THE tears mingled with the rain on Monday as Mansfield Town’s season came crashing down around their ears, writes John Lomas.
Matty Blair’s late goal was a painful reminder of Darlington’s late winning goal at Wembley a year to the very day. But this one hurt far worse.
While the FA Trophy would have looked nice gleaming from the One Call Stadium trophy cabinet, this one meant a million times more.
Blair’s goal effectively slammed the door to the Football League, that had been getting wider and wider since Christmas, firmly shut and bolted for another 12 months.
This is a cruel, cruel league, probably one of the cruellest in the world, and now chairman John Radford knows he will either have to dig very deep into his pockets to try to win it outright or face the same play-off lottery scenario next time around.
As Blair’s goal flew in, all those miles on the road, all those glories and all those setbacks over the past nine months suddenly seemed to count for nothing. But they did.
Any Stags player who thinks he has achieved nothing this season should think again.
With the way things have gone since Christmas, those players, and the chairman and staff, have finally restored the town’s faith in the club, given the town hope and put a smile on people’s faces.
Suddenly we have a football club to be proud of again.
Despite the division difference, they have also given the bragging rights for the season to Stags over relegated neighbours Chesterfield, whatever they say.
Players will now wait anxiously to see if their services are required next season. And then we can all begin plotting for another campaign that will include trips to Hereford, Macclesfield, Hyde and Woking among others.
With appetites for success perfectly whetted, August now can’t come soon enough for many.