Mansfield boss praises young deputies as key men return for Tranmere visit

Nigel Clough hopes to welcome key players back into the fold for the visit of Tranmere Rovers this weekend - but in the meantime has praised the youngsters who have stepped in to replace them in recent weeks.

By Stags Reporter
Friday, 29th October 2021, 2:21 pm
Ryan Burke in action.
Ryan Burke in action.

With the first team injury list having been lengthy for several weeks, Clough has had to use some players with less experience than others to help patch his side up including the likes of Ryan Burke and James Clarke.

And he feels they will only benefit from having got games, despite results not always going Stags’ way.

He said: “I think they have done well and I think they will be far better for this experience. In an ideal world you want to blood youngsters when the team is playing well with confidence. But they are learning the hard way what professional football can be like. You are in a bad run, you've got injuries, you've got suspensions and you see how difficult it is to get a result.

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“They have now got that experience under their belt and can draw on it in future years as football is not always a bed of roses as we are finding out at the moment. It's a hard, hard game and even more difficult when you're low on confidence.”

As for those returning from injury, Clough hopes at least two will feature this weekend.

He said: “Elliott Hewitt had a good rest over the weekend and we are very hopeful he will be fit.

“If Stephen McLaughlin gets a bit of training this week then the same goes for him.

“They weren't long term. Certainly Elliott Hewitt could not have played under any circumstances.

“Stephen McLaughlin tried to train on Friday – he wanted to give it a go, but we were in the situation that if he'd have made it worse then we could have been without him for three or four weeks which we couldn't afford.

“It's 10-11 hours on a bus for Exeter, I don't think it would have been feasible for him to do that and play the game.

“One of the things experienced players have is that they have been through certain situations before, and you don't really want to expose youngsters in the sort of run we're in at the moment.

“The two young lads came in on Saturday and tried their socks off, but ultimately were involved in the two goals we conceded.

“We do feel if we'd had our first choice back four out we would probably have got something from the game.

“But we are in much better spirits than we were a week ago. After the Northampton game we were in a dark place after a poor performance.

“Although we have only got the one point from the two games since, I think there is a completely different feel about everybody this week.

“We are getting players back. Quinny's been back on the pitch for the last two and, without doing too much differently and in a different run of form I think we'd have had four or six points from those games.

And as for the test posed by Tranmere this weekend, Clough is under no illusions as to how big a game it is.

He said: “They're all big games when you're in the bottom two. We need a win. I think we are getting close to that and I do think when we get one win we'll be away.

“If you look at the fixtures in November I think they are a little bit more agreeable than the last few.

“I know it's not played on paper but we have an opportunity in the next few weeks to get some points on the board – and we need to.

“I think the lads sense it's coming and I think supporters do too.

“But we can't afford to give anything away as Tranmere have not conceded too many this season.”