Manager John Dempster has said that the players who feature on Saturday will be those who ‘want to stand up and be counted,’ ahead of the Stags’ trip to Port Vale.
Mansfield will look to climb up the table with a victory at Vale Park, knowing that a victory will take them above Saturday’s opponents in the league standings.
The boss says that he wants to see a reaction from his players following Tuesday night’s disappointing defeat at home to Cambridge United, a game in which centre-back Matt Preston received a straight red card with the score at 0-0 in the second-half.
“At times, we didn’t defend well with ten men or do the basics on Tuesday [against Cambridge],” he began. “You have to also be ruthless in front of goal, as you’re not going to get as many opportunities with a man down.
“Individually and collectively, we need to be accountable and responsible. There will be financial repercussions for Matt [Preston], it’s as simple as that. He apologised at full-time, which you’d expect, but he also came in again yesterday and apologised in front of the group.
“He’s devastated about the decision he made and he knows it cost us. In my opinion, it probably cost us three points.
“We’re now a solider down, which is disappointing when you’re going into war. We understand there is restlessness around and we understand that we need to pick things up.
“We’re going to play on the front foot [at Port Vale] like we did at Crawley and we’re going to Port Vale to score goals and win a football match.
“The players that want to be stand up and counted will feature on Saturday. It’s going to be interesting to see how people react when there’s adversity, who is going to fight, produce the goods and perform.
“A win [on Saturday] would be brilliant. It sounds obvious, but winning breeds confidence. One of the big differences this year when we’ve underperformed is the players not playing with confidence.
“As a footballer, if you don’t want to fight for three points on a Saturday, there’s something wrong with you.
“You saw on Tuesday night, the boys were playing with freedom and intensity. There have been times this season where that hasn’t been the case and I’ll be emphasising that throughout the week in the build-up to the Port Vale game.
“If we play to the levels that we did in the first-half on Tuesday, it’s not up for debate, we’ll pick up points and win football matches.”
Speaking about yesterday’s training session, ahead of Saturday’s big match at Port Vale, the manager said: “I felt it was important to get the group together yesterday [Wednesday] to discuss the plan going forward and remind them of what’s expected,” he added.
“But we also wanted to get some work into the players that didn’t feature on Tuesday night. The boys that played did a session, but we were mindful that they covered a lot of ground on Tuesday.
“It was an opportunity to come in together and speak openly and honestly while getting some work in.
“We wanted to take the positives from Tuesday, because anyone with any football experience knows that it felt good on Tuesday – we were playing well.
“We want that level on Saturday, but results have got to improve. I’ve been football for a long time and have been promoted out of this league twice, so I know what it takes.
“We’re not a million miles away. We’ll start climbing this league table, mark my words. We’re closer than people think.
“If we go to Port Vale and play like we can and we play with confidence, we’ll not just pick points up on Saturday, we’ll pick up points home and away and start climbing that league table.
“We’ll be playing with a high intensity from the off. But there are two sides to football, as I expect us to be strong when the momentum changes and you have to ride the waves of attack if we’re under the cosh.
“Port Vale are a decent side and unfortunate to lose in midweek against Exeter. They’re effective and get the ball forward whenever they can. They have some experienced players which is critical and they’re a team that need to be respected.
“But we fear no-one. If we go into the game with confidence and without fear, we’re confident of picking up points.”
John Dempster gave updates on the trio of defender Hayden White, midfielder Willem Tomlinson and striker Nicky Maynard.
He also added that with injured players now returning, the ‘competition for places’ will drive the Stags in training.
“Hayden White (below) has trained all week and is going to be in contention for Saturday. There’s a little bit of pain there but not enough to stop him training.
“It’s great to have Hayden back in and around it. He’s somebody who is younger than people think – he’s been around for years.
“It’s great to have him back. He’ll certainly be someone who is fighting for a place on Saturday.
“Nicky [Maynard] has been working hard with the medical team. It’s not a really serious one with Nicky and he’ll hopefully be back training with us next week.
“Willem [Tomlinson] is training as normal. With the injuries we’ve got coming back and the quality in depth we’ve got, Willem is competing for a place like everybody else.
“It was interesting to see some of the performances in training yesterday – the intensity was very high and very impressive.
“For a number of weeks now we’ve wanted that competition for places, people in every day to try and get in the team. That’s the situation we find ourselves in now.”
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