We needed to win. With 12 minutes to go we were nowhere near. But win we did. Incredible.
All those postponements were worth it in the end, but it’s not unfair to say we were poor for 75 minutes. The pitch, so bad that if you looked close enough you’d probably spot some potatoes growing, wouldn’t have helped, but Mansfield in that first hour definitely had all the better chances. In glimpses we showed some of our technical ability, but it was far and few between. Marcus Maddison had a half chance curl over, while Dapo Afolayan beat a couple of defenders before hitting the post, only for the flag to go up. Arguably though, maybe the three attacking midfielders were a bit too fluid in the first half.
Down the other end, we defended reasonably well, and there was a lot thrown at them. Alex Baptiste, back at his first club, cleared Ryan Sweeney’s effort off the line. At one point, Matt Gilks looked to have picked up an injury, while he was okay in the end, it will only add to the calls for Ian Evatt to use one of three options he has and put another goalkeeper on the bench.
In the end, Mansfield did go ahead, and it was a gift. While Ollie Clarke was doubtless impressive, his shot went off Gilks’ chocolate wrists and gave the hosts the lead. We were then rather opened up for the second goal, and Jamie Reid finished well.
But then the comeback began. Declan John almost certainly didn’t mean that first strike, and the second was an own goal. Maybe it was a ‘fluke’ and a ‘scrappy own goal’ Nigel Clough, but John’s ability to get forward asked the questions and it got the responses we needed. Then there was the winner, nothing flukey or scrappy about that. Some have questioned Eoin Doyle’s overall contribution away from scoring, but he managed to drop wide at the right moment, and he picked out Arthur Gnahoua, whose performances off the bench, coupled with him living down the road, is fast making him a cult hero. And what a finish it was.
It’s not saying too much to suggest that win kept our season alive. Had we not, I think we couldn’t have too much confidence of putting together a play-off run. But now we’re five points off the top seven, with a next set of fixtures against the likes of Barrow, Southend and Scunthorpe. Not guaranteed points of course, but a genuine opportunity to make a run of this now.
Just to leave things on a bittersweet note. Imagine the scenes in the away end if this had been played in normal times. Huge shame.