LOMAS ON STAGS: Will Newport feel the backlash from Stags' wobble?

After seeing their side pick up one point from the last two games and drop out the top seven, Mansfield Town supporters will be hoping bottom club Newport County feel the backlash at One Call Stadium on Saturday.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 22nd February 2017, 11:25 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th February 2017, 12:10 pm
Mansfield Town's Hayden White advances past ex Stag Chris clements  - Photo by Chris Holloway
Mansfield Town's Hayden White advances past ex Stag Chris clements - Photo by Chris Holloway

But one glance at the improving Welsh club’s recent results suggests a hiding may be a big ask.

All the fantastic momentum built up since the arrival of Steve Evans as manager, which took the club from 18th into the play-off spots in seventh, has suddenly suffered a wobble.

The 4-4 home draw with Accrington proved the Stags’ miserly defence was human after all and last weekend’s 3-0 defeat at Grimsby underlined that.

With Hayden White red-carded last weekend, that defence faces at least one change and Evans has already said he may make two or three other changes to the side to freshen things up.

During the unbeaten run, when Stags had charged up into the play-offs just six points off the hallowed top three, automatic promotion seemed a distinct possibility.

But that gap is now up to an unassailable 11 points with only 14 games to go.

Evans was still brimming over with confidence at Monday’s highly entertaining evening with the fans, promising them promotion next year if not this.

He also said his intent was to repeat his Rotherham success and get the Stags into the Championship.

But he warned this is the hardest of all the divisions to get out of as the quality of the clubs from top to bottom was very even – a point this Saturday may underline.

Stags’ current stutter is nowhere near as bad as the only other wobble since he came in when the club only won once in six games, five of them coming in a largely disappointing December.

And Evans now commands a much stronger squad than he had then with eight of those players now gone and replaced.

There were moments at Grimsby where the game might have swung the other way. But too many average performances on the day combined to give the Mariners their double.

Seb Stockbridge, another of Stags’ refereeing nemeses, was at the centre of another storm as he dismissed both White and Evans.

As I write this we are still awaiting his report on Evans’ clash with the fourth official and Mansfield still face the prospect of both Evans and Paul Raynor potentially being forced to watch the game from the stands on Saturday after Raynor was also banished from the bench in the previous game.

It was a shame the game ended as it did for a magnificent army of over 1,200 away fans who made the trip to Cleethorpes.

However, not that all of those fans were magnificent. Once again, for the big away day, the Stags seem to pick up a few idiots who don’t go to many games and whose actions serve only to increase Police resolve to make these early kick-offs and inconvenience everyone else.

But everyone else was again behind their side and, with the new singing section at home superb since its inception, doubtless the noise this Saturday will also be immense.

Anyone who bought a ticket for the Accrington game will have a free ticket for this weekend, so Stags are pretty much guaranteed 3,200 home fans minimum.

Hats off to chairman John Radford for this week announcing a third two for one tickets deal in a row for the two home games that follow this one against Plymouth and Carlisle – two huge games against promotion rivals.

Radford really is giving it his all for the town right now.

Appointing Evans and Raynor was far from the cheap option he has been accused of in the past.

Aside of the weeks he has kept the club financially afloat, he has now pushed the boat out on the management, backed Evans in the January window and even offered club record fees, and now made six successive home matches half price.

Surely he must have won his critics over by now and it’s up to the town to get down there and back their local team for this final push with only six homes game left.

Saturday is unlikely to be the prettiest game of football with Graham Westley in charge of a struggling side.

But it could be a thrilling blood and thunder contest.

It will be interesting to see if former Stag Mitch Rose plays for the Exiles.

He had his red card rescinded from last weekend, but Newport were still nervously awaiting the referee’s report after Rose knocked the red card out of the official’s hand.

Rose was a lovely lad to deal with at Mansfield and always gave 100 per cent.

But it would be an absolute travesty were he to play on Saturday after such a show of petulance and lack of self-control, whatever the decision.

It was a far worse crime than those of Evans and White last weekend and if they were to miss out while he plays, justice won’t seem to have been served fairly.