Stags’ boss David Flitcroft has praised the ‘commitment’ shown by ten-man Mansfield after they set a club record of nine successive unbeaten away games against Swindon Town this afternoon.
Midfielder Will Atkinson was sent off just minutes prior to half-time for a highly-debatable second bookable offence, yet the Stags battled for a 0-0 draw. The undefeated sequence in away games stretches back to last season and sees Mansfield amassing two wins and seven draws in that time.
The manager says that the nature of the contest against Swindon, with Mansfield playing the entire second half with a man less, was a ‘good experience’ for the younger players in the side.
“Once we had Will [Atkinson] sent off, the crowd sensed it might be an easy afternoon for Swindon,” said the gaffer.
“We look at the new generation of players coming through, and I said to them after the game that it’s one for the memory bank. It’s a good experience for further down the line.
“When it was 11 versus 11, I never felt any threat. I don’t think they had one chance at 11 versus 11, on their own patch.
“CJ [Hamilton] with that first opportunity just needed that bit of composure, which will come. That’s something we’re working with him all the time and it will keep improving.
“With the sending off, the first one [yellow card] was reckless and was a justified yellow. But the second one in the corner, maybe a more experienced referee just talks to him and lets him know.
“Phil [Brown] was pulling his hair out after a few of the decisions, which the referee could have played on.
"You look at the effort and the commitment to keep the clean sheet, and I’m delighted. We’re unbeaten again away from home."
“It was a really inconsistent match from the referee and I think he’s just not trusted his judgment in sending Will off, and that escalated.
“You look at the effort and the commitment to keep the clean sheet, and I’m delighted. We’re unbeaten again away from home.
“We desperately wanted three points. In the first half we had no problem, but the referee gave them a leg up [with the red card].”
After a game that was littered with controversy, the Stags’ boss stated his beliefs on the pressures that referees face, and further commended his side for the way they held out for a valuable point at the County Ground.
“With the assessors in the stand, these young referees are under pressure,” he added. “We saw it a few weeks ago at Bury with the players jumping on his back after we scored.
“I think they’re under a lot of pressure these referees, so I don’t want to put any more on them.
“One thing that experienced referees do, they know how to speak to you. They know how to communicate and I think it’s really important.
“It takes unbelievable discipline [playing with ten men]. Swindon got frustrated with it and were playing the ball out, rushing their passes.
“Bobby has had a few shots that have come in but none had any real pace on them. I’m absolutely delighted with the way we shut them down.
“We’ll take that point. They’ve shown real character and they’re a young group. This next generation of the game have to learn the other side of the game, that focus, concentration, and a willingness to run for someone else.
“Will Atkinson must have apologised 50 times in there. He was absolutely on the floor at half-time. If that cost us, it would be a long week for Will, so the lads have dug him out. That’s the part of any good team.”
Stags are back in Sky Bet League Two action on Tuesday night against Morecambe, and David Flitcroft says that his side will be as committed in Lancashire as they were against Swindon this afternoon.
“We’ll have to look at the stats and the distances [ahead of the Morecambe game]. Danny Rose’s shift today was phenomenal as a lone striker at times.
“We have to make sure that we are analysing and understanding the data. Then we’ll go up to Morecambe after getting the preparation right for that and be committed as we have been down here.
“Again, the Mansfield supporters have committed and it was great for me to hear them get behind the team and I can only thank them for that. It meant a lot.
“They’ve had to put a shift in [against Swindon], but I think a mental shift as well. When you have a player less for so long, it’s a mental shift as well.
“They have earned a point tonight, so full credit to the players and the staff.”
iFollow Stags subscribers can watch the manager’s interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.