Mansfield Town manager Paul Cox admitted he was more than happy to take results over performance as his side battled it out for three more precious safety points in today’s 2-1 home win over Newport County.
A scrappy, physical game looked to be heading for a 1-1 draw between these old Conference adversaries until Anthony Howell popped up with a last minute winner and Cox said: “The points were priceless as I don’t think we played very well in the second half.
“Overall it was a scrappy game, There was a blustery wind and the ball was bobbling all over the pitch.
“We came back out and conceded a sloppy goal, though I thought it was a foul on Alan Marriott.
“Then they camped in our half for 20-plus minutes, so to win it was excellent.
“I am not bothered about performances now, just the results.”
The game ended up with seven yellow cards and both sides arguing with referee Andy Davies at the end of an ill-tempered affair.
“It was a tough one for the referee, though I thought there were times he might have made wiser decisions,” said Cox.
“It was two teams who have a history going back to our Conference days, and both teams knew there was something to play for.”
Stags are now eight points clear of the bottom two, but Cox knows they are far from safe yet with 11 games still to play.
He said: “It’s going to go on. It won’t happen overnight. We just have to forget about what is going on around us and concentrate on ourselves.
“I was pleased with our endeavour and our work ethic today. But the quality wasn’t there. Both teams struggled to put two passes together.
“But the boys have got a bit of character.
“These are the games you just have to grind it out.”
Match winner Howell has taken some stick from the fans this season, so he was delighted to celebrate with them after his 90th minute winner.
“Anthony is a tough boy,” said Cox. “He is mentally tough, keeps on going and got his just rewards today.”
Both keepers were blamed for the first two goals with Marriott spilling a long Tom Naylor free kick for the equaliser after Elliott Parish had dropped a Ryan Tafazolli header over the line.
“It’s a bit unfair for goalkeepers as they pull off great saves and get a pat on the back,” said Cox. “They will probably show it on the TV a few times and he will feel he should have done better.
“But we have got to be greedy, bite, scratch and take anything we can get to make sure we are in this league next season. That’s how we have got to be. That’s our goal and the sooner we nail that the better.
“It is a tough league and I hope we can come back after the summer a bit wiser and a bit cuter, and I am sure this learning curve will prove beneficial for us.”
He added: “The supporters make a massive difference when they get behind you, especially in the second half. It gives players impetus and confidence.”
One minus for Stags was that defender Ritchie Sutton came off with a tweaked hamstring and will need assessing properly to see how long it might keep him out.
The result today makes it just one win in 12 games now for Newport and boss Justin Edinburgh said: “That late goal was very difficult to take. We should have dealt with it better. We dominated that second half. But we have got to make sure that when you don’t win it, you don’t lose it.
“We have now got to show a quick response. That was not good enough.
“When we had a spell after the goal we should have been more clinical. We got into wide areas and good areas but we were not clinical enough to open the door and get that second goal.
“We bossed it and restricted them to very little on their home pitch. But we then paid the price for not dealing with a second phase ball.
“We are lacking that bit of belief. They were there for the taking but we didn’t capitalise on that.
“It’s been our story since Christmas and only ourselves can turn it around.
“We have lost momentum – it’s as simple as that and we have to deal with it.
“We know there are reasons. You can’t just turn it on and off when you feel like it.
“We need to start showing a bit of consistency as we can’t keep relying on teams below us.
We need to stand up and be counted as a group.
“Thankfully the games are coming thick and fast so we can’t dwell on this result too long.”