Stags’ boss David Flitcroft has looked ahead to what he describes as a ‘huge game that has huge significance,’ away to MK Dons on Saturday.
Promotion is achievable for both sides heading into the Sky Bet League Two campaign’s final fixture, with the two teams currently sitting level on points.
The manager says that it is important for his side to display ‘high quality’ in the ‘big moments’ of the colossal encounter.
“Monday was a day of flushing the Stevenage result out,” he said, speaking in a news conference on Thursday morning. “I took full responsibility for that. I felt at 1-1, that the second goal was coming, but it never did and it left us exposed.
“It’s important now that we plan for a massive football game. You can’t hide from it. It’s a huge game that has huge significance.
“It’s up to us now to go there with a game plan and make sure that game plan is successful.
“We’ve been making sure that even though we’ve moved to a different training site [St. George’s Park], our stats are consistent to what we’ve done all season. It’s been a phenomenal season for this group of players.
“Goals do change games. It’s about what happens in the big moments [on Saturday]. The real significance is in the two boxes, defending at the highest level and then executing in that area if you’re a striker.
“It’s really important that in those moments we have high quality. I have players that will thrive in that environment.
“I was brought up to win. It’s the way we were brought up and that’s my character. You can’t change who you are, and you want your team to reflect that.
"It’s important now that we plan for a massive football game. You can’t hide from it. It’s a huge game that has huge significance."
“Hard work, sincerity and honesty on a football field, making tackles, making blocks - it’s still all as relevant as all of the beautiful football that’s played. It will certainly be a front foot performance.”
Throughout this week, the Stags have been training at St. George’s Park - the FA’s national football centre - and the Mansfield boss described the reasons for doing so.
“The biggest reason [for training at St. George’s Park] was the pitch size,” he explained. “MK Dons have a big pitch and I wanted the players to get used to that this week.
“It was a case of coming here to acclimatise to that and get the coaching work in. The other factor is the inspiration and the motivation [it gives you].
“It’s a place that I have brought my kids to, to show them, and as England become more successful, it will become a place that England teams will prepare to win.
“The biggest problem on Tuesday [in training] was getting them off the pitch. They just wanted to stay on it. We’ve been looked after really well.
“I’ve had that support from the chairman and Carolyn to prepare the team in the best possible way. That was a big factor.”
The manager says that his experience in ‘high pressure’ situations in seasons gone by has put him in ‘good stead’ to prepare his charges for Saturday’s clash.
“The Barnsley experience, and the rollercoaster that it was [staying up on the final day in the Championship, 2012-13 season], was quite phenomenal. Us and Huddersfield could have gone down that day, and we both survived.
“That was as high of a pressure that you’re going to get. You come through it and build that into you and your CV. It was probably the toughest day I’ve had on a football pitch.
“Again, with the Bury experience [promotion from League Two, 2014-15 season], that was phenomenal. It’s the experience that you get which is the crucial thing for me.
“In my career, I’ve had two of those experiences, and this is the third. So that will stand me in good stead and has helped me prepare the team.”
The Stags have sold over 4,500 tickets for the match at Stadium MK, and the boss compared the support to having an ‘army’ travelling to Buckinghamshire.
“I’ve told the players that I’m stood with them and they know that. Add that to the travelling fans, who have been amazing away from home all season, we have that army behind us.
“They [supporters] have been phenomenal at home for us and have given us that support that we’ve craved.
“Also in that group, I have had our owners, who have supported everything we have done. There is a unity, which I talk about all the time. As soon as you get division in anything, you get defeat.
“We have a brilliant football club to be proud of, and the fans backing us tells you that we’re doing something right.”
David Flitcroft also confirmed that, aside from long term absentees of goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik, defender Hayden White and forwards Craig Davies and Jordan Graham, the Stags have a fully fit squad heading into the encounter.
“We’re good [squad-wise]. We have a fully fit squad apart from the long term ones that we know about. The long term injured players will be in and around what we’re doing.
“They’ll be down with us supporting us at MK Dons. We have big characters out of the team – Bobby [Olejnik], Craig Davies, Hayden White. They’re all desperate to come down and be around what we’re doing.
“They’ll all do a session on Saturday morning and meet us down there for pre-match. It’s important that I get the whole group down there.”
iFollow Stags subscribers can watch the manager’s interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.