DUNCAN Russell was once again left to rue his side’s inability to close games out as he watched Stags blow a two goal cushion and two points against lowly Southport at Field Mill last night.
It could have all been so different for Mansfield, who had looked every bit a team bound for Wembley during a silky first half display in front of the lowest league crowd - just 1,467 - at Field Mill since 1982.
But Paul Connor failed to convert a 54th minute penalty, and it was downhill from that moment as Stags began to panic and look rather nervous against the battling visitors.
“The defining moment was that penalty miss. If that had gone in we would have killed them off,”said a disapppointed Russell after the game.
“Our penalty miss gave Southport new belief and, from that point, we went too gun-ho and lost our shape and our discipline. It was very disappointing.
“At half-time we spoke of the importance of not letting Southport back into the game and starting at the same tempo as that of the first half.
“But we did not start the second half right and I had a bad feeling on the touchline about what was going to happen.”
The stags boss has also demanded his players learn from their errors in future game and improve their concentration, marking and discipline.
Said Russell: “In the first half we played some good stuff and I just do not understand where it went wrong. After the game I asked what was different in the second half and why that happened. I have seen that happen too many times this season.
“I got the feeling that the players thought the game was won at 2-0 and I just cannot understand it.
“We just seemed to panic and we gave them far too much space in the box for their first goal. I can shout from the touchline about keeping shapes and discipline, but there is only so much I can do when the players are on the pitch.
“The players need to learn to keep their discipline and shape. If i make a mistake I hold my hands up and I am asking the same from the players. We should have won that game.”
Stags will now be looking to put Tuesday’s disappointment behind them when they make the trip to Hayes and Yeading on Saturday.