BIG MATCH PREVIEW – ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW
With games running out, Stags knew this week that the two games over Easter would be massive, and they don’t get any tougher than the visit of runaway leaders Northampton Town on Easter Monday.
A narrow defeat at Wycombe Wanderers on Good Friday put a further dent into Mansfield’s hopes of claiming a top seven spot this season, with Adam Murray’s men eight points adrift of the play-offs.
Click HERE to read Friday’s report from Wycombe.
HERE for Adam Murray’s reaction and play-offs verdict.
The Cobblers have been simply magnificent this season with boss Chris Wilder surely set to be named divisional Manager of the Season.
A 1-0 win over Newport County on Good Friday stretched Northampton’s unbeaten league record to 16 games and extended their lead at the top of the table to 13 points.
STAGS TEAM NEWS
Adam Murray be again be without Reggie Lambe, flying home having completed his international duty with Bermuda the night before, and the suspended Adi Yussuf.
POSSIBLE STAGS STARTING XI (4-1-3-2)
Shearer, Alfei, Tafazolli, Pearce, Benning; Collins; Rose, Clements, Blair; Dieseruvwe, Green.
NORTHAMPTON TEAM NEWS
Ahead of the Newport County game, there was only one player currently out injured, which was midfielder Paul Corry who hasn’t featured all campaign due to a serious knee injury picked up in pre-season.
Marc Richards has been out of action since February 16 with an Achilles strain, but was expected to be fit for the Easter weekend
POSSIBLE NORTHAMPTON STARTING XI (4-4-2)
Smith; Moloney, Diamond, McDonald, Buchanan; Holmes, O’Toole, Byrom, D’Ath; Richards, Collins.
KEY BATTLE: CHRIS CLEMENTS v JOHN-JOE O’TOOLE
Stags will desperately need to win the central midfield battle with Chris Clements likely to be head to head with the distinctive John-Joe O’Toole.
Signed by Wilder in the summer of 2014 on a three-year deal, O’Toole had a nightmare first season - famously of course being sent off at Mansfield on ‘John-Joe O’Toole Day’ when Cobblers fans turned out in O’Toole wigs and headbands.
Wilder was not impressed and transfer-listed the player at the end of the campaign, but there were no takers.
Still out of favour until as recently as the end of September, O’Toole was handed his chance due to suspension, and hasn’t looked back.
He is now one of the first names on the team-sheet, has formed a strong central midfield partnership with Joel Byrom - and has scored an impressive 11 goals.
Click HERE to see a video of O’Toole talking about John-Joe O’Toole Day
NORTHAMPTON ONE TO WATCH: RICKY HOLMES
The former Portsmouth man was out injured until December due to a back injury, but what an impact Holmes has had since returning to the team, with a string of devastating attacking displays.
The Cobblers were already playing with plenty of attacking flair, but Holmes has made them even stronger.
Never a prolific scorer in his career, he has also scored seven times in his 23 appearances this season, with four of them - in the matches at Luton, Dagenham, Leyton Orient and Stevenage - of the ‘stunning’ variety.
Click HERE to see video of Holmes’ spectacular winner Stevenage last week.
OPPOSITION MANAGER: CHRIS WILDER
Former Alfreton Town boss Chris Wilder has probably never been more highly regarded in his career than he is right now by the fans of the Cobblers.
Just over two years ago he left play-off chasing Oxford United to take over Northampton when they were six points adrift at the foot of league two, and managed to keep the team up with a 3-1 final-day win - over Oxford.
Last season saw the team endure another difficult spell and they were in the bottom six at Christmas, but a surge in form in the second half of the season, with Wilder deciding to play a more attacking game saw them finish comfortably in mid-table.
Last summer saw Wilder able to get rid of any players he didn’t sign, and the squad is now all his, playing the way he wants to play, and it has been a fantastic season, with the Cobblers showing a genuine attacking threat, scoring some fabulous goals. This is an exciting team to watch, and that is down to Wilder.
The fans also love him for the way he stuck with the club - turning down offers from at least two other clubs - in those troubled times before Christmas, and the way he galvanised the players and kept them focused.
He has managed to create a real ‘in it together’ between players and fans at Sixfields.
Wilder is a no-nonsense, straight-talking manager, and is now on the brink of his first Football League promotion as a boss.
Click HERE to see a video of Wilder talking about his side’s late winner in the 3-2 success at Stevenage last weekend.
NORTHAMPTON SEASON SO FAR
After a mixed start, the season has snowballed into one of the best in the club’s history.
There was a lot of recruitment last summer, with the likes of Nicky Adams, Dave Buchanan, goalkeeper Adam Smith and Alfie Potter brought in to add to what was already there, players such as Ricky Holmes, Marc Richards, Brendan Moloney and Joel Byrom.
The team didn’t click straight away, but since they lost at home to Dagenham on September 5, they had lost just twice in 31 League Two matches before their Good Friday home clash with Newport.
The run really clicked in at the height of the club’s financial troubles in October and November, with the players not being paid for more than a month, and has continued following the rescue package put together by new chairman Kelvin Thomas.
Town, who were able to add extra strength in the January window with the signings of James Collins, John Marquis, Lee Martin, Luke Prosser and Danny Rose, are currently on a 15-match unbeaten run, and before Friday’s game hadn’t lost in the League on their travels since going down to Cambridge United 2-1 on October 17.
Saturday, 14th November 2015: Northampton Town 1 Mansfield Town 0
Mansfield Town’s goal drought went on after an early Marc Richards header handed fellow promotion-chasers Northampton Town all three points in a 1-0 win at Sixfields.
The Stags came into the game having not found the net in their previous three games in all competitions and they were behind after four minutes.
There was no shortage of pressure from the visitors, however, who threatened the Cobblers goal on numerous occasions.
But a Northampton side, who had by now lost just once in 11 League games, survived a handful of scares to escape with victory.
Click HERE to read a full match report
Click HERE to see video highlights of the game
Don’t forget to read the Easter Monday match report and reaction at www.chad.co.uk after the game.
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