Mansfield’s missed opportunity

Mansfield Town’s 3-2 loss at Oldham on Easter Monday was a missed opportunity for them to assert some control in the final two weeks of this automatic promotion race.

It means that promotion can only be mathematically secured on the final day – and that will be against an MK Dons side fighting desperately for the same objective.

The other outcome of the previous defeat was that it brought back the debate surrounding Jacob Mellis and Jorge Grant.

The midfield duo are two of the most technically gifted player in League Two and, as we saw in the last home game, a 4-0 win over Morecambe, they can work together in the same XI – especially against low-block opposition.

However, neither are particularly strong without the ball – at least in comparison with Alex MacDonald, who tends to respond to the team by losing possession by making his presence felt.

Against teams that can press and show intent on the counter-attack, Mellis and Grant together is arguably a luxury Mansfield cannot afford – because it means ball-winner Neal Bishop takes on too much of the defensive burden on turnovers.

How Flitcroft responds to this dilemma for a challenging final two games could define the Stags’ promotion chances.

 

Boro back in business

Stevenage’s Play-Off hopes looked nearly over after a very poor home performance saw them conclude March with a 3-0 loss to strugglers Notts County, leaving them seven points off the pace: Dino Maamria though had other ideas.

Amid question marks over the fitness of striker Alex Revell, the Boro boss switched from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 with Kurtis Guthrie, shoehorned on the right in the previous system, handed starts down the middle – those alterations have made a huge difference.

Although like Revell, Guthrie is tall, he perhaps has a slightly wider array of technical qualities and that is reflected in a run of six goals in four since the tweaks.

Terence Vancooten has also made a key difference since coming into the right of the back-three; the utility man has improved the quality of distribution from deep, which was perhaps the one Achilles heel for key centre-backs Ben Nugent and Scott Cuthbert.

With three at the back, there has also been more freedom for right-back Luther Wildin to push forward down the flank, which has always been his main strength this season.

Youngster Arthur Iontton has brought talent and exuberance since coming into midfield to compliment the more battle-hardened Michael Timlin, while the wide forwards are looking strong too.

Ilias Chair has produced the spectacular since joining on loan from QPR while Manny Sonupe makes direct runs from the right, posing a strong counter-attacking threat in the 4-1 win at Port Vale last time out.

Having not uniformly expected to be in the mix with two games to play, Stevenage will travel to Nottinghamshire with a sense of having little to lose – a mentality that will not be shared by their hosts.

Tip: Double Chance: Draw or Stevenage win –

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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