Boss Nigel Clough says ‘stranger things have happened’ as Mansfield Town refuse to give up on automatic promotion bid

Although the chance of Mansfield Town securing a top three automatic promotion spot is now highly unlikely, boss Nigel Clough said stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 4:10 pm

Clough will not give up on it until it is mathematically impossible, but wants to make sure his side at least ensure second prize of a spot in the play-offs when they face title-chasing Forest Green Rovers at home in Saturday's massive final regular season game.

If either Northampton Town and Bristol Rovers win their last game then it's over for the Stags with the Cobblers away at Barrow and, more ominously, the Gas at home to bottom club Scunthorpe United.

“The odds are now massively against us,” admitted Clough.

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Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough - not giving up on top three yet.

“But anything can happen, especially on the final day. That's why you don't rule it out. All we can do is win our game and then Northampton and Bristol Rovers have to score.

“It's not beyond the realms – stranger things have happened on the final, day, though it is as highly unlikely as it is all three teams below us will win away from home and stop us getting into the play-offs.

“It is as entertaining a last day as any league in the country.

“I have been in similar situations and the final day can be very cruel at times.”

He added: “We thought all along that 81 points would be enough to secure automatic, but we can't get that now.

“But this is much better than being halfway up the league and playing for nothing or battling relegation.

“Northampton have a tough one at Barrow and I actually think the favourites are Bristol Rovers, to be fair.

“They are at home to Scunthorpe, which is an ideal fixture on the last day of the season.

“So unless Scunthorpe produce something miraculous that they haven't done over the last 45 games, then I think Bristol Rovers are favourites.

“If Northampton win they are up and they know what they need to do, but it's tough going to Barrow.

“Scunthorpe have played a few youngsters recently. I am not sure on the rules on that though I completely understand why they're doing it looking ahead to next season.

“Scunthorpe are very genuine and I know Keith Hill. They will have a go as much as they possibly can. But it is a big ask for them.”

Stags have already equalled their best points total in 20 years but know it will be tough to add to that total against a Forest Green side desperate for victory on Saturday.

“Winning the title is a big incentive for Forest Green with rivals Exeter playing Port Vale for the title, who are also trying to get the result to get into the play-offs,” said Clough.

“It's not a case of Forest Green coming here and being halfway to the beach. They will be desperate to win the league.

“I think Forest Green have suffered as they were so far ahead.

“When you get as far ahead as they were, they were almost promoted just after Christmas unless they had an absolute disaster, which they've not had.

“They were promoted with four or five games to go, but I think they have suffered from being 'too good' in the first half of the season, though I am sure they will take that.”

Stags only need a point to ensure the play-offs, but Clough said they would be going for the win.

“I think it is almost impossible in football to play for a draw,” he said.

“And we are not the sort of side who can go away from home and 'park the bus'. I don't think we're capable of that with our sort of team.

“We go for the wins and that is what has got us where we are now.”