Mansfield Town’s ‘makeshift’ defence keeps a clean sheet as the Stags earn a comfortable victory win over Bradford City


Embed from Getty Images

A clean sheet, three points, and more importantly, the unbeaten streak continues for the Stags after they secured a 2-0 win over Bradford City at Valley Parade.

It was a relatively comfortable afternoon for the amber and blues, even though they missed two of their key centre-backs for this fixture.

The defensive unit of Lucas Akins, Elliott Hewitt, Ferrend Rawson and captain Stephen McLaughlin kept the Bantams’ forwards quiet and ensured Nigel Clough’s side recorded another clean sheet.

As the first half progressed, neither side looked like scoring, but just before the interval, Rhys Oates broke the deadlock. After the ball was cleared by Nathan Bishop, Matty Foulds headed the ball backwards and into the path of Stags’ number 18 as he found his way into the box, and after composing himself, he sent a delightful shot into the top corner to give his side a much-needed goal just before the half-time break.

Mansfield got off to a flyer in the second half as three minutes after the restart, Matty Longstaff scored his first goal for the club. A brilliant move down the left-hand side saw McLaughlin pass the ball to Jamie Murphy, with the forward firing his shot into Oates. Luckily, the ball fell to Longstaff who fired it past Alex Bass to double the Stags’ advantage.

From then on, Clough’s side defended well and restricted Bradford to very little. The Bantams’ best chance of the second period fell with two minutes of normal time to go as former Stag, Andy Cook fired a dangerous header goalwards, however, Bishop made a fantastic save to deny the forward.

The amber and blues were able to secure the victory and move closer to the automatic promotion places after both Northampton Town and Tranmere Rovers recorded defeats.

‘Makeshift’ defence keeps Bradford forwards quiet and claims a clean sheet

Embed from Getty Images

An hour before kick-off, Clough announced that the Stags’ will lineup with a back four as Akins dropped to right-back, Rawson and Hewitt as the two centre-backs and captain McLaughlin retaining his left-back spot.

The defensive unit coped very well overall, however, they made one or two mistakes that were not punished by Bradford’s forward line.

With both Oli Hawkins and John-Joe O’Toole missing through suspension, many thought that the backline would be in for a hard time against the Bantams.

However, that was not the case as not much needed to be changed in the defence as the versatile Akins slotted well at right-back, Rawson and Hewitt were calm and composed as a duo in the middle and McLaughlin showed his leadership and attacking prowess from left-back.

Stags’ number one, Nathan Bishop, was also called into action a few times, but as seen many times this season, the Manchester United loanee rose to the occasion to make vital stops when needed.

The defensive department has more than enough players to step up and fill the voids when suspensions or injuries come up, which shows the versatility and the strength in depth Clough has at his disposal.

Back from injury and back on the scoresheet

Embed from Getty Images

After missing the Newport County game due to a thigh injury, Oates was back amongst the goals with a fine finish in the 44th minute.

He showed exactly what the Stags against the Exiles, pace, determination and a finishing touch. His chance was not easy as he was chased down by the Bradford defence but he was composed and clinical with the finish.

The forward is now the club’s lone top goalscorer this season in all competitions with nine goals and is destined for another double-figure goal return.

Oates is a valuable asset to Mansfield’s frontline, and between now and the end of the season, the star striker needs to remain fit and firing on all cylinders as he is one of the many key players in the Stags squad.

Young midfielders key defensively and offensively

Embed from Getty Images

The unity of the midfield was on show as the more experienced players were there on hand to support the raring young midfielders.

Both aged 21, Stirk and Longstaff were tremendous with the former operating in front of the back four and the latter supporting Oates on many occasions in attack.

The duo worked hard off the ball by making tackles, pouncing on loose balls and clocking up the much-needed mileage to put the Bantams under considerable amounts of pressure.

With that being said, Longstaff was able to double Mansfield’s advantage early in the second half as he netted his first goal for the Stags after joining from Newcastle United on Transfer Deadline Day in January.

The 21-year-old was on hand to slid the ball in from close range after Murphy’s shot from outside the box was blocked by Oates.

Big games coming up

Embed from Getty Images

Mansfield Town now face three consecutive games, one at home and two away, against sides in the top 10 of League Two.

Firstly, they take on Exeter City on Friday night at the One Call Stadium in a battle between two of the league’s in-form sides.

After that, the Stags face Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park the following Friday and Port Vale at Vale Park on Tuesday night.

Clashes against the top sides could make or break a promotion campaign and Clough will be hoping to move into the automatic promotion places by continuing an unbeaten run of form with positive results against fellow promotion hopefuls.

Follow us on Twitter @ProstInt

[column size=”1/2″][blog type=”timeline” posts=”10″ cats=”609″ heading=”EFL” heading_type=”timeline” /][/column]
[column size=”1/2″][blog type=”timeline” posts=”10″ cats=”1072″ heading=”News” heading_type=”timeline” /][/column]


About Author

EFL/EPL and F1 writer. @AdrianKitaMedia on Twitter for any comments regarding my pieces on Prost International.

Comments are closed.