THE travelling City directors did their best with some enthusiastic clapping.

But how ever willing the socially-distanced suits in the stand, it was not the response of a packed away end.

There was no overspill of fans to submerge the goal scorers like the time Aramide Oteh disappeared under a scrum of bodies from on and off the pitch at Morecambe.

City’s first league win outside of BD 8 since – after a grand total of 371 days – did not spark the same euphoria.

It should have done.

This was, after all, the scene of one of the bloodiest crimes of last season – a gory 3-0 defeat that had the angry army behind the goal baying for Gary Bowyer’s head.

Anthony O’Connor had talked about revenge on the Stags in the build-up and Saturday could not have gone much sweeter.

But there’s still that feeling of emptiness because City’s joy could not be shared with the supporters.

Imagine just how good it would have been if the claret and amber full house that suffered the misery of before were back there to revel in the glory of such an emphatic performance.

At least those who shelled out a tenner to follow from afar via iFollow were certainly not short-changed.

After freezing in the TV spotlight against Harrogate, City followed this script to the letter. It was the perfect response to Monday’s criticism.

The ongoing lock-out of supporters continues to frazzle brains and shorten tempers. Frustration is quick to bubble up when things go wrong – everything becomes twice as bad when you’re not there to witness it in person.

Hence the powerful wave of negativity that followed a night of being second best to the EFL new boys.

Maybe it had been blown out of proportion – it was only the first loss in the league after all – but the pressure was on to bounce back immediately against a side still without a win.

Another failure at Field Mill was likely to have provoked a response every bit as toxic as the one that Bowyer had suffered at close quarters.

But City delivered a display that deserves just as many bouquets as they received brickbats before.

Admittedly Mansfield lived down to expectations. For a team lauded by some City fans on social media for their “ambitious” summer recruitment, they already have the resigned air of a group settling in for a long campaign of struggle.

Boss Graham Coughlan, who is certainly feeling the heat, was not joking when he said afterwards that he’d like to have changed all 11 players at half-time rather than just a triple swap.

City’s second league win takes them to eight points from the first five games – and suddenly the glass starts to look half-full.

Stuart McCall had declined to get involved in any last-minute bartering on deadline day. He maintains the current squad has enough to thrive.

So this was a timely vindication of the manager’s faith, especially given his reshuffled ranks were missing three through injury.

Reece Staunton and Levi Sutton had both limped off the training pitch on Thursday to join Gareth Evans on the sidelines and force a managerial rethink.

City’s line-up showed five changes in total and a switch in shape.

The internet gleefully trumpeted 4-4-2 but a closer examination revealed another McCall “masterclass” in tweaking and adapting roles.

If anything, City’s line-up was more of a 4-1-2-3 at times with Elliot Watt guarding the back four behind Harry Pritchard and Callum Cooke while Dylan Mottley-Henry was pushed up to occupy the left of Mansfield’s three central defenders.

It was a fluid system that the players bought into – Cooke and Mottley-Henry having their best games to date and Pritchard looking a revelation on his first league start since McCall’s return against Grimsby.

This was more like the Pritchard pre-injury from last season; the attack-minded player who can drift into dangerous positions and link up play.

His backheel – and that seemed to be the theme of the day – for Connor Wood to dispatch City’s second was a touch of sheer impudence.

Yet, maybe, the afternoon might have panned out very differently.

McCall’s oft-quoted “small margins” was evidenced in the contrasting early fortunes of the two goalkeepers.

Mottley-Henry had already ruffled the side-netting when City had a massive escape after Richard O’Donnell lost his footing with a clearance.

The skipper kicked it straight to one-time Phil Parkinson loanee Jordan Bowery, who was odds-on to score as the net beckoned.

But O’Donnell managed to scramble up just enough to smother the shot and save his own embarrassment.

Fast forward a few minutes to his opposite number Marek Stech.

City’s first corner from Wood is meat and drink for the unchallenged keeper but he inexplicably lets the ball slither through his hands and down and into the net.

Wood was officially announced as the scorer but this one was on the Czech, whose catastrophic cock-up deflated his team-mates.

It was an unexpected gift for the visitors – “we never usually get them” smiled Clayton Donaldson later – and inspired them into doubling the lead six minutes later.

The second goal was a thing of beauty. Donaldson took a pass from Elliot Watt which he transferred towards the on-rushing Pritchard.

He ferried it on with a leaping backheel for Wood to take aim and dispatch with the most clinical of first-time finishes.

O’Donnell saved from close range to again thwart Bowery but Mansfield’s hearts were not in it.

Nicky Maynard, the target of a summer discussion with McCall, looked so disinterested that he was among the trio hooked at the break.

By then City should have been completely out of sight – but there never seemed any danger of a home fightback.

Cooke and Pritchard had further chances to increase the advantage before Donaldson finally did so – via another backheel in the build-up.

This time it was Lee Novak, whose partnership with Donaldson pulled Mansfield apart, with the flash of fancy inspiration.

Penned in by the corner flag with seemingly nowhere to go, he rolled the ball past both Corey O’Keeffe and Harry Charsley. That took them out the play for Wood to drill in a cross for Donaldson to emphatically dispatch at the near post.

Job very much done, there was still time for George Lapslie to seal a Mansfield debut to forget with a second booking – and the hosts to grab a consolation very much against the run of play through Andy Cook’s header.

That was an annoyance and give the final score a misleading margin. The contest was never that close.

City had been much the better team to answer their critics at the first opportunity – if only some could have been there to see it for themselves.