Despite a magnificent display, Mansfield Town slid even closer to the relegation trapdoor in Easter Monday’s 1-0 home defeat by title-chasing Shrewsbury Town.
Stags dominated for long spells but could not find a way through the visitors’ defence and the game was settled by a moment of luck for the Shrews five minutes after the break as a Mark Ellis cross from the right deflected up and over Lenny Pidgeley with interval sub Tyrone Barnett on hand on the line to make sure it crossed.
It was a real kick in the teeth for Adam Murray’s men who deserved a point on the day against a very good Shrewsbury side that went top for a couple of hours in the early kick-off before Burton leapfrogged them back to the top by the end of the afternoon.
Click HERE to read a full match report,
Click HERE to read manager Adam Murray’s views on the game.
It was a fifth straight win for the visitors. But for Mansfield it was a fourth defeat on the trot and saw them slide down two places to 20th.
Thankfully the four clubs below them all lost and the gap to the drop zone remains six points, now with five games left to play.
But the pressure is massive to pull off that elusive win that could all but secure League Two football next year.
In a game of few opportunities at either end, the visitors defended for their lives as the Stags dominated for almost the whole game, Lenny Pidgeley having no other real saves to make apart from the goal.
Teenage midfielder Jack Thomas marked his recall with another all-action man of the match display while Jamie McGuire, also restored to the side, gave a courageous skipper’s performance, despite pain from an ankle injury sustained during the game. Twice he produced absolutely crucial tackles to halt the visitors.
A long trip to promotion-chasing Plymouth Argyle this weekend is unlikely to be any easier and the home clash with second from bottom Tranmere next Tuesday is starting to take on gargantuan proportions.
Ricky Ravenhill, Oliver and McGuire will all need to shake off Easter injuries to make the journey.
And with Stags’ main problem still being goalscoring - the joint lowest in the division with Hartlepool – will there be a place on the bench for Liam Hearn at Plymouth, should he come through more midweek reserve action unscathed in his comeback from injury.
A return to the Conference remains the nightmare scenario. But a fairytale end to a season of misery for Hearn is not out of the question.