Craig Priest’s column: A bumpy start for Mansfield at Northampton

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If Mansfield Town’s pre-season performances were analogous to the promise of an arranged marriage, you’d have thought Hollywood superstar Mila Kunis would be waiting at the altar come the season’s opening day.

However, it turns out marrying Miss Kunis was just a dream, as Paul Cox’s men instead found the altogether less glamorous Susan Boyle waiting under the veil.

After what was a really encouraging pre-season, the Stags were well and truly brought back down to earth at Northampton on Saturday, turning in a half-hearted and somewhat miserable display.

Nothing is ever won or lost on the season’s opening day - Cox is yet to win an opening day fixture as Stags boss, with one draw in his first season followed by now three consecutive defeats, including a 4-3 home defeat to Newport County the season we were crowned champions.

That fact shouldn’t be used as an excuse, though. The performances of some players compared to that of pre-season was below par and not up to the standard required.

With such a tight-knit squad, there’s no hiding from bad performances and, equally, no room for complacency.

We can be encouraged by the late show of passion... Liam Hearn’s introduction from the bench injected some life and, with it, brought a collective sound of seats clattering as supporters rose with expectation as the hit-man moved in for the kill.

Sadly, it was like that massive pile of 2ps at a seaside arcade machine - after you’ve put a tenner’s worth in - that just won’t drop. The clattering of seats was followed by a collective sigh of disappointment.

Arguments over the goal will continue until the next game. From where we were sat in the away end, it looked a plain foul – and Sascha Studer’s reaction backed that up, and I’ve never seen a referee run so fast!

Cox claimed it wasn’t a foul but, whatever you’re view point, the goal was coming all day long.

There’s a long way to go on this journey and there’s bound to be a few twists and turns along the way.

With a smaller squad we carry a degree of fragility, and any hiccups like Saturday can prove detrimental if they’re not managed in the correct way.

So let’s take out our metaphorical broom and sweep Saturday’s defeat under the carpet.

And while we’re at it, let’s put on our mean faces and ditch Susan at the altar - she’s got her wild horses for company after-all - and let’s make our dreams become reality.

Mila, we’re coming to get you!