LOMAS ON STAGS: Heart-stopping last day should come with a health warning!

David Flitcroft
David Flitcroft

This weekend’s football should come with a health warning.

Anyone heading for Mansfield, Lincoln or Coventry should be told: “The following spectacle is not suitable for anyone with a nervous disposition’.

If Mansfield Town do scrape into the play-offs at the death, they will have done it the ‘Mansfield Town’ way.

Their long-suffering supporters know they rarely do anything the easy way.

Let’s be honest – with a three point deficit, the odds are stacked against them winning at the same time as either Lincoln City or Coventry City suffer a shock home defeat.

But, with the pressure levels going through the roof on the last day of the season, anything could happen.

I find it hard to believe Lincoln’s aerial bombardment and the huge backing of their noisy fan base won’t see the Imps to at least a point against a poor Cheltenham side on Saturday.

They have had a fantastic first season back in the Football League, secured the Checkatrade Trophy after a glorious day at Wembley, and will be champing at the bit to finish the job after seeing Accrington Stanley spoil their first attempt on Saturday when a 1-0 win gave Stanley an unlikely title success.

Doubtless one of Lincoln’s ex-Stags strikers Matt Green, Matt Rhead or Ollie Palmer will score the winner too just to rub it in!

So I think Mansfield need to look to the Ricoh Stadium for the shock result they need.

Admittedly Coventry were in ice cool cruise control on Saturday as they romped to a 6-1 success at Cheltenham where Marc McNulty helped himself to a hat-trick.

But Barnet did Mansfield a huge favour last weekend by beating Morecambe and leaving the Shrimps in danger of being sucked into a relegation spot on the last day of the season.

Morecambe have said they will fund coach travel for their supporters wanting to go to Coventry to provide backing and their players will now give their absolute all in what could have been a dead rubber of a game had they had nothing hanging on it.

The Sky Blues have let the play-off pressure get to them twice at home in their last three games with Lincoln winning 4-2 and Yeovil pulling off a shock 6-2 win there, sandwiching a routine 3-1 win over Stevenage.

So I believe the biggest hope lies there.

But, of course, Mansfield have to keep their own part of the bargain and beat visitors Crawley Town at the same time.

After being up there all season until recently, it will be painful for Stags fans to miss out on the play-offs, should Coventry and Lincoln both earn at least the required point at the weekend.

But Stags’ play-off bid has to see them at least go down fighting and gain the points they need to sneak in there if anyone leaves a chink of light for them.

It is a huge pressure. But it’s one Mansfield proved they can cope with after their brave fightback at Yeovil last weekend.

Manager David Flitcroft ordered his side to follow club CEO Carolyn Radford’s plea to ‘play like their lives depended on it’ and, in such circumstances, to twice come from behind to win away from home was courageous and showed real character.

It was players’ characters that had come under question from some fans in recent weeks after a poor run saw their hopes fade.

But, trailing 1-0 after an indifferent first half at Yeovil, Stags showed true mettle in coming out on top of one of the most exciting halves of football of the campaign after the break.

Now they need to replicate the spirit of that second half in front of their own supporters for 90 minutes on Saturday.

They need to start on the front foot and put the game to bed as early as possible and then simply hope for a shock result elsewhere.

Days like this are tense and tiring for supporters as they try to get behind their own side while listening to radio reports or checking mobile phones for what is happening elsewhere.

Players are very aware of sudden roars of excitement or groans from the stands that don’t relate to the game they are involved in.

Often the required set of results don’t work out for you, as they didn’t for Mansfield in last season’s ‘big last day ask’ away at Crawley.

But when they do, it’s a thrilling way to get in there.

Ironically it’s Crawley again providing the opposition for the last game.

Again it’s also out of Mansfield’s hands. But hope remains and it could end up being a glorious afternoon to remember.

If Mansfield have to miss out, then they must at least go down all guns blazing!