Before last Tuesday, can you remember the last time we lost away to Mansfield? Me neither. Games merge from one to another: defeat draw win win draw defeat blah blah blah. How did we get on against Salisbury or Crawley or Kettering last year? No idea.
Individual results are meaningless, which is why I don’t understand people who can dip in and out of their club. The game makes more sense the longer you engage in it. The result of a single game makes no sense unless it’s put into the context of a season. The season makes no sense unless it’s in the context of years of hope and despair.
On a global level, the Mansfield defeat should be seen as a positive thing. The nitty gritty of the result will eventually be lost to history, but it’s served as a safety valve from the building mental pressure of record runs and the fear of that first defeat.
The trick, of course, is the ability to get it all back together after the valve has been released. It’s a mental rather than physical release; somehow you’ve got to maintain the physical intensity, whilst accepting the mental benefits of an occasional setback. It’s easy for physical and mental laziness to set in, which is at the root of Chris Wilder’s outburst against Eastbourne. Worse still, you lose the physical edge and the mental sharpness over compensates creating anxiety and fear – which is pretty much where we’ve been in the last 10 years.
So, following the Mansfield defeat, we travelled to Gateshead mentally cleansed but needing to get back on the winning trail. Sometimes, it’s just about getting there, winning and getting out. Which is exactly what we did. If we can dig out, say, 4 points in the next week we can get back into a series of winnable games thereafter. It should mean that the Mansfield result will have served us well. Who cares how we performed, nobody will remember it anyway.