LOMAS ON MANSFIELD TOWN: Disappointment but no crisis yet as Stags prepare to unleash derby day backlash on Forest Green

Tyler Walker stretches for the ball at Meadow Lane.
Tyler Walker stretches for the ball at Meadow Lane.

It is a measure of the success of Mansfield Town’s season so far that back-to-back defeats are being seen by some as almost a crisis.

But it is true that Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Notts County in the big local derby has massively upped the stakes for this weekend’s visit of promotion rivals Forest Green Rovers.

Mansfield have only lost two on the bounce once before this season and hit back with maximum points from their next three games.

How David Flitcroft needs that sort of response again as a Rovers win this Saturday will haul the visitors within a single point of Mansfield and really open things up.

Stags have had the occasional poor half this season but generally done better in the other half.

So it was a massive disappointment that their first fully poor 90 minutes came in a game of the stature of a local derby at Notts County.

An away following of 4,300 looked on in horror as the players that have lit up the division with their scintillating football this season went missing on such a big occasion.

Manager Flitcroft suggested afterwards that they had not worked hard enough or shown enough commitment to the cause and also said he felt some had looked scared of the occasion against a Notts side battling for their lives.

Well all those issues need ironing out very quickly as the games are going to get bigger and more pressure-laden from now until May.

For the first time this season the manager took an age to get to the post match press conference after letting his players know how much they had let the club down.

You can bet they face a challenging week ahead in training and some players who felt they were almost an automatic pick should now be looking over their shoulders.

You could not fault the commitment and drive of Neal Bishop on Saturday.

But the game simply bypassed the rest of the midfield as players of the huge talent of Jacob Mellis and Jorge Grant failed to give County the problems the Magpies must have been expecting and dreading.

Also strikers CJ Hamilton and Tyler Walker had just one shot over 90 woeful minutes.

Interval substitute Nicky Ajose’s impact only lasted 10 minutes and the woeful statistic of no shots on target for Mansfield tells its own story in the end.

After the Forest Green game the Stags have just 12 games left and the next three after Saturday all look very winnable on paper if the real Mansfield Town turn out.

A good return from those will see the visit of leaders Lincoln City continue to be a potential battle between sides hoping to finish top.

But an unthinkable third defeat in a row on Saturday will drag Mansfield back towards battling for the play-offs instead of creating daylight between themselves and the pack chasing them in the top three automatic promotion spots.

At least the free admission for U18s will guarantee extra backing for the home side – over 1,000 turned out last time.

But the players will have to start on the front foot and give them something to shout about.

The team certainly did not deserve any applause after Saturday’s display though some of the away following over-stepped the mark by a country mile with their foul words and gestures as emotions boiled over.

One glance at the table tells you this was simply the first real off day in a long old season that every club in this country will experience and it was just a shame it was in a game of this stature.

It is still only five League Two defeats in total.

Players that have shone all season did not become bad players overnight on Saturday and all will now have added resolve to win this weekend and see this promotion push through.

They have come too far to let it slip now and hopefully Forest Green will feel the backlash of the hurt that Mansfield players will have felt from their own displays and the reaction of their supporters.