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Defending was ‘best’ part of performance - boss

12 February 2022

Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough believes his side’s defending was the ‘best part of our game’ in the 0-0 draw at Bristol Rovers this afternoon.

The boss’ team have now extended their excellent run of form in the league to 11 games without defeat.

Speaking to iFollow Stags, the manager expressed his pride at the way his side limited Rovers to little chances in the game.

“I thought that was the best part of our game today, the defending,” he said.

“I thought Oli Hawkins especially [was impressive], every ball into our box we dealt with.

“Despite the pressure they’ve put us under, I don’t think Nathan Bishop has had a shot [to save].”

The result is the Stags’ third clean sheet in four matches and just their second match without scoring in 14 outings.

“In the end, [we’re] very pleased [with a point].

“[We were] Frustrated with the first-half because we dominated the game and didn’t do enough to go and get a goal in that time.

“The game never lasts that way or stays the same after half-time.

“They’ve [Bristol Rovers] come out [for the second-half] and all of a sudden put us under pressure far more than the first 45 minutes and it was a different game.

“That’s why we were a little bit upset at half-time that we hadn’t done more in the first-half.

“This is the next stage now for the players to sense when there’s a game there for the taking, for the winning.

“Don’t give a team the opportunity to come back into it.

“If you get a goal or two [then] they can have their spell with our two goal lead and we’ll defend accordingly.”

The gaffer also stated that he expected more in the final third: “It was difficult conditions again. [The] Wind is blowing around which isn’t helping, but I thought our attacking play was poor in and around the penalty area.

“Even the likes of Jamie Murphy looked a yard off it today.

“Oatesy, I think if he’s fresh [then] he goes past people and goes clear a couple of times today.

“We weren’t quite at it.

“After the effort that’s gone in on Tuesday, [we made] a couple of changes.

“It just shows the need that when we get to March and April and we get to Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday — we’ll change four or five.”

The contest saw a debut for new loan signing Matty Longstaff.

“I thought he did alright. It’s a completely different game for him, coming here from Newcastle,” said the Stags’ chief.

“He keeps it [the ball] between him and the centre-halves and everything.

“We’re trying to encourage him to be a little bit more positive and proactive and go and make something happen for us.

“We’re very pleased with his physical output, certainly.

“I thought he competed all the way through [the contest].

“It’s much, much tougher sometimes playing lower down [in the divisions].”

The manager also provided an update on the absence of full-back Stephen McLaughlin.

“He got a bang on the head [in the win over Colchester in midweek].

“We don’t take chances on anything like that and we missed him today.

“We missed his natural left foot and his quality.

“Lucas filled in there and did what he could but he felt a little bit tired after the other night as well. That was his first start since early December.”

Striker Rhys Oates was withdrawn due to injury, the boss revealed it’s too early to give a timescale on his return.

“He felt his thigh I think,” he said.

“He was springing in this corner and felt it.

“We’re not quite sure yet [the seriousness of the injury] but hopefully it’s not too serious.”

Watch the manager's interview in full now by clicking here.

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