RELIEVED Stags manager Paul Cox watched his revamped side beat Woking 3-1 in a thriller at the One Call Stadium.
Cox made four changes and threw in assistant boss Adam Murray for his first game since a summer operation and deadline day capture Exodus Geohaghon.
Both made huge impacts while recalled pair Matt Rhead and Louis Briscoe both scored a goal and sub Jake Speight grabbed the decisive late third as all the manager’s big decisions paid off handsomely.
Cox said: “Overall I have to be pleased with a 3-1 home win in which we had enough clear cut chances in the first half to have increased that score.
“That first half was much closer to the blueprint we have here that brought us success last year.
“But we are a work in progress and after the break we stated to look disjointed. Sometimes we need to put our foot on the ball and make a pass. At times in the second half we looked anxious.
“We had to work very hard against a good Woking side who, to be fair, even at 2-0, down threw everything at us in what was a very good match for a neutral to watch.
“Big Ex (Geohaghon) was a colossus for us at the back and made us look solid.
“It was good to see Adam Murray back too. I expected nothing less from him than that display. He might need a pair of lungs after being out but he has a big heart and that wins you things.”
Murray was clearly worn out after the game and added: “It was tiring s I thought it might be another six to eight weeks before I played.
“I need to get my match fitness back and shed a bit of timber. But to be back in the mix and get three points was massive.
“Like the gaffer I love to win football matches.
“I have been glad of the beak as last season tired me out mentally as well as physically as pushed boundaries with myself.
“We need to get back to how we were last season. We are never going to pass the ball like Barcelona and people need to buy into what we are doing. We need to stop giving the ball away to easily.”
Cards boss Garry Hill was far from downhearted by his side’s valiant display and said: “I thought the 3-1 scoreline flattered Mansfield a bit in respect of our performance.
“We are a bit naive and we are learning the hard way the difference in quality from coming up to the Conference Premier.
“We kept going to the end and you know that you have to be prepared to try to get an equaliser but could also get caught on the break which is what happened to us.
“We are learning very quickly that when you give the ball away in the last third at this level you get punished.
“I thought we started quite brightly. Then they scored after 10 minutes, although we could see pushing in the box which wasn’t given.
“But at 1-0 at half-time I would have felt quite relaxed about our chances. The timing of their second goal hurt us.
“But we still played some good football after the break and their keeper pulled off two unbelievable saves.
“Once we scored, they were rocking and he pulled off another good save before their third.
“All they had as a threat really was the long throw which is their style of play which is hard to defend and I thought we did well with overall.”