Mansfield Town full-back Stephen McLaughlin says captaining the Stags in their 2-0 victory over Bradford City last weekend was a ‘real honour’.
The Irishman reflected on Mansfield’s 13th league game without defeat in what he feels was a ‘brilliant’ day for the club.
Speaking to iFollow Stags ahead of tomorrow evening’s game against promotion rivals Exeter City, the 31-year-old said: “It’s [captaining the club] a real honour. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it.
“I was really honoured to walk the lads out [the tunnel], especially at Bradford [with it being a] massive game.
“I’m really honoured, as I said, to do that for Mansfield.
“It was my first time to walk a team out like that and there’s no better time to do it really.
“With the travelling support – there was a build-up of it all week really.
“We sold out, then we got more [allocation] and we sold it out again. It was brilliant.”
The win in west Yorkshire provided added significance with Bradford’s appointment of new manager Mark Hughes just days before the game.
“It was obviously a good day [at a] difficult place to go,” McLaughlin said.
“We came away with a 2-0 victory which we fully deserved.
“I felt we dealt with it [the buzz around Utilita Energy Stadium] very well, [especially] with the support of our own fans keeping us going.
“They’ve had a bad run and are going to have a bit of a spark with a new manager, but we were creating chances which would put an element of doubt in their head, and I thought we did that.
“I thought after 20 minutes that we were fine, and we got the [opening] goal we deserved from Rhys Oates.”
The Bradford win last weekend was a seventh away match without defeat in all competitions.
“We go there [to away grounds] and we treat it as a home game. We dominate the game, we create chances, we go forward,” the Stags’ number three said.
“Sometimes as a defender you might think you have to sit in and not go forward as much as [you would] at home, but that’s completely the opposite.
“We treat it like a home game and just get forward and get balls in the box and create chances just like [we do we do at One Call Stadium] at home in the last couple of months.”
On what has led to Mansfield’s excellent run of 13 Sky Bet League Two matches without defeat, the defender said: “Just going after teams, our fitness levels, our pressing, passing the ball and creating chances; that’s mainly it.
“Our work rate is probably one of the best in the league in terms of pressing and getting after the ball.
“Some teams can’t live with it.”
Tomorrow evening, the Stags host promotion rivals Exeter City at One Call Stadium knowing a victory would see Mansfield start the weekend in the automatic promotion places.
“We can’t wait,” said the former Southend man.
“These are the games that show you where you’re going to be [come the end of the season].
“We can’t wait to get going.
“It was a great win against Bradford but now we’re looking forward to Friday night under the lights.
“It is a big game, but from now until the end of the season every game is a big game.
“We just take one game as it comes, and we’ll deal with it on the day.”
McLaughlin highlighted the significance of the Mansfield supporters in keeping the club’s superb run of form going for such a long period of time.
“We see the amount of fans that have come [to matches], we don’t want to send them home disappointed,” he said.
“It’s an extra lift for us to do well.
“The fans are class.
“I don’t think the boys wanted to leave the pitch after the [Bradford] game.
“It was brilliant.”
The support for McLaughlin and the squad is evident off the pitch as well.
“I know how much it means to them [the supporters] because yesterday (Monday) I was stopped by a fan, and he was just thanking me for the season and thanking me for Bradford away.
“He was so happy; he was there with his kid, and it just really shows you that it means a lot to them.
“The club means a lot to these fans and I’m just happy to be a part of putting a smile on their face.
“You can just see the smile in people’s faces. When I’m taking a thrown-in, there’s young kids there and they’re shouting your name and stuff, it’s brilliant.
“Long may it continue.”
Watch Macca's interview in full by clicking here.