THERE was one corner of Shaw Lane’s quaint Sheerien Park ground on Saturday that featured a huge log pile of wood, all set for that evening’s bonfire.
But those among the 1,700 crammed into this small ground on the outskirts of Barnsley witnessed plenty of fireworks of a different kind.
The Ducks put up a bold, resilient showing in their first FA Cup first-round tie against a side sitting 58 places above them in the football pyramid.
Ultimately they were to come up short, but this club has come a long way since owner Craig Wood embarked on a quest to get Barnsley’s ‘other club’ into the Football League.
Saturday’s performance was a decent yardstick as to where they find themselves at present. They are seeking a sixth promotion in just eight years and their progress has been at break-neck speed.
For owner Wood, who stood up for most of the game at the back of one of the hastily-arranged temporary stands, it was a day that made all the hard work and investment over the last seven years worth it.
I hope people remember that we’re a small club that’s come a long way and we’re going in the right directionShaw Lane manager, Craig Elliott
“I’m beaming with pride,” he said. “A replay would have been nice. At 1-1 you’re thinking there may be a giant-killing, but quality and fitness showed in the end.
“It shows how far we’ve come that Mansfield brought their ‘A’ game and a strong team.
“When the dust settles, I’ll reflect as a proud chairman. When we scored, I couldn’t contain myself. That’s what it’s all about.”
This lunchtime fixture got the pulses racing for TV executives, and the decision to screen it live will doubtless have brought the club to the attention of a watching national audience.
But this was not just an occasion to enjoy – Shaw Lane’s players were up for it from the first whistle and their performance belied the fact that three divisions separated the two sides.
Early on, they were gritty, tough to break down and enjoyed their fair share of possession, but they could not keep the visitors at bay from a well-worked free-kick in the 34th minute.
Alex MacDonald’s delivery fell to Krystian Pearce and he was able to fire past Stewart.
It was not long before the hosts were toasting a goal of their own, and it was duly deserved.
Paul Clayton’s initial shot was parried by Conrad Logan, but the Stags could not clear their lines and when Nicky Walker’s ball fell to Lee Bennett – lurking unmarked in the area – he smashed it home.
The goal boosted the hosts’ confidence and suddenly they could sniff an upset. Just before the interval they almost went ahead when Bennett swivelled in the box and dug a shot out of his feet that kissed the outside of a post.
Perhaps that was their chance missed and indeed the Stags upped the ante after the interval, no doubt fresh off the back of an earbashing from manager Steve Evans.
For the former Leeds United and Rotherham manager, it was a case of poacher turned gamekeeper. Evans has masterminded his fair share of cup upsets while in non-league football, notably at Crawley.
He would have been anxious, to say the least ,when his side missed a golden chance to reclaim the lead from the penalty spot. Spencer Harris was deemed to have brought down Jacob Mellis, another ex-Barnsley man, in the box.
Up stepped Mellis, but his low effort was brilliantly pushed away by the alert Jon Stewart.
The hope was back for Wood and those seeking to see an upset.
But it was to last all too briefly.
In ironic fashion, it would be a player born and bred in Barnsley who would end the Ducks’ FA Cup journey – for this year at least.
Danny Rose, who scored just one goal for the Oakwell outfit after graduating from the academy, popped up with a late brace to send the Stags through.
His first was a terrific header that sailed above and beyond Stewart, and his second was an audacious, acrobatic effort that wrapped up proceedings.
After the masses had exited and the BT Sport drone had finally descended from the skies, home manager Craig Elliott was left to reflect on the legacy of this run.
“I hope people remember that we’re a small club that’s come a long way and we’re going in the right direction,” he said.
“We’ve made ourselves proud on and off the pitch.
“We do things the right way and, hopefully, people will come and watch us in the future.
“It was nice to score because you don’t want to be nilled.
“It gave that cheer and feeling around the place when we scored.
“We’ve been successful and now we want the fanbase to increase. Even if it’s just an extra 50 or 60 fans, it would be brilliant for us.
“We want to continue our success. I just hope that everybody, both on and off the pitch, enjoyed the day.”
Shaw Lane AFC: Stewart, Austin, Serrant (Whitehouse 43), Bennett (Reeves 72), Kelvin Lugsden, Qualter, Byrne, Harris, Clayton, Norris, Walker (Abadaki 86). Unused substitutes: Chilaka, Orlando-Young, Kieran Lugsden, Jepson
Mansfield Town: Logan, Benning, Pearce, Diamond, MacDonald, Mellis (Digby 90), Anderson, Hamilton, Byrom, Hemmings (Atkinson 90), Rose (Spencer 82). Unused substitutes: Olejnik, Bennett, Potter, Sterling-James.
Referee: B Toner (Lancs).