Adam Murray has told his Mansfield Town players to take the 4-0 defeat to Portsmouth “on the chin”.
The Stags boss was pleased with his side’s performance at Fratton Park until two sendings off in little over 15 second half minutes shifted the advantage in Pompey’s favour.
Kyle Howkins was the first to be given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow in the 57th-minute before another on loan defender, Alex Iacovitti, was shown a straight red card.
Murray said: “Up to that point we’ve more than match them. I felt we were in control of the game. We were causing them problems going forward. They’re a good side so they are always going to cause you some issues but we felt comfortable.
“We actually felt like we could cause them more problems by the centre forward change (Darius Henderson for Matt Green). It’s a very skiddy pitch and we couldn’t get the best out of Greeny, things were skidding off him so we needed something to build from.
“That plan lasted two minutes then you’re down to ten men.”
Portsmouth led 1-0 at that stage, after an 11th-minute Gary Roberts penalty, but a late flurry of goals from Noel Hunt and a brace from Carl Baker saw them run out comfortable winners.
“We’re comfortable at ten men,” said Murray. “We’ve done it before and it’s something we work on because it’s the nature of the beast but to go down to nine men, it’s a kick in the teeth.
“I’ve said to 95 per cent of the lads ‘look, you have got to take that on the chin today because for the most part of the game you’ve done yourselves proud and played our way’.
“I’m proud of the nine men because I thought they were fantastic. I’m going to forget that game really, really quickly because I can’t analyse that.
“I watched the first hour and I was chuffed to bits with it. The last 30 minutes they’re even trying to press and close down and we’re leaving ourselves open but it shows our endeavour and passion to do the right things.
“I’m taking the 60 minutes from that. If we play like that for the rest of the 30 league games we’ve got left we won’t have a problem.”
On the sendings off, Murray added: “You’re in a professional environment and you have to learn quickly. If they have to learn on the job like that it’s tough to take but we felt we could have won that game.
“We’ve gone toe-to-toe with one of, if not the, biggest team in the league and more than matched them. My focus is on the first 60 minutes of real positives.”
Related content: Portsmouth 4 Mansfield Town 0 - match report from Fratton Park