Saturday’s visit of Accrington Stanley may have heralded in a new year at One Call Stadium – but some things stayed the same.
Stags’ poor home form continued in the 3-2 defeat as did Stanley’s tag of Mansfield’s ‘bogey side’ and Stags’ habit of giving opposition a goal start – this the fourth time in a row at home.
With the crowd not significantly boosted by the club’s ‘Kids for a Quid’ offer and a dark, damp afternoon of continual drizzle, this wasn’t the cheeriest way to start 2016.
Stags have won only three times at home all season and were chasing this one after conceding as early as the third minute – the 10th time they have let the opposition score first in the first 15 minutes.
It was a poor goal to concede too as makeshift right back Mitch Rose was unable to prevent the impressive Josh Windass getting to the left by-line and crossing hard and low.
There seemed enough yellow shirts in the middle to clear, but Piero Mingoia was allowed to get in between Blair Adams and Jack Thomas to turn the ball home from six yards.
In-form Stanley then turned the screw with some superb attacking play as only three saves from clear man of the match Brian Jensen to thwart Windass and, twice, Sean McConville, kept Stags in the game.
Amid those saves Jensen needed lengthy treatment after former Stag Billy Kee slid in on him recklessly when he had the ball.
So Mansfield were very fortunate to level with their first shot on 27 minutes thanks to Tom Davies’ mistake as he failed to cut out Lee Collins’ long ball down the left.
Birthday boy Green strode into the box and confidently finished across the keeper and low inside the far post.
That finally woke up the Stags who began to give the visiting defence some work to do, Green shooting just over.
The half ended with home boss Murray rightfully furious with referee Scott Duncan after he had booked Rose for a tackle perfectly won and then allowed play to go on after Green had been crudely challenged by Davies, a tackle which Green failed to recover from as he was forced off midway through the second half.
Mansfield began the second half well enough and Jack Thomas was off target with a brief shy at an unguarded goal from outside the box after giant keeper Jason Mooney had left his line to deal with a clever Green backheel.
But the afternoon belonged to Stanley sub Terry Gornell who 60 seconds after his 71st minute introduction ran down the right and set up Matt Crooks, who turned and saw his shot loop up off Krystian Pearce to offer Kee a chance to volley home from 14 yards which saw him bury his 10th goal of the season.
Gornell then tucked away a far post header on 84 minutes after Jensen had turned his initial header onto the post from Adam Buxton’s left wing cross.
Chris Clements brought late hope with a perfect 25-yard free kick into the top right corner.
But Mansfield didn’t deserve anything on the day, Jensen denying Gornell in a a late one-on-one, as Accrington left the ground with maximum points for the fourth successive visit and looked the best side to visit so far.
Indeed, Stags have failed to win any of 10 League games with them in the modern era.
The last time Mansfield beat Stanley in League action was back in March 1961 away from home while the last home win over them came in April 1960.
Murray simply has to find a winning formula at home.
His options are limited and youngsters Nathan and Jack Thomas failed to make the most of their rare starts in the side on Saturday, making little impact.
Clements and Adam Chapman are both capable of running the show from midfield, but neither got hold of the game.
The defence is not looking as sturdy as it did earlier this season and maybe we will see Ryan Tafazolli return this week? Mitch Rose is certainly more effective in midfield than as a makeshift right back so it is to be hoped Nicky Hunt is fit enough to return on Saturday as well.
Murray’s post-match interview suggested he doesn’t expect to be given much scope in the January transfer window and if Notts County recall Blair Adams before Mal Benning is fit again, the small squad will be stretched to its limit.