Although boss Nigel Clough is expecting a ‘battle’ away at Grimsby Town this weekend, he has challenged his squad to perform with ‘freedom’ at Blundell Park.
The Stags go into Saturday’s fixture having lost just once in their last ten matches in all competitions, and with the two sides both sitting on 15 points in the Sky Bet League Two standings.
The manager says that the way his side have performed in recent weeks is ‘very encouraging,’ and wants his side to play with attacking intent at the weekend.
“I’ve always enjoyed watching Ian Holloway’s teams, because they’re honest and hard-working,” he told iFollow Stags.
“I think they’re in one of these runs at the moment that every team gets into, where you just need a break. I hope they get one, but not on Saturday.
“I think it will be a battle, but I think we have to play. We’ve played in the last few league games with a sense of freedom.
“I think we have to play with an element of freedom to win games. We can’t let it [league position] dominate our thoughts or be negative.
“We like the majority of what we’re seeing in the squad. The work rate has been excellent and we’ve asked them to be more positive and play forward – the way they’ve taken it all on board has been very encouraging.
“We want to be positive and we want to attack. We want to create chances and score goals, and I think the players have taken that on board.
“The next stage is finishing off a few more of those chances. Players enjoy attacking and going forward.
“We have to go out there with an intent to attack with purpose. When we need to defend, we need to defend much better than we did on Saturday [against Crawley].
“I’d much rather draw a game 3-3 than 0-0. It’s easier to work on stopping goals going in than it is on creating goals and scoring.”
The boss then spoke of Tuesday’s friendly between the Stags and Nottingham Forest, an action-packed affair that finished four goals-apiece.
Striker Andy Cook and attacking midfielder Tyrese Sinclair both notched a brace in a game that the manager used to assess players outside of the usual starting XI.
“We went 1-0 down, then 2-1 up, 3-2 down, 4-3 – and there were four penalties in the game as well, two for each side and both converted,” he added.
“It’s about your attacking intent – wherever and whenever we play, let’s try and create some chances.
“Cooky [Andy Cook] has scored two more good goals and we’re learning that Tyrese Sinclair can be a threat. He put two penalties away and is another attacking option that we need.
“Stephen McLaughlin came back in after a couple of weeks out with an ankle [injury] and he played 90 minutes, so it’s good to have him back involved.
“Then we’re looking at the likes of Aaron O’Driscoll, Rollin Menayese, Aidan Stone – we’re just learning about all of the players and what level they’re at.”
It was also revealed in Wednesday’s news conference that winger Stephen McLaughlin (below) has penned a contract extension until the end of the season.
Nigel Clough highlighted the former Southend man’s versatility as one of the reasons for his new deal.
“We’re delighted – I think he’s done very well since we’ve seen him in the last few weeks,” explained the boss.
“I think the first time we saw him was against Walsall and he played left-back that day. So that’s another position he can cover for us.
“He can certainly play in midfield in any of those positions, so it’s good to have him back available and here until the end of the season.
“We’ll check on his ankle this morning to make sure he’s okay. He should be back in the squad on Saturday.”
There was also an injury update on defender James Perch from the boss: “James Perch is coming on well and stepping up his running. Saturday might be a bit too soon for him.
“We think sometime next week he’ll be back in training. Ideally, with a hamstring, you want him to have a few days training first.
“The other thing that will go against him next Tuesday is that it’s Carlisle away. Sitting for eight or nine hours on a bus might not be the best thing for his hamstring. Realistically, we’re probably looking towards Southend.”
iFollow Stags subscribers can watch Nigel Clough’s interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow