Stags’ boss David Flitcroft has said that despite an improved second half showing from his players, he was ultimately left ‘disappointed’ with Mansfield’s exit from the Checkatrade Trophy at the hands of Bury.
Forward Dominic Telford scored the only goal of the contest, in which there was late drama, as Stephen Dawson was sent off, and Stags’ ‘keeper Conrad Logan saved Caolan Lavery’s penalty in the 88th minute.
The Mansfield manager was frank in his assessment of his side’s display.
“It wasn’t good enough,” he said. “I look at the first half performance and we never got anywhere near Bury. They’re one of the first teams that have come here and [been allowed to] move the ball really well.
“We didn’t lay a finger on them first half. They deservedly went 1-0 up with a well-taken goal so I had no qualms at half-time.
“We made it to half-time only one goal down, and that’s when you stamp your authority. But we were loose with the ball and sloppy. We didn’t represent for each other.
“Second half we looked better and moved the ball better. The injection of CJ [Hamilton] really gave them a problem down that side.
“We had to stay professional and cause them problems when they went down to ten men, but we nearly gave them an opening for the second goal.
“We looked more like ourselves and what our values stand for [in the second half]. But it’s really disappointing to get knocked out and not having the opportunity of still being in the hat and trying to get to Wembley.
“We will certainly be starting work tomorrow and making sure that we are 40 per cent better than that come Saturday.”
"We looked more like ourselves and what our values stand for [in the second half]. But it’s really disappointing to get knocked out and not having the opportunity of still being in the hat and trying to get to Wembley."
When asked if the recent break that his players have had from match action was a possible factor in tonight’s loss, with Mansfield not playing in a competitive fixture since the match against Lincoln on Saturday 24 November, he said: “We looked a yard off the pace from our usual selves. I’m glad I’ve played the players that I have because after that time out, it’s got it out of their system.
“What I do know now is that I have a group of players that like to be in a rhythm. They like to be in a rhythm of Saturday-Tuesday football.
“It’s really important to keep the players in that rhythm because that’s where they found their form.
“We had that feel good factor and the lads were buoyant [after Lincoln], so I didn’t see that first half coming, and to say I’m disappointed is probably an understatement.”
David Flitcroft made three changes at the break – which saw an enhanced performance - and explained his reasoning behind the decision after the match.
“We went to 4-3-3 and changed the shape [in the second half]. KP [Krystian Pearce] had a bit of a groin strain, so we flipped it to a back-four.
“CJ carries and offers that threat. He was ill during the Lincoln game so we have to make sure he gets right, so I only really wanted him to play 45 minutes.
“Timi Elsnik and CJ made a difference second half. The shape looked better.”
Looking ahead to Stags’ next fixture, the Nottinghamshire Derby against Notts County, the manager spoke of how much the game means to himself and the Mansfield faithful.
“I’m hurting now. I’ll get a good night’s sleep, come tomorrow, and all I’ll be focusing on is Notts County.
“I remember the Chesterfield game [last season] and the game against Notts in the snow. It’s red hot. The supporters will be up for it.
“There’s so much riding on it. I’ll be certainly letting the players know what it means to me and our supporters.
“We’ve been really consistent all season in a lot we’ve done. I just have to make sure that tomorrow, all the players know exactly what is expected from each one of them, ready for a red hot game on Saturday.”
iFollow Stags subscribers can watch the full interview with David Flitcroft by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow.