Paul Cox defended giant Mansfield Town centre forward Matt Rhead after his physical style saw him become the target of Morecambe players and fans amid several flashpoints in Stags’ 1-0 win in today’s bad-tempered clash at the Globe Arena.
Rhead was accused by the home side of throwing his elbow on more than one occasion during a bruising match that saw nine yellow cards and one red with referee Darren Deadman having his hands full.
Alex Kenyon finished up with a broken nose and home skipper Mark Hughes with eight stitches in his mouth in a match that often threatened to break out into open warfare on the field and between the two benches.
But Stags boss Cox said: “I will back my player 100 per cent. He is one of my babies.
“They said Rheady led with his elbow a couple of times but he has scratch marks right down his neck where he has been raked.
“He was getting elbowed left, right and centre, so if you dish it out you have got to be able to receive it as well.
“One of their players had him in a headlock in their box at one stage and how it wasn’t a penalty I don’t know.
“Just because someone gets a bloody nose doesn’t mean someone has done something untoward or out of order.
“What do people want? It was a tempestuous game. Both teams wanted to win and that is a great feeling.”
Eventually the only red card was shown to Morecambe’s Andrew Fleming after he dived into a tackle on Adam Murray with studs showing near the end.
Cox said: “There were a few nasty tackles out there and the sending-off was deserved. Adam’s shin is very sore.
“There were a lot of off-the ball incidents, probably even on both sides. The referee missed a few things from both sides.
“We knew what was coming and both sides were really going for each other. There were tackles, incidents and everything you could think about in a football match.
“I was just happy to get the 1-0 win because it was a right battle.
“There was a lot at stake for both teams and we knew we’d have to match their tenacity. We didn’t do that for the first 15/20 minutes.
“But I thought we really dominated the second half and their keeper pulled off two great saves.”
Stags sealed their first ever win over the Shrimps in their fourth meeting with a magnificent long range Junior Daniel free kick that found the top corner.
But Cox revealed he still had to persuade Daniel to take another from a similar range in the second half from which Barry Roche made a great save.
“It was an amazing free kick, there’s not a keeper in the world that would have saved that,” said Cox.
“Yet from a similar position in the second half he didn’t want to take another until I told him to. From that their keeper has made a world class save. I don’t want how he managed to adjust and get a hand to it.”
Stags are now 12th in League Two, 10 points clear of the drop zone with five games to go, although only seven points off the play-off places. But Cox refuses to accept his side are safe yet.
“Not until the maths add up,” he said. “We will keep going and we are enjoying it at the minute.
“That’s three wins on the bounce and we don’t want the season to end at the moment.
“I am going to drive these boys on and finish the season well. We are putting a run of results together now. They can have a few days off to recover and then we will go again.
“I thought we lacked quality at times today. But these players are running through a brick wall for the football club and the badge and I can’t fault them.”
Cox will also speak with his coach Micky Moore over an alleged clash between Moore and a Morecambe official after the game when Moore was allegedly threatened.
Cox said: “If they did then that is totally unprofessional. I know passions were running high. But to do that would be totally unprofessional, so we will look at that and if so we will make a statement when we find out the facts.”
Stags defender Lee Beevers had to have his shoulder put back in its socket yet again after another dislocation just four minutes into the match and Cox added: “It’s been popped back in and we know he will need an operation at some time.
“It is just ongoing. It’s hard lines as he’s been doing really well for us”