunities to clear the ball missed by Riley and Tafazolli.

The Stags immediately looked to avenge the opening goal, as following a clash of heads they were awarded a free kick on the left hand side of the area.

Heslop, who had scored from a free kick against Morecambe, curled a low effort just wide of the opposite post.

It was Heslop’s last contribution to the game, as he was sacrificed for Kee to enter the fray. Adam Murray switched to 4-4-2 in search of an equaliser.

It did not immediately pay dividends as a quiet 15 minutes ensued.

I was worried Murray may have panicked too soon in switching to a more attacking formation, as the midfield was now outnumbered by the hosts. Monakana replaced Brown on 65 minutes.

The Stags soon began to create chances. On 66 minutes, a clever touch from Kee seemingly put Oliver through on goal, only for skipper Matt Taylor to produce a goal saving challenge.

The Stags were now causing problems down the left side as Elder started to get forward, putting in a great cross for Oliver to nod the ball into Kee, who hit the bouncing ball narrowly over the angle of bar and post. Kee looked in the mood and found the equaliser two minutes later.

A long ball forward by Beevers was headed down excellently by Oliver to the feet of Chris Clements just inside the centre circle.

The playmaker played a slide rule pass to his left and found Reggie Lambe. Lambe took a touch and slipped the ball back inside for Kee, whose powerful side footed effort from 14 yards was too hot for Carson to handle and found the top corner he had narrowly missed moments earlier.

It was a great passing move for the Stags and exactly the type of service Kee requires to start banging in the goals.

The joy was all too much for one fan behind me, who climbed over my head and onto the railings to salute hero Kee.

Credit to the manager for making another effective substitution. By my reckoning, substitutes have now played a role in the last three Mansfield Town goals.

With the Stags now back on level terms and with the momentum, the question was whether to stick or twist.

I think it was a mindset that both management and players were caught between, as they neither sat back nor threw bodies forward for the remaining 20 minutes. Following the goal, Chris Clements hit a free kick on target, but unfortunately straight at the keeper.

The hosts were in no doubt about how to approach the remainder of the game and came on strong in the last 10 minutes.

The lively Wes Burns curled a shot wide and substitute Shaun Harrad nearly caught the Stags napping when he got a deft touch following a quick free kick, which trickled agonisingly wide of the far post.

In between those two efforts, the Stags had a penalty appeal turned down as Kee went to ground following a push in the back.

The referee had not blown his whistle for challenges like that all day and was not about to start with five minutes of normal time remaining. It would have been a soft penalty and I would have liked to have seen Kee stay on his feet.

The Stags had the final chance as Oliver curled a shot straight at the keeper from the left side of the area, but there was not to be a winner and both sides went home with a point.

It had been a good second half performance by the Stags, but my initial reaction was that a draw was a fair result and one I was happy with given the Stags’ away form in general.

Bury are next up at the One Call for the Stags as they look to extend their home unbeaten run to six games.

I do not think Murray will, but it would be nice to see the Stags revert to a 4-4-2 formation for a home game against one of the top sides in the division.

I think it is more likely that it will be changed with 20 minutes to go. If the 4-5-1 is kept, I would like to see Jack Thomas return in place of Simon Heslop. Mansfield Town remain in a relegation battle but the signs are positive and I am pleased that Adam Murray is now getting the results that he deserves. Everyone I have heard speak about him who is involved with the club seem extremely impressed and enthused and the fans now appear to be getting on board following a shaky start results wise.

Player Ratings -

Pidgeley - 6.5 - A few nervy moments and a bit worrying that the defence do not appear to be listening to his shouts. Not much chance with the goal and a good save from Brown. Unlucky with the kick.

Beevers - 7.5 - Very good first half in both directions. Not as adventurous in the second but defended solidly.

Riley - 6.5 - Weak at times and a few poor pieces of play in possession. Defended okay but you always feels like a mistake is on its way.

Tafazolli - 6.5 - Slow reactions for the goal and a few poor headers. Otherwise solid.

Elder - 6.5 - Looks good going forward but Burns caused him problems all afternoon.

Ravenhill - 7.5 - Quiet first half but excellent second, getting his foot in where it counts.

Lambe - 7 - Quiet first half but came to life in the second, good assist for the goal and takes up clever positions.

Clements - 7 - Got caught in possession a few times but is a very good builder of attacks and is a calming influence. Set pieces not great.

Heslop - 6 - Always gives his all but was pretty much anonymous in the first half and should have scored from six yards out. One good free kick before being subbed.

Brown - 6 - Another quiet game apart from the two headers.

Oliver - 6.5 - Worked hard and won headers, first touch needs to improve to hold up ball. Looks better when playing as a two.

Subs :

Kee (Heslop 52) - 8 - Great to see him score and look in the mood, unlucky with another effort and linked well with Oliver. Another instance where he won the ball with two feet and a second with a bit of a rash challenge but got away with them. My MOTM.

Monakana (Brown 65) - 6 - Runs in to dead ends, doesn’t look as promising as he did on debut.