LOMAS ON STAGS: First goal so vital tomorrow night as Mansfield Town try to book Wembley final

It is almost impossible to comprehend how important the first goal would be to either side tomorrow night as Mansfield Town aim for play-offs glory at Northampton Town’s Sixfields stadium.

Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 1:02 pm

Stags were sitting pretty 2-0 up in Saturday’s semi-final first leg and trying to add a third.

But Northampton came so close to automatic promotion for a reason and they managed to pull a goal back just after the hour and then went up a gear to ask many questions of the home side, all answered perfectly.

So it is a narrow lead for tomorrow’s second leg, but any lead in the play-offs is crucial.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Mansfield Town forward Jordan Bowery celebrates with the fans after scoring Stags' second goal against against Northampton Town in Saturday's play-offs first leg. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

Northampton have to score a goal. Mansfield don’t.

So the Cobblers will have to be adventurous against side that has a decent away record and will not be in any way sitting back on that lead.

Stags know that another goal and the pressure on Northampton would be huge.

But to concede, with the home fans in full cry behind the Cobblers and that sense of injustice pervading still from missing out on automatic promotion on the final day and it could be a very different story.

Stags did well to score twice against a Cobblers side boasting the most clean sheets in the division over the 46 games – 21 of them – and the best goals against record.

They were also helped by the officials missing Rhys Oates being marginally offside for the opener.

But Northampton are tomorrow likely to be boosted by the return of their No.1 keeper Liam Roberts, who missed the trip to the One Call Stadium with suspension.

If Stags fail there will inevitably be bitter disappointment on the night. But, whatever happens, this has been a fantastic season and, as one supporter rightly pointed out on social media, this unexpected play-offs campaign is a bit of a free hit at promotion for a side that has done so well to haul themselves up from the bottom two this season.

Nigel Clough is building something special like he did at Burton Albion and a promotion this season would be far quicker than even he imagined could happen.

So let’s enjoy the occasion and the excitement that play-off football brings and, if we are not booking transport to Wembley on Thursday morning, then take a step back and reflect on the bigger picture and how far the club has come.