Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough says his side’s ‘effort and endeavour’ was ‘remarkable’ as the Stags secured a 2-1 advantage in this evening’s play-off semi-final first leg at home to Northampton.
Forwards Rhys Oates and Jordan Bowery netted inside the opening 35 minutes as the gaffer’s side marched on to a 14th home league victory in 16 outings.
With the second leg at Sixfields just four days away, the boss praised his squad’s tireless energy to achieve the victory needed to put the Stags in the driving seat heading for the return fixture.
Speaking to the local media after the game, Nigel said: “The effort and endeavour was remarkable tonight, as it has been for most of the season.
“It was another home victory, which is 14 out of 16 [home league matches], which is incredible considering the pressure we were under in the last half-hour.
“A lot of credit [must go] to Northampton after they got the goal – they put it [pressure] on us and we had to defend extremely well.”
Despite the goal advantage halfway through the tie, the gaffer feels his side can improve.
“I wish the second leg was tomorrow as I think we can play a lot better than we did tonight,” he said.
“I think our nerves were a bit edgy at times and we didn't get our foot on the ball and play. I think we will be better away from home.
“We are still in there after 47 games. We are still in with a chance.
“We didn't play anywhere nearly as well as we have done in recent weeks and months, but that's the nature of the play-offs.
“You just have to try to be effective and win the game. Also, don't make mistakes - we made one tonight and were punished for it.
“We gave the ball away cheaply on the edge of their box and then that's their strength, breaking as they did.
“They did very well at stopping us playing our normal game tonight.
“The minimum we should have had tonight was a 2-0.”
The squad reaped the rewards of sticking with Jordan Bowery in attack following his goal last Saturday against Forest Green. The Stags’ number nine bagged again this evening.
“They were both good [Stags’] goals, good passing and good finishes. Jordan Bowery's was almost a carbon copy of the one he got against Forest Green last week.
“He [Bowery] is in the right position again for a tap-in at the far post and [that] hopefully justified him keeping his place.
“[Bowery’s strike partner] Rhys Oates caused them problems all night and they did well to stick with him at times. I don't think he got many decisions go his way tonight, but then I don't think we did as a team.”
The Stags’ attention will now turn to a mouth-watering second leg tie away at Northampton on Wednesday evening.
“If we didn't know before we now know what Northampton are about and the way that they can play and put you under pressure,” said the boss.
“It's [that style of football] difficult to play against. That's why they were a few minutes away from getting automatic promotion.
“They are a good team with a lot of League One players from last season when they came down. It's going to be an interesting game on Wednesday night.”