Debate has been raging this week among supporters as to who is to blame for Mansfield Town’s season turning from one of the most promising in the club’s history into a looming car crash.
And it’s hard to disagree with the conclusion our Chad web site poll came up with that former boss Steve Evans, new manager David Flitcroft and the playing all squad all have to shoulder some of the blame.
On recent results we all know it’s unlikely the Stags will now make the play-offs with just two games remaining.
WHO IS TO BLAME? STAGS POLL RESULT
CAROLYN RADFORD’S HEARTFELT MESSAGE TO FANS AND THE PLAYERS
Tuesday night’s Lincoln v Coventry game could make things even harder if it’s a draw as that would leave a four-point gap to make up.
But Flitcroft is right to keep the players focused on winning those two games as, although the Stags players are under intense pressure and scrutiny right now, so are the players at rivals Lincoln and Coventry.
When pressure bites the form book can go out the window and no fat lady has sung a note as yet.
It would be criminal to see Lincoln and Coventry both have a late stutter and not have the requisite six points in the bag to be able to profit.
But no one is holding their breath either. All of that is a huge ask – though far from impossible.
Reading club CEO Carolyn Radford’s heartfelt message to fans after Saturday’s hugely damaging 1-1 home draw with Port Vale, it was easy to sympathise with the emotions she expressed.
To put that much time and money into this project and see it crumble at the last must be heart-wrenching.
But that’s football for you. It can give you the greatest highs on the odd occasion. But, for most fans, it’s a string of heartbreaks and disappointment almost every season.
Nothing is ever guaranteed and no one could have predicted how this season would unfold when Evans was brought in and put together an exciting looking squad that bookies felt could win the division.
One element many fans believed was missing as the campaign kicked off was one more quality, proven goalscorer. Judging by the gilt-edged chances missed, that is still a factor.
Another factor is Flitcroft trying to get the team to adapt a new style so close to the finishing line only to see them trip up.
Admirably, he says he wants to see them play more football than they did under his predecessor, and his coaching record is excellent.
But should he have simply been there to help guide them over the line with this season’s tried and tested methods and then implemented the big changes over the summer?
Changing things with just 12 games to go and Stags having largely been in such impressive form was a risky business, though one that could have paid handsome dividends had it gelled quickly.
Instead the wheels have come loose with the finishing line in sight and may fly off on Saturday if Stags fail to win at Yeovil, who have not tasted victory in five games since that shock 6-2 success at Coventry.
The Glovers have even lost their last four home games in a row without scoring a goal. So a side deserving of a place in the play-offs must have aspirations of taking the three points and seeing what happens elsewhere.
Some fans are calling for Flitcroft to go – and it’s true his 10-game record is one that has seen managers dismissed in the past up and down the country.
But to be pitched into a season at the point he was and not have any of his own players in the squad or had real chance to implement his own style on those already in the building, it is harsh to judge him on what has happened.
Chances are Flitcroft will build his own version of ‘Project Promotion’ over the summer and then will rightly be judged on where they finish next time around.
So a season that Stags were in full control of is now well out of their hands and, whatever part the two managers have played in that, the players who go out there have simply not lived up to their glittering CVs at a crucial stage of the campaign.
All we can immediately hope for is that results conspire to take matters to a final day of the season fixture against Crawley Town for the second year in a row.