Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough has called for his squad to show the same ‘spirit and fight’ that they have ‘all season’ in the Stags’ play-off semi-final second leg away at Northampton Town on Wednesday evening.
The gaffer’s side head to Sixfields with a one-goal lead after a fine 2-1 victory over the Cobblers at One Call Stadium on Saturday.
The hard-fought win displayed the fighting character of a Mansfield side that have won 14 of the club’s previous 16 home league outings.
Speaking to the local media in today’s news conference, Nigel called for his squad to produce a typically gutsy performance on the road in midweek.
“Above all, [we need] the same spirit and fight that we’ve shown all season,” he said.
“[We want] Not to concede obviously, I think that the first sort of 15 minutes of the game will be crucial.
“We like to take the game to teams on any given day, so we’ll be trying to do the same on Wednesday.”
Despite leading the tie, the manager was not entirely satisfied, with his side’s lead being halved in the second-half of the first leg.
“[It was a] Good result, not so good a performance. We’d have liked to have kept a clean sheet,” said the boss.
“We were a little bit unlucky I thought [to concede], we were very close to getting a block in on the goal we conceded but it was probably a fair result on the evening.
“I thought we started [the first] ten or 15 minutes fine. In the second-half [we were] searching for that third goal but then the [Northampton] goal at the hour mark gave them some impetus and they put us under pressure.
“I thought the two centre-halves, especially, stood up to it [the Cobblers’ pressure] and defended extremely well to enable us to have that lead.”
A victory on Wednesday night would record the club’s first trip to Wembley since an FA Trophy clash with Darlington in 2011.
“When you’re 90 minutes away from a trip to Wembley, it’s a huge incentive and everybody can’t wait,” Nigel said.
“It’s [the chance to play at Wembley] something that we have to use as a motivation. We’re at the end of a long, hard season but that doesn’t matter.
“I think it’s the teams and the players that really put that [the physical demands of playing over 46 matches] to one side [that are successful].”
The manager provided an update on midfielder Matty Longstaff’s fitness after the 22-year-old was withdrawn in the first leg.
“There was a few [knocks picked up on Saturday night] so we’ll be assessing them.
“We’ll be assessing one or two knocks wise, injury wise and how they feel physically.
“Matty Longstaff just said he felt ‘shattered’ [in the first leg], it was just one of those games.
“He just felt under par, so we’ll see how he is and one or two others.”
Experienced midfielder Stephen Quinn was also taken off in the home encounter. When asked about the Stags’ number 16 the boss said: “I would think he’s [Quinn] doubtful. He’s playing with this [hip] injury that he’s had now for a few weeks.
“He wasn’t moving particularly well I didn’t think against Northampton on Saturday, so we’ll just see how he is.
“There are one or two others – Matty Longstaff as well George Maris, Stephen McLaughlin, so we’ll check on them all.”
As well as Quinn, numerous other members of the Stags’ squad have experienced play-off success previously. The manager believes that experience will be a useful tool ahead of such a huge fixture at Sixfields.
“Anybody who has been there in the circumstances is vital to sort of spread their knowledge and experience of how to deal with it [the pressure],” he said.
“We’ll be calling on all of those [with play-off experience] and it’s good that it’s an experienced squad because I think we’ll need it on Wednesday night.”
The Stags will be backed by a sold-out away allocation of 1,468 supporters on Wednesday.
“I think we’d have taken whatever [to Sixfields]. We could’ve possibly taken the stadium over if we’d have had the opportunity,” said the gaffer.
“We had 6,000 making the noise of about 16,000 the other night at One Call [Stadium] and I know they’ll make an awful lot of noise again [in the second leg].
“I think it was lovely to finish the [home] season, although it was a play-off game, with a win.
“[That’s] Fourteen [wins] out of sixteen [home league matches], it’s two thirds of a season.
“[It’s an] Incredible record really and now we’ve got to do something on the road.
“[The] Home season is done, let’s get a result on the road.”
Watch the manager's news conference in full now by clicking here.