LOMAS ON STAGS: Evans’ side blossoms as magnificent Mansfield hit new heights

Mansfield Town v Newport County'Alfie Potter after scoring his second for the Stags in the first half.
Mansfield Town v Newport County'Alfie Potter after scoring his second for the Stags in the first half.
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Anyone still not convinced by what Steve Evans has built at Mansfield Town in less than 16 months should have been at last night’s 5-0 trouncing of Newport County.

The man’s past record of success was the reason why John Radford hired him.

And so far Evans has consistently lived up to his promises, with last night hitting a new high.

When he came in last season Evans said it would be a case of keeping Stags up and pushing on, maybe even coming close to the play-offs.

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Relegation worries were soon a distant memory and it was only on the last day of the season that the dream of sneaking into the top seven was ended.

This time around he targeted the play-offs as a minimum with hope the Stags could finish in those top three automatic promotion places.

Last night suggested they have every chance.

It was such a shame that the smallest crowd of the season witnessed a magical display of attacking football. It deserved a far bigger audience.

Newport have been in the play-off mix themselves for much of the season themselves, but they were left bewildered and shellshocked by wave after wave of home attacks from all angles.

It really should have been double figures when you see Stags hit the woodwork three times, forced excellent keeper Joe Day to twice save with his legs and also missed some absolute sitters.

I can’t remember too many displays like this down the years.

It was hard not to feel a pang of sympathy for the Welsh club as they prayed for the whistles at the end of each half.

If it had been boxing, the towel would have long since been thrown in.

Although Alfie Potter grabbed the headlines with his first career hat-trick, Kane Hemmings and Danny Rose led the way with a magnificent partnership up front that suggests Ricky Miller is going to have to be patient about starting games.

I felt particularly sorry that Hemmings did not crown his energetic display with a goal. He certainly should have done, somehow lifting over a gaping goal from four yards with one golden chance.

But he was a colossus out there, leading the line, winning chases he had no right to win, showing great body strength and agility and looking every inch the class forward he was brought in to be.

While Potter was smashing in the goals from the right, CJ Hamilton was a constant torment down the left.

We know, like all wingers, he can blow hot and cold. But last night, on a freezing night, CJ was red hot and showed his intelligence with a range of crosses to set up numerous openings.

Alex MacDonald was his usual rampaging self in midfield and took his goal superbly well, while new boy, Swansea loanee Alex King, made a tidy debut alongside him in the middle.

Keen to link play and make himself available, the youngster kept things simple and did not try Hollywood passing, though his audacious 50-yard ‘Beckhamesque’ attempt at catching the keeper off guard in the second half hinted at his Premier League credentials.

The back four had little to do in the way of defending, though did that very well when needed.

So poor Newport had the added problem of those four joining in almost every attack with the pace of full backs Mal Benning and Paul Anderson an extra thorn in their flanks and centre half Krystian Pearce showing some superb skills, particularly in setting up the first goal and a clever reverse pass into the box in the second half.

Like the curse of Manager of the Month, you always worry after a big win that you end the next game saying ‘if only we’d have saved one of those goals for this one’.

But confidence at Mansfield right now is like a bubbling cauldron and the quality of players who are fit and raring to go and can’t even make the bench is jaw-dropping.

If Exeter had a scout at the game last night, his notes won’t make easy reading for the Grecians.

Exeter away is never easy, but I wonder which of the two sides is the more nervous as Saturday approaches?