Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough says it’s ‘good to be in the mix’ for promotion ahead of tomorrow evening’s encounter away at the division’s ‘outstanding team,’ Forest Green Rovers.
With eight matches left to play in Sky Bet League Two, the Stags sit sixth in the league table; level on points with third place Port Vale having played a game less.
Speaking to the local media in this afternoon’s news conference, the boss welcomed the test of facing a table-topping Rovers’ side that have conceded just 14 times at The Fully Charged New Lawn this season.
“I’ve never known it [the hunt for promotion] be so close with teams [separated by] just a point or two all the way down to tenth, eleventh in the league,” said Nigel.
“It’s good to be in the mix [for promotion].
“It’s good to be fighting for it.
“We’ve come from second from bottom. None of the other teams have had that sort of run [without a win].
“They [Forest Green] ground out another 1-0 [win against Scunthorpe at the weekend].
“That’s the sign of a good team.
“They’re not playing particularly well, but they’re still grinding out results and they’re still keeping clean sheets.”
Although tomorrow evening’s opposition have seen their gap to second in Sky Bet League Two decrease in recent weeks, the boss still believes the Green are the best side in the division.
“I don’t think Forest Green are as fluent as they were earlier on in the season,” the boss said.
“They’ve had a bit of a stop, start few weeks with their fixtures.
“Still, they are the outstanding team in the league.”
The gaffer’s side head to Nailsworth tomorrow with the added confidence of setting a new club record of 11 successive home league victories on Saturday against Northampton, a performance that pleased the boss.
“I thought it was as good a performance and as impressive [a display] as we’ve had.
“To break the record is almost incidental.
“It’s a great achievement and everything but there’s a bigger picture at the moment [getting promotion].
“It is a wonderful achievement and I thought out of all the 11 victories at home [that] Saturday was as impressive as any.
“I thought we thoroughly deserved our victory.”
The Stags’ list of absentees has grown in recent weeks. The manager provided an update on his squad’s fitness.
“We lost James Perch with illness on the day of the game [on Saturday],” the gaffer said.
“Faz Rawson [is] just coming back from illness.
“Jamie Murphy and Rhys Oates are both the major doubts with muscle injuries which unfortunately you get at this time of the season when they’ve played 40 odd games.
“Those two are doubtful but we’ll give them every opportunity to be fit because they’re so important for us.”
Another member of the squad not to feature in recent games is striker Danny Johnson. The Stags’ number 11 has struggled to get back into the side after injuring his ankle in November.
When asked about the former Leyton Orient frontman the boss said: “We’re just trying to say [to Johnson]: ‘keep going and keep being ready’.
“It’s been unbelievably difficult for him [not to feature in games].
“Since he got injured, we’ve had these 28 games in all competitions – we’ve won 20 of them, drawn four and lost four.
“Nobody can really complain with that sort of thing, and he hasn’t to be fair to him.
“He’s as disappointed as anybody.
“He could still make a difference in the last eight games.
“That’s his job as a professional footballer [to be ready to go if called upon] and all of them as well.”
Ahead of tomorrow evening’s encounter with the league leaders, the club have arranged free coach transport for supporters heading to The Fully Charged New Lawn.
“It’s a lovely gesture,” Nigel said.
“All these little things matter to supporters. Anything we can do for them, I think, is much appreciated.
“The next one [fixture] is the most important one and that is Forest Green.”
Watch the manager's news conference in full by clicking here.