Feature: The deadly duo shining a light up front in dim campaign for Mansfield Town

Mansfield Town strikers Nicky Maynard and Danny Rose
Mansfield Town strikers Nicky Maynard and Danny Rose

‘I think we link with each other very well’ – one half of Mansfield Town’s favoured strike partnership thinks they have a good understanding of each other’s game up front.

Danny Rose and Nicky Maynard have been the preferred option up top for the Stags since the turn of the year. So much so that experienced striker Andy Cook, who signed from Walsall for an undisclosed fee in the summer, joined League One side Tranmere on loan for the rest of the season in January. He said to the management he wanted more playing time.

Rose and Maynard have started every game as a front pairing for Mansfield since the start of 2020. And they’ve formed quite the partnership under Graham Coughlan.

Looking at Mansfield’s last ten games, since the start of gameweek 25 (New Year’s Day), with gameweek 34 being the latest, the Stags have scored 16 goals, the =3rd most in the league.

That run started with a Nicky Maynard hat-trick on New Year’s Day in the 3-2 win at Cambridge United. Of those 16 goals, 10 of them have been scored by Maynard or Rose. A goal per game on average for the first choice strike-force. (It’s worth noting Andy Cook chipped in with three himself in January off the bench before going out on loan.)

Rose got the latest in that tally in the 1-0 win over Newport County at the weekend, a goal which impressed assistant manager Joe Dunne.

Video: Joe Dunne on the 1-0 home win over Newport County

Speaking of the goal, Dunne said: “Sometimes you can isolate a moment, a strike from the edge of the box, but there’s a lot more to it than that if you rewind it to the moment we picked the ball up on the counter attack.

“The speed of it, excellent – the speed of which we got from box to box was something we’ve been speaking about a lot. The energy levels were super high. Not long after that, we had Nicky striking from the edge of the box too.

“We’ve got strikers who are scoring goals at the moment and in our league, are a threat.”

When asked about their partnership up front, Rose prefers to talk about his strike partner rather than himself.

He said: “It’s good, I think we link with each other very well. He [Maynard] feeds off my flick ons and he’s the one that runs in behind more.

“He’s just a fox in the box – he’s very good to play with because he just gets goals out of nothing.

“He’ll be quiet for 70, 80 minutes but then come out with two goals like he did against Carlisle.”

Video: Danny Rose on his partnership with Nicky Maynard

In the 10 game run since January 1, Maynard has scored seven of the 10 goals between them compared to Rose’s three.

But over the course of the season so far (34 games), it’s much closer as Maynard has scored 14 league goals to Rose’s 10. Andy Cook has scored seven.

There are only seven teams in the league that have outscored Mansfield so far – three of them only by a single goal and all of those teams sit in the top eight.

Not a bad feat considering the Stags sit 20th in League Two at the time of writing.

Mansfield are in an English football minority of playing two up front. There’s a trend more teams play with one recognised striker up front than two.

Of the 78 professional teams to play in England over the weekend, 31 played with two strikers in a traditional two-man attack.

But Dunne thinks the thought of teams playing with one striker up top being fashionable is ‘a perception’, and that ‘some teams playing with one striker actually have three strikers’.

His eyes light up as the interview turns to tactics, saying ‘this is going to get into systems which I quite like talking about’.

He said: “Sometimes you’ll see a lone striker, but then what are the other two doing? It might be a front three – so it’s all about perception and support that that striker gets.

“We’ve used two strikers in League One (with Bristol Rovers) and in this league, but we’ve also mixed it around a bit.

“Two strikers and two goalscorers probably give you a greater chance to score goals – I don’t think it’s rocket science. The two guys (Maynard and Rose) are getting goals, they’re working extremely hard off the ball now.

“A lot of people would probably only judge them on goals scored but the energy they bring to the front line is important.”

Video: Joe Dunne on playing two strikers up front

But Dunne warns if Maynard’s and Rose’s performances start to dip, that the Stags have options and a couple of players snapping at their heels to get in the side.

He said: “It’s not just those two, we’ve got other players on the periphery that are working extremely hard and helping to push those guys.

“What we want to bring to the table is that at any moment if you don’t push, you won’t play. That’s something Coughlan will bring and I think everybody knows that.”

Craig Davies is continuing his recovery back from a long-term injury, and youth academy prospect Jimmy Knowles has impressed this campaign.

Dunne said: “Davies works extremely hard. He does his extra training on the grass with the fitness guys despite us training on the astroturf when it’s heavy underfoot.

“He’s being backed up by Jimmy too, who continues to improve every day in training, doing his extras too, so we feel we have a good group pushing each other.”

With Maynard and Rose in fine form, Davies working hard on his recovery and Knowles continuing to improve, Mansfield’s attack has all the ingredients to helps the side finish the season strongly and start next season on the front foot.

And let’s not forget Andy Cook will be back in the summer too.

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