Defender Ryan Tafazolli is savouring his current run in the Mansfield Town first team and, as a former Southampton player, certainly enjoyed his 90 minutes against Saints’ bitter south coast rivals Portsmouth at Fratton Park last weekend more than most.
He said: “I hadn’t played there before, having been at Southampton for a while. It was nice to play in front of their fans – I don’t think any of them recognised me as I hadn’t played for the Southampton first team. It was a great experience.
“We took a lot of fans and it created an unbelievable atmosphere. It was a really, really good day.
“The away fans on Saturday stuck behind us for 90 minutes, even when we conceded. We needed them with us all the way and that’s what got us the draw in the end.”
Former Irish international David Connolly changed the game when he came on as a sub, setting up the equaliser for Ryan Taylor and Tafazolli said: “I was with David Connolly at Southampton and he has played in the World Cup against the likes of Spain, so he is going to have that ability to change a game. Maybe we could have dealt with him better. But, all in all, it was a good point away from home.”
Now Stags face fellow strugglers Wycombe (tomorrow, Saturday) and Bury (Tuesday) in two crucial ‘six-pointers’ at home, where Mansfield have failed to win in their last 10 outings.
“Having two home games this week is massive for us and every game we have coming up now we have got to treat as a cup final,” he said.
“We have 19 games left now. I think we have showed what we can do, especially away. But there is a bit of anxiety when we are at home. We need to get rid of that and really come into our own and put a decent run together.
“We need to start scoring a few more goals and try to put a bit of form together and get a few wins on the bounce.
“The defence is working hard on the training pitch, focusing on individual and collective roles and it is paying off on the pitch with some good defensive displays.
“I am just happy to have been brought into the side. I hope the manager thinks I am doing all right but I can’t affect anything apart from playing well on the pitch and hope to keep my place.”
Tafazolli’s displays since getting back in the side have resulted in him being given a new two-year deal this month and he said: “I was over the moon. My last deal was up at the beginning of this month so it has put my mind at ease a bit. But I won’t be complacent and I will keep working hard to get the next deal now.
“Naturally you worry when when a deal is close to expiring and you are not playing. I had played a couple of games but then found myself out as quickly as I had gone in. But I spoke to the manager and he offered me a new deal which I was delighted with.”
This week Tafazolli was the star of the show at the club’s regular questions and answers evening with fans, and he said: “It was really good. It was entertaining with Stevo (club press officer Mark Stevenson) interviewing me and it was nice to meet some of the fans face to face.”