League Two Gameweek 24: Flitcroft to defeat old employers?5 min read
Lincoln City and MK Dons are currently the two clear stand-out sides in League Two, so it appears that this clash between Mansfield Town and Bury might have a big say in what could be a race for the third automatic promotion spot.
Mansfield look strong
Mansfield Town have lost just one league games all season.
The reason they are not top of the league is because they have been unable to convert dominance into victories in some of their games, drawing on 11 occasions, but performances have been strong.
Matt Preston, a centre-back Flitcroft enjoyed working with at Swindon, forms an impressive back three with Stoke loanee Ryan Sweeney and stalwart Krystian Pearce.
Jacob Mellis, arguably the most technically gifted midfielder in League Two, dictates the tempo for Mansfield, while Timi Max Elsnik offers energy and dynamism next to anchor man Neal Bishop.
Malvind Benning has been one of Mansfield’s most consistent performers over the last few seasons and is relishing the left wing-back role.
CJ Hamilton had been thriving in a right wing-back role but, more recently, he has been deployed as an auxiliary striker and could be used there again, if Flitcroft plans to use his pace to break on Bury.
With Hamilton and exciting Nottingham Forest loanee Tyler Walker leading the line, with the latter on 14 goals for the season already, the potential for goals is there.
Bury have been at times irresistible this season.
Ryan Lowe uses a 3-4-1-2 system in which there are a lot of players who are used to operating slightly further forward than their positions in the formation, alone, would suggest.
Wide centre-backs Will Aimson and Chris Stokes have played right-back and left-back in their careers, thus making them comfortable moving forward in possession.
Right wing-back Nicky Adams is a winger by trade and is given the creative freedom to consistently push into the final third; Adams thinks a split-second faster than most players at this level and that allows him to combine sharply with his teammates.
Central midfielder Jay O’Shea, meanwhile, was an attacking midfielder at previous clubs including Chesterfield; he therefore loves to break forward to have shots from outside the box.
This Shakers side is designed to play high up the pitch and pin the opposition back for long spells.
That works for them in a lot of games, because they have won five of their last seven league matches, scoring a remarkable 20 goals in that sample following a 2-1 win over Tranmere last time out.
Two weeks ago, they had four good strikers for this level and now, they have five: fit again Sheffield United loanee has scored three goals in his last 73 minutes of football and might have earned himself a first start for four months.
Stags to break?
The downside to Bury’s attacking approach is that it can leave them vulnerable to quick transitions.
If O’Shea, plus Adams and fellow wing-back Callum McFadzean push up simultaneously, there can be a lot of space in behind and ball-winner Neil Danns cannot cover all of it.
Oldham exposed that potential weakness in a 4-2 victory over Lowe’s side recently and the challenge for Mansfield will be to do the same.
The mistake many teams make against Bury is abandoning their game plan under pressure and making safety-first clearances; sometimes the first pass or two to open them up needs to be played with quality and accuracy, to bring quick attacking players into the game.
Mansfield might just have the personnel to stop Bury; not only do they possess a fine technician in ex-Shaker Mellis, they also have pace up top.
Mansfield to win and Both Teams To Score at