LOMAS ON STAGS: Mansfield dream lives on, but favours are needed

Picture Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD, Football, EFL Sky Bet League Two, Chesterfield v Mansfield Town, Proact Stadium, 14/04/18, K.O 1pm''Mansfield's Mal Benning celebrates his winning goal''Andrew Roe>>>>>>>07826527594
Picture Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD, Football, EFL Sky Bet League Two, Chesterfield v Mansfield Town, Proact Stadium, 14/04/18, K.O 1pm''Mansfield's Mal Benning celebrates his winning goal''Andrew Roe>>>>>>>07826527594

Saturday’s much-needed win at Chesterfield has set up a thrilling finish to the season for Mansfield Town.

A derby day defeat would really have been the end of Stags’ lingering play-off ambitions.

Now, with just three games left for David Flitcroft’s men, the dream remains alive and it could all go down to the wire - as previous manager Steve Evans predicted it would at Christmas.

Evans also said this season would be a rollercoaster.

What he omitted to mention was that he would be getting off the ride before it ended.

It’s hard to emphasise just how badly that affected the club.

It’s left Stags with something between a hangover and the after-effects of a relationship break-up!

After a long period of firing on all cylinders most of the time, suddenly Stags were pressing down on the kickstart and twisting the throttle and the engine simply refused to start.

However, that engine roared back into life in style at Chesterfield on Saturday.

Once again, like five years before, the sun shone, the traditional insults were traded and Stags once again left with the scoreboard 1-0 in their favour at the end of an afternoon to remember.

What a place for David Flitcroft to get the monkey off his back and finally celebrate his first win as Mansfield manager at the ninth attempt.

It was been long overdue and increasingly worrying, but there were valid reasons and you knew that someone reputed as an excellent coach had not become a bad one overnight.

But those recent misfirings have still left Mansfield in a queue for those hallowed top seven places and it’s not in their own hands – even if they win their final three games.

First and foremost they will probably need to do just that – take nine points out of nine, which would see a drastic change in form from recent fumblings.

Port Vale and Crawley Town at home, sandwiching a slightly tougher trip to Yeovil Town shouldn’t hold much fear for a side with League One aspirations.

But, in a must-win situation, the immense pressure on mind and body will not help, and ‘easier’ games like these can become very difficult against sides with nothing but pride to play for.

With the top five places pretty much sewn up now, there seems to be four sides chasing two places with Stags currently in the seventh and final place for the play-offs, though having played more games than their two chief rivals – Coventry City and Lincoln City.

However, take a look at the games those rivals have left to see how close this is going to be!

Coventry sit sixth, a point ahead of Mansfield with a game in hand and they have Stevenage at home this Saturday.

The big one comes next Tuesday (24th) when they host rivals Lincoln City.

Cheltenham away and Morecambe at home then complete their run-in.

Main rivals Lincoln have two games in hand but the first of those, tomorrow night (Tuesday) at home to a Wycombe side chasing top three automatic promotion will be tough in the extreme.

Their ‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’ display in Saturday’s defeat at Port Vale, following that superb Wembley Checkatrade Trophy triumph the weekend before tells the tale of how much that took out of them and there’s not much time to recover again before in-form Wycombe arrive, the Chairboys having taken 13 of their last 15 available away points.

Colchester are Lincoln’s visitors on Saturday, but then come massively tough fixtures away at Coventry and title-chasing Accrington Stanley inside five days before a final day visit of Yeovil Town.

Stags and Lincoln are equal on goal difference, but Flitcroft’s men have scored five more goals, which could be a crucial factor at the death.

Three points further back with only three games to play are Flitcroft’s former club Swindon Town, hoping the jitters may get to the sides above them and leave a gap they can exploit.

The Robins have Grimsby at home and Colchester away before a last day of the season home clash with the immaculate Accrington.

The permutations are endless and likely to have you reaching for the paracetamol.

In reality Mansfield can and must take nine points from their last three games and hope Wycombe and Coventry can do them a favour against Lincoln so they can join the Sky Blues for those do or die end of season play-offs.

For most of us, it’s going to be two weeks of watching football through cracks between the fingers we have across our eyes!