Mansfield Town produced a very good attacking display for a comfortable 3-1 win at Morecambe on Saturday.
It was billed as a very tricky game for the Stags by boss Steve Evans, but Mansfield went at Morecambe from the start, got an early goal and, despite the setback of conceding an equaliser, continued on the front foot and had the game won by half-time.
All the goals came in the first half when the Stags were creative going forward.
Mansfield were ahead early on as Mal Benning’s free kick from the halfway line was headed out by Dean Winnard, under pressure from Kyle Howkins, to Alex MacDonald on the edge of the area.
He fired the ball across the area to Danny Rose, who swept the ball into the net from 12 yards - a great finish from Rose.
But Morecambe were level within two minutes. Danny Rose chased down a backpass, Morecambe keeper Barry Roche hurriedly cleared down field, Howkins made a fatal error of allowing the massive clearance to bounce, and Paul Mullin barged him aside and slid a shot wide of Jake Kean into the net.
It was devastating route one football.
Howkins appealed for a foul, but in my opinion it was not a foul by Mullin, and Howkins has to be better there, firstly not allowing the ball to bounce and then not getting barged aside.
After the game Steve Evans said he didn’t know if it was a foul or not. From both camera angles we have, there is no evidence of a foul, though some Stags fans who had a different view from side on, are sure that there was a push (more than a barge) on Howkins.
However, the Stags regained the lead on 33 minutes.
Ben Whiteman did very well to dispossess Michael Rose 30 yards from the Morecambe goal.
He fed the ball to Danny Rose on his right on the edge of the area, and Rose took one touch before firing low towards the bottom left corner of the net from the right.
Keeper Roche got a hand on it, but the ball squirmed under him and into the net - a good finish from Rose, though keeper Roche should have done better.
Mansfield made it 3-1 six minutes later.
Whiteman did well to win the ball off Michael Rose just inside his own half and set Shaq Coulthirst away down the left.
Coulthirst made his way into the area, and laid off a perfect pass to Whiteman, who side-footed into the bottom left corner of the net from 16 yards.
This was Whiteman’s finishing back to how it was when he first joined the club after a lean shooting spell.
The Stags had chances to score more but that was the end of the scoring.
This was a very good performance from the Stags with Whiteman and MacDonald excelling in midfield.
Whiteman won the ball in the build-up to both the second and third goals, and took his finish clinically for the third goal.
MacDonald showed plenty of great creativity pushing forward, Coulthirst gave the Morecambe defence all kinds of problems, and Danny Rose took his two goals well.
At the back, Rhys Bennett was the pick of the defence.
Bennett had taken over as captain with both Collins and Pearce out and he has still not missed a single minute of the Stags’ season.
A thoroughly deserved victory on the day, the Stags were determined to win every challenge, and constantly pressed Morecambe.
Now they have a week to prepare for a huge game against Exeter next Saturday.
The chase for the play-offs is incredibly tight.
Mansfield are a point outside the play-offs and just two points behind fifth place.