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That was our best defensive display of the season - Boss

10 December 2022

Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough believes this afternoon’s well-fought point at second placed Stevenage is his side’s best defensive display of the season so far.

The Stags battled resiliently in Hertfordshire to keep a clean sheet against a Stevenage side that netted five in their previous league outing.

The result moves Mansfield up to fifth in Sky Bet League Two, level on points with fourth placed Barrow.

Speaking to iFollow Stags post-match, the boss was asked if today’s performance was the best defensive display this term.

“Definitely,” he replied.

“To have Riley Harbottle and Elliott Hewitt either side of Hawks [was key].

“We’ve got that pace and athleticism.

“We struggled a bit with Perchy [James Perch] and JJ [O’Toole].

“No disrespect to them, they’re better players, but they don’t have that athleticism that I think we need at the moment. “

The manner in which his side restricted an in-form Stevenage pleased the gaffer.

“It was a deserved point,” he said.

“I thought defensively, organisational-wise and everything - we were very good today.

“Every player on the pitch did their job.

“There were no mistakes, nothing silly and that’s why we’ve restricted Stevenage to one, maybe two shots.

“They’re a team that have won nine out of ten and scored five last week.”

In addition to being resolute at the back, Stags looked the side most likely to get a match-winner in the second-half.

“I thought we were in the ascendancy. Other than a few long balls coming into the box, I thought it was us [most likely to get the winner].

“They had the first five minutes of the second-half.

“After that, we put quite a lot of long throw ins and generally, it was played in their half of the pitch.”

Mansfield’s best chance fell to forward Rhys Oates who looked caught in two minds when through on goal inside the opening couple of minutes.

“He’s unlucky,” said Nigel.

“He said ‘I was going to go round him, and he went that way’. He just tried to flick it past him and he’s just got a hand to it.

“It’s a bit unlucky but on another day, it goes in and you might win 1-0.”

Goalscorer in Stags’ previous outing before today at home to Colchester, striker Will Swan, was an unused substitute at The Lamex Stadium.

“It was a bit harsh on him [not to be included after scoring],” the manager said.

“I had a chat with him yesterday. If we had been at home, he would’ve played.

“If we’d been away from home against a different side and a different challenge then he may well have played as well.

“I didn’t think Oatesy would last the 90 minutes, but he felt good and looked strong.

“Will’s back in contention for the home game next week.”

When asked if the aim is to eventually play Oates and Swan up top as a front two, Nigel said: “If we can, depending on the formation.

“It’s difficult to do that with a back four unless we play the diamond which didn’t work out last time we played it.

“If you can play the three centre-halves like we did today, then you can get the two up top.”

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