Mansfield Town boss David Flitcroft has told his players they must quickly put today’s shock 2-1 home defeat by Stevenage behind them and get ready for their promotion ‘cup final’ at rivals MK Dons next Saturday.
A 93rd minute heartbreaker from Ilias Chair left Stags needing to win at MK next weekend to be sure of promotion.
Flitcroft said players were entitled to mope or reflect tomorrow but on Monday he wanted to see it behind them.
“It’s now up to me and the way I act around them,” he said.
“If they want to spend some time moping around with their families that’s up to them. But when we get to Monday I don’t want any ‘victims’ or poor body language. I want a real galvanised spirit come Monday.
“We are in for one hell of a week and I will pick the team for MK on the training. So I want to see competition and that enthusiasm and love for football.
“We are in a great position. It’s in our hands. We now have to go down there and give a phenomenal account of ourselves.”
Mansfield know the enormity of the game at MK.
“We are preparing like it’s a cup final. I said that to them straight away,” he said.
“All the conundrums are done. We know what we know. It’s one last game and it’s like a play-off final game – that’s what it’s come to.
“I have to prepare a squad for that. They will need to be mentally strong for the occasion. It will be one hell of a game and one hell of a week.
“They were on the floor at the end. They care and have cared all season. They have given everything and today it wasn’t enough.
“The only way to get them back on firm ground is to give them support. They know what is required.”
Mansfield had come from behind to level and were pressing for a winner when they were caught out on the counter-attack at the death.
“That was a missed opportunity,” he said.
“You don’t know how these games pan out.
“At half-time I was really happy and really comfy under difficult circumstances with the wind. It was important to come in with a clean sheet.
“I said at half-time let’s turn the heat up. We won corner after corner, penned them in. Then got caught on the sucker.
“We fought back to 1-1 with a great opportunist goal from Tyler Walker.
“We knew how important the wind was going to be to maybe seal it. But when we really went chasing it, we got done on the counter in the 93rd minute.”
The players lay shattered and gutted on the pitch at the end and Flicroft said: “It hurts. Out of that hurt I will make sure we have a resolve. We need to understand why we’ve not won today and take that down the motorway next week.
“I think we did enough to win it in the second half.
“We stepped on the gas but just didn’t finish them off.
“The fans gave us everything to try to win it. But the second goal just takes that energy out of you.
“We didn’t get the win we were desperate for.
“But the players now have to think forward. You can’t think about what might have been. They’ve had that chance today and not taken it.
“So let’s move on and look forward.
“I don’t have to tell the lads how big this game is. They know that. It just comes down to a group of players that are focused on delivering one final massive effort.
“We have to be better at every aspect of our game. If we are we will offer excellent competition for MK Dons.”