Chapman is an instant hit as Mansfield Town make it seven in a row
THE cheer that went up shortly before kick-off told it all. Dartford had just pulled off a last-minute winner against leaders Wrexham in the early kick-off game, and the home crowd rejoiced.
It meant victory for the Stags would take them joint-top on points, with a game in hand and all to play for, not least because they still have to meet Wrexham twice.
Yet, with that result, a different type of pressure was bestowed on the in-form Mansfield Town players as they made their way out to face struggling Stockport.
Given the Wrexham result, would they wilt or would they rise to the challenge?
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Thankfully, it was the latter and as they coasted to a 4-1 win, a seventh straight victory and an 11th win in their last 12 games, it was obvious this side cannot be written off.
A play-off place is almost certain now but that can't even be considered and after a slow start, it is coming together as the Blue Square Bet Premier title looms.
Credit has to go to manager Paul Cox. He came in during the summer of 2011 from Eastwood and in his first season, led his side to third on 89 points only to lose out in the play-offs to York. It was a points total miles ahead of his predecessors.
This time around, he has come under fire after an indifferent start but showed the character, toughness but also ability to rise above it and deliver. And he is delivering.
He said he would not sign players for the sake of it but when he made a move, he brought in left-back James Jennings in January from Cambridge and he has been a revelation.
Solid down the left, he is also a set-piece expert and not only that, it has allowed Lee Beevers to move to right-back, his natural position, and he has been a colossus.
It has all combined to this solid run and another addition, Adam Chapman, took centre stage on his home debut on Saturday as he bagged a hat-trick to inspire the 4-1 win.
The midfielder has been performing regularly for League Two Oxford all season but a fallout saw him become available and Cox swooped.
After an instant debut at Woking last Wednesday, he showed his class at the weekend to tee up another vital three points.
The game sprang to life with a 25-yard speculative effort from the recalled Lindon Meikle that was dipping dangerously with goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell diving back to tip over his bar.
But Chapman got in on the act on 13 minutes when Stags took the lead. Meikle picked up the ball, took on a man and then threaded a superb ball to release Matt Green in the box. He was denied by O'Donnell but as the ball was only parried into the centre of the penalty area, Chapman followed up to shoot into the empty net.
And on 20 minutes, Chapman made it 2-0. First he shaped to shoot but fed Lee Stevenson who pulled a shot across the box. That fell to Luke Jones who unselfishly teed it to his right and from 12 yards out, Chapman placed it into the bottom corner with a cool finish.
A minute before half-time Meikle's cross from the right skimmed off the head of Johan Hammar and fell invitingly to Colin Daniel, who had struggled in the first-half, but from six yards out O'Donnell denied him with his outstretched arm.
There was a scare six minutes into the second half as a square ball into the box picked out Danny Whitehead in space but he pulled his causal shot just wide of the far post.
Luke Jones was denied by the reflexes of O'Donnell when he saved the defender's header from Jennings' corners before Stockport broke only to be denied by a last-gasp block from Beevers.
But on 57 minutes it was 3-0 as Meikle took his time, picked out Green's run through the centre and although his ball looked short, it got through three defenders and the striker burst clear, kept his cool and lifted the ball beyond O'Donnell.
O'Donnell then denied Green with an acrobatic save, after he met Jennings' free-kick with his head before out of nothing, Stockport pulled a goal back. Substitute Paul Marshall scored a stunner as he took a touch from Whitehead's pass and from 25 yards, fired into the top corner, drawing applause even from the home supporters.
But Chapman claimed his hat-trick on 78 minutes when just like Marshall, he took a touch, before firing into the top corner from a similar distance with a stunning strike of his own.
It capped off a magnificent display for Chapman – and Stags – as they joined Wrexham and Kidderminster on 68 points.
Afterwards, players and manager alike stuck to the one game at a time line, understandably so.
But don't be fooled. You could sense it. They all know it.
The title is there not to be won, but also there to be lost.
And by beating Grimsby at home tomorrow night, the Stags can all but eradicate another title-chasing team out of the race.
It really is all to play for and top spot can be the only focus for the rampant Stags.