Mansfield Town defender James Perch says he and the squad ‘know how much’ the race for promotion means to the Stags’ faithful as the regular 46-game season approaches its climax.
Nigel Clough’s men face promotion rivals Salford City in Greater Manchester this Monday knowing a win would guarantee a place in the end-of-season play-offs at the minimum.
Stags will be backed by an army of 1,316 supporters and 36-year-old Perch says he and his teammates appreciate the fans’ eagerness to finish in the top seven, with two games of the season remaining.
“We know how important this is for the fans and the club,” said Perch.
“We’ve come a long way since the start of the season and put ourselves in a position to do something good.
“I’ve been there previously [to Salford] and it’s a tough place to go. They have a good team and manager, but we’re playing well at the moment. We’d fancy going anywhere and getting a result, so it’s all on us.
“We have a great squad. We have 18 to 20 players who could get into the starting 11.
“Everyone is competitive and wants to play. We’re on a high at the minute. We’re playing well, with two clean sheets and two goals. We all know what the prize could be at the end of it if we win two from two.”
The former Nottingham forest defender spoke highly of boss Nigel Clough and his determination to win every football match in which he competes.
“Home or away, he [the manager] wants to get three points. That’s his mentality. Whether we’re playing top of the league or bottom and that’s what I like about him. There’s nothing in between, he’s very ‘black and white’.”
Midway through last month, Perch made his first start of the season for six months after suffering a fractured skull in an innocuous aerial challenge.
It was feared that the Mansfield-born centre-back would miss the rest of the season with the injury, however, he was cleared to return to first team training at the end of January .
Recalling his spell on the sidelines, Perch said: “It was terrible [the injury]. I didn’t know if I would come back and play again.
“As soon as it happened I saw a fogginess in my eyes and started ‘seeing stars’. It was probably the worst pain I’ve had. I thought my time was up.
“I stayed fit, stayed in the gym and the club has been brilliant with me. I was doing weights and stuff and felt strong and thought that I have to come back.
“The gaffer was great. I sat on the [substitutes] bench at Sunderland [in the FA Cup], and helped him on the training pitch. He kept me involved.
“He didn’t rush it or announce anything. He kept it under wraps so there was no expectation of me coming back.
“When something bad happens to you, you can go one of two ways. You can sack it off and not play again or try your best, like I’ve done, and get back playing. Speak to anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I have a determination that has put me in good stead.”