Opposition: Accrington Stanley – Won two of their last 10 games.
Lineup and Tactics: With Adam Murray speaking in recent interviews about young players being given a chance and his dissatisfaction with the options he had to choose from, it was disappointing to see only four changes for a game which meant very little.
With the exception of Thomas and Marsden, it was a starting line up which both collectively and individually had underperformed all season long, most of whom Murray has surely seen enough of to decide whether they are good enough or not.
Riley replaced the suspended Sutton, McGuire replaced Fitzpatrick, Lambe replace Bingham and Oliver replaced Rhead.
There was a slight tweak to the formation, as Murray opted for a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1, with McGuire and Clements shielding the defence, Brown and Thomas on the flanks with Lambe playing just behind Oliver.
It is a formation that I like but Thomas should have been in the hole in my opinion.
Hearn, Bingham and Fitzpatrick, who all deserved to feature in some capacity in my opinion, were on the bench. Accrington lined up in a standard 4-4-2.
The Game: Mansfield deservedly made the breakthrough on 39 minutes. Brown dribbled infield with the ball from the left and tried to play the ball out to the right to Thomas.
He only succeeded in picking out Windass who miscued his clearance between his two central defenders and into the path of Jamie McGuire.
He does not find himself through on goal very often but he produced a powerful right footed strike over the keeper and into the roof of the net.
Accrington equalised three minutes into the second half. Mansfield seem to be particularly vulnerable in the early stages of a half.
The Stags’ front four had been attempting to press but Lambe had clearly forgot the principle of stopping before you get to the player, as he simply charged at Nicky Hunt who beat him with ease on the right.
Hunt threaded a ball into the path of Maguire between Tafazolli and Riley, the latter who seemed to be marking nobody. Maguire got into the area but passed the ball wide for Mingoia.
The diminutive winger crossed first time to the back post where Windass had got in front of Marsden. His header was straight at Pidgeley who pushed the ball straight back to Conneely who made no mistake from five yards. Pidgeley could have pushed the ball wider in my opinion but he was not helped out by his static defence.
The hosts’ pressure paid of on 70 minutes as Gornell score a deserved goal.
Windass played the ball into the left channel for Gornell to chase, with Riley after him and seemingly in control.
However, as the Stags defender tried to keep up with Gornell, he went down clutching his hamstring, leaving Gornell with a clear path to goal. Gornell angled into the box from the left and put the ball past Pidgeley into the far corner.
In-Game Tactics and Substitutions: Mansfield played very well in the first half. The 4-2-3-1 meant that the Stags had an extra man between the Accrington midfield and defence, allowing the yellow shirts to pick up loose balls and also providing Oliver with someone to flick the ball on to.
The front four were pressing to good effect, Accrington keeper Davies being forced into several hurried clearances.
The second half was completely different, with the Stags taking their foot off the pedal and the hosts moving the ball quicker. Lambe was moved from the No.10 role to the left wing, where he was defensively poor.
As the half wore on Accrington seemed to target Mansfield’s inexperienced right hand side, as youngsters Thomas and Marsden struggled to cope with Windass and Gornell.
Injuries to Tafazolli and Riley meant that Murray was forced to use Beevers and Shires. However, his first choice change was to use Matt Rhead.
Having talked and talked about implementing his own style and in a game with no pressure, Murray still reverted to type by playing long ball up to Rhead, with Hearn and Bingham sat on the bench. Ball retention must be worked on during pre-season.
Going Forward: There has been little improvement, if any, in the team’s on-the-field performances since he took charge, but Murray will point to the fact that this is not his team and he is doing the best he can with the players at his disposal.
If that is the case, then we can surely expect 15 plus names on the retained list which will be announced in the coming weeks. Meetings will take place this coming week between management and players as to who Murray wants to keep.
If it was up to me, the players I would keep are Studer, Marsden, Tafazolli, Elder, Thomas, Clements, McGuire, Hearn, Fitzpatrick, Bingham, Sutton and Blair.
The key areas to strengthen are an experienced proven goalkeeper or a loan from a higher club, Centre-halves with a bit of pace, fast wingers, a goalscoring midfielder and a couple of proven, experienced strikers.
It is a really tough job for Murray, but he has shown he can attract a decent standard of player. The question going forward is whether he does actually know what style of football he would like to play and whether he has the nous to implement it?
Pidgeley - 6.5 - Should have done better with the first goal for me. Otherwise fine.
Marsden - 6.5 - Did okay first half, exposed a little in the second.
Riley - 6 - Not sure who he was supposed to be marking for the first goal. Otherwise okay.
Tafazolli - 6.5 - Did okay, missed a couple of headers.
Elder - 6.5 - Not bad but I don’t rate him as highly as others do.
McGuire - 7.5 - Took his goal well. Part of an overrun midfield in the second half.
Clements - 5.5 - Poor game. Passing inaccurate and set pieces not good enough.
Brown - 6 - Not seen him take a player on since January. Goes missing too often.
Lambe - 6 - Did okay first half, terrible defensively second half.
Thomas - 7 - Not at his best but better than most. A few long range efforts and good pressing.
Oliver - 7 - Worked harder than of late but think there will be better options for next season.
Rhead - 6.5 - Did his job but not the solution going forward. A good plan B, but nothing more.
Beevers - 6.5 - Did okay.
Shires - Nice to see him make his debut.