Mansfield Town to stick to attacking away game plan at Port Vale

Mansfield Town will stick to their attacking away game plan at Port Vale tomorrow night, despite their 14-game unbeaten run being halted at the death at Tranmere on Friday.

Monday, 14th March 2022, 4:35 pm

Stags had only just levelled at 2-2 in stoppage time at the end and almost won it before conceding a very late goal.

“We will keep trying to play the same way as that is what got us the unbeaten run – being positive, going forward and scoring goals home and away,” said boss Nigel Clough.

“We just have to match that with a bit more defensive solidity.

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Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough. Photo by Chris Holloway / The Bigger

“For our fans, to travel to a lot of away games over the last couple of months and not see your team lose is a big thing, as is scoring goals.

“We scored another two away from home on Friday night – two good goals.

“Having just got back to 2-2 in the 91st minute you should be getting at least a point from the game.

“But it's a difficult one. With six or seven minutes to go, do we leave big Oli Hawkins up front and try to get a winner, which is the positive way we've been all season, trying to get the wins, or do we pull him back and try to shut up shop?

“Obviously as we lost the game the answer would be we made the wrong decision.

“It hurts, especially in the circumstances, being four minutes away from maintaining the unbeaten run. That made it even worse.

“But we have to try to learn from it and the reasons why.

“You analyse the evening. Did we pick the right team, did we make the right subs, did we do the right things in the last few minutes of the game?

“These things just go round in your head.”

With former Stag Aidan Stone in goal, Vale smashed Crawley Town 4-1 on Saturday and a run of one defeat in 11 games and away points at Forest Green and Tranmere has them breathing down Mansfield's necks, one place and three points behind in 10th.

A Vale win would see them leapfrog Stags but having played a game more.

They will again be without manager and former Stags midfielder Darrell Clarke, who is away on compassionate leave after the death of a family member, but do have another ex-Stag, Adam Murray, temporarily drafted onto the coaching team.

Port Vale had a great result on Saturday,” said Clough.

“It is a very sad situation there at the moment with Darrell Clarke unfortunately and that will be at the forefront of our minds when we go there.

“They will be full of confidence from Saturday but we should still be as well because of the run we've had.

“I said before the Exeter game these three games will sort it out one way or another and we have won one and lost one.

“I think this one will go a long way to deciding how we fare in the last 12.”

He added: “We are not feeling pressure.

“It's been a long time since Mansfield were in League One. So it's not as if it's been the case where it's been a League One club for many years or a lot of occasions.

“So anything we achieve in that respect I think would be unexpected outside of Mansfield and a big bonus for everybody.

“There are only 13 games to go – that's all. It's less than a third of the season, so every game is important.

“I think we have thrown away three points in recent weeks, the two at Newport and the defeat at Tranmere. Everything else has been as it should have been.

“It has been an incredible run but we have to try to gain those three points back somewhere. If we had those three points we would be sat in the play-off positions still.”

The game at Vale will be a fifth away trip in six outings but Stags still have games in hand.

“All of a sudden teams have gone past us in terms of games played and we do have two or three in hand on some of them. So the aim now is to make them count,” said Clough.

“There has been an imbalance of away games for the last couple of months as every game that was cancelled, whether to the weather or Covid, seemed to be away from home.

“After Port Vale it will be seven away and five at home so it levels up a little bit and that's not so bad.”

Stags have three injury doubts from the Tranmere defeat.

“We picked up three injuries which certainly didn't help our cause on Friday night,” said Clough.

“We lost Lucas Akins early in the game and then Quinn and Rawson and they are all doubts for Port Vale with Lucas the most doubtful. The other two have an outside chance.

“Lucas has a tight hamstring, Faz Rawson took a whack to the face and Stephen Quinn hurt his ankle.

“But we have still got plenty of options.”