Evans delighted as Stags return to winning ways

Steve Evans - picture by Dan Westwell.
Steve Evans - picture by Dan Westwell.

Steve Evans was delighted to see his side roar back from two poor results to see off bottom club Newport County 2-1 in dreadful conditions at One Call Stadium today.

The battling visitors had only lost one of their last eight and grabbed an early lead on a cloying pitch in powerful winds.

But Stags fought back to win it with a Shaq Coulthirst penalty, despite losing keeper Jake Kean to injury, after the visitors had Jaanai Gordon red-carded midway through the second half.

“I was delighted with the win after last week, when we let everyone down, and the pitch played a part why they scored a goal today,” said Evans.

“I think we should have been three or four one up at half-time and we had to remind the players about winning the contest and they had to be prepared to put their bodies on the line.”

No game against a Graham Westley side is likely to be a pretty one. But Evans had nothing but praise for the opposition’s approach.

“They are fighting for their absolute lives and have the right man in charge,” he said.

“I know some of their players well and Graham has them well-organised and disciplined.

“He has signed players that are prepared to go to the last mile.

“We knew today was going to be tough. We told our players don’t look at league tables.

“It was one of the quietest I’ve ever heard our supporters for the 10 minutes after Newport scored.

“They play one way – direct. They don’t play football. They turn teams and squeeze the game and I can’t condemn that as every team has to find a way to win a game.

“Graham has been doing that successfully though, granted, many of them have been draws in which they’ve been unfortunate not to get a win.

“Teams play how they have to play. The first thing we had to do was earn the right to battle with them today and earn the right to play – and I think we played some wonderful stuff at times.

“We just never had the little break you need to get if you are flying and have just had four or five wins.”

Stags were shaken by the visitors’ fifth minute opener.

“Krytian Pearce should have won the header,” said Evans.

“We know that and Krystian knows it. But it goes wide. It’s a fantastic cross, so there is a bit of credit on most goals.

“But Jake was going to throw his cap on it and it bounced up off a divot – we have re-watched it. He told us that but you don’t always believe goalkeepers.

“It made it really awkward and their striker was where he should be tapping it in from a couple of yards.

“Then you are looking for character in your group and I thought we showed that in abundance.

“We had some big players out there today who showed they are prepared to go the whole way.”

After Pearce had levelled on 17 minutes, it was left to Coulthirst to net the winner from the spot after his powerful shot had been handled by Craig Reid.

“It was a clear penalty – the lad should buy goalie gloves,” smiled Evans.

“Shaq does some marvellous things and sometimes he frustrates you, but I wouldn’t like to play against him.

“One thing opposition teams say who’ve played against him is how hard the centre halves have had to work.

“I thought him and Paddy Hoban covered every blade of grass today.

“I wanted to get Matt Green onto the pitch late on but he just felt his groin a little bit in the warm-up at half-time.

“People talk about us having five strikers but all of a sudden we have no Danny Rose out there today, though he should be fit for Tuesday, and Greeny said he would go out there and play for us, but you have to put your manager’s head on and know you could play him for 20 minutes and lose him for the season.”

On Kean’s injury, which saw him replaced before half-time, he added: “We have booked him a scan tonight.

“He had a block with the boy and I think Jake was brave when he stuck his leg out.

“Then Rhys Bennett made a fantastic block or they go 2-0 up into an empty net.

“It was very difficult conditions out there today.”

Stags then survived a late Newport push as Ryan Bird lobbed onto the roof of the net.

“We lived nervously - it’s why Newport get late goals,” he said.

Stags now prepare for long hauls to Yeovil on Tuesday and Cheltenham on Saturday in eighth place, only outside the top seven on goal difference.