On a day when the veterans of Mansfield Town’s 1974/75 Division Four title-winning side were paraded before the Stags’ faithful, boss Adam Murray said the fans had also had a glimpse of an exciting future.
Despite the 2-1 home defeat by Portsmouth, not helped by the dismissal of Ritchie Sutton after only 50 seconds, Murray’s youthful side, including five players aged 21 and under, battled well.
All credit to the young boys, they were superb
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Jack Thomas (18) picked up four Player of the Season awards pre-match and then bagged a spectacular first senior goal in a man of the match display.
Murray said: “All credit to the young boys, they were superb. Today was about certain things and I got what I wanted.
“The young ones couldn’t have done any more. Our average age today was under 23.
“They are going to make mistakes. That’s always going to happen. But they are mistakes made in trying to do the right thing.
“It was a great experience for them. It was another ridiculous performance from Jack Thomas. For Joe Fitzpatrick on his debut to be dropped into centre half after 45 seconds, it was daunting enough to be playing his own position, so to go out there and do a job like that was superb.
“I said to Jack before the game that he was due a goal after all his good performances. Then he scored the goal of the season in the last home game of the season.
“He should be an inspiration to everyone. He is on a different level and we should be proud of out football club to have someone like that.”
With Sutton sent off as last man for a foul in the box, Matt Tubbs put away the penalty in the second minute, Led Wallace doubling the advantage after the break before Thomas gave hope with his reply. Murray said: “It summed up our season didn’t it? It was the perfect picture of our season in one game. It was our whole season in 90 minutes.
“We had enough chances to win it with 10 men but we came up short. In the changing room we have killed ourselves again.
“You couldn’t write the script. To be honest it was a tricky one to see where we are but I heard it was a bit harsh, but he shouldn’t have got into that situation.
“We all want to put this season in the past as quickly as we can. It’s been a long journey.
“The planning has already started for next season. I know what we need to do and, along with the fans, I don’t want to go through this again. I don’t want to have to suffer this pain again.
“I am more than confident I can build a competitive side. Don’t get me wrong, there will be a hell of a lot of changes in the summer.
“Yes, we have a core of good, young lads. But you can’t heap all the pressure on them. We will bring in a lot of new faces to help them.
“I can’t tell you my frustration and anger at the minute. It’s torn my heart out these last few weeks. We’ve not been good enough. But I will put it right.”
Pompey caretaker boss Gary Waddock said: “A win’s a win and it’s great to get one away from home. It was something for the fans to go home with. We played extremely well in the first half and controlled it. We identified an area where we could get at them and it worked straight away with the penalty.
“I was pleased with the first half, but we made it harder for ourselves in the second half. We have told the lads they need to manage a game better.
“In the final third we didn’t take enough care when we were in possession.
“With the amount of possession we had we didn’t create enough chances. That was the one disappointing thing.
“We had chances to kill the game off and didn’t take them. We have to be ruthless when those chances come up. If we had, it would have been a lot more comfortable towards the final whistle.”