Mansfield Town players told to clear their heads by manager Nigel Clough after double defeat rocks promotion push

Boss Nigel Clough told his Mansfield Town players to clear their heads ahead of Saturday's huge home clash with Stevenage after two away defeats in five days saw his promotion hopefuls dip down to 10th place in League Two.

Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 10:39 pm
Nigel Clough's post match interview at Port Vale tonight. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger
Nigel Clough's post match interview at Port Vale tonight. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger

Defeat at Tranmere on Friday ended Stags' 14-game unbeaten run and tonight they lost 3-1 at Port Vale after being ahead.

“I don't think things are particularly going for us,” said Clough.

“We are not playing fantastic, but certainly in spells of the game we were good enough tonight.

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“That's how it's gone in the last couple of games for us.

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“We have gone from a spell where things were running for us, and deservedly so, to now making errors and being punished for them.

“We probably made one or two errors in the unbeaten run we didn't get punished for.

“The players have to clear their heads in the next two days and get ready for the weekend when we try to break the record with 11 consecutive home wins.

“We've now lost a couple on the road to promotion-challenging rivals so I hope our dip is out the way and we will do our best to win the last 12.”

Stags made four changes tonight and Clough admitted: “Injuries didn't help – losing Matty Longstaff – who has scored three in three for us, losing Quinny (Stephen Quinn), losing Lucas Akins too.

“We decided to give Elliott Hewitt a breather tonight as he has played almost every game and mentally needed a rest.

“Going so long unbeaten, it felt such a sickener to lose on Friday and sometimes you might then lose two on the spin.

“That's why it's important they clear their heads now and we bounce back and start again Saturday. That's all we can do.

“We have another three tough trips after that on the road, so we have got to win on Saturday. It will be lovely to be back at home.

“The away games have just caught up with us a bit in the last few days, having so many of them in this period. We've done really well in some of them to stay unbeaten.

“We have to get back to not conceding goals, which we were doing very well in the eight or nine games prior to this week.”

On the Vale defeat, he said: “At 1-1 tonight I thought we were in the game and having the better of it.

“We missed a great chance with George Lapslie to go 2-1 up.

“There were key times in the game tonight.

“We looked pretty comfortable at 1-0 up in the first half. Then Nathan Bishop made a very rare mistake that lets them back in.

“Then we were under the cosh a little bit late on in the first half and early in the second half.

“We put Oli Hawkins up front and took the initiative and if we get that second goal, you never know happens.

“Two minutes before they scored their last one they sliced one onto their own crossbar.

“They were the key incidents that meant we didn't get a result tonight.”

He added: “All three Port Vale goals came from mistakes. The first one was Nathan Bishop.

“The second I think three of them went for the ball and none of them win it. I don't mind all three going for the ball but someone has got to win it.

“I don't think Faz Rawson needed to go for it when the other two were challenging.

“Then we were a little bit unlucky with the ricochets after that. Bish make a good save and it comes back off, I think, JJ or whatever and he ends up tapping it in.”

However, there were plusses for Clough with a full league debut for Keiran Wallace and a first start for James Perch after his fractured skull.

“I thought Keiran Wallace did well in midfield and I was pleased with his performance,” he said.

“With the run of games we're having, players have to be ready to come in for the odd game.

“It was a major plus from the night getting James Perch back on the pitch. He showed his calmness throughout the game from the first few minutes.”