Defender Oli Hawkins says he is proud of the position Mansfield Town have put themselves into after Stags won 2-1 in tonight’s play-off semi-final at home to Northampton.
Stags emerged victorious thanks to fine first-half finishes from Rhys Oates and Jordan Bowery. Northampton halved the deficit in the 61st through midfielder Ali Koiki.
However, Hawkins and his fellow defenders stood firm in the game’s final half-an-hour to withstand the visitors’ pressure and keep the Stags’ lead intact.
“We held on,” he said. “[We] were very strong defensively [in] the last half-an-hour when they put it [pressure] on us.
“We knew today was going to be tough and we knew that we wanted to come out of it with a win. We were annoyed to concede and [not have] a two-goal lead [going into the second leg] but it’s still a win.
“We knew what they were going to come with. [They utilise] set-pieces, they’re big and strong defensively as well so we knew it was going to be a battle. I thought the back four did well today.”
The 30-year-old felt Mansfield’s free-flowing first-half performance was deserved of a victory.
“I thought we played really well in the first-half,” he told iFollow Stags.
“We always start really well at home. We started strongly and we knew that if we got a one or two goal lead, we could see out this game.
“When we attacked, we attacked with purpose, and you could tell when they conceded the first goal that they were a bit shaky, and we knew that we could get a second [goal]. We were unlucky not to go 3-0 up at half-time because we were brilliant [in the] first-half.
“It’s an advantage at the end of the day. We’re going to play our way, we’re not going to go there and put everyone behind the ball and defend for 90 minutes.
“We know we can score away from home. We know as long as we play well and we get a good result then that one-goal lead will benefit us.”
The former Portsmouth man credited the electric atmosphere inside One Call Stadium and its influence on the result.
“[It was] the best atmosphere of the season that was today, from minute one to 90 [they were] incredible. It helped us to get through the game you could still hear the fans with us [when we conceded]. We knew that we needed to get a win for them.
“We’ve got to rest up now, relax and get ready for Wednesday. We’re capable [of getting a result] and we’ll be very confident going into that game.
“I’m very proud of the team, the fans and everyone at the club. We all deserve [this opportunity].
“We’re quite harsh on ourselves because we feel we should’ve been promoted in the automatics but we’ve got a job [to do] now in the play-offs.”