LOMAS ON MANSFIELD TOWN: Olejnik heartbreak offers big chance for Logan and Kean

Bobby Olejnik of Mansfield Town - Pic By James Williamson
Bobby Olejnik of Mansfield Town - Pic By James Williamson

Football can be cruel at times, and Mansfield Town keeper Bobby Olejnik has just received a sharp kick in the teeth less than two weeks short of Christmas.

The Austrian-born keeper is now out for the rest of the season after a freak knee injury suffered in training on Friday.

Having joined the Stags two summers ago Olejnik was forced to bide his time as he started last season behind Conrad Logan in the pecking order and was forced to stay there after some fine displays by Logan.

It looked like another long season lay ahead of him when Logan also began this season.

But when the Irishman let two points slip through his fingers through a late error in the 1-1 home draw with Colchester United, on 18th August, Olejnik was given his chance. And how well he took it.

Olejnik has since been rock solid behind a fantastic back three, making umpteen important saves.

In a season in which Stags have so far only lost one League Two game, the 32-year-old has kept nine clean sheets in the division’s second best defensive record.

So cruelly he now suddenly faces a fight to save his career with at least a year sidelined with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and a long road ahead that will test him physically and mentally to the limits.

It is heart-breaking for Olejnik, but Stags’ momentum that he has played such a major part in helping build should not be disrupted as Logan has proved himself a reliable stopper of great experience.

Indeed, he was voted Chad Readers’ Stags Player of the Year.

You would suspect that, having had to play second fiddle since that Colchester error, he will be desperate to now cling on to that keeper’s jersey for the rest of the campaign.

But immediately he has excellent and much-needed competition to avoid a second of complacency.

Jake Kean has quickly returned to the club as back-up for the month, having been a free agent following his release from Sheffield Wednesday.

With the transfer window opening on 1st January, Kean is another man with a career to fight for.

Aged 27, the Derby-born keeper, who has Premier League and Championship experience under his belt, has been out of work since his summer release by Sheffield Wednesday.

But he was certainly impressive when on loan here two years back, keeping six clean sheets in his first seven games and, after a couple of less assured displays and a two-month injury lay-off, returning to look rock solid for the rest of the season with some memorable saves.

Determined to battle his way back, Kean has spent the season so far simply training with League clubs and keeping an eye out for an opening.

So one man’s disaster is another’s opportunity as Kean could be the perfect fit for the hole left by Olejnik’s injury.

He certainly now has a few weeks to prove to David Flitcroft that he doesn’t need to look anywhere else before the window closes.

To complete a week to forget for the Stags, a deluge of rain from Storm Deirdre saw their game at Forest Green abandoned at half-time, though Logan at least had chance to remind all of his class with a fine first half.