Hartlepool United hero Rhys Oates returns aiming to help Mansfield Town give him back to back promotions

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Mansfield Town's leading scorer Rhys Oates returns to the scene of his greatest time in football so far at Hartlepool United tomorrow night hoping to edge Stags closer to promotion.

Oates was player of the year and top scorer as Hartlepool burst back into the EFL last season, but he quit to join Stags with the ambition of tasting more glory.

“Back to back promotions would be very nice,” he smiled as Stags head into one of three games in hand they have to close a four-point gap at the top three.

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“We have 10 games to go and hopefully we can get as many points as we can and get automatic.

James Perch celebrates with goal scorer Rhys Oates at Oldham Athletic.James Perch celebrates with goal scorer Rhys Oates at Oldham Athletic.
James Perch celebrates with goal scorer Rhys Oates at Oldham Athletic.

“The aim is automatic as we have the games in hand, but they're never going to be easy and we have a lot of Saturday/Tuesdays coming up.

“It's going to be tough but with the squad we've got, we can rotate. It's not like we've just got 11 players.

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“We have a good 18/19 players capable of starting the games. So, if we keep playing like we are doing, we can do it.

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“We've just got to be positive in everything we do, keep working hard and concentrate on every aspect of the game and try to keep clean sheets. We need to keep going and see where we end up on 7th May.”

Oates is looking forward to his return to Victoria Park.

“I enjoyed last season there - I scored a lot of goals and promotion topped it off,” he said.

“It will be nice to go back there and see some old faces, see the old lads, and it should be a good day – but hopefully we take the three points.

“I did three years there before I moved to Morecambe and then went back there last season so I had four years there.

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“I have to try to see it as just another game, but obviously playing a big part in last season's promotion with them, that was probably the best day of my life in terms of football.”

So Oates admitted his move to Mansfield was a big decision.

“It was a very tough decision and not one that I took lightly,” he said.

“But I just thought Mansfield is a big club with aspirations to get promoted.

“Having just had a promotion, I wanted that feeling again.

“Also, it's closer to home for me, so it's nice to be around the family all the time. That was one of the main reasons too.

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“It feels like my decision has been justified, especially playing week in, week out and getting the goals. I can' really complain about the decision I made.”

Having experienced it so recently, Oates believes Stags also have what it takes to gain promotion.

“It takes what we've shown in the last few games,” he said.

“Even if you're not playing great, you just need to do what you can to win games. Take it game by game and pick up as many points as you can.

“It's about togetherness and we've got that in bundles in this squad. Everyone gets on and it's just a great set of lads.

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“We all need to stick together and whoever is playing, just back each other.

“It is mentally tough but you just have to keep concentrating.

“With all the games we've got coming up Saturday/Tuesday, you've just got to keep at it and keep concentrating every minute.”

He added: “The fans have been amazing throughout the season, even with the amount of Saturday/Tuesday games we've had, they have travelled in their numbers.

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“I hope they stick behind us and keep being the 12th man and we will do everything we can.

“You do it for the fans - they are a big part of the club.”

Oates scored one and made one in Saturday's late 2-1 win at Oldham, taking his season's tally to 11.

“It's been good and I have just to keep doing it for the next 10 games – that's the plan,” he smiled.

“It's nice to get goals and get into double figures, like I did last week.

“But getting the three points is all that matters really.

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“With scoring 18 goals last season, getting into double figures was my target this season and then just kick on and see how many I can get from now.”

Oates is certainly enjoying playing under Nigel Clough.

“He is a great gaffer. He's got so much experience in the game,” he said.

“He tells you how he wants you to play and you know what you're doing in the game.

“He's great around the training ground and stuff. He know when you need a rest. If you tell him you need one he will give you a rest.

“He lets you look after yourself as long as you're right for the next game.”