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Boss: Stags must improve defensively

30 November 2022

Manager Nigel Clough says Mansfield ‘have to tighten up at the back’ following their narrow 2-1 defeat to Everton under-21s in the first knockout round of the Papa Johns Trophy.

Stags had led for 85 minutes on Merseyside thanks to Rhys Oates’ clinical goal inside six minutes. That was until stoppage time goals from Toffees’ duo Liam Higgins and Thomas Cannon clinched a late victory for the hosts. 

The manager felt that the contest played out in a similar fashion to Mansfield’s slender 2-1 FA Cup second round exit to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.  

“[It was] similar to Saturday,” he said. “We conceded two very poor goals in the late stages of the game.

“[We were] too easy to score against. It seems to be the story of the last few weeks at the moment. 

“We had to score two just to get a draw and it can’t be like that. We have to tighten up at the back.” 

Everton found their goals in the first and fourth minutes of stoppage time.

Asked what the players can take away from the match, the gaffer said: “That the game’s not over. Added time, four minutes, you think you’re going to see it [out] 1-0 and you don’t even get to penalties.

“We came as strong as we could, to try to get through in the competition. When at 1-0 we should be doing that and we should be putting a better performance in second half than we did. 

“We were doing it [defending] very well a few weeks back. So we need the right personnel on the pitch and certainly having Rhys Oates back will help. But every time you concede like this, it’s a little dent in your confidence.” 

Mansfield set up in a less familiar 4-2-3-1 formation at Goodison, something the boss felt was effective in spells. 

“We tried a slightly different formation with two holding midfielders, that worked reasonably well,” he told iFollow Stags. 

“We’ve said it before that formations don’t win or lose you games, you have to sprint around and you have to make things happen. I didn’t think enough people did that tonight.”

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