Stags’ boss David Flitcroft says that his charges need to want success ‘more than anything,’ as this exhilarating season approaches its final run-in.
There are just six games remaining in Sky Bet League Two for 2018-19, the first of which for Mansfield comes at home against Cambridge on Saturday, as the race for automatic promotion intensifies.
The Stags’ manager says that remaining ‘professional’ and ‘focused’ are the key ingredients to a positive end to the campaign.
“I love what I do and I love managing this club,” he said. “Over the season, we’ve been brilliant at home. I put it down to our supporters coming in and being buoyed by that and being positive.
“We’ve got a really strong fanbase. We’ll do everything we can to give our supporters that bounce and that level of football that we’ve given them for most of the season at home.
“Cambridge are fighting and needed the three points [against Bury on Tuesday night], and they showed a galvanised spirit.
“They have a top manager in Colin Calderwood, who has worked with some top players and worked for some of the best clubs in the country.
“He’s an absolute top operator and his team epitomised that on Tuesday, against arguably one of the best teams in the league at one of the most formidable places to go.
“We’re going to respect Cambridge like we respect every single opponent. We’ll put the same work into them that we did for Exeter, that’s my philosophy on respect.
“Being super professional and super focused [will get us over the line for promotion]. [We need] a desire and commitment to want it more than anything you want in life at the minute.
“We have a brilliant opportunity and are in a really good place. The group understand how important being successful is at this football club.
"Being super professional and super focused [will get us over the line for promotion]. [We need] a desire and commitment to want it more than anything you want in life at the minute."
“It’s about keeping that focus and making sure that the players are going out prepared. We have to enjoy this and embrace it. We have to enjoy the positive movement we’ve had for over a year now.”
Last time out, the Stags recorded an emphatic 4-1 victory away to Exeter, a result that the manager says has made his players ‘bounce’ into this week.
“You have a lot of hours on the way home from Exeter,” he added. “When you get beat, it doubles the journey time because you analyse and evaluate everything that went wrong.
“But when you win in such a fashion, it makes a massive difference. You come out of that and start the week with a bounce.
“From the Crewe game, there was still a bounce on the Monday, because the lads have worked hard all season and will get things wrong.
“It’s about how me and my staff react to set the tone and the environment. If you keep driving for success, it comes.”
The manager also provided an injury update on striker Nicky Ajose – who he says is ‘probably’ out for the season with a knee problem – along with the latest on midfielders Jorge Grant and Neal Bishop and defender Ryan Sweeney.
“Nicky’s tweaked his meniscus in his knee. He’s had a scan and the injury will probably keep him out for four to six weeks.
“He needs minor surgery on it. We’ll lose Nicky now probably until the end of the season.
“It’s one of those things in football. We’ve had long term and medium term injuries. The squad has dealt with injuries really well.
“He [Grant] trained with the medical staff on Monday and Tuesday and was on the grass. We’re hoping that he’ll join us in training today [Thursday] with a chance to be involved on Saturday.
“In any football club, you have impact of injuries or suspensions, and it’s about how you deal with it.
“We’re hoping Bish is going to train today. He’s got an assessment this morning. We got him off at the right time, which is important.
“Hopefully we’ve caught it before it became an issue. We’re hoping that we’ve got him ready for the Cambridge game.
“Sweens trained on Tuesday and got his stats in that he needed to get in. So he’s definitely on the mend.”
Striker Danny Rose was included in the matchday squad on Saturday, for the first time since suffering a jaw injury away to Newport in early February.
The manager says that the forward will be able to ‘get his game time in’ over the next couple of weeks.
“Me and Danny had a chat with ten minutes to go [in the Exeter match] and the scoreline was in our favour,” said David Flitcroft.
“Danny didn’t need to go on, and I didn’t want to risk him. Each week he progresses, so it’s given him a bit more time to heal and get ready.
“Over the next couple of weeks he’ll be able to get his game time in. He’s not ready to start because he’s missed a lot of football.
“But we’ll build and make sure that we’ll get him back up to a conditioning where he’s ready to give maximum impact for however long that is.
“We did training sessions on Tuesday and Thursday [last week] and you could see him getting more confident around the players.
“I wanted him to come down with us and be a part of that trip. If we’d have needed something in the last ten, we could have put him on.”
Lastly, the manager touched on 17-year-old striker Jimmy Knowles, sharing his belief that the youngster ‘belongs’ in the first team squad.
“I’ve seen him [Knowles] a couple of times now and he belongs in the first team squad. He’ll train with us every day and deservedly so.
“He thinks like a first team player and thinks like a Mansfield Town player. He’s a good technician and he scores goals.
“I don’t believe in just giving kids anything. You earn what you get. I never, for a token gesture, just throw a kid to get involved, I don’t think it’s fair.
“They [first team players] love this kid and they know he can play in the systems that we play in.
“He’ll get things wrong, but his reaction to that is wanting to work hard and get the ball back if he gives it away.”
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