Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough relishing being underdogs as Stags aim for FA Cup giantkilling against Middlesbrough
Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough said he relished being underdogs as Stags prepared to take on Championship high-fliers Middlesbrough in the FA Cup third round at the One Call Stadium on Saturday (12.15pm).
Having already knocked out two League One sides away from home and won 10 of their last 11 games, Stags go into the tie in confident mood, though Clough knows how hard it will be against a side with Premier League ambitions under new boss Chris Wilder.
“We thrive on being the underdog and have done over the years - and we've caused some upsets,” said Clough.
“There's no greater feeling for a club, supporters and everybody, than causing an upset.
“We've already caused two in the earlier rounds and we will be looking to make it a third.
“On Boxing Day the atmosphere was brilliant with Hartlepool's big travelling support and when you come back from 2-0 down the place is rocking when you get that equaliser and third goal. We will try to create something similar to that.”
Boro are in hot form, but Clough insisted: “We think it's a good draw.
“I know Chris Wilder's priority will be the league and since he's gone in there he's had an immediate impact and they're in the play-off places.
“So they have a realistic chance of getting promoted. And I think the way the top two or three are faltering I don't think you would rule out automatic at this stage.
“Straight away, to get them into those play-off spots has lifted everyone around Middlesbrough. ”
For that reason and possible lingering Covid issues, Clough expects changes to the Boro side.
“I think they have had more Covid cases than us with staff and players last week, though some of them will be available again now,” he said.
“We will have access to all the video we need but the difficulty with the FA Cup is that you're never quite sure what team they are going to play.
“I know Middlesbrough had to call off the game last week because of injury and illness. So you never know what personnel will be out there.
“Chris has always played a certain formation. So we can look at that but whenever we play a team from a higher league it's almost impossible to guess which XI they're going to put out.”
Clough said he always relishes a cup run.
“Promotion is the priority but I always think you've got room for a cup run within that,” he said.
“Not having replays helps and we were knocked out of the first round of the League Cup and didn't progress in the EFL Trophy.
“So you have room for one good cup run and I hope it's now in the FA Cup.”
Having seen off Sunderland, Clough now faces another one of dad Brian's former clubs.
“My mum and dad's family are all from up there,” he said.
“Unfortunately not too many of them are still around now but we still have some cousins and relatives up there.
“The FA Cup always seems to have little connections somewhere when you get draws.
“On a personal level, to get Sunderland two years running and then Middlesbrough in the third round is quite incredible.”
Clough remains a huge fan of the competition.
“We tell the players it is special and I think most of them understand how important the competition is – you could see that in our performances at Sunderland and Doncaster,” he said.
“To get into the third round in consecutive years for the first time in 40 years for the club show show much it means and how we went about our business in the two earlier rounds.
“We don't want to to be a team that dismisses any competition.
“The FA Cup is the biggest cup competition we play in.
“When you win a cup match it's slightly different as you don't know who you're going to get in the next round.
“But it will be tough enough just to get into the next round.”