Mansfield Town boss David Flitcroft paid tribute to the spirit of his side, who overcame sickness and injuries to snatch a last gasp 1-1 draw in today’s derby at Lincoln City.
With two of the side playing on with tonsillitis, one just back from illness, others carrying knocks and another injured in the warm-up, Stags were up against it from the off.
So when they conceded near the end, it seemed Lincoln had won the points.
LINCOLN v STAGS MATCH REPORT
But Stags refused to give up and Jacob Mellis netted a late equaliser to extend the club record unbeaten away league run to 13 games.
“I don’t think we can under-estimate what the players have put themselves through today. They’ve put their bodies on the line,” said Flitcroft.
“That dressing room is absolutely delighted with each other and they can be proud of themselves.
“I’ve got Ryan Sweeney in there with tonsillitis. He was sick at half-time.
“Before the game Hayden White’s hamstring tightened up and Will Atkinson had to come in.
“CJ Hamilton was also struggling with tonsillitis before the game. He was a doubt and you could see he was off colour today.
“That’s eight weeks of Saturday/Tuesday games. They have had a tough shift as a group of players and I think today it showed. “Lincoln have had a bit of time off and freshened up at the right time.”
He added: “I felt sick to the core when Lincoln scored.
“So to get that draw from being a goal down so late on shows you what this team is fighting for. It meant everything.
“They were out on their feet but they just kept on fighting.
“I am proud of that. It almost feels like a victory. It’s only a point but it does give us that unbreakable spirit.”
Flitcroft was delighted to see the unbeaten away run continue – Stags have not lost away in League Two all season with December approaching.
“They have shown that togetherness and that spirit – that’s 13 games unbeaten now which is phenomenal,” he said.
“I said before the game it was important at such a tough place like Lincoln to defend that record with everything you’ve got.
“We weren’t at our best today. We struggled to move the ball and get our tempo.
“Lincoln make it frantic and frenetic with balls in the air. Then when they add the firepower they’ve got by putting Rhead and Green on, who are top players on this level, you know they will have an effect on the game – and they did.
“But, with the braveness of our squad, they want to keep going.”
On the late Mellis equaliser, he said: “I am not too sure three or four months ago if Mells would have got there from a fitness point of view and a ‘wantability’ to get there.
“But he showed his desire today to not get beaten. We know he has the quality and his finish was absolutely brilliant – real class.
“They were two good finishes today. In those moments, when it’s high octane, the atmosphere here was brilliant.
“Our supporters played a big part today – they almost dragged the ball into the goal.”