LOMAS ON MANSFIELD TOWN - Twists and turns with more to come as promotion race hots up

Picture by Gareth Williams/AHPIX.com; Football; Sky Bet League Two; Exeter City v Mansfield Town; 30/3/2019  KO 15.00; St James Park; copyright picture; Howard Roe/AHPIX.com; Stags' Alex MacDonald battles to bring the ball out of defence under pressure from Exeter's Jake Taylor
Picture by Gareth Williams/AHPIX.com; Football; Sky Bet League Two; Exeter City v Mansfield Town; 30/3/2019 KO 15.00; St James Park; copyright picture; Howard Roe/AHPIX.com; Stags' Alex MacDonald battles to bring the ball out of defence under pressure from Exeter's Jake Taylor

We were promised twists and turns in the last leg of the promotion race - and we certainly got them on Saturday.

Hands up who saw Stags ending their poor run by smashing four past rivals Exeter away from home while Bury were being well beaten at home by Swindon and MK Dons needed a dramatic late goal to win at Forest Green?

To top all that, relegation candidates Macclesfield drew at title hopefuls Lincoln City.

Doubtless it won’t be the only topsy turvy day to come as Stags now try to make up the gap into those top three automatic promotion places.

Tomorrow night (Tuesday) Stags have no game – but it’s a huge night of football that Mansfield fans will watch with close interest.

Bury play their game game in hand at home to Cambridge United while on-fire Tranmere Rovers travel to Oldham to try to make it eight wins in a row and extend their unbeaten run to 10, taking them above Mansfield into fourth place at the same time.

Naturally a home win is expected of Bury, but it was last weekend too.

Cambridge, now under the reins of former Stags star Colin Calderwood, had drawn three in a row before Saturday’s home defeat by Colchester United.

If Cambridge are well beaten then hopefully it will at least soften them up for their trip to the One Call Stadium on Saturday.

Wins for Bury and Tranmere tomorrow could leave Stags in fifth, a point behind Tranmere in fourth, three points behind third-placed MNK Dons and five points adrift of second-placed Bury with six to play for everyone.

This weekend looks absolutely huge for Mansfield as, with Dons at home to table-topping Lincoln and Bury facing a tester at Carlisle United, things could change dramatically.

And let’s not forget Tranmere, who have fantastic momentum and are away at Newport County.

Stags then get another bite of the cherry the weekend after with a game at mid-table Northampton Town while rivals MK Dons are at in-form rivals Tranmere where something simply has to give.

Stags’ display at Exeter on Saturday was chalk and cheese to the home loss to Crewe.

That missing hunger and energy from seven days earlier was back to the fore after a superb week’s work by manager David Flitcroft.

You can coach players technical points all week and keep them super-fit.

But sometimes that’s not enough and you have to climb inside people’s heads to press certain buttons, and his psychology this week was simply inspirational.

Getting players to talk about who they do what they do for and why in front of each other stirred deep emotions as did a collage of players’ families for the dressing room wall.

Flitcroft again reminded them that there are few chances in your career to make history and add promotion to your CV - and his words were certainly listened to.

After a poor run of games since all the January speculation about a big money move, suddenly CJ Hamilton was back to the form that had big clubs watching him at the turn of the year.

It underlined how important it is to the side to have him firing on all cylinders.

Tyler Walker, who amazingly still has his critics, was also in superb form and added another brace to make it 23 goals with six more games to reach the magic 30-mark.

It was also interesting to learn that Jorge Grant, so impressive in his first few games after joining on loan, but less so in recent weeks, had been left at home for treatment on a persistent ankle problem that had been restricting him.

He had taken a lot of stick from some supporters for below-par games, but the fact he was carrying an injury and soldiering on for the shirt could change a few views on his displays.

Being dropped to the bench for a game won’t have done Jacob Mellis any harm in trying to spark a return to his best form at the perfect time.

But Will Tomlinson and Alex MacDonald were perfect replacements in midfield, adding the right amount of bite and energy for a fixture like Exeter away and will take some shifting.

The only concern was a slight hamstring injury to Neal Bishop.

A frontrunner for the Player of the Season award, Stags will hope Bishop can shake that off this week to remain the midfield lynchpin and the catalyst for everything this side does right when they hit form.

With such huge games on the horizon, if there is any doubt he must be left out on Saturday and given an extra week to recover as his contribution is priceless to the cause.