Home double so crucial for Mansfield Town promotion dreams

Mansfield Town begin a possible season-defining two home games in four days with the visit of Crawley Town on Saturday with boss Nigel Clough unsure how many points Stags might need to stay in the promotion running.

Thursday, 21st April 2022, 10:54 am

With Steve Evans' Stevenage in town on Tuesday too, Clough said: “Four points might be a good return, be we are aiming for the six.

“If we end up with four we are still in there fighting with the other teams. Some are playing each other as well which will be important.

“We just have to keep playing. It's not about bouncing back from Carlisle as we have nothing to bounce back from – it was a good performance.

George Lapslie in action during Stags' 2-1 win at Crawley Town in November.

“We need to keep our levels high, physically, and just win. When you've had back to back defeats it is crushing at this time of season so you just need to win a game – and that's Crawley on Saturday.”

Clough emphasised how well his side played in the controversial 1-0 defeat at Carlisle on Monday, saying: “The lads were absolutely unbelievable.

“Our strength and conditioning fitness coach couldn't believe it after the game.

“He said to have that second game in three days and to be at that sort of level was incredible.

“I know it's a big pitch and everything, but his words on the coach afterwards were that he'd never seen anything like that.

“We were 15 per cent above with our sprinting, 20 per cent above with our high speed running.

“That's the other thing for the supporters – your team can't try any harder at the moment. They can't run any more.”

He added: “Getting into the top seven remains the ambition. We've dropped out of it for now but it doesn't matter.

“We have four games to go, three of them at home which is a huge advantage for us.

“I just hope we don't get too down about the decisions. When you get one or two against you, you can cope.

“But when you've had them over 40 games then players and supporters think it's going to happen again. We can't let it affect us. We have to win despite that. That's the challenge in the next four games.”

At Carlisle the officials missed a Stags 'goal' that clearly crossed the line and also then allowed the Cumbrians an offside winner.

“It's gone now,” said Clough. “ All we've got is four games left – six hours of football – to get however many points it takes to make sure we are in it at the end of the season.

“We now have to channel our aggression over what's happened.”

Clough knows he has to manage his players carefully both physically and mentally this week.

“We stopped for a beer on the way home from Carlisle and at one stage we stopped at the only garage that didn't sell beer which summed up the day,” he smiled.

“A beer won't do them any harm – just relax a little bit and then get focused for next Saturday.

“We are a good team and we've got some very good players, other managers tell us so all the time.

“I've told the players, yes, your families will always be the priority, but just behind that at the moment are these four games. Nothing else matters in your life.”

To supporters, he added: “Stick with us.

“I know we've had some ups and downs at this club I have been told – over recent times especially – but this has been an unbelievable rollercoaster season.

“To start so well then to have the dip we had to go second from bottom and people anticipating a relegation fight again, to now be in there challenging has been brilliant for everybody.

“Stick with us and we will do everything we can – as you saw the players do at Carlisle and as they have for the majority of the season – to get into that top seven. The players will give every ounce they've got.”