David Flitcroft declared his first ever win as Mansfield Town manager as one of the most important of his career after today’s crucial 1-0 derby win at Chesterfield.
Flitcroft had failed to win any of his first eight games in charge but saw that elsuive victory finally arrive in the biggest of games when Mal Benning lashed home the second half winner against the relegation-haunted Spireites.
“It’s one of the most important wins I’ve ever had,” smiled Flitcroft.
“It’s not really sunk in yet what the lads have done.
“They put their bodies on the line and gave everything to the cause.
“I told them the importance of this football match and what the history meant to our supporters and they displayed all the attributes you’d want from a football team.
“It was a tough place to come with our form over the last four or five weeks. The pressure has been building.
“But winning breeds belief and breeds confidence.
“The players are absolutely elated in that dressing room. We’ve worked hard but, up to now, we’d not been able to give our supporters what they’ve deserved. That’s hurt me and I know it’s hurt the supporters.”
Stags had to defend firmly for 20 nailbiting minutes after scoring and Flitcroft said: “They’ve done the other side of the game for the last 20 minutes as we had to dig in and stand firm.
“Our aim was to come here and keep a clean sheet as well as create opportunities.”
Danny Rose wasted the best chance of the first half before Benning broke the deadlock.
Said Flitcroft: “When Danny had his opportunity I was just waiting for it to go in. Mal Benning’s cross to him was sublime.
“The first goal was all-important for both teams. That lifted the fans and gave us that edge to go and defend something.
“The players, the supporters and the staff – it all felt together.
“I am delighted for the supporters, who again came across in maximum numbers.”
He added: “Notts County was a good day out, but today means a lot and I understood that today.
“I tried to read up on the history of it, but nothing prepares you for what I’ve seen today and the way our supporters have back that first win.
“I’ve wanted this from day one, but I’ve not been able to get it. But I’ve seen a team really believe today they can now go and drive the next part of the plan which is go and win football matches constantly. We want winning part of the DNA and that’s what I have been brought in to do.
“I’ve worked too hard at Swindon to come up here and not give absolutely everything. I’ve got to make this team better and win matches.”
Matchwinner Benning was making a return from a three-game ban and Flitcroft said: “I thought he was excellent today.
“That was certainly Mal’s best game. Maybe he has had a season where it’s been quite tough for him and he just needed some time to recharge.
“A sending-off sometimes does that – gives you time to refocus, recharge and re-galvanise what you’re trying to do.
“With their shape – they play quite narrow – we knew Mal would get a lot of time on the ball today and we wanted his quality.
“When he drives forward and gets in he has real end product quality.”
On the nervy finish, he added: “Chesterfield kept pumping balls in, they were just raining in, and you have to withstand that, which we did.
“You saw two sides of Chesterfield today. You saw a passing side and then when they had to go long and direct they did.
“They tried everything. But we were unbreakable today.”