New Wembley scare for Stags after Luton draw

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TOM Naylor’s hamstring injury during Saturday’s goalless draw with promotion hopefuls Luton - the team Mansfield Town defeated in the FA Trophy semi-final - may not be as bad as Stags first feared with Wembley just three weeks away.

Defensive star Naylor limped off after only 34 minutes of the gutsy 0-0 home draw with what looked a hamstring pull and his Wembley hopes in tatters.

But, having played twice in four days before this one, Naylor’s problem was initially diagnosed as a tight hamstring plus fatigue so fans will be keeping their fingers crossed on him and Luke Medley, who limped off in midweek.

Manager Duncan Russell said: “It was more a precautionary thing as his hamstring felt tight.

“We didn’t want him to try to play through it and end up rupturing it. We will have to see what the physio tells us tomorrow.”

On the game, he added: “That felt like a victory to be honest.

“We lost Luke Medley in midweek and we lost Tom Naylor today so all these games are taking their toll and we have got to nurse them through.

“Everyone today has done a job. We are missing our two first choice strikers, but the two young lads up there today worked their hearts out, bless them.

“On another day, if I could have put my strongest team out I think we could have got a victory today. Now we have got to go again on Tuesday.

“Hats off to the lads for that performance. No other team had to go through playing Tuesday, Thursday then today.

“Again we tried to take the pressure off them and told them to just go out and enjoy the game and all credit to them.

“I was pleased with a second clean sheet on the trot as you don’t lose with clean sheets and we are always capable of nicking a goal which I thought we were going to do near the end today.

“It was nice to hear the fans cheering at the end, though a few still had a go at me which is their prerogative as they pay their money.”

Mark Preece finally made his debut after signing last summer, replacing Naylor, and impressed.

“It was a great feeling to come in and get a clean sheet,” he said.

“It was great to come back to play at Field Mill in front of the home fans. I was on crutches for eight weeks and sat at home trying to keep my head. But it’s all paid off today.

“It was a tough game and I am sure I will find it hard to move tomorrow. I was struggling with my lungs out there too.

“It was a big game to come into and we defended really well and ‘Groffy’ was brilliant. Steve Foster is a warrior and he talked me though the game.

“It is what I have been training for for the last couple of months.

“Everyone is fighting for a Wembley shirt right now.

“I think Tom Naylor is struggling so I hope I might get my chance to show what I can do over a full 90 minutes on Tuesday.

“But I hope Tom isn’t too bad as he has been fantastic all season and we want him back as soon as possible.”

Steve Istead said: “You always like to win at home and put on a show for your supporters but we are as happy as you can be with a point.

“Luton came here to set their stall out for revenge for the FA Trophy but I think we dealt with them really well.

“It was nice to be clapped off at the end and appreciated for all we did.

“I was really happy to be in central midfield where I am most comfortable, though I will help wherever I can in the side.

“I thought we were really solid today. We haven’t many players due to injuries but we grouped together and worked for each other today.”

Hatters boss Gary Brabin said: “You’d like to think certain things tell the story and the fact that their goalkeeper got man of the match shows a true reflection of the game.

“I was disappointed not to win it as we created enough chances. We worked hard and played some good football but it just wasn’t to be.

“Armari (Morgan-Smith) got an early knock and then Claude (Gnapka) had to come off before half-time as well and he had been causing them a few problems.

“So I was delighted that this group of players kept on trying to do the right things. Now I need to keep them.”