Stags Trio Straight To The Fore

Saturday afternoon at the One Call Stadium could well have seen the changing of the guard come into force as Nigel Clough’s side bore witness to the presence of their three, new signings.

That trio, defenders Alfie Kilgour, 24, and Callum Johnson, 26, alongside midfielder, Louis Reed, 25, formed an interesting triumvirate on the Stags’ (centre) right flank for the win, their first of 2023, against Doncaster Rovers.

Of their previous six outings (won one, drawn three, lost two) the Stags had deployed a 4-1-2-1-2 formation on five of them, the other being a 3-5-1-1 on Boxing Day at home to Northampton Town (drew 1-1).

Specifically relating to the right flank of the Stags, those six games has seen no consistency with Kellan Gordon and Elliott Hewitt both taking the right back slot twice apiece, they being just two of nine players utilised in those three positions overall.

Now, crossing the last of those six games, the 1-1 draw at home to Crewe Alexandra on 14 January, with Saturday’s (28 January) 4-1 home win over Doncaster Rovers, the addition of Callum Johnson, on his debut, at right-back, and Elliott Hewitt at right centre-back, alongside George Maris on the right of a diamond midfield, was, quite possibly, the last time this will be seen.

Why? Well, against Doncaster, the 4-1-2-1-2 formation went, completely, even the 3-5-1-1 on Boxing Day was close to Clough’s usual line-up, however, Johnson’s signing, alongside that of Kilgour and Reed, has perhaps changed things on the right flank.

Johnson played the full 90 against Crewe, providing the assist for George Maris’ goal, having an attempt on goal, and committing a foul, whilst Kilgour came on in the 86 minute, got ten minutes under his belt, and produced a late attempt on goal – a sign of things to come, most certainly.

The very next game, against Doncaster, and now accommodating three, new signings, Johnson and Kilgour getting a full, 90 minutes, along with that of the Stags new midfielder, Louis Reed, who also bagged the full 90 himself, in a new, 3-5-2 formation.

Kilgour slotted in at centre-half, alongside James Perch and Elliott Hewitt, whilst Johnson and Reed took up right, and centre midfield respectively.

Kilgour, who joined the Stags on an 18-month deal (12 January) from Bristol Rovers (where he’d spent his career and made 118 appearances), provided a full debut goal, a 16-yarder after 26 minutes, and got in on the thick of action in the attacking third; Johnson meanwhile, who can play in both defence and midfield, recently signed from Scottish Premier League side, Ross County (13 January), and certainly put himself about for the second game running.

Then there’s Reed, a player well-known to Clough he having given the then 16-year-old his senior debut back in their Sheffield United days, and is the third signing of this window, for an undisclosed fee, from Swindon Town (15 January).

Reed certainly had the proverbial, midfield battlers game, producing attempts, won several free-kicks, dished out some fouls, and was booked in the second, for a bad foul, in turn, and all-round performance from the 25-year-old.

The proof though, is in the results, and, with Kilgour and Johnson having played some part in the last two games, they’ve gathered four points for the club, all three currently enjoying unbeaten starts to life in Nottinghamshire.

With two of the next three matches against fellow promotion hopefuls, away to both Bradford City (4 February) and Carlisle United (14 February), with a home game against Gillingham, the new home of George Lapslie and Ollie Hawkins, sandwiched between (11 February), sticking with the new formation, and affording this trio a run, could yield sufficient results moving forward.

*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).

*Main image @mansfieldtownfc Alfie Kilgour celebrates a first Stags goal.

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