Let’s start with the positives. Conor McLaughlin continues to quietly surprise me with how assured he appears to be as a central defender, although I do feel slightly validated in my view, having said I felt he looked good there during his first pre-season - against South Shields he was like Beckenbauer!
In all seriousness, though, I think McLaughlin is one of a few players who has recently shown he’s got the ability to break into the side. He’s came in to the team due to the injuries of others and, in fairness, hasn’t put a foot wrong.
I get that most people have already made up their minds about him, but I’m prepared to give the lad a second chance. Someone recently pointed out that McLaughlin (and Flanagan, actually) played centre of the three defenders for Northern Ireland against Norway, up against one of the best strikers in the world, Haaland, and he never scored. That’s a feather in his cap surely, considering the level of the opposition he faced.
The return to the fold of Elliot Embleton is also pleasing. He scored twice for the U23s last week in his first game back and managed to follow that up with a fairly reassuring cameo from the bench on Saturday.
Embleton is talented, and we know this, but he has to stay fit. If he does, he might well be - to borrow an old cliché - like a new signing. Especially when you consider the state of some of our other midfielders. Let’s just hope Parky breaks from tradition and really buys into giving a youngster a chance to shine in the first team.
Onto the negatives...
Phil Parkinson. Just everything about him from a managerial perspective on Saturday was rank. He refused to properly integrate the likes of Neil and Hawkes in a game he clearly wasn’t taking seriously anyway; he refused to alter his formation and system when it was clear it wasn’t working, instead bringing on a Republic of Ireland international striker at left wing back; he left it far too late to make changes and, ultimately, he and his players were out-thought and outdone by a team who are currently sat second bottom of League Two, having not won a game all season until they beat us. Wholly unacceptable and it’s a black mark against his name, truly.
Parkinson made eight changes to his side for the game, yet some of the fringe players couldn’t have done worse - only purposely scoring an own goal or getting themselves sent off could have seen the likes of Power, Dobson and Graham sink lower.
Max Power has had a terrible season so far and that’s the second time already to my mind that he’s been ran all over by a League Two midfield (he was crap against Carlisle too, with Jon Mellish making a mug of him on that occasion).
He’s an experienced player - our captain - with promotions on his CV: we really ought to expect far better from him. Dobson, on the other hand... I think it’s reached the point where I just feel sorry for him. He’s absolutely hopeless.
I remember when we signed him reading the thoughts of utterly bemused Walsall fans, who thought he was “alright” but not a Sunderland player. They were right - he isn’t. You do not get promoted from this league with him in your team.
What does he actually do, except from run around like a headless chicken? He, like Power, struggles to pass the ball five yards. He’s never once imposed himself on a game in a red and white shirt. Can you imagine being the opposition midfielder lining up against him? You’d lap it up.
Kelvin Beattie says...
I am generally a cup half full kind of character. I also love to see younger players getting a chance. This game was a good opportunity to experiment to a degree. That said, what a horrible performance.
There were players out there who looked like they did not care. As well as some who did not know what they were doing. Give credit to a hard-working Mansfield, who in Bowery and Lapslie had the two best players on the pitch.
I am not a great fan of Connor Mac, but he proved he could fill in, in the centre of defence - his positional play and use of the ball was generally good. I would need to see the goal again but it looked like he was out of position for this. McFadzean used the ball well on his debut, enough to suggest we see a bit more of him.
Diamond as I have said before come with risks, he is going to lose the ball on occasion, however he and Embleton for his short time on the pitch showed a bit of pace and vision - for God’s sake Parky, play them more often.
I’m not sure how often we have to be overrun and outplayed in midfield before Parky realises Dobson and Power do not cut it together. Today defensively and offensively they were nothing short of diabolical. The back pass duo, slow predictable passes that often arrive at their intended destination with an opposition player in close attention, giving the recipient little to no chance of doing anything offensive with the ball.
Please can somebody at the club take Tom Flanagan to one side and help him learn how to trap a ball and pass it. The system we play see’s him receive the ball a lot. Opposition teams by now will simply be delighted at this because it is either going straight out or going to hit its intended recipient at such pace it will rebound out or to the opposition.
Extremely poor show and gutted to have paid a tenner for that!
Malcolm Dugdale says...
Positives first - McFadzean looks like a genuine and decent option to push Hume for the left wing back slot. A good debut in a poor game, and once his fitness improves (and assuming he plays that well at regular league one level), we have good cover, finally.
Embleton played some very good passes and did well in the limited minutes he was given. Diamond also played well despite being played as a right wing back when a natural attacking winger or more central offensive role is his preference.
Negatives now, and I’ll try and keep it at just two - Dobson and Power cannot spell midfield never mind own and dominate one. They were ineffective in all aspects of what would be expected of them. Clutching onto straws, hopefully losing that game as we did showed Parkinson that too. No control, no vision, no attacking flair, no passion, just no Parky. NO!
The manager's obsession with Wyke and O’Brien continued. He would rather put these two on than use a young and very promising lad like Dan Neil to address the glaring issue visible in the middle of the pitch.
The manager not only didn’t play Neil, but played O’Brien at left wing back, which he quickly demonstrated was a terrible idea as his left foot is about as useful to him as my appendix is to me.
Parky has to consider the strengths and weaknesses of all the squad and use them, or we will repeat this type of performance in the league very soon.