Stags show creativity at
THEY huffed and they puffed without reward – and Mansfield manager Adam Murray admits hours of homework during the week are worth very little if you fluff your lines on a Saturday.
It is now more than 360 minutes of football in all competitions since the Stags found the net, as a flying start to the season has begun to come a little unstuck.
That is not for a lack of effort, however, after Murray’s men created numerous openings at Sixfields, without ever really testing Cobblers goalkeeper Adam Smith.
In the end it was Marc Richards’ fourth-minute header that decided the clash, taking Northampton up to third in the table and leaving Mansfield at risk of slipping out of the play-offs.
“You can have all the play between the two boxes and we were brilliant at that, but we’re not making it count in the box,” said a frustrated Murray.
“We had lots of chances but didn’t take them, and you can’t come to a place like Northampton and not take your chances.We spent most of the time in their half but didn’t know what to do.
“They are a very good team and they showed why they are in the top three, because they got one chance and took it.
“We spoke about their threats in the week, and if you don’t take heed of that then you’re going to get punished.
“It’s a strong league and if you don’t take the week’s work into Saturday then you might as well turn up and play five-a-side every day.
“I think we did deserve something from the game though. We created enough opportunities without being ruthless.”
Northampton were ahead after just four minutes when Alfie Potter picked up the ball inside his own half, travelled all the way to the byline and crossed for Richards to head home.
Mansfield spurned two quickfire chances to equalise seven minutes later, the lively Matt Green let down by his touch before Craig Westcarr fired wide of the target from the edge of the area.
Aside from picking the ball out of his net, Stags goalkeeper Brian Jensen had very little to do inside the first half-hour, while Ryan Tafazolli headed a corner wide from six yards out at the other end.
Jensen was called into action five minutes before the break, however, when he palmed away Nicky Adams’ powerful effort, before Green headed Blair Adams’ teasing free-kick against the woodwork on the stroke of half-time.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin was next to be denied by the woodwork, ghosting in behind the Mansfield defence to flick a dangerous cross against the bar, while Adi Yussuf missed a great chance in added time – but Northampton held on to claim maximum points.
“It’s a great ball in from Alfie Potter and an outstanding header from the skipper,” said Cobblers boss Chris Wilder, after his side extended their impressive record to just one defeat in 11 league games.
“Their away record is outstanding, they’ve had good results on the road and some teams are set up to play that way. They pinned us back and pressed us and did their homework