Time to allow David Flitcroft to strengthen Mansfield Town squad
It had to happen sooner or later, of course, and Mansfield Town's first away league defeat for nine months should not be the signal for panic.
Yes, the surrender of the club record 15-match unbeaten away record — not to mention a 17-match unbeaten run home and away, the best since 1976 — came about in disappointing fashion.
In-form Carlisle United claimed their sixth successive win with a 3-2 victory that perhaps flattered the Stags, who were second best for long periods.
Not enough chances were created by the amber and blue, who can feel slightly hard done by over the dismissal of Neal Bishop.
The experienced midfielder should not have given the officials the chance to send him off in the tunnel at half-time after a clash with Carlisle’s Danny Grainger — but by all accounts Grainger should also have seen red in the tunnel if not for the challenge on the pitch that led to the eventual flashpoint.
However, the way the 10 men battled hard for 45 minutes in the second half, and eventually came close to salvaging an unlikely point, must have given manager David Flitcroft heart for the four-month promotion battle that lies ahead.
The challenge now is how the club responds to the setback.
It was a bad day at the office — hopefully nothing more than that.
Easter Monday last April and a 2-1 loss at Luton Town — the cub’s last away league loss before Saturday — seems a long time ago and it would be nice if the Stags could go another nine months before tasting defeat on the road again.
In reality that is probably unlikely, but the Stags form home and away in recent weeks means they should remain full of confidence.
They hve been playing good, attacking and entertaining football, showing a mentality that if they can’t win they will make sure they don’t lose.
Every side loses a match and every unbeaten run comes to an end sooner or later — look at the Premier League and how Manchester City responded to setbacks by inflicting a first defeat on Liverpool.
The big test for the Stags now is the visit of Yeovil to One Call Stadium on Saturday. In fact, they have two home games in four days with the rearranged match against Crawley following quickly on — the perfect chance to maintain their push for promotion.
As well as making sure his players retain their self belief, manager Flitcroft also faces another big challenge — navigating the January transfer window.
Increasing speculation that the likes of Championship clubs Preston North End and promotion-chasing West Bromwich Albion will make a bid for star wingman CJ Hamilton have yet to materialise — and there is also a concern that Nottingham Forest could recall leading scorer Tyler Walker from his successful loan.
Alongside retaining those two key players, Flitcroft, for me, needs to strengthen his squad. Another central defender would not go amiss but, more importantly, I would like to see another striker come in with Craig Davies on the long-term injury list with an ankle problem.
If the Stags hold on to Hamilton and Tyler, and add to the squad, it could be the next four months will go down as the biggest in the club’s history since their return to the Football League.