Mansfield Town 1 Pompey 1: Extra-time

Jeff Marshman looks at three things we learned from Pompey's draw at Mansfield Town.

Monday, 21st March 2016, 12:06 pm
Updated Monday, 21st March 2016, 12:30 pm
Marc McNulty misses a penalty at Field Mill. Picture: Joe Pepler

The wrong mentality...

Pompey’s apparent lack of urgency to win the game against Mansfield, was quite frankly baffling.

Either they weren’t trying hard enough or they wrongly assumed a point on the road at Field Mill was a good result.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Whatever the reason for their shortcomings on Saturday, Paul Cook’s side missed a big trick in League Two’s automatic promotion race.

With Plymouth Argyle – who began the day in third place – losing at home to Luton Town, the Blues had the chance to close the gap to the top three to just three points.

Instead they are five points off the pace in sixth place.

And in all honesty, they did not deserve any more than the one point they collected from their Stags visit.

Having been given a way back into the game by an own goal on the stroke of half-time, the momentum was with Pompey at the start of the second half.

But they failed to build on it.

And as the clock wore on it was the hosts who appeared the more likely winners, with the Blues strangely muted.

Cook used all three of his substitutions but they were all very much like-for-like replacements.

Indeed, no defenders or defensive midfielders were sacrificed – which is always a sign a side is throwing caution to the wind in the bid for victory.

Sure, that tactic may have backfired and Mansfield could have capitalised to claim all three points.

But I think most fans would appreciate that Pompey had at least risked one point in the pursuit of three.

If the Blues harbour any aspirations of automatic promotion they have to adopt a win-at-all-costs mentality.

Pompey paid penalty for Roberts’ absence...
Whatever your views were on Gary Roberts’ controversial red card against Newport, one thing is for certain – Pompey paid for it at Mansfield.

When Marc McNulty was unceremoniously felled by former Blues loanee Daniel Alfei, it presented the young Scotsman with an opportunity to give the visitors an early lead.

The fact McNulty won the penalty was not the reason he took it, though.

He stepped up to deadball duties because designated taker Roberts was serving a one-match ban for two yellow cards in the previous game – one for a petulant kick and the second an alleged dive.

The experienced playmaker has converted both of his spot-kick attempts this term. Sadly on Saturday, McNulty did not.

There’s no blame placed on the 21-year-old striker for that – it was a decent penalty with an even better save.

The question of ‘what if’ remains, though.

Roberts’ presence was not only missed in that one moment.

The second half of the game was crying out for a creative influence as the visitors failed to come close to earning what would have represented a priceless three-point haul.

Despite failing to hit the peak of his own powers yet in a Pompey shirt, Roberts remains a class act at this level and his absence only proved the Blues are better with him than without.

Blues are unable to keep it clean...
Defensively, Pompey have work to do.

A run of one clean sheet in 12 League Two games is a worrying statistic for a side who have not yet given up hopes of an automatic promotion push.

And the manner of the goal they conceded at Mansfield on Saturday was as basic as it gets.

A huge punt upfield by Stags goalkeeper and penalty-saving hero Scott Shearer should have been meat and drink for Christian Burgess, who has enjoyed a decent first season with the Blues.

At Field Mill, though, his inability to jump off the ground saw him beaten far too easily in the air by home debutant Emmanuel Dieseruvwe.

And all of a sudden, from a position of complete comfort the visitors were opened up by the pace of Dieseruvwe’s strike-partner Matt Green.

On first look, it appeared to be an unerringly impressive finish from Mansfield’s leading marksman, as Green raced through from Dieseruvwe’s flick to fire the Stags into the lead.

On second glance, Pompey keeper Ryan Fulton seemed to get his angles wrong as he was beaten in the centre of his goal.

Regardless, it was a well-hit effort from Green – which is more than can be said for his counterpart Michael Smith.

In fairness to Smith, he was one of few visiting players to emerge from the game with any credit as he demonstrated a number of neat touches.

But sadly, for all of his good work, the Swindon loanee was unable to trouble home stopper Shearer, with all of his efforts lacking any real power.