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Taking points off promotion rivals is the ‘incentive’ – boss

1 March 2022

Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough says taking points off promotion rivals Exeter City and Tranmere Rovers in the next two games is an ‘incentive’ to put the Stags in a ‘strong position’ in Sky Bet League Two.

The boss believes the back-to-back Friday night fixtures add extra ‘significance’ as Mansfield look stutter the promotion pushes of teams around them.

Speaking in his news conference this afternoon, the gaffer said: “It’s tough when you play the teams in and around you because they take on added significance.

“We know that if we get some positive results in those three games that when we come out of that period, we’ll be in a very strong position.

“That’s the incentive.”

This Friday’s match against Exeter was brought forward from an originally-scheduled Saturday fixture.

“We like the night matches,” said the manager.

“It [the rescheduling] suited Exeter as well because it means they can travel up on the day.

“We try and move one or two, not too many during the season, but one or two doesn’t do any harm.

“It is a special atmosphere under the lights when the crowd get going.

“It’s one that we’re looking forward to, but I think it’s also probably the two form teams in the league, outside of Forest Green, at the moment. “

The Stags are on a magnificent run of 13 league matches without defeat following an excellent 2-0 victory away at Bradford on Saturday.

“We were due a win on the road having drawn our last two [before Bradford],” the Stags’ chief said.

“I didn’t think we played anywhere near as well as we did against Newport the week before, but we didn’t do anything daft in the game and we made Bradford work hard for their chances.

“We scored a very, very good goal ourselves. [We were] A little bit fortunate with the second one but Matty Longstaff said he thought it was going in anyway.

“We just about deserved our victory; we kept a clean sheet without the two main centre-halves.”

The manager was keen to praise his goalkeeper Nathan Bishop for a superb save late on in the match away at Utilita Energy Stadium.

“It was a brilliant save. Anything can happen at that time [in the game] with them putting lots of balls in your box so it was a vital save.

“He’s [Bishop] not had too much to do in recent weeks, he’s delighted with the clean sheets now that he’s getting.

“I think we’ve conceded three in eight games now or something and none of them [have been from] open play.

“We’re defending well as a team at the moment and restricting the opposition but that’s certainly going to be tested in the next three games [against Exeter, Tranmere and Port Vale].”

Over 2,000 Mansfield supporters backed the boss’ side for the win in west Yorkshire in what was another excellent following.

“We shouldn’t undermine their presence on Saturday and the vocal nature of that but when we were having a bad time, all the lads will tell you how much they appreciated the supporters sticking with us.

“I thought, generally speaking, the vast majority of supporters stuck with us.

“When we’re enjoying days out like that at Bradford, Doncaster, and Sunderland [you appreciate them sticking with us].

“I think we’ve had some memorable away days this season.”

Top scorer Rhys Oates shone against Bradford in another impressive performance from the former Hartlepool man.

“Rhys Oates [is] now blossoming up there with his confidence [and that] was never more visible than in the goal he scored,” the boss said.

“There’s not many scruffy ones. I don’t know how many he’s got this season but a fair proportion seem to have been special goals.

“He’ll have some contenders in the Goal of the Season.”

The manager discussed the latest on the injury front ahead of Friday night’s enticing evening fixture against Exeter.

“We need all the options that we can have in the last 15 games and having Laps (George Lapslie) back certainly gives us something a bit different,” he said.

“That’s the idea of having this strong squad, it’s not massive in terms of numbers. Jason Law is still here who we would like to try and get out on loan, if possible, to a Conference side.

“If one or two lads were to miss a week or two we should be able to cover it.

“We won’t risk players, if they’ve got tight hamstrings or thighs, quads as Rhys Oates has got then we’re very conscious that if it was to go fully, they’re out for four to five weeks and we’re talking the majority of the remainder of the season.

“We’ve to be very careful of that and him and George Maris being a doubt, and on or two others as well, with the squad being strong at the minute; that’s an ideal time to use it.”

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

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