David Flitcroft says Mansfield’s promotion fate is still in their own hands, despite admitting his side were well below their best during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Northampton.
The promotion-chasing Stags led through Mal Benning, whose 11th-minute corner found its way into the net, but they were pegged back when Sam Foley headed in Scott Pollock’s delivery midway through the second half.
A point sees Mansfield drop to third in Sky Bet League Two, holding a one-point advantage over closest challengers MK Dons.
“It was a well-earned and hard-earned point,” said Flitcroft. “The football we came up against today was direct and it came at you from every angle.
“Players are fighting for their futures at Northampton and it showed because we’ve had to withstand quite a bit of pressure.
“The disappointment is that we were 1-0 up and the goal we conceded comes from a set-piece, because we dealt with their other set-pieces really well.
“Northampton are very brave on corners – they throw nine outfield players in and they really come after you but we withstood it for most of the game.
“But the one we didn’t get right they score from, so that’s where I’m really disappointed.
“I thought our early goal would settle us but it didn’t because we rushed our play, we weren’t composed enough in possession and we stayed in that frantic state of mind.
“The lads really tried and gave everything they could but on the big moments we didn’t have that quality we’ve shown all season.
“We’re still in the top three and our destiny is still in our own hands. There’ll be more twists and turns to come and we’ll keep fighting.”
Northampton dropped down to 15th and manager Keith Curle said: “The result is obviously important but what’s also important is the level of performance and I thought it was very good today.
“I thought we played on the front foot and we matched them. The challenge for the changing room was to go up against a team second in the league, who are there on merit, and the players had to accept that challenge, enjoy it and go and face it head on. We did that, individually and collectively.
“We try to have variation in our set-pieces because we are a threat from them, not only with the movement and the creativity of the movement but also the quality of delivery, whether that’s Scott Pollock or David Buchanan.
“We’ve got other options to take corners and we have a good understanding of where we need the ball to be delivered and then have the desire and application to get on the end of it.
“Sometimes it’s about keeping the ball alive and sometimes it’s about having a chance at goal and taking it. We did that today.”