John Lomas’s Mansfield Town blog: Stags need to pick up some fast points
Where was the side we had seen developing over the three previous games?
Where was the team that had created so many chances over those games without Lady Luck giving them the win they deserved?
Carlisle are certainly a poor team, but did any of the Stags players think they could win the game in second gear?
Gone was the passing football as they were dragged into the home side’s style of play and a battle ensued.
However, Mansfield looked lacklustre at times and in need of 5000 volts in a dire first half.
Then, having managed to get themselves into a winning position just before the break, simply tossed it away by conceding two awful goals.
Right on the Scottish border, the freezing Brunton Park ground needed snow clearing off it by eager home fans on the morning of the game to enable it to go ahead.
If Stags’ players had shown as much sweat and determination as those supporters, they might have come away with something.
Instead, passes went astray as did marking as Keith Curle gained his revenge for the defeat at One Call Stadium earlier in the season.
With other results going against them, suddenly Stags find themselves in the bottom two for the first time since returning to the League and the spectre of relegation hangs over them.
Murray and Mansfield’s supporters are now beginning to realise the size of the task that is in front of them.
Murray will certainly have made sure the players know the score and that Saturday’s display was unacceptable.
If Stags had played anywhere near as well as the previous three games they would have brought home the bacon with something to spare.
Instead they succumbed to two home goals in nine minutes.
Wrongly perceiving the referee to be against them and wrongly deciding Matty Blair had dived when he wrecked his knee, the increasingly hostile home crowd played a massive part in roaring their side into contention.
That is something worth remembering for Stags fans as we enter a crucial February in which four of the six games are at One Call Stadium.
It is a real shame we are not going to see Blair again until maybe Christmas after a scan revealed he had damaged his cruciate ligament.
How different things might have been had he, Luke Jones and Liam Hearn not been out long term?
But staying up will only be achieved by the current squad and the introduction of experienced keeper Lenny Pidgeley on Monday may prove a master stroke.
The club really should have kept hold of Alan Marriott in the summer but instead we have seen a succession of inexperienced keepers between the posts, all learning their trade.
Pidgeley has been there and done it and even made a couple of appearances for the first team during his Chelsea days.
Hopefully his knowledge and organisational skills will sort out the gaps that seem to keep opening up and being punished at the back.
Saturday’s visitors Stevenage have enjoyed a superb run recently, winning five and drawing one in a sparkling six-game run to put them in play-offs contention.
But they arrive at Mansfield licking their wounds after successive defeats to Shrewsbury and Oxford.
At their ground, Stags started embarrassingly slowly and the game was over within four minutes as Stevenage stormed into a 2-0 lead.
With the One Call Stadium pitch struggling from the ravages of the recent weather and the desperation for points, I am not expecting Barcelona-style football.
But what I and the fans will expect is honest sweat, bravery and improved concentration for the full 90 minutes as this team definitely has it in them to see off Stevenage.
Murray pointed out this week that there are still 19 games to play and that does offer plenty of hope.
But Stags do have to start picking up the points sooner than later after a run of four games in which this new-look side looked capable of earning 10 points against Burton, Exeter, Wycombe and Carlisle but emerged with just one.
No matter how much better the football has been, that is relegation form.