I honestly cannot begin to express to you all just how shocked to my core that result has left me. At 1-0 I thought we were in for yet another Nigel Clough masterclass of killing a game. My only surprise was that the goal hadn’t been scored by Lloyd Dyer. At 2-0 I thought the shock of conceding could mean we received a pasting, and while I have no doubt that the former Derby and Burton boss will have been counselling his Mansfield charges against it, I think those players wanted to score more rather than hold what they had.
Needless to say, by hook or by crook, it bit them in the backside.
The fact we won doesn’t mask over some of the poor and insipid showings from some of our players, so bear in mind I have tried to not let the elation of our comeback cloud my judgement. However, I must say that I rank this result almost at the top of of my “hugely unexpected” list and my word am I relieved.
Here’s how I rated the lads:
Matt Gilks 4
Really poor for the first goal and you could tell both he and his teammates knew it. I liked how he came for crosses but, as usual, his distribution was woeful, though on that mud-pile pitch I appreciate it must have been challenging. Nevertheless, Evatt brought in a new ‘keeper to replace Gilks and I think, given how woeful Southend are, this weekend may be the perfect time to make that change.
Gethin Jones 7.5
I thought Jones was hugely improved from recent performances, both defensively and going forward. His crossing isn’t great, I suspect it never will be, but his tenacity in the tackle as well as defensive positioning was very pleasing and dug us out of a few holes. When Brockbank is fit, I think he should play, but if Jones keeps performing to this standard he really gives Evatt something to think about. It was a battle and he got fully stuck in.
Ricardo Santos 7
There’s not much else I can say about Rico that hasn’t already been said. My personal favourite moment was when Bowery had the audacity to think he could out-pace him in the first half and was fully left in the dust. It was poetry in motion. He wasn’t at his imperious best but when Bolton had something to hold onto, he put his body on the line to ensure we held onto it.
Alex Baptise 8.5
My man of the match. He has a long history with Mansfield and I believe his family are still season-ticket holders there. They will have been hugely annoyed at his performance. He got in the way of just about everything, including a superb block at the death to deny the lively Jamie Reid. This was especially pleasing given the fact he lost Reid for his goal, which knocks his mark slightly. His distribution was good, his one-on-one tackling reliable and reading of the game impeccable. I doubt very much that he will be able to keep this up until the end of the season, given his age and the fixture congestion, but for now he is our Mr Reliable.
Declan John 8
How long has it been since we had a good left-back? I think, ladies and gents, we have found one. Fortunate goal aside, as I am sure he will admit it was a cross, he was constant pest down the left-flank and, once we started to get going at 2-1, was firing in crosses at will. He could have scored in the first half too and I think he was solid defensively, even though it can be argued that he and Baptiste lost Reid too easily for the goal.
MJ Williams 4
I thought he had improved somewhat in the first half but he fell off a cliff in the second period. I just don’t see what he offers differently to Tutte, who I would play in our midfield every single week. I thought his reading of the game was poor, he didn’t win anywhere near as many tackles as I would expect and let the game bypass him far too often. Must do better.
Kieran Lee 6
I thought he was exemplary in the first half, but, like the majority of his teammates, he lost his way in the second. When on his game, Lee glides through matches with the obvious class of someone who is too good for this level. His touch is golden, as they say, but he needs to be more consistent and not let the game pass him by. He isn’t the battler this match needed, but in home games he is the perfect holding player for our style of play. Looking forward to seeing more.
Marcus Maddison 5
Just not his night, as Saturday was not his day, so I hope we start to see the best of him soon. Every time he gets the ball he tries the most difficult thing, and if his career is anything to go by, I expect one of them to come off sooner rather than later. I won’t judge him too harshly for now, but I want to see more. I don’t think Evatt will tolerate more showings like this and, frankly, we have a lot of good options in his position. Not guaranteed to start at Southend, for me.
Dapo Afolayan 6
Looked lively in the first half and was very unlucky not to score when his shot hit the post. Another who faded badly in the second half, though, and like Maddison should not be guaranteed to start on Saturday. I like him, he has pace and great feet, but I want to see him be more effective rather than lively.
Lloyd Isgrove 5
Honestly cannot remember him having any involvement of note. He works hard, provides a threat, of sorts, but isn’t producing the output of crosses or shots his attacking-midfield counterparts are offering at the moment. I want him to succeed, but it isn’t happening for him right now. I want to see the Isgrove from the Cheltenham game. Let’s hope we get him back soon.
Eoin Doyle 5
Another for whom it just wasn’t their night. I don’t worry when Doyle doesn’t score usually because he has shown this season that any such worries are often followed by a goal or two. Nevertheless, there were two occasions where he needed to be in a better position in the box to tap home and wasn’t. I expect better from him, but I back him to bounce back.
Nathan Delfouneso 6.5
Provided a spark in attack when we seemed totally devoid of ideas. His ability on the ball is there for everyone to see and I hope he can get back to his level of performance that we saw during his early time at the club.
Arthur Gnahoua 7.5
What can we say about Arthur that we haven’t already? He is a perfect impact-sub, for sure, but, naturally, the question has to be asked as to why he isn’t a regular starter? He has great feet to go with a rocket of a shot and I really enjoy watching him play. From his goal at Exeter he has been our best player and a key reason for our upturn in fortunes. He could be the hero we didn’t know we had.
Shaun Miller 6
Not many contributions of note but he holds the ball up well and could be our “Type-Two” striker on boggy pitches like this.
George Thomason 6
Made one crucial tackle at 3-2 on the edge of the box that demonstrated his improvement defensively. I expect him to come into the team for Saturday, hopefully for Williams.
Ian Evatt 6.5
I admit it, I was very angry and perhaps too hasty when I called for his sacking a few weeks ago. Admittedly, I’d have called time on his tenure at Bolton after our defeat at home to Tranmere. Since then, I believe I have seen us become a more cohesive defensive unit (despite still having a huge weakness at set-pieces) as well as having had a cracking January window with some hugely quality players brought in. This may be the first match where I think Evatt made brave substitutions. It cannot have been easy to bring Maddison and Afolayan off given their respective pedigrees, but their replacements made huge impacts, got us a win and kept our season alive. He deserves credit for our recent upturn in fortunes, but he is a long way off from redemption in my eyes. Get us into the playoffs, Ian, then we’ll talk. For now, keep it up.