Stags’ boss David Flitcroft has delivered his post-match verdict following this evening’s play-off semi-final second leg against Newport County.
Mansfield displayed a spirited performance and created several opportunities in the second-half to open the scoring, yet eventually fell to a 5-3 defeat on penalties after a 0-0 draw in 120 minutes of action.
The manager says he is ‘floored’ by tonight’s result.
“We’ll have a mourning process and a grieving process,” he began. “We felt that after we didn’t go up [against MK Dons].
“To lift the lads and put in that performance against Newport [on Thursday] was massive.
“We went down there [Newport] and gave a galvanised performance. I’ve had the referees’ association apologising for the two things they got wrong at Newport.
“In the second leg, both teams have gone out full throttle to try and win a game of football. The passion and the commitment was there.
“In those big moments, we just didn’t seal the deal. It must have been one hell of a game to watch because the two teams left everything out there.
“I’m just gutted for the players and gutted for the supporters, who were unbelievable tonight. That’s the best I’ve been involved in at a stadium where I’ve been [the manager].
“The support they gave us was phenomenal. I’m disappointed for our chairman [John Radford] and Carolyn [Radford, chief executive], because they have supported me brilliantly and I wanted to give them that day at Wembley.
“We have some thinking to do. I’m floored because everyone has put so much into this season. The supporters turning up at MK Dons, and then here tonight. So I’m floored, and there’s a lot going through my head.”
The Stags’ boss described the post-match scenes as the ‘toughest five minutes’ he has suffered in football.
“It’s tough. It’s probably the toughest five minutes I’ve had, listening to Newport celebrate in the dressing room next to us.
“All credit to Newport in the first-half, they created a couple of chances. We got into half-time and I felt we were a little lucky.
"I’m floored because everyone has put so much into this season."
“Second-half, the lads came out all guns blazing. We looked threatening and we got a foothold in the game.
“In those big moments, when you have the momentum, you have to go and win it.
“I said to the players in the huddle before the penalties, it takes real bravery to step up and take a penalty.
“It’s difficult for Tyler [Walker]. The kid’s distraught in there. He’s a Nottingham Forest player, but he’s been Mansfield through and through - he’s been a Stag.
“He’s distraught, but he hasn’t let us down. This kid has had to carry [us] at times. He’s had to do that a lot this season and has scored many winning goals.
“It’s my job now to lift the group. It was important we absorbed some of their celebrations, because they have deserved it.
“It [getting to Wembley] was something we desperately wanted. We’ve not achieved that, and it’s a tough one. It’s a real hard one.”
Looking ahead to the future, David Flitcroft says that Mansfield must become more ruthless in the ‘big moments’ of matches.
“It’s always fight or flight in those big moments. You have to take those opportunities and stand up and be counted.
“In 95 percent of what we’ve done this season, we’ve been excellent, but in that five percent we have to improve to become winners.
“We have to become more ruthless in big moments in big games. If we had done that, we’d have had an improved season.
“It’s that five percent that I have to look into. It’s that five percent that we have to move forward with and get better in.
“They [players] have been consistent and kept their standards high, but we’ve just not got over the line.”
To watch the manager’s interview in full, head to mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.