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Can Mansfield Town draw right conclusions from letting leads slip?

Picture Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD, Football, EFL Sky Bet League Two, Bury v Mansfield Town, Gigg Lane, 06/10/2018, K.O 3pm''Mansfield's manager David Flitcroft''Andrew Roe>>>>>>>07826527594
Picture Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD, Football, EFL Sky Bet League Two, Bury v Mansfield Town, Gigg Lane, 06/10/2018, K.O 3pm''Mansfield's manager David Flitcroft''Andrew Roe>>>>>>>07826527594

As Mansfield Town travelled to Bury on Saturday manager David Flitcroft said he wanted to emulate his success as a manager at Gigg Lane during his time with the Stags.

Flitcroft steered Bury to League Two promotion in 2014/15, so it was always going to be an emotional day for the Mansfield boss.

He had many good memories — special times, he calls them — from his time at Gigg Lane, where he spent three years.

Now he wants to replicate that length of service with the amber and blue.

But football is a tough business and Flitcroft knows that to find that success at Mansfield, trips to the likes of Gigg Lane need to bring positive results.

On paper a 2-2 draw there on Saturday, the seventh of the season, was not a bad outcome. But when you take into account the Stags twice led — and were 2-1 in front deep into injury-time — then yet another draw from a winning position was not good enough.

Just two weeks ago I wrote about groundhog day for the Stags and a sense of deja vu as they allowed a lead to slip.

Despite last Saturday’s thumping home win over Northampton, and a fine performance in a midweek goalless draw with Oldham — matches where the Stags kept clean sheets — the inability to hold on at Bury must be worrying Flitcroft.

Can he and the players learn from the problem, which despite a change in personnel is a spill over from the last campaign?

The manager admitted, not for the first time this season, that his players are letting themselves down at key moments.

So how do you judge the Stags and Flitcroft’s progression two months into the season?

They are in the bottom half of the table, but they are playing a pleasing style of passing football and, if they win their match in hand, they could be just one point outside the play-off places.

Remarkably they have lost just once in League Two — a record bettered only by unbeaten Forest Green Rovers and MK Dons, who are in the top seven. On the flip side, there has been a serious problem in finishing teams off from a winning position.

Too often the Stags appear to invite pressure when defending narrow leads, although Flitcroft and the players must be working on that sort of game situation in training.

But the league table does not lie and the Stags have won just three out of 11 matches.

Even local rivals Notts County, who failed to win any of their opening nine, have now won as many matches as the Stags.

However, surely the most telling statistic is this — take away the late goals the Stags have conceded and they would be fourth.

Matches against Colchester United, Cambridge United and now Bury should have yielded a total of nine points, not three.

Add to that the concession of a lead at Macclesfield and you can see why the supporters are not happy.

Throwing away leads is proving very costly and somehow Flitcroft has got to eradicate this apparent mental block among his squad.

They have proved at times they are good enough to be pushing for promotion through some of their delightful offensive play.

Just last week Oldham boss Frankie Bunn called Mansfield one of the two best teams they had played this season.

Now the challenge for Flitcroft and his side is to turn those welcome words, and the many good performances, into more victories by learning from the defensive frailties exposed in those draws.

Afterall, on the positive side the Stags are drawing games they should be winning, not drawing games they have looked like losing.

There have been some fine performances already this season — against Newport, Northampton, Oldham and, in the League Cup, Accrington.

Eradicate the mental block in the closing stages and promotion is still very achievable.