Wembley heartbreak: The fans’ verdict

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HANDS on heads and a tear or two being shed were a common sight among the thousands of devastated Stags fans inside Wembley at the end of Saturday’s FA Trophy final.

Just moments earlier and with a penalty shoot-out seconds away, the dream of winning a second cup final at the home of football was still very much on.

.The FA Carlsberg Trophy final Stags v Darlington'It all over

.The FA Carlsberg Trophy final Stags v Darlington'It all over

Who would be the modern-day Kevin Kent or Kevin Hitchcock?

The answer was to be no one.

Instead, Chris Senior’s last gasp winner for Darlington left the amber and blue army with thoughts of what could have been and in many cases broken hearts.

As they made their way out of the Wembley exits, some put on a brave face and reflected on a great day out - while others pointed the finger of blame at manager Duncan Russell.

Among the travelling thousands was the proud family of Mansfield substitute Ashley Cain, who had a limited role due to picking up an injury in training on Friday.

They had travelled down from Bedworth, near Nuneaton, to watch him make an appearance from the bench in extra time.

His grandfather, Patrick Smith, said: “We thought Ashley should have been brought on a quarter of an hour earlier, he might have made a bit more difference - but that’s me, I’m his grandad. It was a good game and I enjoyed it.”

Said Ashley’s aunt, Michelle Bucknall: “It was a very close game. Towards the end I thought Mansfield looked a little bit tired and needed some fresh legs. That probably gave Darlington just the advantage.

“(Ashley) made a good impact on the game when he came on. We are proud of Mansfield.”

And Ashley’s uncle, Alan Smith said: “It was a good game played in the right spirit but I reckon Darlington had the better chances and more of the game. They were the better side. For a young man in the family to have played on the Wembley turf is a great thing and we just hope he’s here again some time.”

But for some long-suffering fans, they believe now is the time for changes at Field Mill.

Season ticket holder Joanne Rodda, of Mansfield, said she hoped the game would be Russell’s last at the helm - criticising the manager for not making any changes until extra time.

“We want him gone now so we can build a new team for next season,” she said. “I’d like to see Dave Penney given a go - anybody but Russell. I’ll have a go!”

She was also critical of Russell for Luke Medley and Mark Preece’s unavailability. The duo were deemed ineligible by the FA because they were on loan during the semi-final dates.

“He doesn’t really know what to do as a manager, that’s the problem,” she added. “We could have had more players available if he’d have handled the administration properly. We had two players that could have played if he’d have brought them back off loan a lot sooner.

“We could have had Luke Medley for starters, he would have run them ragged. He has to go and if he stays as manager I will not renew my season ticket.”

Steve Otter, who has watched the Stags for 50 years, was also far from impressed.

He said: “Mansfield were rubbish going forward. We want different tactics and better players. It has got to be (Russell’s) last game. The tactics have gone - the goalkeeper was the man of the match for me. They have got to get the club sorted from the grassroots really and build from there.”

But Brian Cotton, of Warsop, felt the luck was not with Mansfield on the day.

“I think they were slightly the better side and it could have gone either way,” he said.

Andy Allsop, of Mansfield, agreed and said: “They just couldn’t score. It’s not (Russell’s) fault but he’s got to get a striker, a good striker.”

Tracy Sweetmore said she would have preferred to have lost the game on penalties, adding: “It was a good atmosphere but they were the better team.”

And Jordan Sharpe said he was not sure if Russell would be in charge next season.

He said: “I think he would be alright with a bit of help.”

Don’t miss this Wednesday’s Chad for more reaction and photos.