MANSFIELD MUSINGS: Point against Leyton Orient not so bad but we must shake ‘slow starters’ tag, writes Stags fan Sam Binch

Mansfield Town v Leyton Orient - Skybet League Two - One Call Stadium - Saturday 12th December 2015''Reggie Lambe lets fly
Mansfield Town v Leyton Orient - Skybet League Two - One Call Stadium - Saturday 12th December 2015''Reggie Lambe lets fly

Given the relentless rain, wintery winds and sodden surface in evidence at Field Mill on Saturday, a point after going behind against Leyton Orient was not such a bad result.

They are a team who will be in and around the play-off positions come the end of the season and possess the division’s most lethal striker, as Stags fans found out after 12 minutes when Jay Simpson glanced in the opener.

The grit shown by those in amber shirts was particularly pleasing when you consider the Stags previous home game against Exeter, who took the lead similarly early on and went on to completely nullify the Stags, running out deserved 2-0 winners.

That Exeter defeat was book-ended by two 3-1 victories for Mansfield, so when Orient took the lead fans could be forgiven for thinking recent history may be about to repeat itself.

In truth, Mansfield were very poor in the first period and were fortuitous to go into half time with the scores level, thanks to a piece of, in my opinion, underestimated technique by Reggie Lambe.

Lambe’s goal is unlikely to win any goal of the season awards, and probably will never be watched by anyone other than a Stags fan again, but there are a number of factors which make the goal a lesson in finishing.

If you have seen the goal yourself and are wondering how that trickling finish can be nominated for such praise, bear with me.

Consider the height the ball dropped from, and that Lambe watched the ball swirling in the wind, rain driving into his eyes, all the time running away from goal under close stewardship of an Orient defender.

Instead of lashing at the opportunity, he caressed the ball with his in-step just out of the goalkeepers reach and in via the post, with both feet airborne.

Yes, the ball passed through Matt Green’s legs, who may or may not have been offside and who may or may not have got the merest of touches with his heel, but Lambe deserves all the plaudits and had an excellent game to boot.

Despite a marked improvement in the second half where the Stags did most of the pressing, they could not find a winner and, in the end, seem to settle for a point with around 15 minutes remaining.

Jensen was holding on to the ball for longer than he had been previously, and Adam Murray resisted the temptation to throw on an attacking substitute and risk unbalancing his side, despite having four players on the bench who could each be match winners on their day.

The game did highlight a few worrying traits, which Mansfield would be best served putting a stop to in order to bolster their play-off ambitions. So far this season, Stags have performed better away from home than at Field Mill, picking up over 60 per cent of their points on the road.

One reason for Stags lacklustre home form is their propensity to concede early goals. Out of the 11 goals visiting teams have registered on Mansfield’s home patch, five have been conceded in the first 15 minutes of games, suggesting The Stags are perpetual slow starters.

That first worrying trend is the catalyst for the second. When conceding the first goal in league games, Mansfield have only taken five points from a possible 27.

Adam Murray’s side has only won one game when conceding first, away against struggling York back in August, which means no home wins after conceding the first goal. In complete contrast, Stags are unbeaten when scoring first, taking 20 points from a possible 24.

In fact, they have won every game when scoring first since the opening two homes games against Carlisle and Oxford, the latter being on the 22nd August.

Those statistics lead to a tricky balancing act for Adam Murray. Does that mean he should send his team out on the attack from the off in the knowledge that they are extremely efficient at gaining points once the get their noses in front, or, does it mean that he instructs him team to be patient, confident that one goal will be enough for a result, and protecting against conceding a goal at the other end.

An ‘all out attack’ philosophy would almost certainly mean full backs pushing on and joining in with attacks, leaving The Stags exposed to one of their more recent downfalls, defending crosses.

Out of the last ten goals conceded in the league by Mansfield Town, eight have been scored from crosses into the box. No particular side of the pitch is more susceptible, but Mansfield’s defenders do seem to retreat deep into their box when awaiting a cross, rather than holding a higher line on the edge of the area.

he problem can also be attributed to midfielders not staying with their runners, leaving the central defenders with too many players to mark.

The Stags head to resurgent Cambridge on Saturday, under the recently appointed leadership of ex Notts County boss Shaun Derry. The U’s have won their last three games, scoring nine goals in the process, but Mansfield have been in good form on the road, picking up ten points from their last five games, only being defeated by league leaders Northampton Town.

Most fans would settle for a draw, but a victory to send the team into the festive fixture list still in the play-off positions will be top of Adam Murray’s Christmas list.