THERE can be no greater pain for a football fan than seeing their team relegated after a disastrous season. And it is perhaps that bit worse when the relegation sees your club consigned to the ignomy of non-league football after 77 years of proud Football League history.
It was this sad fate which finally fell upon the struggling Mansfield Town side on 26th April 2008, when a freak goal following a goalkeeping blunder by Jason White saw Rotherham United steal all three points and leave Stags all but relegated.
And their demise down to the Blue Square Premier was officially sealed three days later when Chester City picked up the point they needed to confirm their own survival and send Mansfield Town down with a 0-0 draw at home to Stockport County.
It is a relegation which still hurts hard for BBC Radio Nottingham pundit and life-long Stags fan Martin Shaw, who said: “It was an horrendous error and one which Jason White will never be forgiven for.
“It was a very strange goal to concede. Jamie Yates was by the away dug out and only just over the halfway line. It was a terrible goal to concede, one of the worst I have ever seen, but it was the most important goal conceded in the club’s history because it sent us down and cost us our Football League status.
“Getting relegated was devastating for the town and everyone connected with Mansfield Town Football Club. It is certainly harder to get back into the Football League that getting relegated from it.
He added: “When you look back at the team we had that year it is hard to think that we got relegated. For virtually all of the season our central defenders were Jake Buxton and Alex Baptiste, who went on to play in the Championship and Premier League respectively. We had the goals of Micky Boulding and some good players.
“Throughout the season we had glimmers of hope every now and again where we thought we would be ok, but it just wasn’t to be. The Rotherham game was an awful day for the club, which has a very proud history.”
Paul Holland’s beleagured Stags had gone into the game knowing a draw would give them the chance to overtake Dagenham and Redbrige and complete the great escape when the two sides faced each other on the last day of the season.
Stags, roared on by a superb crowd as Mansfield came out in force to back their team, had started the game brightest and came close when top-scorer Mickey Boulding’s effort was well saved by Warrington.
The visitors responded well as the tension began to take hold around Field Mill, with Cahill and Holmes inches away from putting the Millers ahead.
Just before half-time winger Nathan Arnold was denied again by the heroics of Warrington, before Matty Hamshaw’s wild effort tested nobody except the crowd.
Mickey Boulding then saw another shot blocked as Stags turned up the heat.
Despite being held at half-time a big roar went around Field Mill during the break as news began to filter through that Dagenham were losing 1-0. If things stayed the same Mansfield would just need one point away to the East London side to stay in the Football League.
But over the next 45 minutes the mood changed dramatically as the fortunes of Mansfield and Dagenham went in contrasting directions to leave Mansfield down and out.
It is a goal that no Stags fan will ever forget as Jason White amazingly watched a 40 yard effort from Jamie Yates from wide out on the touchline sail under his crossbar and into the net. It was a staggering error and sadly summed up both Mansfield Town’s and Jason White’s inconsistent season.
Boulding had a great chance to equalise but fired wide from close range after a fine cross from Arnold as time ran out on Mansfield’s seven decade Football League career.
News then filtered through to the stands that Dagenham had turned it around to lead Darlington 3-2 and the Field Mill faithful now knew that there was no hope left.
The final whistle then blew as the frustrations and tears boiled over all around the ground, with the anger director at controversial club owner Keith Haslam.
Haslam was then attacked and left requiring hospital treatment after a group of fans invaded the boardroom to bring a very ugly end to Mansfield Town’s season and Football League existence.
For Stags Supporters Association chairman Dean Foulkes, it is a defeat that will not be forgotten until Mansfield Town finally make their return to the Football League.
“The game will haunt us until we get promoted again,”he said. “The goal that we conceded was just so surreal as was the day itself.
“It was as if time had stood still with that goal. You just watched it and thought there is no way that it can go in, it just cannot happen. There was a real sense of disbelief and we were asking how any goalkeeper could concede a goal like that.
“At the end all the anger boiled over and I remember one fan crying his eyes out. He was so angry and upset, I ended up taking him home and sitting with him for a couple of hours to calm him down.
“It was unbelievably sad to get relegated and it was the end of an era for Mansfield Town. We all held on to hope that we would get a bit of luck and that something would go our way and save us but it just did not happen.”
MATCH: Mansfield Town 0 Rotherham United 1. League Two.
VENUE: Field Mill, 26th April, 2008.
MANSFIELD TOWN: White, Mullins, Jelleyman, Buxton, Briggs, D’Layrea, Arnold, Hamshaw, Dawson, Louis, M. Boulding,