Second Stags keeper facing Wembley heartbreak - Home debutant Higginson praises fans

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MANSFIELD Town face an anxious wait on the fitness of number one keeper Alan Marriott with the FA Trophy final at Wembley just five weeks away, reports John Lomas.

Marriott, out since early October with a groin injury, was back between the posts for Saturday’s 2-1 win over Rushden but was forced off after only 42 minutes with a broken finger.

Stags v Rushden''Connor Higginson

Stags v Rushden''Connor Higginson

The news came just 48 hours after it was revealed that David Grof, on loan from Notts County and who has been in goal for much of Marriott’s absence, will be ineligible to play for Mansfield in the Trophy final.

Stags boss Duncan Russell, forced to watch the game from the stands after the FA charged him with misconduct for comments made about the referee last weekend, said: “It is too early to say what chance Alan has of playing at Wembley. We will just have to see how it goes.

“It is typical of our luck with injuries at the moment. We were down to the bare minimum. Players kept dropping out all week.

“We deserved that win today without a doubt as we by far the better side. We should have been 2-0 up in the first five minutes. Their keeper made some miraculous saves.

“Again we gifted a team a goal. If we could stop doing that we’d be further up the league. But it was a good team performance with good work ethic.

“I was pleased for Louis to get the winner. To be honest I was on the headphones to Paul Hall at the time saying Louis was out of position and he went and scored.

“He can be a frustrating player but you know he will always pop up and score you a goal.”

“I was pleased with young Conor Higginson on his home debut too. He did ever so well and is only going to get better and better. He looked as good as anyone out there and is an exciting young lad.

“We played him wide right but he is a centre forward and I am sure he will get a chance in that position before the season ends.”

Teenager Higginson said: “I was at home talking to my mum and dad and said I wasn’t sure I would even make the bench.

“But when I got to the ground the gaffer took me upstairs and was talking about starting me on the right. Then the adrenalin started pumping and I was really excited.

“I ended up starting and doing all right. I’d give myself a seven out of 10 but I could have done better.

“I am a centre forward but it’s on my CV I can play right or left or behind the striker, but as long as I am in the first 11 here I don’t mind playing centre half if I have to.

“Being a local lad it means a lot to play in front of the fans. I love them to bits and have the upmost respect for them. It was nerve-racking but I enjoyed it and now want to try to keep the shirt.”

Goalscorer Briscoe, celebrating his 23rd birthday, had a quiet afternoon but scored the winner and said: “It was nice that I finally turned up in the game in the last minute.

“We gave away a sloppy goal but got back into it and dominated after that.

“We definitely seem to like to do it the hard way here which is exciting for the fans but it is not nice to keep going behind. If we could get some clean sheets we will always score goals.”

Diamonds boss Justin Edinburgh said: “Not for the first time this season two individual efforts have cost us the game. But in terms of effort and application we gave of our best.

“We haven’t got a real centre half in the club and with the embargo in place it is difficult. So I can only commend the players for their attitude and desire today.

“It is easy to feel sorry for yourself. But, although Joe Day has kept us in the game in the first half with his saves, I thought we were good with the ball today, though lethargic when we didn’t have it in getting back into position.

“All in all on chances Mansfield probably deserved the points.”

Once again wages were not paid at Rushden this week and he added: “It has been very difficult and it’s not the first time it has happened. But, if I am honest, today they played for me, for the fans and for the football club.

“It has not been easy this season and I will be glad to see the back of it. It has been tough emotionally, physically, mentally and now financially.

“Let’s get the weekend out the way and hopefully there will be some kind of payment to the players made.”