Experienced Mansfield Town squad won’t be fazed by play-off semi-finals challenge

Mansfield Town's experienced squad could be the key to play-offs glory believes boss Nigel Clough.

Thursday, 12th May 2022, 9:28 am

And he has ordered players to spend time with families this week ahead of Saturday's first leg at home to Northampton (7.45), with the return at Sixfields next Wednesday night.

Stags suffered play-off semis heartbreak against Newport County three years ago but Clough said: “Some of these players have experienced play-offs before and it is a fresh group of players, so they won't be affected by what happened here a few years ago.

“We go into it as a new challenge for everybody.

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Stephen Quinn - his vast experience will prove crucial for Stags this weekend.

“A few of them have had bigger experiences than the League Two play-offs. People like Stephen Quinn and James Perch have played at the very highest level, so a League Two play-off semi-final won't faze them.

“They need to spread that calmness and composure to the rest of the team.

“It is nothing like the regular season. You play your 46 games then all of a sudden you come to these two and it's like two mini cup finals.

“Players know if they do their jobs to a good enough standard over the two games we could be going to Wembley and a chance of getting promoted.”

To help his squad Clough has told them to go home and spend time thinking of family and anything else but the game for now.

“Preparation will be exactly the same as it's been all season,” he said.

“But we want players to get away and have a bit of time with their families. That's the most important thing.

“You can't spend the next four or five days thinking of nothing else. It would drive you mad.

“We have a lot of experienced players with young children. The weather is nice so they can get out for the day and just think about something else.”

Stags do go into the game unbeaten in four and having won 13 and drawn one of their last 15 home games.

But Clough said: “Form does go out the window to a certain degree as the regular season has finished now and it's like a little cup competition.

“But I don't think it does any harm that we are four unbeaten and we've scored a few goals in the last four games.

“Confidence and injuries are not too bad at the moment, so that has to help.

“You look at the bench on Saturday and how strong it is. That wasn't the case a few months ago when we had around 10 injuries on a regular basis.

“It gives you a great deal of comfort. On Saturday we couldn't even get Faz Rawson or Danny Johnson into the 18.

“Any one of them could start and it does give us some selection headaches.”

Despite the excitement and anticipation for the game, Clough said it was hard to actually enjoy play-off football.

“You can't 'enjoy' the play-offs as all your hard work over 46 games comes down to two now, or maybe three,” he said.

“You see two of the best teams in League One are now out. So I don't think you can say you'll enjoy it.”