MANSFIELD Town head for managerless Luton Town on Saturday (3pm), hoping to pull off the result that would almost certainly end their rivals’ hopes of making the play-offs.
The Hatters have had a month from hell so far with three defeats and two draws in February seeing them plummet to 11 points short of the fifth and final play-off place and then seeing manager Paul Buckle this week walk away for ‘personal reasons’.
Nevertheless, Stags v Luton games in recent seasons have seen the clubs build up a rich and bitter rivalry and Mansfield manager Paul Cox said: “This has all the makings of a very good game.
“Both teams have aspirations of breaking into the play-off places and it looks like a really tasty fixture.
“It will be a hostile atmosphere down there which is part and parcel of the fixture. I embrace this kind of atmosphere. You want to play in front of big crowds every week and there is nothing to fear.
“Luton losing Paul Buckle came as a surprise to us all at this level. We have got to thoroughly professional and not get sidetracked by what is going on down there. We must focus only on getting a good result.
“Luton have a fabulous squad all the way through and we know it will be a tough game. We must make sure our players are grounded and level going into the game, having recovered right and prepared right.”
The Luton trip is the third of three successive away games in eight days with a mouthwatering trip to local rivals Lincoln City, also now managerless, looming on Tuesday.
“This is a big week. But we have lots of big weeks coming up between now and the end of the season and we are really looking forward to it,” said Cox.
“This is an exciting time for the club and we have some juicy fixtures.”
Mansfield’s 1-0 win at Hyde on Tuesday was their fifth win in six games with a largely settled side, but Cox is concerned that any players feeling the pace must come forward and ask for a rest.
He said: “We had a few tired bodies out there on Tuesday, especially late on. But it’s good to know we have lads who will run through a brick wall for this club.
“I must make a special mention of our supporters, who made up nearly half the crowd, for their vocal support at Hyde. It was really appreciated by everyone at the club and helped pull the lads through at the end.
“I now need the lads to be honest with me about their fitness. No one wants to step out and lose their place. But I need them to put their hands up for the sake of the side. Even during the 90 minutes I need them to raise a hand and say I am finished.”