LOMAS ON MANSFIELD TOWN: Suffering Stags are better than Newport County but must prove it this week

Mansfield Town v Milton Keynes.'Danny Rose is isolated amid a sea of MK Dons fans at the final whistle.
Mansfield Town v Milton Keynes.'Danny Rose is isolated amid a sea of MK Dons fans at the final whistle.

Despite the heartbreak of defeat at MK Dons denying them automatic promotion, Mansfield Town’s players get a second bite of the cherry this week – and simply must take it.

Yes they are mentally and physically tired, bruised and upset, but they are so close to their season-long goal it would be folly to now also squander the lifeline of the play-offs.

The League Two table does not lie and, ultimately, MK Dons were slightly better than Stags over 46 games.

Both sides faltered near the finishing line, but Dons got there first and congratulations to them.

However, a glance at the table also shows Stags finishing three places and five points ahead of the Welsh club.

Put simply – Mansfield are a better club than Newport this season.

Granted, Newport have had a fine finish at the same time as wasteful Stags have criminally lost their last three games when a win in any one of them would have sealed promotion.

But pound for pound, player for player, the table shows Stags are better and they need to remember that.

Mansfield scored more goals over the campaign and conceded less.

Their players are better quality overall than Newport.

Now they just have to get on with proving that.

They have to put a line under what has happened and start what is now a completely new mini-season with the same prize on offer that they have thrown away on their initial attempt, having done the hard work for so many months to put them in such a great position.

Without the play-offs, the players would already be heading for a beach to sit on and mope about what might have been.

But they still have the chance for a happy summer and hero status with fans by getting through three more games.

And, let’s face it, there is no better way to achieve glory than at Wembley which gives fans a great day out and the club much-needed bonus revenue.

Boss David Flitcroft holds the key by his man-management and psychology this week.

He has to relax the players, remind them how good they can be and refocus them on the new goal of Wembley glory.

It’s not about giving them stick, it’s more about TLC.

Stags have proved themselves a better side than rivals Newport, Forest Green Rovers and Tranmere Rovers over the season and now have one last chance to prove that by pipping them all to that last League One spot.

The vast majority of fans are still firmly behind them as they were with that magnificent turnout and volume level at Stadium MK on Saturday.

Yes, some have come out with the predictable knee jerk reaction of wanting the manager sacked immediately and slating their players for their League Two capitulation.

But the time for recriminations and arguments is post-season, not when the side are still so close to a prize.

Possibly some of the players did freeze a little in those massive three end of season defeats.

But they fought back superbly at Oldham and should have had a draw were it not for a wrongly-raised offside flag.

Then they were only beaten by Stevenage because they threw everything forward for a winner, knowing the threat of a counter-punch.

On Saturday at MK I truly believe they would have achieved at least the point they needed had they not suffered the mental hammer blow of conceding after only two minutes.

It really shook them after a decent start and it took them until the second half to get over that and start to impose themselves more.

So hats off to the Dons who defended manfully under some intense pressure to see the job through.

Now it is over to Mansfield Town to make sure they join them and end a rollercoaster season on a massive high.