After an afternoon to forget, it suddenly seems Mansfield Town’s season is wobbling on a tightrope.
Boss Adam Murray admitted recently that his side walked the line of being very good and being poor, so a second successive home defeat by a struggling side saw tensions boil over on an awful afternoon.
A clearly emotional Murray was badly hurt by some of the personal abuse he took at the final whistle and, being a club legend and having worked so hard to give the club a concrete platform for the future, he hinted he could walk away from it.
That would be a crying shame as he does have so much to offer.
But supporters demand success yesterday and want entertainment for their hard-earned money, and Saturday, particularly first half, was far from entertaining.
There is little Murray can do once his players have crossed that line and he has every right to feel some are letting him down.
Three from the bottom of the table, Stevenage came to spoil, play-act, waste-time and get men behind the ball. Mansfield’s task was to tear through that and put them to the sword.
It’s a horrible part of the modern game in a sport that offers ever-greater financial incentives, but you have to credit Stevenage as their tactics worked a treat.
It ended a run of six games unbeaten for the Stags. But stats can go both ways and the defeat suddenly also meant Murray’s men have only won twice in 12 games.
Their usually watertight defence will cringe when they watch back Charlie Lee’s 32nd minute header from Henry Cowans’ free kick.
It was all that separated the sides at the end of a dull first half.
VIDEO: Mansfield Town 1 Stevenage 2 highlights
Stags had started out on the front foot, but their momentum seemed to be rocked by a head injury to Krystian Pearce which saw them having to play with 10 men for a short time while the blood flow was stemmed which seemed to encourage Stevenage to come out more.
But the persistent Stags were finally level when Pat Hoban turned to bury the ball from close range after keeper Jamie Jones had turned the ball towards him at full stretch as Rhys Bennett’s cross almost found its way under the far angle.
That should have been the turning point to go on and win it well.
But within three minutes more sloppy play by the Stags had them undone.
Pushing everyone forwards, Mansfield lost the ball and, from the centre circle in his own half, teenage Aston Villa loanee Harry McKirdy, on his full debut, set off down the pitch like a greyhound, finally slotting low under Scott Shearer with Lee Collins unable to catch him.
It was a moment worthy of winning any football match and the visitors stood firm to keep what they had.
Boos were inevitable at the whistle, but Murray was clearly shocked by some of the comments hurled at him.
Doubtless this week the Stags will regroup and hold a post-mortem.
Murray said he’d never walked away from a battle in his life and I doubt he will now once he has calmed down and reflected on things. Sadly, abuse seems to be part and parcel of the monster that is the modern game.
But his players, who speak so highly of him, need to step up to the mark for him and quickly.
The FA Cup and Checkatrade Trophy provide the next two games and a break from the pressure of League points.
But with the atmosphere turning so poisonous at the end on Saturday, Murray will be wishing the FA Cup tie against leaders Plymouth was down in Devon as this will not be the easiest of ways to get back on track against formidable opposition.
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