Mansfield manager Nigel Clough hailed his side’s fighting spirit after the narrow 1-0 home win over struggling Carlisle.
Despite a bright start and an early goal, the Stags looked leggy and tired so soon after Saturday’s sparkling FA Cup win at League One side Doncaster and Carlisle were unlucky not to steal a point.
“In the context of having our three best strikers out, plus no skipper and seven players out, that was as good a three points as we’ve had all season,” said Clough.
“You have to do whatever you can to win a game, they are all different. Sometimes you have to scrap and fight.
“Tonight we were not at our best and gave the ball away too easily, but we got the three points and a clean sheet.
“The win was unbelievably hard-earned on the back of Saturday.
“We started the game very well, then I think we ran out of a bit of energy and legs.
“They got into the game 10 minutes before half-time and continued it throughout the second half.
“Although we had a couple of situations it was more about protecting our clean sheet and that 1-0 lead which, apart from hitting the bar with that unbelievable effort, I thought we did exceptionally well on low energy levels tonight.
“They came and played exceptionally well. They are a good footballing side and Callum Guy is one of the best midfielders in the division.”
Mansfield roared out on the front foot and on six minutes Stephen McLaughlin headed in Elliott Hewitt’s cross at the far post.
Harry Charsley also forced a save with a low shot.
Home keeper Nathan Bishop then prevented a Charsley header sailing into his own net.
After the break United pushed hard and Sam Fishburn saw a goalbound header hit a team-mate on the line, Brennan Dickenson was too high from seven yards and, in added time, Jordan Gibson hit the bar from 25 yards.
Carlisle boss Keith Millen said: “We couldn’t get to grips with Mansfield, and them scoring after six minutes was a tough blow.
“But when we settled down we opened them up. Mansfield are good in possession but they do leave themselves quite open when you win it.
“When we got to grips and calmed down we created a few opportunities. We were then excellent in the second half and on the front foot.
“There were so many incidents, how we’ve not scored is beyond belief.
“It’s frustrating. When you’re playing well and working hard and not getting the results it’s tough to take.
“But that’s the situation we are in and we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”