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LOMAS ON STAGS: Time running out for Mansfield after another flop

Mansfield Town v Crewe Alexander'Stag's 'keeper Conrad Logan shows his frustration after Crewe score their fourth in the first half.
Mansfield Town v Crewe Alexander'Stag's 'keeper Conrad Logan shows his frustration after Crewe score their fourth in the first half.

Saturday’s home horror show against Crewe Alexandra has probably left Mansfield Town in a straight fight with Coventry City and Lincoln City for the final play-off spots with Swindon Town lurking in the shadows too.

Although recent form has not been good, no one saw that dreadful first half coming last weekend.

Crewe tore them apart at will and Stags thoroughly deserved the boos at half-time from the stands, though I am baffled by the number of people that walked out on 27 minutes when the fourth goal went in.

This is football and anything can happen over a full 90 minutes – and almost did.

So why would you miss that, having paid out a decent amount of money for a ticket? Absolutely crazy.

Despite the result, it was an absolutely fantastic game of football and a credit to League Two. Anyone who is a Stags fan and didn’t stay to try to get them back on level terms – as so many did – may want to question what they waste their Saturday afternoon money on.

It was telling that many applauded the players off the pitch at the end, such had been the impact and improvement that subs Ricky Miller, Danny Rose and Krystian Pearce had made in a swashbuckling second half.

If Rose is fit enough, all three must start tomorrow night at Stevenage where Miller has to make his full debut. Anything other would be a baffling decision.

The lad had bided his time, been very patient and now done the business when called upon. Now could be his time to shine.

Congratulations to all the ex-Stags at play-off rivals Lincoln City for their Checkatrade Trophy victory at Wembley yesterday.

That game meant a day off from League Two action on Saturday which means the Imps have a game in hand in those play-off places and are already four points clear of Stags with five games to go.

That should be enough to see them home with the momentum of their Wembley glory providing an extra spark.

They are likely to win at Port Vale on Saturday and, if Stags fail to take three points at Stevenage tomorrow, the pressure to win the big derby at Chesterfield on Saturday will be absolutely immense.

However, Lincoln do have some massive tests among their last six games. Colchester and Yeovil at home should provide them with few problems.

But Wycombe at home will be harder and Coventry away on Tuesday, 24th April, will be like a mini cup final as far as the play-offs goes.

That is followed by Accrington at home, which could be even tougher unless the Lancashire club are already home and dry. However, they will want to win the title and the gap to second-placed Luton is currently only three points.

Aside of that crucial home game with Lincoln, Coventry’s run-in looks quite comfortable with other home games against Stevenage and Morecambe and road trips to Crawley and Cheltenham.

Chesterfield’s defeat at Grimsby was a massive kick in the teeth for the Spireites and leaves them bottom again as the end of another rotten season approaches.

But they do have games in hand and manager Jack Lester will want to see a big response to the Grimsby result and a backlash when Stags visit on Saturday.

So, whatever happens at Stevenage tomorrow, Saturday is shaping up to be the most important meeting between the local rivals - for both sides - since their play-offs showdown in 1995.

One thing is for sure, if Stags play like they did in the first 45 minutes last weekend in the white hot derby atmosphere, they may well be heading into the last three games of the season with nothing to play for.

It’s not over yet and the belief is still there. But if Stags do eventually miss out there will be only one person to blame – and he now works elsewhere.

Renowned as a good coach, David Flitcroft, like any new manager, deserves the chance to bring in his own players, implement his own style with them and succeed or fail on his own terms next season.

In the meantime he has a massive salvage job to do with players needing to take his ideas onto the pitch and adapt very, very quickly before it’s too late.