As several fans remarked to me last night, this season seems to be two steps forward and one step back for the Stags.
Just when the club had begun to gain a bit of momentum with four unbeaten games, three in League Two, it came to a disappointing end with last night’s 2-1 home defeat by Salford City.
But, the result aside - and I know the result is always, always the most important thing – this was far from the worst Mansfield have played this season.
If anything it was a continuation of the recent much improved form and saw Stags dominate it to a huge extent.
SEE OUR MARKS OUT of 10 FOR STAGS v SALFORD
STAGS v SALFORD FULL MATCH REPORT
JOHN DEMPSTER’S THOUGHTS ON THE GAME - BEST TEAM LOST
SEE OUR MATCH ACTION PICTURE GALLERY
SEE OUR FANS AT THE GAME PICTURE GALLERY
SALFORD BOSS PRAISES HIS SIDE’S INTELLIGENCE AND GRIT
They had 69 per cent possession and 24 shots at goal, compared with Salford’s four. It really was that one-sided. Yet Salford took all three points home.
Striker Nicky Maynard netted once but should have at least repeated his hat-trick from the previous home game.
He is getting into the right positions and making the right runs, and last night wasn’t his night. But his past record suggests in games where he gets that many chances he will score them more often than not.
Also, Mansfield’s inspirational skipper Krystian Pearce will not have too many more nights when as much goes wrong for him.
He was beaten in the air for the flick that opened Mansfield up for the first goal and his flailing attempted clearance simply set up Adam Rooney for a volley for the second.
Pearce knew his luck was out when he tried to score from close range at the other end and saw the ball saved by the keeper, come back at him and then go past keeper and post for a goalkick instead of into the net.
I know it’s the done thing to boo your side off the field when they don’t win these days - and Stags could have few complaints after the Cambridge defeat – but for their generally entertaining performance and grandstand battling finish last night I felt it was harsh that some chose to boo. They deserved an ovation for that final push.
If they can play that more often than not, then they will soon edge up that table.
And sometimes you just have to take your hat off to the opposition who netted two excellent finishes on a night of few openings for them and then defended for their lives.
For me, the biggest shining light last night was the display of lanky Leeds United loanee Conor Shaughnessy in the centre of midfield.
He ran the show, spraying superb passes around the park and running at the Salford defence at every chance.
The current side is most definitely still a work in progress and fans’ (and chairmen’s) patience can be short.
But things are definitely improving and the 4-4-2 looks to work well with the current personnel to me.
We know Stags will not win every game, but there was enough on show last night to suggest they will win more than they lose as John Dempster continues to develop as a manager.