Mansfield Manager Steve Evans said the best team had lost after Stags suffered penalties heartbreak in tonight’s Checkatrade Trophy second round tie at League One Blackpool.
Stags needed a late Calum Butcher equaliser to force a 1-1 draw in 90 minutes and spot kicks in which Alfie Potter and Jack Thomas saw their kicks saved.
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But the Stags were on top for long spells of the game and Evans said: “In normal time the best team has not won the game by a long way has it?
“Anyone sitting here as a neutral knows the best team by a country mile has lost the cup tie. We didn’t deserve to lose that and I have told them that.
“We have to take it on the chin. We only have ourselves to blame.
“We had to score late but we dominated the game. We dominated the first half hour, then they got the goal and for 10 minutes we lost out composure.
“Second half we were the only team trying to play football, trying to make chances and score a goal, which we did.”
He added: “That’s been our best performance in the Checkatrade.
“We were good at Notts County, but we equalled that tonight in terms of the dominance in the game against a much better team than we played at Notts County. They were hanging on in the end.”
Evans said he allowed players who stepped forward to take the penalties and attached no blame for the exit to Potter or Thomas.
“We support our players and the dressing room is united,” said Evans.
“You always feel for the two lads that missed the spot kicks.
“First and foremost you have to ask the lads who wants to step forward and take one? You have to pick the ones that like to take them and feel confident to take them.
“You have to to say Alfie’s was a good save from the keeper and Jack’s was a poor penalty. But the best players in the world have hit poor penalties.
“But we didn’t lose the cup tie on the penalty shoot-out. We lost it because we didn’t do enough in the box.
“We don’t look at Alfie or Jack for the penalties for the simple reason that we had enough entries into the final third - three times more than Blackpool - and we don’t do enough with those final entries to create opportunities.
“That’s what disappointed me as we certainly had enough of the ball.
“Jack gets no recrimination from me. I thought he did well when he came on, both in midfield and at full back.
“He is a lovely kid and he and Alfie are hurting. They have tears in their eyes and as the manager I’ve put my arm round them.”
Evans made nine changes and said several of them had staked a claim for Saturday’s League two trip to Crawley.
“There were a lot of good performances tonight which I am pleased with,” he said.
“We have now got bigger things to look after so we’ll go back and prepare for Saturday.
“I thought Paul Digby, for a start, was outstanding. Butcher scored a great header and it was a great delivery from Mal Benning.
“Jimmy Spencer did really well and came into his own in the second half after, probably, not his best first half.
“There were a lot of pluses for us all over the pitch and we played some brilliant football, especially in the first half-hour and the last half-hour.
“We play like that and we’ll win games. We just need to do more in the final third.”
Evans was unsure whether one effort had crossed the Blackpool goal line in the second half, the referee deciding it hadn’t.
“We didn’t know from where we were,” said Evans.
“I will have a look at it but it doesn’t matter now as we are out.
“I thought the referee had a good game tonight. I have no complaints. The best team lost on penalties.”
Stags lost centre half David Mirfin with an injury during the game and Evans said: “It was the knee David was out with for a couple of weeks.
“He got a bang on it again so we iced it up. But if he is out for Saturday it’s no major concern.”