LOMAS ON MANSFIELD TOWN: Patience pays off as Olejnik takes his chance
Amid Mansfield Town's record-breaking run away from home it has been a delight to see goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik taking his chance so well to show what he can do in the first team.
Goalkeepers are a strange breed and very supportive of each other.
You would never get an outfield player to be as patient as keepers waiting for their chance at a new club they have signed for.
But Olejnik and Conrad Logan were both brought in by Steve Evans in the summer of 2017 and Logan won the race to start the season.
We all knew how good Olejnik was from his days between the posts at Exeter City.
But Logan quickly took an iron grip on the jersey and Olejnik eventually played only a single League Two game last season when Logan felt under the weather at Wycombe just after Christmas.
Otherwise, he was given just five other outings, four in the Checkatrade Trophy and one in the Carabao Cup, to try to keep him happy.
This season has been a very different kettle of fish.
Olejnik was brought in for the Carabao Cup home clash with Accrington Stanley and could count himself unlucky to be the only one to not keep the shirt after a fantastic 90-minute showing from the Stags in a 6-1 win.
But there were no complaints from the Austrian. And he did not have to wait long for another chance.
A costly last minute error by Logan that gifted Colchester a 1-1 draw at the One Call Stadium in the very next game saw Olejnik replace him at Tranmere four days later. He has not looked back since.
Fans love how quickly he can get the ball back into play and his accuracy in finding team mates to launch quick attacks and his shot-stopping has been excellent.
It’s been a long time since Mansfield Town could boast two keepers of this quality and it’s a fascinating battle between them.
Olejnik made some important stops once more at Swindon last weekend as Mansfield chalked up a club record ninth successive away league game unbeaten.
But, on a day when they were desperate for three points, they were rocked by a red card for Will Atkinson.
Atkinson can count himself hugely unlucky to be shown a second yellow card on the day.
He was late with the first tackle and can have no qualms about the yellow shown.
But the innocuous push on Keshi Anderson that saw the second yellow produced was a poor decision from referee Antony Coggins when a wag of the finger or even a word in the ear would have more than sufficed. It simply was not a yellow card challenge, and when you consider the player was already on a yellow, the decision should have been even more carefully weighed up before acting.
But it did leave Stags up against it after the break and once again they came up with yet another excellent away point.
As much as we all know they need to start winning games overall, it is impossible not to be impressed with the way they are playing and the superb points being picked up on the road.
But they are only ‘good points’ long-term if you can win a few home games to back them up – and that has to be the main target, starting Saturday when high-flying MK Dons come to town.
Monday night’s FA Cup draw was a strange one.
While Charlton Athletic are a decent-sized club with a rich pedigree, they are not opponents that fans are going to get too excited about playing.
They don’t ooze the FA Cup romance that playing a non-League side home or away would have given and don’t suggest the kind of fairytale cup tie that would attract live television cameras either.
I would have loved non-League opposition with Alfreton Town home or away a tasty prospect.
A derby game with Notts County or Chesterfield would also have got the pulse racing or maybe even a ‘grudge’ home clash with Steve Evans’ Peterborough United.
Instead Mansfield have been landed with a home tie that is frankly a tricky obstacle to progress.
After their much-publicised off-the-field troubles, the Valiants are down in League One these days, but up in ninth right now in a competitive league.
Stags will have to be at their very best that day to get past them until Charlton elect to field an under-strength side and show the game any less respect than it deserves.
But, as draws go, it was far from the best start to a route to a Third Round moneyspinner.