John Lomas’ Stags Blog; Murray’s troops can win their war

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Anyone wondering if Mansfield Town’s walking wounded have what it takes to stay in the Football League should wonder no longer after their heroics of Tuesday night.

Boss Adam Murray described them afterwards as soldiers and the fight to stay up as a war.

They were very apt descriptions as the queue for the treatment room once again grew.

Wave after wave of attack from Luton poured towards them in the last half-hour.

But Stags built a trench across the pitch to protect Lenny Pidgeley and repelled almost everything the big-spending, high-flying Hatters could throw at them.

Some of those soldiers should definitely have earned medals on the night.

Skipper Ricky Ravenhill epitomised the spirit and tenacity of manager Murray.

A scan on his hamstring 11 days earlier suggested he may be out six to eight weeks. But Ravenhill, a know quick-healer and determined character, was back in five days!

Not only that, he was in trouble during the second half on Tuesday as he limped around for a time, almost a passenger, able only to snarl at Luton players by-passing him.

But he stuck it out, ran the problem off, and finished the game.

Chris Clements was another who deserved a medal too for coming on as a sub when no one expected to see him for a few weeks at least.

The infection in his badly-gashed ankle had only settled down a day or two before, yet he came on and played his part before going back into the dressing room to have the wound restitched afterwards.

Reggie Lambe was out on his feet after Saturday’s exertions and limped off early – he could now be a worry. But that opened the door for match-winner Rakish Bingham to enter the fray and pop up with the decisive finish.

Unlike Saturday, when Stags tried to defend that lead, they did at least push on and try to grab a second against a very, very good Luton team.

But fatigue caught up with them and the final onslaught of orange shirts was almost inevitable.

Murray admitted afterwards he would have loved to freshen the side up against Luton and give some tired legs a break, but with the current injury glut, his hands were largely tied.

It was the second nailbiting finish in four days, the first ending in stoppage time heartbreak when Northampton won a stoppage time penalty on Saturday.

It would be interesting to have monitored the blood pressure of the crowd at the end of both games this week. It was almost unbearable to watch at times.

However, this time the Stags did hold onto to three precious, precious points. And what a difference it made to the table.

Stags leapfrogged three of their relegation rivals into 18th place, among them troubled Oxford United where Stags’ counter-attacking style is very capable of adding another victory this Saturday.

The £7 ticket offer on Saturday dragged in a lot of floating fans for what became a fabulous atmosphere at a great old-fashioned League Two clash on a typical February pitch.

Despite the sickening late twist I don’t think anyone can have gone away not feeling thoroughly entertained.

For what it’s worth, despite Murray and Ravenhill’s anger at the end, I would have given the penalty on first glance from the press box.

I know they were closer and watching it back a dozen times on video I can partly see their argument. But it is inconclusive really and, with the officials only having one crack at spotting a split second incident, you can see why it was given.

Sadly the full price tickets for the Luton game not surprisingly saw home fans numbers plummet from 3,400 on Saturday to around 2,200 on Tuesday.

What was surprising was some of the abuse some of the home fans in the upper West Stand still thought it fit to shout at their side occasionally as they tired in Tuesday’s second half onslaught.

Shouting ‘absolute rubbish’ would not motivate me or most of the folk in there at work.

Do they ever stop to think about the club’s situation right now for a second and how they could help. How about staying away?

But the rest of the fans, as on Saturday, were magnificent and, as Murray said, actually pushed the side over the line.

There were even a few rumbles in cyberspace this week about getting rid of Murray.

Do those fans believe someone else will walk in and motivate a tired, injury-ridden side any better than Murray did last night or offer to work for nothing so the club suddenly has a wad of cash for big name loan players’ wages, or could ‘do a Jesus’ and heal the current injured?

Thankfully Stags have enough games left not to need any miracles from Jesus or Murray just yet, though Murray will now need to do a roll call of those walking wounded for the Oxford trip.

Although teenager midfielder Jack Thomas in two starts this week has thankfully confirmed all the great things predicted about his rich promise, and there are more talented youngsters in the wings, it is hard to think Murray will be able to get by much longer without a loan or two soon.

Whatever happens away from home, and let’s be honest, any point away from home in Stags’ position is a big bonus, I truly believe Mansfield can stay up on home form alone.

That’s two wins and two draws in two games at One Call Stadium, decent form by anyone’s standards.

Indeed, Stags have only lost one League game in the last eight on home soil.

I love the statistic from last night that Luton Town have still never won a league match at Mansfield.

But, more worrying is the fact that Stags have lost their last three trips to Oxford without scoring a goal.

Mansfield’s only league successes at Oxford have come in 2005 and 1976.

However, with Oxford only winning one of their eight games since the turn of the year, it’s far from beyond Murray’s men to come home with something from the Kassam Stadium.