Stags start festive programme with tough trip to Southport

MANSFIELD Town head for Southport tomorrow looking to wipe away the misery of last weekend’s abject FA Trophy exit at Droylsden and begin the crucial festive programme of games with a decent result.

In a spell which could make or break Mansfield’s season, they start at Haigh Avenue on Saturday before back to back games at home and away with York City on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day before the visit of Forest Green Rovers on 7th January.

“These are four massive games which is what you want over the Christmas period – games that are really competitive and mean something,” said manager Paul Cox.

“Southport, York and Forest Green are all sides above us in the league and, in general ,I believe we play against teams above us or the so-called bigger clubs.

“If we come through the Christmas period with some good results we can start the second half of the season on the front foot.

“Goals win games and when we lost to Southport at home we had two great chances in the first 15 minutes. Then I think all three of their goals came from set pieces.

“We have got to defend better as a unit as I know we will always create chances. We are not a bad side at all.”

Cox verbally lashed his players for their display at Droylsden and had them in for extra training on Sunday. But he is pleased so far how they have worked this week and has asked them to show a response against high-flying Southport.

“The weather has hampered us a bit and we have had to have a session indoors. But they have worked hard. They are not a bad set of lads and they are honest,” he said.

“Southport have been up there all season so they are not a flash in the pan. They are good at what they do as they showed here and will will have to be on our mettle to get a result up there.

“They play a certain way and we have to deal with that.

“I know people were disappointed by Saturday’s result, none more so then me, but in the greater scheme of things we have only lost four all season.

“Our biggest problem is how many games we have drawn. Of those I really do believe we should have won at least half of them.

“We need to start turning those draws into wins. A good result on Saturday would get us to the halfway point of the season with 37-40 points which is a decent tally.”

Southport are sitting pretty in fourth place after earning a reprieve from relegation when Rushden went out of business. But their season bears comparison with Stags as their away form is far better than their home form where they have won five, drawn four and lost three.

In contrast Mansfield have lost only one away league game which was in the opening away match at Gateshead four months ago.

Loanee defender Keiron Freeman is available again after recovering from a hamstring strain, but Joe Kendrick (knee) and Rhys Day (calf) are almost certainly ruled out with minor knocks.

Matt Bell has gone out on a month’s loan to Stafford Rangers.