Manager David Flitcroft held a news conference in a packed media room at One Call Stadium earlier today.
The Stags’ boss has described the competitiveness displayed by his charges in training sessions leading up to Thursday night’s play-off clash against Newport County, adding that his players are showing ‘real fight’ ahead of the match.
Mansfield will take on the Exiles at Rodney Parade on Thursday evening, before welcoming them to One Call Stadium on Sunday for the second leg of the semi-final.
The manager spoke highly of the season that Thursday’s opponents have had, before adding that he sees the play-offs as an opportunity to continue the good work shown by his players throughout the campaign.
“Newport have had a fantastic season,” he said. “Flynny [Michael Flynn, Newport manager] has done an unbelievable job.
“When you get a cup run, it usually impacts your league form. I’ve seen that happen a lot, but it hasn’t done. It’s inspired them.
“It’s going to be some game, but one that we’re really looking forward to.
“We were brilliant on the day [3-0 win over Newport at One Call Stadium]. Then we went to Newport and it was a game that I would want to forget, with what happened to Danny Rose [suffering a broken jaw].
“But we have the opportunity to go there now after the season has finished and carry on what we’ve been doing well this season.
“A lot will be made of the form [going into the game], but we’ve set the right mood [this week] and there’s a real fight amongst this group of players.
“Today’s training was competitive, which I’ve demanded. We have a squad of 20 players who all want to play and be involved.
“If we get this right, it could be five Sky games in one season. There are a lot of positives. I see it [play-offs] as a real opportunity.”
"A lot will be made of the form [going into the game], but we’ve set the right mood [this week] and there’s a real fight amongst this group of players."
The Stags’ boss described the extensive support given to him by chairman John Radford, chief executive Carolyn Radford and the Mansfield faithful this season.
“It’s a case of if you’re winning, you’re doing the right things. Just because you’re losing, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing the wrong things.
“There are fine margins in these games. The group, for 95% of the season, have been an outstanding team.
“On Saturday, we froze in the first-half. But out of that, when we really chased the game down, I thought we looked threatening.
“That’s what we’ll do when we go to Newport, play with that intent that was there in the second-half at MK Dons.
“It’s a simple message [to the players], that over the season, we’ve got so much right. Stick to that formula and concentrate on what we’ve done well.
“The players know and understand that. We’ve had a phenomenal defensive record this season and our goal difference is the second best in the league.
“I think it [promotion] would mean so much to our owners, who have given it everything. They can’t give any more.
“It’s the same with our supporters this season. They can’t give any more. They’ve followed us away and the average gates are up.
“I have a group of players who are desperate [for promotion], and probably over the last three games have been over-desperate.
“We’ll be nice and relaxed going into this game knowing what the job in hand is.”
The manager says that Sunday evening’s annual awards dinner allowed the Stags to reflect on the successes of the season and refocus the team following Saturday’s disappointment against MK Dons.
“Saturday was difficult in every aspect. Saturday night was our low point. But then you wake up on Sunday to messages of support. Sunday morning was a completely different day - it was a day for fighting.
“Luckily, we had the awards evening [on Sunday]. It’s the best thing that could’ve happened, because we showed a montage of the season, and we could see how successful the team has been this season.
“You just realise that this group of players have had a really good season. It was a case for me at looking at the hope and moving forward, and the Sunday night dinner did that for us.”
David Flitcroft also revealed that centre-back Matt Preston is likely to miss both legs of the play-off semi-final, following the concussion he sustained in Saturday’s trip to Stadium MK.
“The only issue we had was with Matt Preston who came off with concussion [against MK Dons]. It was a bad collision he had with the ‘keeper, and he’s had concussion already this season.
“It’s something that’s really important that the football hierarchy are trying to get right [treatment of concussion].
“We have a duty of care for players, and Matty Preston will probably miss the game due to having concussion.
“It’s such a short turnaround, with Thursday and Sunday looming. We’ll then assess him after that. He’s been brilliant for us this season, and two games you’d want him to play in, he can’t.
“But that just opens up another opportunity for someone else. Our support and love is with Matty, but that opens up another opportunity for someone else.
“Ben Turner is made for these big games. His leadership qualities, he’s a brilliant person to have around.
“It’s been difficult for him, as we have the best defensive record in the league. Turns picked his opportunity up on Saturday [against MK Dons], and he was really good.”
iFollow Stags subscribers can watch the manager’s interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.