After a dreadful result on Saturday saw their poor run of form continue, Mansfield Town have been left hoping on an Easter miracle.
It is certainly going to take a monumental effort by the fading Stags to even stay in the play-off zone by the end of a gruelling Easter programme.
After losing your manager and failing to win in five games to all but end your top three automatic promotion dream, the last thing any club would want is games against top two Accrington Stanley and Luton Town in four monumental days.
CLICK HERE TO SEE VIDEO OF STAGS’ DEFEAT AT FOREST GREEN
Four games and four weeks ago the Stags had every chance of the top three and seemed on course for a glory season to remember.
But how football can change so quickly and be so cruel.
Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at struggling Forest Green looks to have been hugely damaging in so many ways.
It saw Stags plummet to seventh in the table and now only two points away from dropping out of the play-off places altogether while top scorer Danny Rose limped off injured and influential skipper Krystian Pearce was sent off.
Everyone knew how much rested on this game, but a lacklustre second half that saw the game slip away was simply inexplicable and inexcusable.
Loanee Rovers keeper Bradley Collins was given the easiest of afternoons as Mansfield shockingly failed to muster a single shot on target.
The end result of that failure was the gap between Stags and third place stretched to seven points with only eight games to play.
So who is to blame? Angry fans are split with some saying the players have never been good enough and others even saying new boss David Flitcroft should go and was the wrong choice.
But the very same players were doing very well a month ago and had a great chance of the top three while Flitcroft, who has already taken Bury out of this division as a manager, had Swindon firmly in contention for the play-offs when he switched camps.
For me the sudden departure of Evans is the only reason for the seismic shift in Mansfield’s season.
No matter what the players or Flitcroft said about focus and solidarity after the change of manager it was always going to upset the apple cart.
Evans brought many of these players in and sold them a dream before jumping ship to leave them to paddle shellshocked alone without him.
To then expect a new manager to come in, get to know his players’ strengths and weaknesses and the best formations for different situations immediately was asking for the moon.
It took ‘promotion machine’ Evans long enough to weigh it all up before he got his side in top gear.
Now Flitcroft must be given that time too.
Unfortunately that time is now very short as far as this season is concerned.
Four games in and with just three draws to his name so far, Flitcroft will be bitterly disappointed by the points return under his brief tenure.
So the last thing he needs right now is two enormous games in four days that could make or break his season already.
Good Friday’s visitors Accrington have long been a thorn in Mansfield’s side.
It has now been 13 Football League games without a win against them for Mansfield.
In fact Mansfield’s last win over Stanley came in their previous incarnation back in March 1961 before becoming defunct.
It is a dreadful record and the law of averages says Mansfield are long overdue a win.
However, Stanley have lost just once in 14 games, won away at Luton to knock them off top spot, and are absolutely on fire.
Mansfield then need to quickly get their breath back and head to Kenilworth Road to face a Luton side whose engine has spluttered a little bit of late but is still firmly on the road to League One after months of topping the table.
Six points for Mansfield would be an Easter miracle.
However, anything less and Lincoln City and Swindon Town are snapping at their heels waiting to make the most of any slip-ups.
Lincoln, just two points behind in eighth place, don’t have it easy with a Good Friday visit of play-off rivals Exeter City followed by a haul up to Carlisle United, still in the hunt themselves, on Easter Monday.
Swindon, without manager Flitcroft, have lost three and only won once since he left to see their hopes also fade.
On Friday they host Morecambe before an Easter Monday match at Crawley Town.
With the quality of sides now ahead of them in the queue for the top three and so few games left, I believe the top three is now gone for Mansfield.
You can’t take four points from 15 available at this stage of the season and expect to get away with it.
That leaves only the lottery of the play-offs.
With local rivals Notts County also stuttering of late with only two wins in seven, what price a Mansfield v Notts County derby at Wembley in May?
Their defeat at Chesterfield yesterday was a real body blow to Kevin Nolan’s men.
A few weeks ago Stags fans were dreaming of all but clinching a top three place by relegating Chesterfield in their derby at their bitter local rivals on 14th April.
Instead the Spireites’ star is on the rise with seven points from the last 12 available giving them hope of staying up.
The script for that Chesterfield v Mansfield game seems to be getting rewritten by the week and it could end up being completely the other way round to what was hoped.
All the pre-season hype, all the anticipation and all the hard work done so far now all lies on what happens over what will be a thrilling Easter that could end with hope or heartbreak.