Ultimate test for Mansfield Town at runaway leaders Forest Green Rovers

After six successive games at home Mansfield Town hit the road for the first time since the start of December tomorrow night with the ultimate test away at runaway leaders Forest Green Rovers.

Monday, 17th January 2022, 4:42 pm
Can Stags tame free-scoring Jamille Matt of Forest Green Rovers?
Can Stags tame free-scoring Jamille Matt of Forest Green Rovers?

That is followed by another gruelling trip to Barrow on Saturday.

But boss Nigel Clough said his side were ready as they aim to equal the club record of seven successive EFL wins.

“We like playing at home where we fancy our chances against anyone, but we'd better get used to playing away now with so many trips to come,” said boss Nigel Clough.

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“We've got some treks, especially this week, and we have to get results on the road if we want to maintain our place in the play-offs.

“Taking maximum points from the run of home games has set us up lovely to go on the road. We have put ourselves in a good position.

“We are up and down the country this week – almost one end to the other.

“But we have a large imbalance now with our fixtures with a lot more away games left than we have home games, so we are going to have to do some catching up.

“It seems quite a while now since we played away from home with the postponements over Christmas.

“We have to fit them in, but it's two particularly long and tough trips this week.”

Forest Green are seven points clear, are 13 games unbeaten and are the division's top goalscorers.

“We know we're on a great run and this will be a good measure to see where we are against the top of the league and how close we are to them,” said Clough

“When you're winning you're looking forward to every game.”

Forest Green boss Rob Edwards has paid tribute to predecessor Mark Cooper, who Stags then face on Saturday.

“With playing Barrow on Saturday, it's ironic as Rob Edwards has said he is just continuing all the good work that Mark Cooper over the four or five seasons he was there,” said Clough.

“Mark is now putting those same foundations in at Barrow where we visit on Saturday.

“But we will be going for the victories in both. That's one thing you will have seen in the last few weeks and I think stands out in this run of 15 games – we have had 13 victories, no draws. Just the two losses. We will continue as much as we can in that vein.”

Jamille Matt has netted 15 goals and Matt Stevens 14 already and Clough said: “It's all about their front five – I think they are better than the standard they are playing at at the moment.

“I also think the confidence that is going through the team when you are 10 points clear at the top of the league is a major factor.

“We have to defend well when we need to and try to negate the threat they possess as much as we can, especially in wide areas, and try to stop the service going into the strikers if we can.

“We can't afford to have to fight back from behind like recent home games. When the crowd get behind you, you always fancy yourselves getting back into the game.

“Once we get the first one back the home crowd get behind us. You can't do that away from home.

“We've got to be tight and solid as well as posing an attack threat. But that will be the first order of the day.”

He added: “We've finished with Swindon now and we've finished with Walsall. We are pleased we don't have to play those two game again as they've caused us problems. But we still have to play the league leaders twice.

“Away from home tomorrow night will be the hardest one.

“But we couldn't go into it in much better form at the moment confidence-wise.

“Their current position is just a natural progression from the work that Mark did and if he'd stayed I would have thought they'd have been in the same position.

“You can't forget they were right up there but then lost their main striker, Jamille Matt, for an extended and very important period last season.

“That diminished their chances more than anything. But he is now back and firing on all cylinders, as is their other lad up front, and their front five are a major threat.”

Stags currently have three players out.

“We are hopefully Covid-clear at the moment,” said Clough.

“Ollie Clarke has a tight hamstring so he's a doubt for tomorrow.

“But he and George Lapslie should be fit for Barrow if not.

“Ryan Stirk is a possibility after Covid – he just needs two negative tests. I believe he has had one already, so we will have to wait. We won't be flouting any rules.

“If he gets another negative then he will be in the squad though obviously he hasn't trained for a week. He had very few symptoms though felt a bit rough about a week ago."