Nigel Clough left disappointed as Mansfield Town's unbeaten run ends

Nigel Clough lamented the last-gasp winner that saw Tranmere Rovers end Mansfield Town’s 14-match unbeaten run on Friday night – having worked so hard to twice get back on level terms.

By Mark Duffy
Saturday, 12th March 2022, 10:23 am
Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough speaks to the media at Prenton Park.
Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough speaks to the media at Prenton Park.

The 3-2 loss was Stags’ first of 2022 and lifted the hosts to third in Sky Bet League Two, Mansfield dropping to seventh place, the winner coming after Clough’s side had themselves equalised in second-half stoppage time through Oli Hawkins.

And Clough couldn’t hide his dismay after the game, not least as he also felt the last two Rovers goals shouldn’t have been given.

He said: “The manner in which we lost at the end is disappointing having got back level twice against a very good side.

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"To lose in the 95th minute is very disappointing.

“We’re looking back, and I know the game is tight but, the [last] two [Tranmere] goals are offside.

“I thought having conceded those goals, the only thing that disappointed me most was that we didn’t pick up one yellow card [to prevent Tranmere attacks].”

Clough felt sloppiness also played a big part in the defensive display.

He said: “We went backwards twice,”

Elliott Hewitt had the ball; he went back to Faz Rawson and he went back to the goalkeeper. That’s something that we don’t try to do.

“Nathan Bishop’s kick wasn’t very good and then they win a corner, and we lose two headers in our box.

“You deserve to lose a goal when those things are taken into account.”

Matty Longstaff levelled the contest before half-time with his third goal in as many games since arriving from Newcastle United on loan in January.

Clough added: “We came back into it and scored a good goal just before half-time and we played well once we’d settled down.

“We got in 1-1 at half-time and we wanted to take it on in the second-half.

“Unfortunately, they came out the blocks a bit quicker. I thought they deserved to retake the lead.”

Clough also felt more tackling was needed to have ultimately got something from the game.

He said: “You don’t need aggression to tackle. You just need desire to try and win the ball.

“We need to change the team sometimes to put in different sorts of players in games like tonight.

“We thought the pitch was lovely. It had rained all afternoon which was perfect but we didn’t play with our usual fluency at times. We had a good move for the first goal but there wasn’t enough of it.

“Tranmere did very, very well in stopping us playing, as well as playing themselves.”

Mansfield also left the Wirral with injury concerns, Farrend Rawson having been withdrawn due to a head injury and Lucas Akins taken off in the first-half with a hamstring problem.

Clough said: “It was strange because [Farrend] came off and he was walking like a bit of a zombie and we were deemed not to be able to make a concussion sub.

“That seemed a little bit strange because he could barely walk and could barely open his eye because he got a nasty whack.

“We’ll keep an eye on him over the weekend and I’d have thought he’d be a doubt for Tuesday.”

“Akins had a tight hamstring. That changes your game plan straight away,” the boss said.

“It was a strange game because both sides picked up a few injuries. It’s not ideal but it’s not an excuse for not getting a point.”