David Flitcroft: Pain of defeat must spur Mansfield Town on in play-offs

David Flitcroft was left hurt by the defeat.
David Flitcroft was left hurt by the defeat.

Mansfield Town manager David Flitcroft has told his players to use the hurt of today's promotion showdown defeat at MK Dons to spur them on in their two-legged play-off semi-final against Newport County.

Stags just needed a point to secure automatic promotion today but were beaten 1-0 by a second minute David Wheeler header which saw Dons promoted instead.

And Flitcroft was left feeling the pain of the loss afterwards.

He said: “I am hurting and I never want to feel like this again.

“I have told the players to soak it in, understand why we got beat and how you are feeling straight after the whistle on the pitch, having 15,000 MK Dons fans celebrate around you, coming into your face – it's a tough one.

“But I've said don't let it haunt you. Let it be the thing that frees you into driving for a performance against Newport.

“There is regret and hurt in the dressing room.

“We have had a cause all season that we were doing this for our families and we feel like we've let them down.

“We have failed at this hurdle and must make sure what comes out of this is a galvanised spirit.

“We need to regroup and refocus and get ready for another massive game on Thursday – it's a quick turnaround.”

Stags were roared on by 5,300 away fans who found the home club had closed down an area behind the goal so they could not all sit together.

“I am hurting for our supporters who turned up in numbers and volume,” said Flitcroft.

“The fans were incredible. I can't tell you how much I wanted to win today and get out this league for them. They have been amazing.

“Please don't feel let down. Keep turning up and this group will work, fight and scrap for you. I saw a team out there today that want to get out of this league.

“MK Dons did their best to split up our supporters and break them apart with the segregating behind the goal.

“But they were loud, proud and Mansfield and I am hurting for them and for my players.”

Flitcroft was disappointed with his side's nervous first half display but delighted with the second half and said that was what he wanted to take into Thursday's first leg at Newport.

“Second half when we really turned up and turned the screw, MK Dons were creaking as we asked a lot of questions of them, but stood firm,” he said.

“We didn't ask the same questions first half and we almost gave them an easy ride.

“But second half the players left everything out there. That's what we will take out of this game to go into the next challenge.

“There was a tension and a nervousness to us first half.

“But once we took the handbrake off second half and went for the jugular we looked a team with intent and looked calmer in possession.”

He added: “I have a sick feeling in my stomach. It's raw.

“But congratulations to MK Dons, they have a phenomenal season and have been up there fighting all season.

“They have done it over a season – not just today. All credit them as getting out this league is not easy.

“It's a really unusual day as you are normally in different stadiums to your rivals in this situation, not playing each other.

“There was so much riding on the game and it's a difficult one seeing the opposition supporters celebrate.

“But they've had a good season, like us, and they have finished the job off today.”

On the goal, scored from a corner, he said: “We went through the markers and it's down to an individual responsibility.”