Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough believes Saturday’s match at league leaders Forest Green Rovers will be the Stags’ toughest game of the season.
Table toppers Rovers are without defeat in the league since October.
Mansfield’s current run of nine wins from ten games in all competitions makes for an exciting clash between two of the division’s form sides and the boss expects the match to be his side’s greatest challenge of the season.
“They are the outstanding team in the division,” he said.
“[They had a] Freak result at the weekend, 5-5 at Oldham when they were 4-1 ahead but that would have, not that they needed it, given them a kick up the backside.
“[The game was] One of those freak results really but they score bags of goals, they’re full of confidence and they’re top of the league for good reason.
“They mix it up like all good teams.
“They play it out a little bit but they’ll [also] hit the big lad Jamille Matt upfront. They get it wide, they play little through balls – so it’s difficult to stop every avenue.”
Despite Forest Green’s form this season and their four point lead at the top of the Sky Bet League Two table, the Stags approach the fixture in magnificent form also, winning nine from the last ten games.
“The remarkable thing [about our current form] is to actually win nine games, no draws,” he said.
“To win nine out of ten is incredible.
“We felt as though we weren’t too far away even when we couldn’t win. We knew we weren’t the worst team in the league.
“On our day we are capable of competing [towards the top of the division] and we know we are capable of challenging for the top seven, which was our aim at the start of the season.”
Speaking about the run-up to Christmas, he said: “We’re not even halfway through the season yet.
“There’s three points at stake. Win, lose or draw on Saturday, we’re still in a good position going forward.
“It would be lovely to keep the run going.
“[After the Forest Green match] Those three games over Christmas, nine points [up for grabs] in a week, I think they’ll go a long way to dictating where we’re going to be [come the end of the season].”
In team news, the manager confirmed several players will be absent from the match at The Fully Charged New Lawn.
“We had seven out on Saturday, quite a few of those being defenders.
“We hope that Danny Johnson won’t be too far off, a couple of weeks and then he might be available for the Christmas period.
“Ollie Clarke [should return around a similar time] even if he doesn’t make Saturday, he could be available for the three games over the Christmas period [Hartlepool, Harrogate and Rochdale].
“Kellan [Gordon] is not going to be ready [to play] anytime soon. Will Forrester [will be out] until January.
“JJ [O’Toole] has got a chance for Saturday, if not then [he will return] next week.”
Watch the manager's interview in full at: mansfieldtown.net/ifollow.