Move to 4-4-2 formation has Mansfield Town ticking at last

Stags players celebrate.
Stags players celebrate.

Mansfield Town’s recent improved form has come largely from boss John Dempster settling on a 4-4-2 formation.

Ahead of Colchester United’s visit tomorrow he said it wasn’t a conventional use of 4-4-2 but, with the current squad he had, it was getting the best out of everyone.

“What it’s given us is crosses higher up the pitch,” he said.

“When you’re playing a back three and wing backs, the wing backs performed well.

“But we analysed where the crosses were coming in from and they were deeper than the 18 yards box, which makes it very difficult to score from.

“When you’ve got two wider players, as in a wide midfielder and a full back, it gives you more numbers in wide areas which allows you to work the ball a little bit better and get higher up the pitch before you cross.

“You saw on Saturday and against Forest Green how Andy Cook thrives off crosses.

“So does Nicky Maynard and he’s had a couple of headers – one against Walsall and one against Salford he was unlucky with and one he scored against Oldham after winning an aerial duel.”

Dempster continued: “We want to get crosses in the box and it’s important how we get them there.

“Our goals for column is up there with the best in the league. It’s tightening up at the back that we need to concentrate on while we maintain our goalscoring record.

“If we can do that we will keep working our way up the Football League.”

Dempster explained how he makes his 4-4-2 vary and rattle the opposition.

“The good thing with 4-4-2 is you can make subtle tweaks,” he smiled.

“There’s been times when Otis Khan and Macca (Alex MacDonald) have been quite narrow which poses a problem for the opposition as they are appearing in pockets.

“It can cause confusion in terms of who is marking them. Does the full back come inside or does the centre half mark them. Do the opposition midfielders mark them?

“It causes problems and when you have attacking full backs like Mal (Benning) and Kellan (Gordon), who can get down the outside and provide width, it has suited the players and the personnel within that XI.

“We also have out and out wingers like Dapo (Afolayan) and CJ (Hamilton), who can come on and play more attacking. That’s the beauty of 4-4-2.

“It’s not a traditional 4-4-2 that you have probably seen in England more consistently than other countries. You can play different variations and who you play changes it.”