Rarely has the post-match mood at Priory Lane felt so sombre.
Eastbourne Borough had just suffered their 13th defeat of the season against a physical but average looking Mansfield Town side and slipped to third from bottom in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Centre back and vice-captain Gary Elphick hobbled off just before half-time with a recurrence of a calf problem while injury-plagued striker Andy Atkin, who appeared as a second half substitute, lasted little more than 10 minutes before he limped back to the dug-out with a hamstring complaint.
Add to the equation relegation rivals Forest Green, Southport, Gateshead, Hayes & Yeading and Altrincham all picked up points and it was easy to see why boss Garry Wilson and his assistant Nick Greenwood looked so gloomy.
Wilson, who dragged himself from his sick bed after suffering a bout of flu said, “You are never going to be successful when you keep having to change the team all the time.
“We have got some big personalities missing at the moment and when you have a small squad like ours it takes it toll.
“The players return from injury and then keep on breaking down.”
Assistant boss Greenwood added, “We have players arriving in the dressing room before the match introducing themselves to each other. How can you build a team in that situation?
“It’s not easy for these players to gel straight away into a side that is low on confidence.”
On Saturday Richard Pacquette served the last of a three-match suspension, new signing Eddie Hutchinson was ruled-out with a thigh problem, Matt Langston had knee ligament damage while Simon Johnson, Simon Weatherstone and Ross Treleaven remain side lined.
Influential skipper Ben Austin returned to the heart of the defence and Jamie Taylor came back to lead the attack and impressive new signing from Crawley Steve Masterton made a promising debut in central midfield.
Boro’ made a reasonable start against a Mansfield side low on confidence having suffered a 7-2 defeat at Grimsby swiftly followed by a 1-0 home defeat at bottom club Altrincham.
On five minutes James Norwood, operating on the right of midfield, skipped into the box but sliced his effort wide of Kevin Pilkington’s goal.
Bouremouth loanee Mitchell Nelson, who produced possibly his worst display in Boro’ shirt, on Saturday lost Ryan Williams in the box but the Stag’s winger wastefully fired over from close range.
Luton loanee Dan Walker blasted narrowly over from distance and Masterton’s dipping volley from 30 yards was well tipped over by Pilkington.
The Stags opened the scoring on 22 minutes. Ashley Cain crossed from the right and Kyle Nix’s diving header crept under Rikki Banks.
It could have been worse for Boro’ when Williams ghosted beyond Nelson, reached the byline but his cross was intercepted by Banks at full-stretch.
Elphick hobbled off and was replaced by veteran Darren Baker and early in the second half Atkin came on for Norwood a Wilson opted for a more physical presence.
Two minutes later Boro’ were level and it came from the best move of the match. Matt Crabb and Neil Jenkins combined down the left. Jenkins crossed and Taylor scored Boro’s first league at Priory Lane since October 2010.
After a nervy spell Boro’ settled once again and looked the team likely to score next. Walker hit a left footed shot just over and Matt Crabb’s drive flew narrowly wide. Marsterton then delivered an inviting ball into the box and Atkin stretched every sinew to make contact, including his hamstring, and that was the end of him.
Nathan Crabb came on and looked lively but it was Mansfield who nearly struck when Keigan Parker shot wide after a rare defensive slip from Austin.
Adam Murray was booked for a nasty stamp on Matt Crabb and brother Nathan’s flick-header forced another decent save from Pilkington from Masterton’s resultant free kick.
But teams in relegation trouble concede sloppy goals and that’s exactly what happened next.
Nelson gave the ball away to Mansfield skipper Murray, who was perhaps slightly fortunate to be on the pitch after his stamp on Crabb, and fired in from the edge of the box.
Boro’ rallied briefly as Matt Smart blasted wide and Nathan Crabb headed over but once again the Stags added a third with alarming ease when Parker shot low beyond banks.
Greenwood added, “At 1-1 we looked the team more likely to get the three points.
“Defensively we were too weak in the tackle and that has cost us.”
Borough: Banks 7, Nelson 5, Jenkins 6, Austin 6, Elphick 6 (Baker 44 6), M Crabb 6, Masterton 7, Smart 7, Norwood 6 (Atkin 52, N Crabb 7 65), Taylor 7, Walker 6. Subs not used: Brinkhurst, Strevett.
Goals: Taylor 54. Booked: Austin
MANSFIED: Pilkington, Silk, Naylor, Foster, Sandwith, Cain, Murray, Nix (Mills 87), Williams (Medley 65), Parker, Duffy (Connor 80).Subs not used: Collett, Stonehouse Goals: Nix 22, Murray 75, Parker 90. Booked: Murray
Referee: John Busby (Oxfordshire) 6