Despite the disappointment of only drawing at Salford City in Monday’s Bank Holiday thriller, Mansfield Town have now already equalled their best points total for 20 years, the 76 points level with that achieved by David Flitcroft’s side in 2018/19 when a last day defeat at MK Dons saw the home side pip them for the top three automatic promotion spots.
This Saturday Stags can better that total with a home win over Forest Green Rovers, who need to win to stand any chance of the title. But, like 2018/19, Mansfield look set to miss out on automatic on the final day – and this time it is not in their own hands.
A win for Northampton at Barrow or, more likely, a home win for Bristol Rovers over hapless Scunthorpe United would leave them facing the play-offs lottery.
Of course, with so much pressure on their shoulders and Barrow and Scunthorpe with nothing to play for and able to enjoy their football, anything could still happen and should never be ruled out.
But, if as likely, Stags do get at least a point and go into the play-offs, they should be in a much better frame of mind than Flitcroft’s charges. And I also believe this is a stronger squad.
Flitcroft’s men were so stunned by that 1-0 defeat at MK Dons, having been stung by a second minute goal, that they never got their chins up and got over the disappointment as they lost their semi-final over two legs with Newport County.
As disappointed as Stags were to draw at Salford on Monday, again letting in a second minute goal, fighting back to lead and then throwing it away to a free header, you get the feeling they will be much more charged up for the play-offs than their predecessors.
They are in form and look strong home and away – but they will need a little luck as does every successful side.
TV replays clearly showed Salford’s Matty Lund rake his studs down the back of Matty Longstaff’s ankle on Monday.
If there had been VAR he would have been off and Stags would have faced 10 men, probably won and have automatic in their own hands. Instead he went on to net the equaliser that just may prolong the season for Nigel Clough’s men.