Mansfield Town’s players have been warned that boss John Dempster is expecting a big reaction against Stevenage on Saturday after their midweek capitulation.
But, despite the visitors having an even worse injury crisis than the Stags with a full team of players out, only one point and no league goals scored so far, Dempster knows Stevenage will still be physical and dangerous.
Leading 2-0 against Leyton Orient on Tuesday, Stags went in at half-time to see themselves temporarily sat top of the League Two table.
But, they somehow contrived to lose the game 3-2 and Dempster said it was unacceptable and lessons had to be learned.
“Even if we’d still been top at the table at full-time we’d have had to be very careful with that as there’s only been four games played,” he said.
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“But the players and I were very disappointed after the game as we felt we should have had enough in the locker to walk away with all three points.
“The second half performance was unacceptable. The players know that. The staff know that. Now it’s important we learn and move on quickly from it as we have another big game on Saturday.
“You have to learn – myself included – but you don’t want to hold onto the disappointment too long. You have got to use the negativity to fuel you inside your stomach and also take the positives.”
He added: “The atmosphere we created in the first half was one we want to create consistently at home – it was exceptional.
“But equally we take full responsibility for the second half performance - myself included.
“The game of football is an unpredictable one. Strange things happen at all levels. But from a professional point of view we can’t allow that to happen. Walking in 2-0 up at half-time you expect to walk away with all three points.”
Now Dempster wants to see his players stand up and be counted.
“I want a strong, positive reaction from everyone involved,” he said.
“We are a collective. We need to move forward together.” Dempster will be without several key players with others facing fitness tests, though does welcome Matt Preston back from suspension.
“We are nursing the wounds we’ve got and our numbers are low,” he said.
“We are being supported well by our U21 players, but we’ve got to make sure we get our best players out on the pitch when we can.
“Our medical team are working very hard and we’re using more than one treatment table!
“Stevenage are similar to ourselves. They have got some injury problems. They are going to be thin on the ground and it’s important we look where their weaknesses are where we can attack them.
“If there was an issue with our team from Christmas onwards it was that they didn’t score enough goals. I feel we have righted that but the goals against column is not good enough and we need to tighten that up. If we do that we will be a force.”
He added: “Dino Maamria (Stevenage boss) is renowned for getting his teams working hard. They will be very streetwise and they will come here and be very physical with us.
“We know what challenge is in front of us and it’s important we meet them head on physically.
“First and foremost we must match them when it comes to the battle and I am sure after that our quality will shine through.”