Mansfield Town boss David Flitcroft hopes tonight’s 1-0 home defeat by Bury will spur his side on for Saturday’s big local derby and see off any rust from a 10-day lay-off.
The Stags turned in an uncharacteristically poor showing as they were knocked out of the Checkatrade Trophy with ex-Stag Stephen Dawson sent off and Conrad Logan saving a penalty in a thrilling finish.
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A strong Mansfield side clearly showed they had not played for a while but Flitcroft said: “I am not making any excuses whatsoever.
“When my team players well I will say so, but when they don’t I will admit it.
“It wasn’t good enough. In the first half we never got anywhere near Bury.
“They moved the ball around really well – as good as MK Dons did when they came here. We didn’t get up close and personal. We had no punch or zip in our play.
“When we did we were not composed enough to hurt them with any quality.
“We didn’t lay a finger on them first half and they deservedly went 1-0 up with a well-taken goal.
“I had no qualms at half-time as they were the better team.”
Stags went from three at the back to a back four after three half-time changes and were improved.
But the manager said: “It’s no good having a second half resurgence as you have wasted 45 minutes of your life when you should have been stamping your authority.
“Second half we moved the ball better and caused them more problems, though we didn’t work the keeper enough.
“The injection of CJ Hamilton gave them a problem down that side and we nearly got in a couple of times while the keeper pulled off a good save.
“But even after (Stephen) Dawson’s sending-off, we were loose and gave the ball away and it was only Logan’s good penalty save that’s kept it at 1-0.”
He added: “It’s really disappointing to get knocked out and lose the opportunity of getting to Wembley this season.
“It is a wonderful place and we aspired to do that this season.
“We will start work tomorrow and make sure we are 40 per cent better than that come Saturday.”
Flitcroft believes the lay-off disrupted their rhythm and was delighted he played a strong side.
“It certainly looked like it first half. We looked a yard off the pace from our usual self,” he said.
“I am so glad I played the players I played to get that time out out of their system.
“What I do know now is that I have a group of players that enjoy being in the rhythm of Saturday/Tuesday football.
“That’s where they have found their form.
“I was gutted to have the game called off against Crawley last Tuesday.
“I am not too sure if the team tonight would have been as strong had we got the Crawley game in.
“Once that was off it was important with the derby game coming up that we got the players back in the rhythm of work.
“I hope they will now be absolutely en pointe for Saturday.
“Training has been good this week and I didn’t see that first half coming, so to say I am disappointed is an understatement.”
Stags have a concern over skipper Krystian Pearce, who came off at the interval, and winger CJ Hamilton, who has been ill.
“KP was feeling something in his groin strain at half-time. So we decided to be cautious with Saturday’s game coming up,” said Flitcroft.
“CJ has had a lot of illness and he wasn’t well against Lincoln.
“He has had a bad abscess and hasn’t been eating properly.
“He has dropped quite a bit of weight so we have to make sure we get him right. So we only wanted him to play 45 minutes and we need to make sure we get as much fuel in him as possible.”