STAGS were furious with referee Steve Martin this afternoon as Stags crashed 2-1 to high-flying Kidderminster Harriers, reports John Lomas.
Teenage striker Niall O’Rafferty was left on the floor after being caught with a high boot at one end as play was allowed to go on and ex-Stags Keith Briggs lashed home Harriers’ game-clinching second goal immediately at the other end.
O’Rafferty had to go to hospital after the game.
It was a game-defining passage of play though over 90 minutes Kidderminster were worthy winners by some way as Stags flopped horribly in a dire first half.
“Everyone on the pitch and in the stands could see it was a blatant foul on Niall,” said assistant boss Paul Hall.
“The lad has entered up with ‘Enter the Dragon’ marks down his ribs!
“But the referee said it was a trailing leg and they’ve gone straight down the other end and scored against the run of play at that time. We are down to a bare minimum of players right now and things like this don’t help us. It’s cost us the game.
“Even Tom Naylor, who is the calmest man in the stadium, was upset by it.”
However, he added: “The lads didn’t turn up for the first half against a very good Kidderminster team.
“They passed it around and we didn’t get to grips with it until the second half when it was probably too late.
“You can’t keep coming back against every team in the league and you can’t start the first half in second gear against a team like Kidderminster as they will make you pay.
“Maybe this is the kick up the backside we needed. The beauty of football is you can be right up there one minute on cloud nine and then come crashing back to earth so quickly.
“Show any complacency and football will punch you in the face. Hopefully Crawley may be a bit complacent about facing us on Tuesday and we can be that punch in the face for them.”
“I don’t like to moan about officials but when you are dealing with a referee like that it makes it 100 times harder,” said skipper Adam Murray.
“We are expected to respect the referee, yet he was talking to you as if you were a four-year old.
“But we were not good enough and that’s the bottom line. In the first half we were terrible. We picked up a bit after half-time but there are no excuses – we were crap.
“They are a good team and we should have set up to stop them playing instead of trying to play our own game. Sometimes you have to change things a bit.
“As players you have to be clever enough to deal with things on the pitch and respond to change things yourselves, but we didn’t do that.
“We have some great players in our dressing room. There is no hiding that. But as an outfit and set-up they were better than us.
“I hold my hands up, that was probably my poorest game in a while. My goal meant nothing.
“We have to be professional out there and if we start like that at Crawley on Tuesday we will get turned over.
“We must stay positive and we won’t throw the towel in though, being realistic, we would have to win almost every game now to stand a chance of the play-offs.
“We are down to the bare minimum today. Young Niall went in and did his best for us but he’s only played twice in four months so it is hard for a young lad.
“There are lots of games left and it’s going to be a graft. Our injuries are killing us at the moment – we have five players missing who would be starting.”
Defender Paul Stonehouse added: “We didn’t get out of the blocks in the first half. And the decision that went against us in the first half didn’t help. It was one of those days.
“The lad’s ribs are in a mess which is the evidence that we deserved a free kick. Yet it led to a goal and we can feel hard done by.
“I don’t blame Kidderminster for carrying on as when you are a player you are told to play on until the whistle blows.
“With so many games at the moment, maybe there was some fatigue. But there are no excuses. We have to start better than that. That is the aim for Tuesday.”
Striker Luke Medley is back from his loan spell on Monday and could go straight back into Mansfield’s depleted squad for the Crawley trip the day after.