Big game as Mansfield Town head for promotion rivals Northampton Town looking to close the gap

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Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough knows the importance of Saturday's trip to Sixfields where rivals Northampton Town are currently in the third and final automatic promotion place.

The sides drew 1-1 at the One Call Stadium on Boxing Day and both have had their recent wobbles with Stags currently seven points adrift of the Cobblers.

“I am not an avid looker at the league table – first of all it depresses me as I know where we should be,” said Clough.

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“But it's incredible when you think of the run we've had that we are only seven points behind Northampton in third and just outside the play-offs. We are still in with a chance.

Mansfield Town and Northampton Town in battle on Boxing Day.Mansfield Town and Northampton Town in battle on Boxing Day.
Mansfield Town and Northampton Town in battle on Boxing Day.

“It shows just how tight it is and it's a huge regret we've missed an opportunity. But we still have 20 games left and 60 points to play for.

“So we are still not far off and need to start converting our performances into points.”

He added: “It will be unbelievably tough. I think they stopped us at home as well as any team have and caused us problems themselves.

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“I think it was a fair result on Boxing Day. But when you're 1-0 up in the 88th minute, no matter how you play, you should win the game.

“On their day Northampton are as good as anyone in this league.

“They have had a couple of injuries but I still think they are a major threat.”

Stags will definitely be without the suspended George Maris after electing not to appeal his red card from last weekend.

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“I thought it was harsh but it was one of those – a 50-50,” said Clough.

“The assistant in front of us said straight away it was a red card and was obviously advising the referee on that.

“I don't think their lad had got the ball – I think Christy Pym would have come out and collected it. It's just one of those.

“You don't win very many appeals and, quite rightly, they back the officials whenever they can – that's what they should do.

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“I think it's just one game for denying a goalscoring opportunity for George.”

Riley Harbottle and Ollie Clarke look set to miss out with injury while hopes are higher of Rhys Oates (ankle), Kellan Gordon (groin) and Jason Law (ankle).

Lucas Akins has an outside chance if he trains on Friday and looks to have shaken off his ankle problem.