Boss Murray challenges his Stags side to end the season unbeaten after fine win

Manager Adam Murray.

Manager Adam Murray.

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After a third successive victory tonight, Mansfield Town boss hailed his side for beating the 60-point target he had set and challenged his players to now end the season unbeaten.

Stags pulled off a fabulous 3-2 win at play-off hopefuls Exeter City tonight, but with only three games left and still a six point gap to the top seven, 12th-placed Stags look set to fall just short after their costly recent seven games run without a win.

However, Mansfield are still set for their best League finish in years after moving onto 62 points and Murray said: “I am over the moon. That is the target we wanted.

“It’s another milestone and another huge, gigantic step for the football club.

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“Now the next one is we want to go unbeaten for the rest of the season.”

Murray admitted the recent slump had hit his side hard.

“Every team in the league has a bad period and we had ours at the wrong time,” he said.

“You look at one or two of those results – the Hartlepool one, the Northampton one, let alone the ones before that when we should have picked up points as we were playing well.

“We should be in the play-offs. We know we are a very good team and as frustrating as it is, if we finished the season playing like this, it leads us nicely into next season.

“It’s such a tight-knit group, the future is really promising.”

Stags led 2-0 at Exeter tonight before the Grecians, unbeaten in 10 matches, levelled the game only to see defender Ryan Tafazolli win it with his second goal of the night.

Stags’ other goal came from left back Mal Benning from almost 40 yards.

“It was very eventful,” said Murray. “We knew it would be a game in which they would have the lion’s share of possession.

“They are an excellent football team that have been together a long time and at home they make a small pitch very big. The way they play is very expansive.

“We knew their strength was possibly their weakness, so the boys stuck to their game plan and the areas we thought we could get at them and hurt them, and we did so and scored three goals.”
After slamming Notts County 5-0 last weekend, Murray was determined his side would not turn in another ‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’ display.

So he used a spot of psychology to have a go at his senior players pre-match – and it worked a treat.

“The players took ownership,” he said. “We’ve said over the last couple of days that we didn’t want to not learn from this season. That’s the point of progression.

“I heard someone make a comment the other day that we haven’t progressed and I was sick in my mouth!

“I was harsh with them today and told them I wouldn’t accept a below-par performance. I knew if we put in the performance that these boys are capable of, the result would take care of itself.

“It was a little bit of psychology if I am being honest. The senior boys needed to know the responsibility lay with them today.

“We beat Notts County at the start of the year, then went to Accrington and were poor. They are the little things I said as time went on we would learn by and get better at.

“They took ownership of that tonight and threw it back in my face. Some of them were a bit angry with what I’d said to them but I got the reaction and some of the performances out there tonight were incredible.”

He added: “We felt we could hurt them with set pieces today so we brought back the long throw. We worked on that in a small little park we found this morning in Exeter.”

Murray was delighted to see two of his defenders grab the goals – spectacular ones, too – but not surprised at all.

He said: “It’s quite ironic - we sat in the team meeting and I said to Taff ‘you’ll score today’. He said, yes, and he wanted to get X-number of goals this season and needed a game in which he scored two, and he did that today.”

Tafazolli’s winning goal saw a finish as good as any striker. But Murray said: “It’s not a fluke. It’s like Mal Benning’s, they are not flukes.

“These guys spend a lot of time working on the training ground so it doesn’t shock me when those things happen. I see it day in, day out.

“In games like that when it’s tight, if you get an opportunity you have to make it count. That’s why successful teams stay successful.”

Benning has made a habit of scoring spectacular goals this season and Murray agreed on tonight’s: “It’s up there.

“Mal’s goals are the icing on the cake for me. But it is his defending that is pleasing me most at the moment.”