Stags show cre­ativ­ity at

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Ian Turner

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

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