Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough says this evening’s 2-0 win over Stevenage, accompanied by Saturday’s victory over Crawley, ‘sets us up nicely’ for an exciting finish to the Sky Bet League Two season.
The Stags have moved up to fifth in the league table after tonight’s result at One Call Stadium and now sit just one point behind Northampton in third place.
Goals from midfielders George Lapslie and Matty Longstaff ensured Mansfield will play a deciding factor in who clinches the third, and final, automatic spot this campaign.
Speaking post-match to the local media this evening, the gaffer said: “These are two important wins [over Crawley and Stevenage] this week on the back of the two defeats [against Sutton and Carlisle].
“It sets us up [nicely] for the last two games and it's so tight [towards the top].
“We're still not even sure if we're going to be in the play-offs let alone challenging for the third spot.
“All three options are there and it's nice to be in the mix.”
The Stags controlled large periods of the contest; resolutely defending against some of the Boro’s first-half pressure and entering the interval with the confidence of having not conceded, much to the boss’ pleasure.
“The most important aspect was getting in at half-time at 0-0 [tonight] as Stevenage started the game well,” Nigel said.
“We knew they wouldn't make it particularly easy for us and they were a threat.
“We really struggled. We were a bit nervous and a bit jittery, especially without Stephen Quinn who is usually the one who gets the ball down and starts us playing.
“Nathan Bishop made a great save low down to his right which kept that clean sheet intact.
“I told them [the players] ‘well done’ at half-time for coming in [at] 0-0 and told them to relax and start playing how we can play.”
In the second-half, the manager’s side created a flurry of opportunities before George Lapslie slotted home in the 51st minute.
“From the kick-off, Jamie Murphy got us going down the left-hand side which lifted the crowd and set the pattern for the whole of the second half,” the Stags’ chief said.
“George [Lapslie] will play better than he did tonight but he scored the all-important goal.
“It was good to try a different corner with Matty Longstaff going short to Jamie Murphy as they had some big lads who were dealing with everything at the back.
“It was important we got that second goal – even in added time. Anything can happen in the last minute of a game, and it was nice to keep the clean sheet.”
Mansfield head to Salford City on Monday knowing that a victory will confirm at least a play-off position finish this season.
“We now have to go to Salford and win,” said the boss.
“Do that, it will guarantee us a play-off spot and we'd be going into the last day with a chance of automatic.
“It is important that fans recognise you have to be patient at times.
“We'd like to go and score two or three early on, but the opposition do not let you do that. They don't come and roll over.
“Games change at half-time. At 0-0 with our quality, we always fancy our chances of getting a goal.”
Click here to watch the boss' interview in full.