PAUL Cox admitted last night’s shock 2-1 FA Trophy defeat at NPL Matlock Town had helped him make his mind up on the future of some of his players.
With one eye on the Lincoln City FA Cup tie this Saturday, the Mansfield Town manager made six changes to his side.
The XI he put out could and should have beaten the part-time minnows and they dominated the first half to a huge extent, leading 1-0 at half-time and forcing 10 corners.
However, for some reason they completely lost the plot after the break as Matlock forced them onto the back foot, levelled and, after Gary Roberts had been needlessly sent off for a second booking, grabbed a late winner.
Cox said: “I am gutted. For the first half-hour there was only one team in it with numerous chances bouncing around the box and we scored a good goal. No one could argue we had bossed the game. But they didn’t follow it through.
“They were warned at half-time that the first 15 minutes were important like at Slough. But they didn’t heed the warning. So we got what we deserved.
“It answered a few questions about players for me. I made six changes as, with so many games coming up, I felt a few needed a breather.
“You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Our main objective this season is promotion. So I believe I made the right decision to make changes tonight for the long term goals.
“If I had put the first XI out tonight we could have lost and then been tired for Saturday and got knocked out of the FA Cup as well.
“Tonight was an opportunity for others to come in and stake their claim. This was the place to do it as it was a big game with a lot at stake.
“It was a great chance for players to prove a point and push it right up my nose that they had not not been in the side. I have some big decisions to make on players’ futures and I had some questions answered tonight.”
He added: “I wanted to see desire and application to play for this club and wanting to be successful. I have learned a lot tonight. I will sit down tomorrow and analyse it and see what is the best way for me to go forward with this group of players tonight.
“This side has more ability than the side of last season. But last season’s side I am 100 per cent confident would have won here tonight.
“This is a big club and we need to maintain standards like last season, and how we have of late. I don’t care if we are playing Matlock or Man United, I want that hunger and players who will put in that performance to win a football match.
“The goals we conceded were absolutely criminal and the game should have been put out of sight in the first half. A weakness of character cost us. Matlock should not have been allowed into the game.”
Cox was clearly furious about Roberts’ 77th minute dismissal.
“The sending-off was two bookings and I am really annoyed, so I would rather not speak about it at the minute,” he said.
“But what really annoys me too is that Junior Daniel nearly got his leg broken and there was no booking for that. There are massive inconsistencies in terms of referees.
“Now we have a massive game ahead on Saturday, I hope the boys have recovered and we can get that win, as they have been doing well for us of late. I want to get tonight out of my system as quickly as possible.”
Stewards had to keep angry Stags fans away from Cox at the end with one fan managing to clamber onto the roof of the dug-out to vent his spleen in the manager’s face. But Cox said: “It’s been happening for quite a few weeks.
“It happens. People are going to get upset. I would have been upset if I had been in the stadium.
“People just want to make their opinions known. They are passionate people. It’s football.
“People were crooning about us last Tuesday when we won at Macclesfield. But I never get too high or too low after results. We won’t play well every week and we won’t win every single game. All I ask is a bit of application, which we showed in the first half.”
It certainly seems Cox is ready to freshen up his squad for the promotion push and he added: “I will be looking hard between now and January.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see out squad needs a bit of quality adding. That’s not just about technically gifted footballers. We need a bit more mental toughness and a bit of ruthlessness.”