Adam Murray today admitted his substitution gambles backfired in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at AFC Wimbledon.
But the Mansfield Town boss said he had to do something as the powerful and direct Dons were getting on top of a Stags side that should have already been out of sight by the break.
He also expressed relief that they wouldn’t have to face the giant Londoners again or anything like them this season.
“I know it’s a cliché but I think everyone there on Saturday would tell you that it was the biggest example of a game of two halves that you have ever seen,” said Murray after seeing his side in charge with a Matt Green goal at the break only to concede three poor second half goals.
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“We took a bit of a gamble with the starting line-up – it was very attacking for an away game with what we were coming up against.
“But we felt that if we could get on the front foot, we could have the game done and dusted within the first hour and I think the way we started, some of our play, and the chances we created, it should have been done and dusted.
“We should have been going in at half-time at least 2-0 up. We never looked threatened and I’ve never felt as in control of a game as we were.
“In the back of our mind when we got their team sheet, we knew there were going to be certain aspects of the game we’d have to deal with. And we knew that our starting XI had a lot of flair players in it. We had the artists in, not the soldiers.
“We started the second half poorly, gave away a really poor goal from a mistake, an individual error, and then we knew the kitchen sink was coming.”
He continued: “When you come up against Wimbledon they are all 6ft 3ins plus and the way they play, to be fair I am not going to criticise it, they get it in the mixer, they put it in the box at every opportunity, and within 10 minutes it was causing us problems.
“We tried to be a bit proactive and get ourselves back in the game, which we did with a change of shape and personnel. At 1-1 we’ve had a couple of chances. Away from home you go 2-1 up and shut up shop and it’s job done.
“But we made decisions and then got sucker-punched by a set play.
“Then we let in another poor goal from one ball. So we shot ourselves in the foot by giving away three of the weakest goals you can give away.
“We were prepared for what was coming, but you give a backpass away, you don’t mark the man at a corner, and then one straight ball – you can’t get any more black and white.
“It’s not as if if anything weird and wonderful came out the bag unfortunately for us. When people go over the white line we can’t make the decisions for them.”
Murray will be tackling the issues to come out of this defeat this week but is calling on his more experienced players to take control on the field when the tide starts to turn.
“I am putting a lot of pressure on the senior boys, but they’ve got to step up,” he said.
“We need leaders out there. At that point someone should have been slapping people round the head and waking people up.
“For the next 10 minutes if the ball stays out of play, people get their head back, we kill the game.
“We are a little bit naïve at times as we want to play a certain way. We don’t want to do the ugly stuff. We want to get the ball back in play and play again.
“When momentum swings as quickly as it did on Saturday you have got to know how to manage the game.
“Unfortunately because we didn’t, we had to sacrifice our forward-thinking players to try to shut the shop up and that was always going to be a gamble.
“That will always give them chances of scoring at the other end and on Saturday unfortunately the gamble backfired on us.
“But when a powerful team like that puts you on the back foot you have got to react. Our thinking was that in the next 10-15 minutes we could have conceded again so we changed the shape at 1-1 and looked to get that security back.”
He added: “We had two chances and if we’d taken them the substitutions would have looked fantastic. They are the gambles you take and we won’t face anything else like that this season.
“They had movement, pace and power – everything we don’t like coming up against all in one.
“It was disappointing but at the same time it wasn’t as if we got pulled apart. We got done by basics.
“We had the game in more than two hands. We had it locked up, sewn up, in the bag. We just had to manage the game and we didn’t do that. Players have got to take ownership.”
However, the Stags remain just one point off the play-off places and Murray stressed: “I have to keep emphasising we want success this season. That’s not going to change.
“As I said last week I want this side to be competitive and challenging not just this season but every season.
“If it’s not this season, if we keep challenging we will eventually get in there and get promotion.
“This season is about building from where we have come from which is unreal so far. Within this building phase I still think we’ve got a fair chance of being in the play-offs.
“Everybody is beating everybody else. Some have games in hand, but for me that will prove to be a negative as those with games in hand are all playing each other or they have small squads which is always going to be a hindrance.
“We are in a really good place.”