Mansfield Town 1 Northampton Town 1 - Jefferson Lake’s view and player ratings

KEEPING HIS COOL - Marc Richards prepares to take his point-saving penalty (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)
KEEPING HIS COOL - Marc Richards prepares to take his point-saving penalty (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

John-Joe O’Toole blotted his copybook with a hands-on approach at Mansfield but it was the Cobblers’ inability to again deal with a physical side which should concern them most.

Mansfield and Hartlepool are both teams who waste no time in getting the ball forward.

Mansfield Town V Cobblers. NNL-150214-180402009

Mansfield Town V Cobblers. NNL-150214-180402009

The Stags also combine that with a policy of kicking everything that comes their way, and kicking it hard.

Whether that be opposing players or the football itself.

For the first 50 minutes they launched it up to Vadaine Oliver and then, after he had given them a lead, they did the same only with less accuracy.

For the majority of the second half it felt like Ryan Cresswell was permanently heading or passing back to Matt Duke to clear.

Mansfield Town V Cobblers. NNL-150214-180414009

Mansfield Town V Cobblers. NNL-150214-180414009

It was a poor match and one in which the Cobblers only partially got their game functioning, and only then in the final 20 minutes.

It is a worry that in the past two games they have not been able to get the ball down and play, that both of their wide players have been starved of quality possession and have lacked the penetration they regularly made during the team’s winning streak.

Ricky Holmes and Lawson D’Ath are so important to the way the side plays that when they struggle to get into games then so too does the team.

Several factors are in play there - their opponents have been ones from the wrong end of the table and therefore fighting harder than perhaps mid-table sides, and the pitches have been terrible (Mansfield’s looked like it had had a herd of cows on it on Saturday morning).

Mansfield Town V Cobblers. NNL-150214-180350009

Mansfield Town V Cobblers. NNL-150214-180350009

Both opposing teams also played the referee much better and were much cuter with their fouls - Junior Brown performed a double pirouette under the merest touch to get Joel Byrom booked and the tally of nine yellow cards in the game tells its own story.

Of course, it helps if you keep a full complement of players on the pitch.

O’Toole on Saturday became the man who turned up to his own wedding drunk and with sick on his trousers.

Video evidence suggests the man he felled, Mansfield defender Ritchie Sutton, was not entirely innocent in the whole affair and there was a strong case for a double sending-off.

Mansfield Town V Cobblers. NNL-150214-180338009

Mansfield Town V Cobblers. NNL-150214-180338009

It is true, too, that Mansfield players had been getting under O’Toole’s skin right from the start but that is no excuse and he must learn how to control his temper.

Ivan Toney was sent off for a similar incident against Bury on Boxing Day but while Toney’s game is based around his aggression and supreme confidence, O’Toole is at his best when he is cool and calm on the ball.

It could go either way for him at Northampton now, and it was notable that good cop Alan Knill was on post-match press duties at Field Mill; bad cop Chris Wilder might not have been as publicly sympathetic as his number two.

Both coaches will need to talk about John-Joe but their wider concern will be the team’s deficiencies when dealing with direct play.

That’s twice in a week it’s happened now, and it goes without saying that until they learn how to cope with that, then the play-offs with remain a distant dream.

Player ratings

Mansfield Town V Cobblers. NNL-150214-180326009

Mansfield Town V Cobblers. NNL-150214-180326009

MATT DUKE

Exposed on the goal and his second half seemed to exist almost entirely of collecting passes back or long balls over the top ...6

BRENDAN MOLONEY

Gradually began to get into the game as it progressed to a conclusion but did not start on the front foot as he has done in previous outings ...6

RYAN CRESSWELL

Was all at sea with Collins in the first half and they seemed to get in the way of each other at times ...5

LEE COLLINS

Had some shaky moments in the first 45 minutes and got away with a couple of slips during that period of play ...5

EVAN HORWOOD

Had a similar game to Moloney - was pinned back in the first hour and unable to give much support to his winger but became more attack-minded ...6

JASON TAYLOR

The home side pretty much missed out midfield all afternoon and so the Town two were mainly fighting for second balls ...5

JOEL BYROM

Started to get into the game in the second half and executed a training-ground free-kick to absolute perfection only to see the players attacking it get it wrong ...6

LAWSON D’ATH

Was an attacking force only in spurts but, as at Hartlepool, he worried the home defence whenever he got on the ball and in his stride ...6

JOHN-JOE O’TOOLE

Did little to influence the game in the 32 minutes he was on and although there are mitigating factors, his dismissal was unacceptable and almost very costly ...3

RICKY HOLMES

Carried the ball well and was probably the pick of the attacking midfielders. His booking, for a reaction to a foul, was farcical ...7

MARC RICHARDS

If only every signing was as reliable as Richards - led the lonely forward line well for an hour and showed glacial nerve to score injury-time penalty ...7 STAR MAN

Substitutes

IVAN TONEY (for Collins 82)

Was the spark of energy and life that got the Cobblers back into the game and produced lovely piece of skill to win the penalty ...7

BILLY BODIN (for Taylor 90)

TOM NEWEY (for Holmes 90)

Not used: Carter, Snedker, Tozer, Hackett

Mansfield Town V Cobblers. NNL-150214-180315009

Mansfield Town V Cobblers. NNL-150214-180315009