Craig Priest writes...
When Alfie Potter saw his pivotal penalty saved by the home keeper midway through the shootout, the 1981 japan only release by ABBA never seemed so apt, as Mansfield allowed prize money and distant Wembley dreams slip through their fingers.
Penalty shootouts are always pot luck and given our indifferent relationship with penalties this season, I didn't fancy us much anyway!
As the supporters coach makes it way out of Blackpool, I write this fresh from the match refusing to let the frustration of a loss eat away at me.
I could sit here and question why Olejnik failed to dive to his right, bar once, in the shootout. I could question also why Pearce didn't thunder forward and take one rather than putting the pressure on Jack Thomas, who because he missed, will again see his name linked with a move out of the club.
Instead, in a cold and soulless stadium a stone's throw from the sea, over 90 minutes we drew with a League One side and kept our unbeaten run going.
There were something’s that concerned me in game, the attitude and commitment levels of Lee Angol, the pathetic marking which led to what at that point was an undeserved goal, the poor delivery from both wings in good attacking positions and, the fitness of Mirfin who went off injured during the second half.
Yet besides essentially what are little niggles, we showed spirit to fight back and deserved at the very least the draw over 90 minutes which in fairness we got agaisnt a fairly decent league one side.
A shootout defeat is hard to take as is the exit from the competition, one I felt we could have made further progress in given our squad.
We weren't embarrassed, we weren't particularly poor over 90 minutes and we've shown willing to compete. We can't ask for much more than that, so long as we don't let it affect us on Saturday at Crawley where it must be business as usual.
Steve Evans made numerous changes as promised to the line up with just two players keeping their place from Sunday's 3-0 victory in the FA Cup in the form of Will Atkinson and hat-trick hero Jimmy Spencer
It was a relatively competitive start to a checkatrade encounter with both sides enjoying early spells, Jacob Mellis the creator for Stags early on as he tried to play in Lee Angol, Alfie Potter also fizzed a shot over the bar whilst at the other end, Olejnik watched on as D’Almedia’s 25 yard effort flew wide inside the opening ten minutes.
On 21 minutes half hearted shouts for a Mansfield spot kick were turned down after Mellis made a cantering run and saw his effort brush an arm, captain for the evening Pearce then had to be strong to halt the run of Quigley on 33 minutes – before seconds later at the other end, Mellis saw an effort beaten away by Mafoumbi in the Blackpool goal.
Seven minutes before the break the hosts opened the scoring as lapse marking from a corner allowed Kelvin Mellor space inside the area to glance a free header into the back of the net, Jimmy Spencer nearly levelling things up two minutes later – Mafoumbi on hand to palm the ball away.
Mal Benning then had space inside the Blackpool boss as he volleyed a Potter cross wide of the target – Bobby Olejnik then on hand to keep the score at 1-0 before the half time whistle, getting low to cling on to Gnanduillet’s effort.
After the break Mansfield started to try and find a way back into the game, on 51 minutes the post came to the hosts rescue as the home keeper fumbled a cross into the path of Mirfin – his lofted ball back into the mix found Pearce, who was denied by the woodwork.
Sterling-James replaced Angol upfront on 66 minutes and injected some life into the game, however it took another eight minutes for a shot to trouble Blackpool – as Butcher slipped in the Stags substitute, only for him to tamely drag a shot wide.
Sterling-James then crashed a free-kick against the wall with ten minutes remaining before Mansfield were forced to re-shuffle as Mirfin pulled up injured, substitute Jack Thomas moved to right back whilst youngster Zayn Hakeem moved up to partner Sterling-James.
With a minute to go Mansfield got their reward as Thomas was felled on the far side, Mal Benning delivered a deep free-kick, turned home by Calum Butcher.
Both sides then had chances to win the match, Hakeem closest for the Stags lifting an effort just over the bar before, in the last minuted of added time – Bobby Olejnik beat away D’Almedia’s hopeful effort, sending the game to an ABBA style penalty shootout.
Blackpool went first with Danny Philliskirk scoring to put them 1-0 up however Paul Digby and Mal Benning both scored their spot-kick’s making it 2-1 Mansfield. Callum Cooke then levelled things up before the hosts went again – Andy Taylor squandered the chance to put the hosts ahead as he fired over the bar.
Sterling-James made it 3-2 to Mansfield and as Alfie Potter stepped up, all he needed to do was score to heap the pressure onto the hosts – the winger saw his spot kick pushed onto the post and agonisingly bounce away from goal.
Nathan Delouneso made it 3-3 before Kelvin Mellor put the pressure on Stags by dispatching Blackpool’s 5th spot kick of the shootout – Jimmy Spencer however made it two penalties from two – 4-4 and sudden death with Mansfield up first.
Jack Thomas then saw a very weak kick saved, but cudos to him for having the bottle to take one. At 4-4 Scott Quigley had the simple job of putting past Oljenik – which he did, winning the game for Blackpool
FULL TIME Blackpool 1-1 Stags - Blackpool win 5-4 on penalties
Paul Digby - David Mirfin (Zayn Hakeem 82) - Krystain Pearce ©
Alfie Potter - Jacob Mellis - Will Atkinson (Jack Thomas 70) - Mal Benning
Jimmy Spencer - Lee Angol (Omari Sterling-James 66)
Unused substitutes Conrad Logan - CJ Hamilton
Attendance 587 (60)
Referee Seb Stocksbridghe
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