Stags boss Cox dismisses bookies’ play-off favourites tag

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MANSFIELD Town boss Paul Cox today dismissed the bookmakers’ decision to install Stags as promotion favourites ahead of Wednesday’s BSBP play-offs semi-final first leg at outsiders York City.

“I don’t know why we’ve been made favourites,” he said, despite Stags ending the regular season with six straight wins in a run of 13 wins and a draw in the last 15.

“I suppose it is the form we are coming into it with. I am not trying to play mind games. You have to look at how long the other three clubs have been putting their squads together. “You have got to pick Wrexham as favourites for the season they’ve had.

“We will give it our best shot and we won’t let our supporters down. When we show the kind of hunger we have done, we are not bad.

“But we are early on in our plans here for this group of players. The other clubs are 18 months ahead of us in building things. We are a work in progress. Taking nothing away from us, we are the babies of the play-offs.”

Stags drew 1-1 away and 2-2 at home with York over the Christmas period.

The Minstermen ended the season with three straight wins without conceding as part of four wins and a draw in the last five and Cox said:“York have good players all the way through the side.

“The games between us were very even at Christmas. But we seem to be a different animal here at the minute.

“The squad is dynamic and hungry. They don’t seem to be scared or feeling anxious about the play-offs. They seem to be embracing them which is what I want them to do.

“The place will be like a cauldron on Monday. The football club is buzzing and the town is buzzing.

“The players can write a chapter in the club’s history which would be nice.”

On Thursday night, second favourites Wrexham travel to Luton Town for their first leg and Cox said: “Both of them have picked up of late and are massive clubs.

“Luton had 8,500 in their last home game and you’d struggle to find a better gate outside the bottom half of League One. It will be who performs on the day and who handles the pressure best.

“It’s going to be interesting. There is a fine line between all four sides. They are big clubs at this level of football and there will be fine margins between going out and winning it.

“The interesting thing is the 46 games that have gone now count for nothing.

“Our lads are in high spirits and there is a spring in their step. The biggest thing is they are still full of energy and running at this time of the season.

“Often by now players are starting to feel the strain mentally and physically, but these lads are chasing around like kids in the school playground still.

“Driving into work today I could hardly get into the car park with the hordes of fans trying to buy tickets for the play-offs. At the start of the season that’s what we set out to do.

“It’s been a long season with ups and downs. But the big games are now to come.

“To come here and see blue sky and thousands queuing this morning – all credit to this club.

“When I joined I thought there was a bit of a dark cloud hanging over the club. Between us all, the chairman, the board, the players, the fans, we have all worked hard to move in the right direction and started to lay some foundations.

“We are being backed by people in and around Mansfield and, with a catchment area of 250,000-300,000, there is scope for us to go to go to the stars if we keep pushing in the right direction.”

Cox now has big decisions to make on who starts the York game with seven changes on Saturday allowing his fringe players to superbly stake their claim with a 3-0 win at Kidderminster that ended Harriers’ own promotion ambitions.

Cox admitted: “It’s given me a headache, not just for the play-offs, but for next season as well. That was all I asked the lads to do. I don’t like sulkers. I like them to answer back with performances.

“Some people said we’d put out a weakened side. But John Thompson, Andy Todd and Jon Worthington have probably got more Football League games behind them than most at the club.”