Lucas Akins a big doubt for Mansfield Town ahead of big Port Vale Carabao Cup showdown
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Stags lost the hard-working Akins after a bang to the head during the first half of Saturday's record-equalling 2-1 home win over Walsall.
It was a 19th game unbeaten in all competitions to start the season and, coupled with Stags' final day win last season, makes it 20 league and cup games unbeaten to equal the club record set in 1976.
On Akins, boss Nigel Clough said: “He is okay. He got checked out at the hospital on Saturday. He was in there with Tom (Whittamore) the physio until just before midnight.
“He feels a lot better now and we will just have to see how he is for tomorrow night.
“Lucas was involved in the goal and I think their lad just back-headed him or caught him just below the eye.
“When he came over first time he said he was all right and just give him five minutes.
“We don't like taking chances and with hindsight we probably should have taken him off straight away. But he was adamant he felt okay.
“Then within five minutes he said he couldn't quite judge distances with the ball and everything so we just got him straight off.
“I would think he is 50-50 for tomorrow. He will give himself every opportunity, but because of the nature of the injury we certainly won't take a chance.”
Clough admitted the game is an exciting prospect with the reward it carries, Stags having only ever reached the quarter-finals once back in 1975.
“It is great to be in the last 16 as a League One or League Two side. One of us is going through to the last eight which is a great incentive for both sides,” he said.
“It is exciting as this is a major cup competition. When you think of all the teams that started out in it, to have a chance of getting into the last eight is an achievement in itself. Now we are here and at home, let's do it.
“Port Vale have had a rough two or three weeks. I saw them at home to Burton a few weeks ago and, if they had won that, I think they would have gone top of the league.
“But Burton won 3-2 and they have had a bit of a downward turn in fortunes since then.
“They still have some more than capable players. They have had some injuries and one or two things go against them, but they will be formidable opponents tomorrow night without doubt.
“They play football and have some good threats within the team.”
Stags will want to gain some revenge on Vale too after losing 3-0 to them in the Wembley play-off final two seasons back.
“Memories of Wembley are always there – unfortunately they won't go away,” said Clough.
“So those who were around will be using it as an incentive. But it's a small one as the greater incentive is getting into the last eight where you are almost guaranteed a Premier League club. That would be an incredible achievement.
“Rather than the club that beat us at Wembley I think it was more about the manner in which we lost on the day with everything going against us. Nothing will put that right but it would be nice to get a little back back in the other column tomorrow.
“We will need everything tomorrow night – certainly the crowd behind us, which they will be. And we need to be clinical. We might not get as many chances as we have created in the last three games. So when they do come along we have to take them.”
Clough knows how hard playing League One opposition will be, but Stags have already seen off Sheffield Wednesday and Peterborough on penalties in previous rounds.
“In the last round Peterborough were so good on the ball at times that we had to change our formation – the only time I think we have done that this season – just to hang on in there and stay in the game,” he said.
“We were 2-1 down but got the late penalty and then won on penalties. That is another eventuality we have to prepare for as well. We have won a couple of rounds on penalties and the next three games could all go to penalties so we will certainly be practising them.
“We want to go one step further in this competition and it's all rolled into one really, wanting to preserve the unbeaten run and getting into the last eight then wanting to progress in the FA Cup on Saturday. There is a lot to play for and we go into it in good heart and good spirit.
“It is a bit frustrating being just a week or two away from having Stephen McLaughlin and Rhys Oates back and Stephen Quinn not far behind them.
“But if we can get through this week they may be involved in these competitions later on.”
Clough was proud to equal to club unbeaten record on Saturday saying: “I think we could have had a couple more points than we have as we should have won some of the games we have drawn in that period.
“But to do 19 games unbeaten in all competitions. You don't expect that sort of run and we are extremely proud of it.
“Every game we say let's keep it going – and I think the next two will be as big a test of that as any of the last 19.
“We have shown resilience. We've earned a lot of points coming from behind.”