OPINION: Mansfield Town’s win at Newport confirms squad is stronger this time out

Mansfield Town's Matt Green celebrates with teammate Mitchell Rose  - Pic by Chris Holloway
Mansfield Town's Matt Green celebrates with teammate Mitchell Rose - Pic by Chris Holloway

So what have we learned after the first thrilling 90 minutes or so of the new League Two season for Mansfield Town, who snatched a memorable 3-2 win at Newport County in injury time?

Confirmation of what we all thought before a ball was kicked in anger – that manager Adam Murray has assembled a far stronger squad than last season.

Confirmation that Kevan Hurst, man of the match in the sun in Wales as he created the first goal, hit a wonderful solo last-gasp curling winner and generally looked a threat, could provide real flair this season.

Confirmation that Murray’s never-say-die attitude as a player has already been transferred to this squad – 93 minutes in and they were pressing for an away win rather than protecting the point.

Confirmation that his affinity with the vociferous travelling fans has also been transferred to his players – what a sight it was to see Hurst run the length of the pitch to celebrate his last-gasp winner with the away support.

Confirmation that the 4-4-2 formation (or 4-1-3-2 if you like), with a defensive midfielder protecting the back four, means the Stags look more menacing going forward than last season, when striker Matt Green too often looked isolated when on his own up front.

The formation change from last season means the defence looks better protected. Both goals conceded at Newport came from set pieces and could not be attributed to the formation.

After all the speculation in the summer and seemingly endless pre-season friendlies, it was good to see meaningful action at last with points up for grabs.

And it was terrific to see all the new signings who started – Hurst, goalscorer Danny Rose who partnered Green up front, full back Rhys Bennett and centre half George Taft – fit in well and, as I have said, they all looked good acquisitions.

Hurst was rightly made man of the match. He looked a handful throughout – not just for his contribution to two of the goals - and added a bit of creativity and guile that was perhaps missing last season.

Danny Rose was also really impressive as he partnered Green up front.

As I said earlier in the summer, he is a wily striker who can make space for himself in the area, runs intelligently off the ball to create space for others and win free kicks, an aspect of the Stags play that was lacking from some strike partners for Green last season.

Let’s hope his well-taken goal will give him the confidence to go on a spree of regular scoring that has been missing from his career so far. If he does, coupled with the back-to-his-best Green alongside him, you can only see an exciting season ahead in front of goal for the Stags.

Yes, it will take time for the two strikers to be on the same wavelength and become a potent partnership, but for both of the first choice two strikers to have got off the mark on the opening day will surely have put a spring in their step for the next three matches – all at One Call Stadium.

To concede two goals from set pieces will have disappointed both manager Adam Murray, keeper Scott Shearer and the rest of the players. The fact they came so quickly after the Stags had twice taken the lead will also have annoyed them.

Conceding too many goals – and chances – was an unwelcome feature of pre-season that needs to be ironed out. Too many free kicks were – and still are – being given away in potentially dangerous areas.

But who can argue or pick fault with a win on the opening day of the season, a win at a tricky place to go, and a win that came with a wonderful goal to cap a great day out in the sunshine?

It is too soon to over-analyse and I am sure that Murray will keep the players’ feet on the ground – one win after all doesn’t make a season. It is far, far too early to get carried away, however exciting the performance and victory.

We already knew that the season was likely to be a rollercoaster and the 90 minutes at Rodney Parade were just that. As Ronan Keating once sung, we have just got to ride that rollercoaster – and enjoy it!