Young Mansfield Town central midfield prospect Alistair Smith is hoping he has done enough to force his way into manager John Dempster’s thoughts for the weekend trip to Carlisle United.
The 20-year-old was given his second ever start in the first team in last night’s home penalties Carabao Cup exit to Morecambe and impressed with a calm head on his inexperienced shoulders.
Hoping to now keep the shirt, Smith said: “I’d like to think so, but all I can do is go out there and do my best and whatever the gaffer decides will ultimately be what happens.
“I will now just try to stay fit for if I am needed or required, ready to come on and show what I can do.
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“I was happy with my performance. It’s good to get 90 minutes into my legs as it was my first appearance of the season competitively.
“I think I could have moved the ball a bit quicker in certain situations, but that comes with patterns of play and getting used to game time really.” Smith began the game alongside debut-making Dion Donohue and the pair worked well together.
“Dion is a top player,” said Smith. “So, obviously, with me being young and still coming through, it was great to play alongside him and get the experience.
“It’s just about adjusting to the pace for me. I have played a lot of U21s football.
“So to come here and play 90 minutes at this pace can sometimes catch you out a bit. With more game time under my belt I am sure I will be all right.
“It’s a massive step up. You don’t really notice until you are in the game.”
Smith thought he had won the tie with a late thunderbolt from outside the box that just passed wide at the last minute.
“I was already reeling off,” he smiled.
“Obviously I was right behind it and thought it was arrowing in, but I think I just hit it too sweet and it’s just gone a bit to the left.
“It was about five yards wide. It was unlucky but that’s football.”
Overall, Smith said the side did need to defend better, but deserved to win the tie in 90 minutes on chances created.
“If you are playing at home and scoring two goals you should most of the time be winning the game,” he said.
“So you’ve got to look at the defending from set pieces. It never helps conceding two goals, so we always had a mountain to climb.
“But I felt we did well overall and it was a good performance from the boys.
“I think we did enough to win it in 90 minutes. We created chances and were unlucky when we hit the crossbar a couple of times and the post.
“We had a lot of near chances and if you don’t take them you get an end result like this.
“It was really frustrating. You do all your hard work and create your chances – some days they go in and on others they don’t.”
After having a man sent off after just 22 minutes when they led 1-0, the visitors inevitably shut up shop and made life hard for Stags.
“Sometimes you get the ball and see a sea of shirts. They were doing a good job and worked very hard,” said Smith.
“But we did create chances. We were unlucky and on another day we could have come away winning this.
“You do get the inkling sometimes, wondering if it’s going to go in or not. Then when it goes to penalties it’s a lottery from there.
“Everyone is disappointed. But that’s football – some days you win, some days you don’t, but you just go again. You don’t have a choice.”
Smith coolly slotted his own penalty away in the 6-5 spot kicks defeat and said: “We practised the penalties in a training session yesterday, so we had an idea where we were going.
“But it’s never the same in a match. You’ve got the crowd and everything. You’ve just got to be confident and stick to your side.”