STAGS manager Duncan Russell has warned his players to forget their Wembley dreams and concentrate on a crucial BSBP league game at York City on Tuesday night, reports John Lomas.
A Danny Mitchley strike gave Mansfield Town a 1-0 FA Trophy semi-final first leg lead at Field Mill today to put one foot in Wembley Stadium.
The second leg is at Luton on Saturday, but Russell said: “I was delighted with the win, but I really won’t bother about the second leg until after Tuesday.
“I have to be blinkered and concentrate on reading the reports we have about York and working out a way to beat them.
“I will tell my players to enjoy the 1-0 win and then calm down. They need to rest up as we have a difficult game on Tuesday and must make sure they are right for it.
“It was really important we took a lead today, especially with the home tie coming first.
“The job is only half-done and we now have to go to Luton and recreate that performance.
“We must go there and make sure we don’t lose the game. Even if we draw it we would go through.
“Over 90 minutes today I thought we were the better team. We should have scored more goals. We put some good balls across the six yard box which someone should have been getting on the end of.
“When they pushed another man up top for a final push we were under some pressure. But we held our nerve and defended well.”
Stags’ two heroes today were goalscorer Mitchley and keeper David Grof, who made a string of saves.
It was Mitchley’s fourth goal in four starts in a season in which he has struggled to be a regular. But it was his second crucial goal in six days and Russell said: “That’s the mark of a good player to step up to this level and produce a goal.
“I have always said Danny is a good player. There are a few things we need to work on and he can become a complete forward.”
On Grof, he added: “I thought he was outstanding today and pulled off some great saves.
“Our defenders need to give him a pat on the back today as he kept us in the game.
“His best save was in the first half when he reached up and got a hand to it when he had already gone the other way.”
Grof said: “I really enjoyed that. I enjoy these sorts of games when I am busy and they only come a few times each season.
“I was pleased to keep a clean sheet and everyone knows my game is all about shot-stopping. But it wasn’t just about me – the whole team were amazing today.
“Playing at Wembley would be a dream come true. It was my dad’s dream as well but never happened for him. So he would be just as happy for me if I got there.
“Spending so much time on the bench you start to lose confidence so it is good to be here and playing. I am very happy here and glad I came.
“But I know Alan Marriott is a great keeper, one of the best in this league, and it won’t be easy staying in the team. I have just got to give 110 per cent in my performances and try to stay in until the end of the season.”
Goal hero Mitchley said: “I was absolutely made up to score today as they didn’t give us many opportunities.
“It was a great team performance. We defended well and caused them some problems. I am not sure if Paul Connor’s ‘goal’ was offside.
“But it’s only halfway. We have now got to go down there and keep it tight. We must try not to concede and see if we can nick a goal.
“The pressure is now on Luton. If we can keep it tight for the first half hour then their crowd won’t be too happy with the expectations they have. If we can do that then we have a really, really good chance.”
Luton assistant manager Gary Brabin said: “We are disappointed as we wanted more from the first game.
“We know we are a lot better than that. But it’s only half-time and today has given us a better insight as to what Mansfield are all about.
“We now know what we are up against next weekend. We know exactly what we have to do.
“Mansfield worked really hard and probably in the end deserved their lead. But, if anything, based on chances, I think we had the better chances today and their keeper made some outstanding saves.
“Now we must concentrate on Tuesday’s league game, get the three points, then we know what we have to do on Saturday.”
Stags legend Kevin Pilkington, who was only back at Field Mill on loan recently, was upset to be booed by the home fans on his return as Luton keeper today.
“It wasn’t the reception I was hoping for and I was very disappointed seeing as what I have done for the club.
“But I enjoyed the game. I have only had two saves to make, yet we have come away losing 1-0.
“We have to fancy our chances with the second leg being back at home but there are two teams and we already have to claw back a goal so start the match on the back foot.”