First clean sheet so crucial says Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough
Nigel Clough believes just a first clean sheet of the season could get their campaign back on course as they prepare for Saturday's visit of in-form Rochdale.
Stags have now lost five games in a row, four in the league, after a flying start to the season, but manager Clough knows the margins are small.
“This all started in the 93rd minute at Colchester when we were on the cusp of three wins and then conceded that penalty,” he said.
“We have not been able to stop the rot since that. It's been little setback after setback since then.
“I think it will get easier. Most teams go through these sorts of runs – I hope we are getting ours out of the way early and we learn from it. But we've got to stop the rot quickly.
“You don't want to lose back to backs as before you know it you've lost three, then four. You have to nip it in the bud early.”
Stags have certainly conceded far too many goals – 13 in the last five games.
“When you get to this stage you need a clean sheet,” admitted Clough.
“We have been saying that all season - but none more so than this Saturday.
“Everybody in the team has got to work to get a clean sheet. We will always create chances and we will always score goals. We have to concentrate more on the other end of the pitch.
“We don't have to be fantastic and play brilliant football, though some of our football this season has been very good indeed.
“We just need to do the basic things well – and that starts with the centre halves doing their jobs, getting back to heading and kicking and take it from there.”
Rochdale have hit form after a slow start and sit sixth with 11 points.
“We have played a lot of teams in good form and caught them at probably the wrong time but we have to deal with that - and Rochdale fall into that bracket,” said Clough.
“They had a good late win on Saturday, they are lively, and are probably as confident as anyone at the moment.
“They will be good technically. Being a League One side last year they still have good League One players.
“They play two up top and one behind and they have got some lively strikers. So it will be doubly hard to keep that clean sheet.
“Whatever happens we need everyone to stick together on Saturday.
“We want to try to get a goal, but if we go behind it's going to be a real acid test for us.”
Despite having veteran Stephen Quinn suspended, Stags at least welcome back skipper Ollie Clarke from his one game ban.
“Having Ollie back is the one bit of good news. He only got the one game,” said Clough.
“We looked back at it and he was unlucky to get a red card for it, especially when you see Danny Johnson going through the middle at Walsall on Saturday when he was pushed in the back and it wasn't even given a foul.
“That's indicative of the things that are happening at the moment.
“We missed Ollie's leadership and physicality on Saturday.”