Craig Priest writes…
So year yet so far is perhaps the best and most appropriate way of summing up the 2017-18 campaign as it comes to an end, a conclusion reached as the Stags fall short on the sky bet league two play-offs on the final day of the season.
It was a finish which in isolation was partly there fault, Crawley having practically one shot on target and scoring from it, and partly that of others – a late Lincoln goal putting the Umps well on course for a second trip to Wembley this season and a second promotion in as many years.
Those of you who’ve clicked on this in anticipation of a ‘who’s to blame’ rant are going to be disappointed, that’s for another day when the dust has settled a little more on this thoroughly frustrating season. Likewise I’m yet to listen to David Flitcroft’s post match interview, which if rumours are true, is one where he doesn’t hold back – so I won’t be talking about that.
Over the course of the season as a collective, regardless of the man in the dugout, we’ve not been good enough or clinical enough to reach the play-offs, I can only hope that those who stay with the club use the stinging and sour tasting hurt to achieve a top three finish next time around.
Whenever something is in the hands of someone else I always feel extremely pessimistic about an outcome, I’ve always maintained you can’t rely on others to do something for you and as such, whilst I went to the One Call fully believing – there was a part of me that wanted to be sent home knowing we’d given it our all by winning with passion and desire.
With that, I left 80% happy – obviously we didn’t win which meant, even had Lincoln or Coventry lost, it wouldn’t have been enough anyway – but we did show some fight, some energy and determination to get the required result so that was pleasing enough, it’s just a shame the whole place went from bouncing to flat, on AND off the pitch, in a matter of seconds once news filtered through of Lincolns 77th minute goal to level with Yeovil – a goal which meant no matter what we did, it was game over – and that last 13 minutes were hell to watch, because it highlighted our season…. We gave up trying because there seemed no point.
We’d gone so flat and lacked energy a goal seemed highly unlikely, so even if Yeovil had scored or even Morecambe, just to make sure of safety in their game with Coventry, we’d have left it too late to take advantage. That’s what hurts the most.
It’s been an hour to watch every single game unfold and be a part of the twists and turns, the highs and lows, the pain and joy of watching Mansfield Town Football Club again – and in turn be able to write and create content for you and this website when a year ago, that seemed impossible for me personally. Will I do it all again next year? You bet I will – because that’s what we all do, we hope to watch something good unfold, something to be proud of – nine times out of ten we’re left disappointed, hurt and heartbroken … and yet we keep going back because, whilst players and managers come and go like a common cold, our club remains and we follow the journey out of love, loyalty….. and sheer bloody stupidity!
Thanks for reading, thanks for listening to the podcast too – the season may be over, but I’m not putting down my pen or switching off the microphones, there’s plenty more content to come over the summer until we do it all over again next season – why? Because Mansfield ALWAYS Matters!
CJ Hamilton was back in the starting line-up in place of Alfie Potter as David Flitcroft surprisingly stayed with four at the back, me personally given what was required, I’d have risked three at the back and chucked everything at Crawley – but I’m not the manager and without it being played out on a laptop… never will be! (a promotions, on the verge of a second, and two checkatrade trophies though… John & Carolyn I’ll wait by the phone)! Danny Rose was also omitted from the side as Lee Angol took his place, and with Rose injured, it was a return to the bench for Sterling-James after a loan spell with Solihull.
The Stags needed to win and hope either Lincoln lost at home to Yeovil or Coventry lost at home to Morecambe, who needed a point to stay up unless Barnet put more than six past Chesterfield.
Mansfield started with the required intent but were denied by the visiting keeper on two minutes as Hemmings slotted Angol through – last week’s hero denied by the keeper.
And then the inevitable – a Crawley goal, as on seven minutes the Stags lost the ball in midfield and allowed a cross to come into the box, Ahearne-Grant quickest to react to turn home and make the Stags job a mountainous climb.
News then filtered through of a Yeovil goal meaning the Stags needed to score twice to sneak into 7th place, Crawley had other ideas and nearly doubled their lead on 15 minutes, but Conrad Logan, who scopped Chad Readers player of the year prior to kick off, pulled off another fine stop to keep the stags in the game.
Lee Angol and skipper Krystain Perace, another multiple award winner, both came close with no reward before Flitcroft withdrew Digby and Atkinson for Potter and White, the double change bemusing so early.
MacDonald, Benning and Mellis all tried their luck before half time but neither could get lucky and at the break, the Stags were 1-0 down, but with Lincoln still losing, had a chance to turn things around.
Kane Hemmings and CJ Hamilton both had efforts within the opening two minutes of the second half but denied by the keeper who was clearly a Lincoln fan, Hemmings also put one wide of the post as the Stags pilled forward with hunger and intent.
Pearce was next to try his luck but saw a dominant header held on 51, two minutes later Alfie Potter delivered for Hemmings, who to his own agony, put the ball wide.
Rhys Bennett was next to put one wide as the Stags threw bodies into the box before Angol smashed one into the evening sky – but on 63 minutes, the Stags pulled level as Kane Hemmings got the final touch.
The Stags needed one more goal to leapfrog Lincoln and Hayden White came close with a header which was cleared off the line, before Kane Hemmings flashed one wide – and then disaster, a goal for Lincoln at Sincil Bank drew there game level, meaning no matter what the Stags did, they couldn’t sneak into the play-offs as it stood.
The ground fell silent and despite a succession of corners coming in, which even saw Conrad Logan venter forward, the dream was over – confirmed by Ben Toner’s full time whistle – confirming another season of League Two football.
FULL TIME Stags 1-1 Crawley
Paul Digby (Hayden White 27) – Krystain Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alex MacDonald – Will Atkinson (Alfie Potter 27) – Jacob Mellis – CJ Hamilton
Kane Hemmings – Lee Angol
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olenjik, Joel Byrom, Adam King, Omari Sterling-James, Jordan Graham
Referee: Ben Toner
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