Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough says his players should ‘relish’ the challenge of taking on high-flying Cambridge United in front of a home crowd on Wednesday evening.
The U’s sit third in Sky Bet League Two heading into the fixture and are the joint-highest scorers in the division with 26 goals in 13 games.
The boss hopes that Sunday’s dramatic extra-time victory over Dagenham & Redbridge in the Emirates FA Cup can give his players an additional boost for their upcoming league outing.
“When you win the [Dagenham & Redbridge] game, it’s a different feeling,” he told iFollow Stags. “If you lose in extra time or on penalties, then everybody is a little bit down and it takes some getting going.
“But with the victory, I would hope that we’ll be okay physically and mentally for Cambridge.
“We’ve seen little bits of Cambridge and they’re obviously a major threat. We’ll have to defend very well to keep them out.
“But we want to make sure we pose a threat ourselves. You can’t go anywhere and defend for 90 minutes, and we don’t like doing that.
“We want to be as positive as we can, while recognising the threat that Cambridge pose.
“If as a footballer, if you like a challenge in the face of adversity, you have to relish it. You can’t think negatively.
“You go the other way and say ‘right, everybody expects Cambridge to win this comfortably, so let’s have a go and see if we can surprise a few.’”
Wednesday night’s match will be played in front of up to 2,000 home supporters at the Abbey Stadium, after Cambridge was listed as a Tier 2 restricted area under the government’s new coronavirus regulations.
The boss says that although having supporters back can serve as an ‘advantage’ for some clubs, he welcomes the ‘return to normality’ that having fans back brings.
“I think it’s been that long without fans, nobody knows what difference it’s going to make [to have fans back].
“It’ll be an advantage for League Two clubs, because if they end up getting four or five thousand, it’s about 50% of the capacity.
“But it’s hopefully now on the way to a return to normality in terms of playing football. It doesn’t matter if there’s two or three thousand, it means something to those people.
“It’s such a vital part of the game to have that passion from supporters. It makes the game.”
Nigel Clough also offered his thoughts on Monday evening’s Emirates FA Cup Third Round draw, with the Stags set to face Cheltenham Town away from home in January 2021.
“The draw could’ve been kinder,” he added. “There were so many exciting draws coming out early on, and then to be left to the last two, I just hoped our friend Robbie Savage would pull us out first so we could be at home.
“But it’s an opportunity to get to the Fourth Round. If you get a Championship club away, it’s unlikely that you get through.
“We have somebody in our own league – one of the better teams – but it gives us a chance.
“The prize money and the potential of what you could get in the Fourth Round, [we’ll go into the Cheltenham game] no different than how we did against Dagenham.
“It’s all about what it could bring if you get a result. The prize money, in these circumstances, anything that we can get in is helpful.”
The manager then provided an injury update on winger Stephen McLaughlin and defender James Perch.
“Stephen McLaughlin is very doubtful [for Wednesday]. He got a nasty whack on his ankle, so we’re probably talking a week or two for him.
“We’ll just assess James Perch and see. We were delighted with Ryan Sweeney stepping in, with how well he did on Sunday.
“With so many games coming up, and as it’s a hamstring injury, if it goes again he [Perch] will definitely be ruled out for the Christmas period. We’ll make sure he’s right before we put him back in.”
iFollow Stags subscribers can watch Nigel Clough’s interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.
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