A moment of madness by Martin Riley ended up ruining the afternoon for Mansfield Town on Saturday as sloppy Stags sunk to within a single point of the relegation trapdoor in a 3-2 home defeat by Exeter City.
Riley’s suicidal backpass six minutes from time led to keeper Adam Smith conceding the match-winning penalty kick in a gut-wrenching final twist of a fantastic game in which a wasteful home side could have hit double figures.
With six players making home debuts and new boss Adam Murray trying to get his side playing a different style of football, this is very much a side in transition, but with great promise.
But the speed of that transition is becoming ever more urgent as a third successive defeat, coupled with two of the four sides below Stags gaining victories on Saturday, dispelled any doubts that Mansfield Town’s place in the League is under serious threat.
The club did what they could to get extra backing for the team with a cut-price £7 advance ticket offer which did drag a few more in.
And, despite the defeat, it is to be hoped many of them will have been encouraged by some of the things they saw in what – for a neutral fan – was an absolute cracker of a football match.
Stags trailed against the run of play, roared back to lead 2-1 and, with the points in the bag, simply threw them away with two moments of dreadful defending.
You had to feel for young loanee keeper Smith who enjoyed an excellent game yet ended up picking the ball out of his net three times and was forced into conceding the match-winning penalty by Riley’s recklessness.
By that point Mansfield should have been out of sight. But a combination of poor finishing, six goal line clearances, a post, and some good goalkeeping by James Hamon denied them more then two goals.