Despite the disappointment of a 3-1 local derby defeat at Notts County, Mansfield Town boss Adam Murray said he was delighted to get some game time into some of his squad players tonight.
It was their ring-rustiness that did for the Stags in the end as County avenged last month’s 2-0 League Two home defeat with this Johnstone’s Paint Trophy first round success.
But Murray said: “It was a performance that at times looked like we had five or six players that hadn’t played for six or seven weeks. We looked a yard off it and you could tell they were short of match fitness.
“That was always going to be the case and I thought parts of our play were good.
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“But we gave them three goals, and it’s always disappointing to lose.”
Murray shuffled his pack three or four times on the night with different formations after starting with three at the back with Adam Chapman in the middle of defence.
“We just wanted to have a look at something,” said Murray.
“Obviously we have got the infra-structure of out team which we’ve stuck to through pre-season and all the League campaign so far.
“But we need to be flexible in our approach to some games. We knew they played 4-2-4 on Saturday and they had this as a must-win to give their group a little bit of confidence, so they went 4-2-4 again.
“Three at the back pinned us back a little bit so we had to alter it.”
Stags full debutant Adi Yussuf might have given Stags a first half lead when he failed to beat Scott Loach when clean through and Murray said: “Adi should score, and I think an Adi that has been playing does score there. But once you go 1-0 down it’s a different game.
“We don’t like losing football matches but the big thing is that, now the Saturday/Tuesdays are easing off, even though we have got a small squad, it was always the plan to get some behind-closed-doors games organised.
“You are asking boys to go in and affect it, which they will have to do through the season, and they need to be up to speed.
“Obviously with the first five or six weeks of the season with playing Saturday/Tuesday, the team has been doing well and we haven’t had to make that many changes.
“But the boys that haven’t been in the team obviously lack match fitness and are a step off the pace. You can’t beat playing for match fitness.
“I think that told today. There were a few boys out there feeling it. For the last 20 minutes Adi Yussuf had cramp and Jamie McGuire was struggling to keep up. But that’s the way it goes.
“We have to take that one on the chin and we go again on Saturday.”
Craig Westcarr gave the visiting fans something to cheer at the death when he netted the club’s first successful penalty since October 2013.
“Craig came on, looked lively and sharp,” said Murray.
“We changed things around as we wanted to give people a certain amount of game time but at the same time limit people’s game time to keep them fresh.
“We obviously rested some of our key players tonight and at times it showed, but overall it was probably a deserved result. I don’t think we took our chances when we did get them and allowed too many opportunities on our goal.
“But we move on swiftly and aim for three points on Saturday.
“I am always disappointed to lose a game of football, but mine and the team’s main priority this season is the League and we believe we can affect it.”