It always hurts to lose at Luton, but the journey back up the M1 on Saturday certainly felt a lot better than it did last season.
How close Stags came to getting something out a very tight clash was testament to how far Adam Murray and the club have come since the 2-0 defeat there last season.
It was fitting that the game was settled by a player of the quality of Craig Mackail-Smith, someone that every club in the division would want in their ranks.
Were it not for a serious Achille’s injury at Brighton, this former Scottish international might have gone on to much greater things.
His disallowed overhead finish in the first half sparked memories of Manchester United’s Mark Hughes at his best.
And the run he made down the centre onto a slide rule through ball from Paddy McCourt saw two of the best players on the pitch combine to finally undo Mansfield’s resolute defence.
I certainly thought the referee would send off Ryan Tafazolli for bringing him down, so it was a relief to only see a yellow card shown and Stags given the chance to make a game of it still, which they bravely did right up to the final whistle.
The referee was under heavy pressure from start to finish (as officials usually are at Kenilworth Road) and was booed from the field at half-time and full-time.
Luton fans are as streetwise as their team and call hysterically for every contact between players.
It is something away sides and referees have to overcome there and I didn’t think the official had a bad game to be honest.
Talking of being streetwise, I was thoroughly entertained on the way home by Robbie Savage on 5 Live, defending Chelsea’s Diego Costa for his success in winding up Arsenal’s Gabriel into taking a red card on Saturday.
One caller was apoplectic with rage, shouting at Savage and asking him if that is how he brings his kids up to play the game.
But, for once in my life, I have to agree with Robbie Savage (there, I’ve said it) and say the fault lay with Gabriel for being suckered into it.
This goes on at almost every football match – professional or otherwise – up and down this country every weekend.
Whether it’s right or not or whether it’s nice or not is another matter.
I spent years playing Sunday morning football and was physically and verbally abused in many games by opponents. They tried everything to wind me up from my own appearance to other members of my family -anything to put me off (I was quite a speedy winger in my early days but ended up at right back).
Most of the time I was able to laugh in their face and give them some back. Sometimes I’d wait until an opportune moment came and try to do them some damage (as much as I could with my small stature anyway).
But I accepted it as part and parcel of the game and returned every week for another dose.
Most importantly, no matter what I’d been called or who had hacked me down, I always, always held out a hand to shake at the end and forget the previous 90 minutes.
Gabriel is a highly talented footballer (even better then me to be fair) but must learn that the team is far more important than losing his rag during a personal duel.
Talking of my Sunday career, I was reminded of it watching Steve McNulty in action on Saturday at Luton.
The huge mass that is the Hatters’ skipper looks every inch like the blokes who used to kick me all over the park on chilly, frozen mornings. But, despite his bulk, he is one hell of a player and one most sides in this division would welcome to their ranks.
Finally from Luton, it seems it was a case of hello, goodbye with two of Stags’ most creative players.
Matty Blair was a welcome face on the bench after his long injury lay-off and I can’t wait to see him finally get a string of games under his belt for the club .
But the sight of Chris Clements limping off was a real blow. He has been in fantastic form so far now he has added ferocious tackling to his list of silky forward qualities and will be a big miss.
Today we welcome a Plymouth Argyle side that have won three of their four away League games to date as well as victory away to AFC Wimbledon in the JPT.
They sit third in the table and will provide Adam Murray’s men with another formidable challenge today.
Let’s hope a few of the stayaway home fans return today and are given something to cheer. Enjoy the game.