LOMAS ON STAGS: Extreme rollercoaster as Mansfield Town extend their run of victories
When they talk about football seasons being rollercoasters, I should think the last few weeks have left a few Mansfield Town fans feeling quite dizzy.
A desperate spell of 14 games without a win and almost an entire side of first team players being unavailable handed boss Nigel Clough one of the toughest spells of his managerial career.
But the transformation since then has been stunning as Stags have reeled off four wins in a row in all competitions and has players talking of a possible promotion push, despite sitting 18th in the League Two table, nine points adrift of the play-off spots.
It is already a tall order, but with 30 of the 46 games still to play not an impossible one.
It is clear Clough has a squad capable of challenging when fully fit – and surely their luck with injuries has to even out soon.
Last week Danny Johnson, so desperate for a lift, hit a hat-trick in the 6-3 Papa John's Trophy win over Newcastle U21s to stake a strong claim for a starting place on Saturday – then limped off with a knee injury.
And Saturday's magnificent win at Stevenage came at a cost as George Maris, George Lapslie and Rhys Oates all suffered injuries and needed to come off.
You really couldn't make this stuff up.
When will Stags get a run of games where they regularly finish with an uninjured squad?
Despite everything, the players available knuckled down to give a display of grit and determination at fellow strugglers Stevenage on Saturday in a game they had to win to try to pull away from the dogfight.
Tackles were flying in and twice the post came to Mansfield's rescue as ex-Stag Jamie Reid was twice desperately unlucky with his finishes.
But two great finishes and some steely defending saw Mansfield home – even through seven nervous minutes of time added on.
Saturday now offers a home clash with bottom club Scunthorpe United from which victory could lift Clough's men to the heady heights of lower mid-table ahead of Tuesday's tough trip for a first ever meeting with EFL new boys Sutton United, who have won four of their last five games in all competitions and eased themselves up to eighth in the table.