Treble challenge on as Mansfield Town Ladies more than match the men

Mansfield Town Ladies are more than matching the men's team's promotion charge in a successful season that could yet see them win a treble.

Andi Bell's side are third in the East Midlands Ladies Premier League, three games in hand on leaders Chesterfield and six points behind with eight games to go.

They are also in the finals of both the EMLP Plate competition and the Nottinghamshire County Cup.

“It is a very tough ask, but we certainly could end up winning a treble,” smiled Bell, the club's first female manager and in her first full season after last season was curtailed early due to Covid.

Mansfield Town Ladies - still on course for a possible treble this season. Photos by Chris Holloway.

“Everything has gone really well so far,” she said after Sunday's 5-2 Nottinghamshire FA County Cup semi-final win over Arnold Eagles.

“We reassembled the squad from our curtailed season and added to that squad.

“We had hoped it would go this well, but it's been down to the players and what they have put into it. It's all to play for on a lot of fronts.

“We have made the final of the county cup, but the other semi is Notts County v Forest, so whoever is in the final, it will be a really difficult game.

Andi Bell - successful first full season in charge so far.

“We are already in the Plate final and it's all to play for in the league.

“But we have a really difficult run-in, having to play a couple of the top teams twice, which is just how the fixtures have worked out with games being cancelled due to cups and bad weather.

“We are looking forward to the challenge and we will see where we are come the end of the season.

“Everyone has been hungry and eager to have a proper season after last season was curtailed. It has been so competitive as well with most teams taking points off each other – it is a really good standard league.”

Stags celebrate a goal in Sunday's semi-final victory.

Only one side gains promotion and Andi said: “It would be a real coup for us if we did go up as it's a really difficult situation to get out of.

“The other teams around us are really good sides and they've got really good backing, as we have.

“Whoever goes up will be worthy of it, but we are ready to push on to the next level with the backing we have - and we want to. Hopefully we can get there at the end of this season.”

Andi has certainly enjoyed her first full season in the hot seat.

Semi-final action as Stags see off Arnold Eagles.

“We have a good set of players, good playing staff, coaching staff and the development side and good backing too, so it's been tough but really enjoyable,” she said.

“It is a difficult league to manage in and with people having full time jobs, that aspect of it can be difficult to manage and it's hard for them as well.”

Stags Ladies have now netted 36 goals in their last five games, including a 13-0 win over Leicester City.

Allan Woodfield, Ladies director of football, said: “We have had a good season so far, despite coming across some issues in terms of personnel and big injuries to big players.

“But we have managed to get the squad to a decent depth and our development team have really managed to support the first team this year which is what we wanted to happen. It's made a big difference.”On Andi's first full season, he said: “It's quite incredible to be fair in terms of what she's done with the team, understanding its needs and where the team is at, making sure she gets the best out of the players at the right times.

“We are not wholly there yet – she knows that – but we are in a really good place in terms of league placing and the cups.

“We have eight league games left but we have probably the toughest run-in that any team has ever had in this division.

“We still have to play Northampton twice and Lincoln twice which are two of the other sides going for promotion.

“We have some really tough games coming up and we know we need to pick up three points every week. That's the mentality at the moment.

“The cups are an added bonus and are something we said we wanted to try to do wherever possible, to get through as many rounds as we could.”

He added: “We were probably a bit disappointed not to go further in the WFA Cup, though we were knocked out by a National League side in the last minute and put up a really good fight against a really good team in Burton.

“We are in the Plate final which is nice – it's another cup final to look forward to and we have a real chance against Rotherham United (22nd May).

“Hopefully we can walk away with some silverware regardless of the promotion battle.

“We've also got the County Cup. We have only ever made the final once before in the history of the club. So to be there again is fantastic.”

On future prospects, he said: “We are structured for promotion.

“That was always our aim and our ambition at the start of this season, certainly to be up there challenging if not promoted.

“In terms of the steps going forward we have everything in place to make sure we can progress.

“It's not something new we've never seen or done - we've been at that level before.

“We are more than capable with the facilities we've got. They are something special. Even teams at National League and National Premier League have not got the sort of facilities we have, so we are really lucky in that.

“The support through Mansfield Town is incredible and the chance to play at the One Call Stadium, like on Sunday, really boosts us.