Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
Should Mansfield win promotion this season, John and Carolyn Radford will have played a major part.
At a time when the Stags hit what could have been a sticky patch – a 3-2 loss at Carlisle was followed by an even more surprising 1-0 home loss to Yeovil, which highlighted the need for more quality in the final third.
The Radfords stepped forward to loan in Nicky Ajose from Charlton and Jorge Grant from Nottingham Forest, after goalkeeper Jordan Smith had also arrived on loan from the City Ground earlier this month, following Bobby Olejnik’s injury.
We have a feeling this won't be the last time we see this! 📸 pic.twitter.com/EBe8A07OTK
— Mansfield Town FC (@mansfieldtownfc) January 15, 2019
Ajose, a reliable goalscorer in the division above, could potentially be an asset at this level and enjoyed a positive debut in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Crawley.
While there was one big chance the one-time Manchester United trainee might have done better with, it will encourage David Flitcroft that he is getting into good areas.
Grant, meanwhile, won the man-of-the-match award; he showed in the first half of last season at Notts County that, when cutting in from the left channel, his technical ability makes him a very dangerous player.
Grant, Smith and summer addition Tyler Walker, who has also shone for the Stags, have been talked about as being capable of challenging for a place in Nottingham Forest’s first team soon.
The fact Mansfield could temporarily lure them into League Two is a sign of their financial muscle.
Colchester United have a very frugal chairman in Robbie Cowling and thus do not have the same luxury of being able to bring in players of nigh-on Championship calibre mid-season.
That was not so much of a problem in the first three months of the campaign, when John McGreal was able to maintain a consistent first eleven in his 4-2-3-1 system – if anything, they benefited from the tactical consistency of a smaller squad.
More recently though, the injuries have started to come and while they have not had too many players out for the long-term, or too many players out simultaneously, they have constantly been forced to make one or two alterations which has at times disrupted their rhythm.
The hectic festive period placed heavy demands on a squad which, in most positions, has an unproven academy graduate as a back-up option; Luke Norris and Brandon Comley were the only two players with reasonable experience on the bench in last week’s 3-0 win at Port Vale.
From some fans’ perspectives, it might be nice to see their club being represented by local lads and a few, like Ollie Kensdale and Diaz Wright, are highly-rated.
However, youngsters sometimes must be looked after in a way that somebody who is already proven in the senior game does not and that could potentially hold Colchester back slightly in their promotion push.
Mansfield to win – 6/4