Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough has spoken highly of the ‘connection’ and ‘real bond’ between the squad and the Stags’ supporters, describing it as ‘one of the highlights of the season’.
After putting four past Scunthorpe in front of a sold out away end on Saturday, another bumper crowd is expected at One Call Stadium as the Stags host Sutton United on Easter Friday as Nigel Clough’s side look to tighten their grip on the promotion race in Sky Bet League Two.
Speaking to the local media at a news conference today, the boss said: “It’s [the relationship with the supporters] been one of the highlights [of the season].
“That connection [between fans and players] has been reignited and you see a real bond.
“One of our jobs is to put a team on the pitch that reflects the values of the supporters and also a team that they want to watch and enjoy watching.
“We feel that responsibility of putting on a performance for them.
“It’s a football town. The football club is at the heart of it [the town].
“It’s nice that they [the fans] are coming back to the club, willingly and enjoyingly and hopefully being part of something special this season.”
The boss says Friday’s fixture will be a challenging one against a ‘very accomplished side’.
“It’s a big weekend for us all. It’s a big weekend for all the teams around the top seven,” he said.
“When you get six points at stake in the next sort of three days like there is, with half a dozen games left, then it’s important [to pick up points].
“That’s how good they [Sutton] are. Rotherham needed a late goal in normal time just to take it to extra-time.
“They’re a very accomplished side. They’ve come up and have acquitted themselves well and are challenging for promotion.
“I think that momentum has been absolutely crucial.
“Once they get a lead, they’re difficult to break down. They’re very strong at set plays and they’re physically a strong side.
“The last thing we want to be doing is going 1-0 down to them.
“Orient had something like 70% possession [on Saturday against Sutton] and couldn’t break them down.
“It’ll be very important that defensively we’re right and we don’t concede.”
With Mansfield approaching the final six games of the season, sitting in fourth position, the boss is looking no further than the Easter weekend.
“Let’s try and get some points on the board [over the Easter weekend] starting with Sutton,” said Nigel.
“We’re literally not looking at the six [fixtures remaining in their totality].
“We know there is six to go but we’re looking at Sutton and Carlisle, let’s get those two out the way and see where we are again.
“[We need to] Try and keep everybody’s feet on the ground, not get too excited.
“We understand that other people in the town are buzzing.
“You see the reaction on Saturday from the 2,000 fans at Scunthorpe; we’ve just got to keep focussed and make sure that in six games’ time, at the very least, we’re in the top seven.”
The manager previously spoke about his desire to have a competitive, condensed squad for the remainder of the campaign. With injuries increasing, the boss still believes the personnel available provide the right blend of quality and versatility.
“We put these 19 outfield [players] in place [after January] and we thought that would be enough to cover us.
“I think now we’re facing four or five injuries [so] it makes it a little bit difficult, but we’ve still got enough [quality] within that, I think.
“The versatility within that 19 makes things a little bit easier.”
The boss provided an update on the injury situation of some of his absent squad members.
“[Jamie] Murphy and [Rhys] Oates are coming on well. They shouldn’t be too far off [a return].
“We’ll see how close they are for [the game against Sutton on] Friday.
“Ollie Clarke is recovering well from the small procedure he had on his groin.
“[Then there is] Just Stephen McLaughlin who we lost on Saturday we’ll see how he is, but I think he’ll be a doubt at the moment for Friday, but you never know.
“He didn’t sort of pull his hamstring it was just a strain, and they can be nervy sort of things.”
Watch the gaffer's news conference in full by clicking here.