The Northampton manager, Jon Brady, believes momentum is with his side as they look to overturn Mansfield’s 2-1 first-leg lead when the sides square up again at Sixfields on Wednesday night in the League Two playoffs.
Trailing 2-0 after first-half goals from Rhys Oates and Jordan Bowery, Ali Koiki’s 61st-minute reply put the tie back in the balance and Mansfield had to defend superbly to maintain an advantage.
“We showed character and spirit to come back into the game in the second half and I thought we acquitted ourselves well,” said Brady. “Credit to Mansfield. It was a strong game tonight.
“We definitely felt we were in the ascendancy in the second half and we’re going to make sure we take that momentum into the next game.
“At half-time we told them there were certain things we’d done all season that we weren’t doing, and we looked a lot more purposeful and aggressive in our play. We have come back when we have had setbacks and we are probably at our best when our backs are against the wall. We come out fighting and we get results.”
Mansfield were ahead after 13 minutes when Bowery sent Oates into the right of the box and he rifled a low finish under Jonny Maxted. It was 2-0 less than 20 minutes later as Bowery turned the ball home at the far post after Jamie Murphy had sent a low cross in from the left byline.
But Northampton were back in it just after the hour when Mitch Pinnock and Louis Appéré broke well down the centre and Koiki completed the move with a low finish.
The Mansfield manager, Nigel Clough, said: “A lot of credit to Northampton after they got the goal – they put it on us and we had to defend extremely well.
“The effort and endeavour was remarkable tonight, as it has been for most of the season. We didn’t play anywhere nearly as well as we have done in recent weeks and months, but that’s the nature of the playoffs. They did very well at stopping us playing our normal game.
“I wish the second leg was tomorrow as I think we can play a lot better than we did tonight. I think our nerves were a bit edgy at times and we didn’t get our foot on the ball and play. I think we will be better away from home. We are still in there after 47 games.”