Good Heavens - it`s Bad Evans!
Saturday 27th January 2018 1500hrs
Seventh-placed Mansfield visited nineteenth in the League Two table Morecambe today having tipped the balance of wins against the Shrimps - five against four - in their very fortunate victory against Jim Bentley`s side at Field Mill last Christmas. As reported at the time, Seasons` Greetings were NOT exchanged at the end of the game between a gloating Mansfield Manager Steve Evans and his opposite number. You`d think that one racist stereotype of a Glaswegian - a fat slob with red hair, a deep-fried Mars Bar in batter in one hand and a can of Tennant`s strong lager in the other as he utters the immortal words `See You Jimmy!`- would be the very last thing you`d want to be associated with as a Scotsman, wherever you`re from. But Glasgow native and Mansfield Manager Steve Evans appears to revel in this image and seemingly can`t resist any chance to indulge in it. His combative, aggressive manner has won him few friends in football and his behaviour during the match in December hasn`t won him any admirers at Morecambe either.
Wigan Athletic loanee Callum Lang - fresh from being named the EFL Player Of The Month - was in the Shrimps` starting line-up along with Max Muller, whose loan-period from Wycombe has been extended this month until the end of the season.
It was a pretty scrappy first half played under leaden skies on a heavy pitch. Morecambe had a setback after just ten minutes when Steven Old had to leave the field injured and Jim Bentley replaced the huge Kiwi central defender with midfielder Andy Fleming. Kevin Ellison had a golden chance to put the Shrimps one-nil up after just three minutes but sliced his effort with his weaker right foot, allowing Rhys Bennett to head the ball away. After almost twenty minutes, substitute Fleming aimed an excellent cross at ex-Stag Vadaine Oliver at the far post but the Shrimps` Number Nine was flagged offside. With Evans and his partner in crime Paul Raynor constantly haranguing the match officials from the sidelines, the Stags never seriously tested Barry Roche in the home goal at any time during the opening half; Kane Hemmings` snapshot after 27 minutes being collected relatively easily by Big Baz. Down the other end, just two minutes later, Hemmings lost his footing and allowed Alex Kenyon a free header on goal which went just over the bar. Straight after this - and as the pressure mounted on the visitors - Malind Benning did really well to get in front of Lang and clear Ellison`s low cross into the penalty area away to safety. But the most significant action of the opening period arrived after precisely half an hour when Christian Pearce played a ball back to his goalkeeper without looking. Young Player of the Month Lang pounced on the ball and gratefully took it past Conrad Logan and slotted it home to put the hosts into the lead. That was basically it but Morecambe returned to the Dressing Rooms deservedly one goal to the good.
The Mansfield boss made double substitutions at half time, taking Captain Zander Diamond off after he had been booked for an off-the-ball incident involving former team-mate Oliver during the first period. Initially at least, however, Morecambe had the better of the things once the match re-started. They might have gone further ahead after an hour when Fleming spun on the edge of the box and unleashed a fierce strike which Logan excelled to stop low down to his right. Gradually, however, the Stags started to get back into the game and Alex MacDonald tried his luck from 30 yards out after 65 minutes and only just missed. Roche then had to be aware when he was able to gather the ball just ahead of Bennett after Danny Rose had flicked-on MacDonald`s ball into the box. But Danny Rose himself finished-off an excellent move down the Mansfield left after 70 minutes. CJ Hamilton played a clever one-two with substitute Will Atkinson and then slid a sublime pass into the middle for Rose to sweep it home to equalise for the Nottinghamshire club. Mansfield started pushing for a winner after this and Roche did well to hold a stinging shot from Hemmings after 78 minutes. Referee Seb Stockbridge allowed four minutes of extra time and with literally the last chance of the game, Mal Benning got on the end of a knock-back from a MacDonald cross and walloped the ball past Roche to score what seemed to be his first ever goal for Mansfield: after the match, his Manager suggested that the final touch came off Jimmy Spencer
Losing in this manner - whoever actually scored the winning goal - is always a sickener. To lose twice at the death against a team with as ungracious a Manager as the Stags` Evans is even more sickening: it would be no surprise if he really did say "See You Jim!" to the Morecambe manager at the end of the contest. The win gave Mansfield the double over Morecambe this term and propelled them into an automatic promotion place in third position in the division.
That`s no win in four now for Morecambe who find themselves right back in the mire at the bottom of the EFL. Despite losing, they still found themselves in the seemingly magic nineteenth position this evening. This is because fellow-strugglers Forest Green Rovers, Crewe and - crucially - Chesterfield also lost today, the latter at home. With Yeovil being knocked-out of the FA Cup last night and thus obviously not competing, only Barnet of the lowest six clubs in League Two actually gained a point today. They remain right at the bottom of the table, four points adrift of FGR who in turn are four points behind the Shrimps with a game in hand. Despite today`s disappointment, there is still all to play for in the basement of the EFL.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Aaron McGowan (Y); 22 Max Muller; 5 Steven Old (8 Andy Fleming 10 mins); 16 Sam Lavelle (Y); 24 Michael Rose (C); 4 Alex Kenyon ( 7 Garry Thompson 83 mins); 14 Luke Conlan; 29 Callum Lang (15 Aaron Wildig 72 mins); 11 Kevin Ellison); 9 Vadaine Oliver.
Subs Not Used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 17 Mitchell Lund; 28 Adam McGurk; 10 Adam Campbell.
Mansfield Town: 1 Conrad Logan; 2 Rhys Bennett; 6 Zander Diamond (C) (Y) (10 Paul Anderson 45 mins); 5 Krystian Pearce; 3 Malind Benning; 17 Alfie Potter (11 Will Atkinson 45 mins); 7 Alex MacDonald; 26 Joel Byrom; 22 CJ Hamilton; 32 Danny Rose; 23 Kane Hemmings (15 Jimmy Spencer 79 mins).
Subs not used: 12 Bobby Olejnik; 9 Lee Angol; 4 Paul Digby; 24 Calum Butcher.