Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough issues warning over Northampton Town revenge mission on Boxing Day

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Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough has warned Boxing Day visitors Northampton Town will be on a revenge mission.

Stags, whose game at home to Grimsby Town was frozen off last weekend, beat the Cobblers over two legs in last season's play-off semi-final after Northampton had only just missed out on an automatic promotion place on the last day of the season.

“It is not ideal not playing for two weeks then having three in seven days coming up as we were just building up a bit of momentum,” said Clough.

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“But Boxing Day is always a special game. Supporters come out and everyone looks forward to it.

Stags celebrate play-off win at Northampton in May.Stags celebrate play-off win at Northampton in May.
Stags celebrate play-off win at Northampton in May.

“Especially with it being Northampton, I think it will have a little bit of something extra and we can't underestimate their desire for a bit of revenge for what happened in the play-offs as it's the first time we've played each other since.

“If we were in that situation we would be doing exactly the same. It's not bad blood or anything like that. It's just a healthy, professional wish to turn the tables on the team that knocked you out of the play-offs.

“We do get on well with them and we had a good chat in the summer when they were playing on the next pitch to us in Scotland.”

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The Cobblers are currently third with Stags fifth and Clough said: “The way they have recovered from that disappointment and got back up there in the top three again speaks volumes for them.

“They have only lost a couple players, like everyone, but there's not been too much of a turnover. They still have the nucleus of the squad and they have just kept on doing what they were doing.

“You think how close they were to automatic promotion on that last day. It was only Bristol Rovers' freak result that denied them.

“They are hard to break down and are probably a little more dangerous away from home at the moment. You don't want to go behind against them as that would make it even harder.”

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Going into the busy spell of three games in a week, Clough said: “We are in a promising position in that play-off top seven.

“Ideally we would want to be a little bit higher. But with certainly losing Rhys Oates and Hiram Boateng and one or two others, that has just held us back.

“Another win or draw in the first 20-odd games and we would be right up there chasing the top three. That's how close it is.

“We have been a bit up and down and inconsistent so I am hoping the second half of the season we will be better. If everyone stays fit I think we will be.

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“It's not bad and we still have the chance to pick up a few more points and maybe edge up that table.

“It's also interesting that six of the top eight did not get promotion which just shows it';s not a guarantee – you are just challenging.

“It just shows the level of consistency we're achieving. We have been up in that top seven now for over a year and that's where you want to be and just keep improving, edging forward and making progress – and hopefully we will get there.

“Wembley was the only real low point. We have lost a couple at home recently but over the year our home form has been incredible.”

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He added: “I had a wry smile when I was listening to the World Cup final second half and heard the commentator saying you just can't believe France to a man hadn't turned up. It just happens in football – we are all imperfect human beings, not robots and it happened to us at Wembley.

“France are the best players in the world, World champions and World Cup winning manager. They would have made every preparation they could have done.

“Sometimes it just doesn't happen on the day and until Argentinian gifted them a penalty they didn't look the game at all.”