Anyone doubting Mansfield Town’s promotion credentials after the Cheltenham wobble were made to think again after the convincing demolition of the best side in the division last weekend.
We are a quarter of the way through the season this week and, sitting just two points off the play-offs and six points off top, the Stags are firmly on course.
That has also prompted the inevitable first approach of the season for the manager’s services from elsewhere.
After the unexpected midweek defeat at Whaddon Road, some Mansfield fans feared for their side against a Magpies side flying high at the top with six successive wins under their wings.
But, even though Mansfield had players missing and others less than 100 per cent, they were the best side throughout and County were lucky it was only 3-1 in the end.
Even better was the size of the home following – over 5,000 fans – and the fact that Stags sent them home happy bodes well for them returning.
Times are tough out there and football is a luxury that many can’t afford on a regular basis, so it becomes an occasional treat.
But for the others, it is a habit that you can quickly get into if you’re enjoying it and Saturday sent over 5,000 fans away with a smile on their faces – how many will be back a week on Saturday?
Once again boss Steve Evans emphasised Stags are far from in top gear yet and that won’t come until January when the side fully evolves and, no doubt, will be tweaked with in the transfer window for any areas still lacking.
But, despite some clubs having spent more than Mansfield by the time the window slammed shut, no one is looking like they are a class above the side Evans has already assembled or look like running away with it.
Evans’ men were certainly a team of heroes on Saturday.
With keeper Conrad Logan barely putting a foot wrong so far, David Mirfin and Krystian Pearce in front of him are a rock solid centre pairing who have played together before and look comfortable alongside each other.
Skipper Zander Diamond will have his work cut out to get back in there.
Paul Anderson was outstanding out of position at right back and gives Evans another great option while Johnny Hunt, while not getting forward as much as Mal Benning, defends solidly.
In midfield and up front Evans has a wealth of options and combinations and I don’t believe we’ve seen anything near the best of new boys Calumn Butcher and Kane Hemmings yet.
You had to feel for Hemmings on Saturday. It was the striker’s seventh game for the club and still he hasn’t scored.
Yet his header that keeper Adam Collin pushed onto a post looked like it had dropped over the line from the press box.
Danny Rose was professional enough to make sure from close range but you could see the disappointment on Hemmings’ face as everyone rushed to congratulate Rose.
He worked hard for the cause on Saturday and had one of his best games so far, though would not even have been in the side if Lee Angol had not been under the weather.
It will be interesting to see who gets the nod up front at Colchester United this weekend.
Saturday’s opponents Colchester have not pulled up any trees in what has been a disappointing first quarter-season for a big club with promotion ambitions.
They would not have expected to be 16th after 11 games and, despite four points from their last two game – both away – have only taken a point from their last two home games and that against struggling Chesterfield.
Like Cheltenham it is another potential banana skin for Mansfield and not a happy hunting ground as Stags have lost their last five visits there.
But Evans’ men will head there with a resolve not to allow Cheltenham to happen again so quickly plus a confidence instilled from beating the leaders amid the white hot atmosphere of a local derby seven days earlier.
It will also help not to have a midweek game while Colchester compete in the Checkatrade Trophy, though doubtless they will rest some key men.
Boss Evans assured fans if the club are with the pace after 10-15 games they will stay the course and go up and it’s so far, so good.
And, of course, as the ‘promotion expert’ continues to do a good job, he will attract attention from elsewhere.
The only surprise about this week’s approach for his services from Gillingham is that’s it’s the first this season.
It’s a scenario Stags fans will have to get used to if things go well but I believe it would take a far bigger club than the Gills to turn his head from his Mansfield project.