Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough says he is welcoming the challenge of looking to continue Stags’ magnificent home form when his side welcome Bradford City to One Call Stadium this Saturday.
The Bantams, who sit one place behind seventh placed Mansfield in the Sky Bet League Two table, are an outfit that the boss believes have one of the ‘strongest’ squads in the division.
Despite the tough test at the weekend, the gaffer hopes Mansfield can build on the club’s sequence of four successive home league victories so far in the 2022/23 season.
Speaking to iFollow Stags yesterday in a news conference at RH Academy, Nigel said: "We want to play the same way no matter who we're playing against. That's home and away.
"We look at the fixtures, we've got Bradford and [then] Carlisle.
"[We hope that] That'll be six points or whatever, [but] it doesn't [always] work out like that.
"We hope we can get it, but it's two unbelievably hard games.
"They've [Bradford] got one of the strongest squads in terms of numbers in the league.
"They'll have a big following.
"Without doubt, in terms of numbers, [they’re] the biggest club in the league.”
The Stags enter the game off the back of a convincing first away win of the season at Doncaster last Saturday – defeating Rovers 3-1 at Eco-Power Stadium.
"We need to stick to our principles, we scored two fantastic goals and created a host of other chances [against Doncaster Rovers],” the boss said.
"That was reassuring for everybody.
"Also, it was a reaction to the Sutton game [the weekend prior].
"To rebound and beat Man City under-21s and score three against Doncaster - I think it's a very good sign of a good dressing room, a determined dressing room and one that's full of character as well.
"We didn't work hard enough at Sutton, but we did against Doncaster and Manchester City.
"Manchester City [at home] was our biggest physical output this season.
"There were three or four highest individual distances and high speed running [displays of the season] against Doncaster.
"We've definitely stepped it up, we spoke about it in the week.
"We have to work harder, we haven't worked quite as hard for whatever reason away.”
Stags have had several injury and illness issues in recent weeks. The manager provided an update on his squad’s fitness.
"He [Hiram Boateng] felt his hamstring in the middle of training last week.
"On Wednesday morning [last week], we had a light session for those who didn't play [against Manchester City under-21s].
"He felt his hamstring again and had a scan. He’ll probably [be out for] a couple of weeks.
"[John-Joe O'Toole has a] Foot injury sustained at Sutton, he had a scan and it's not too bad. He’ll be 50/50 for the weekend.
"[Rhys Oates] Is looking good, apart from his shoulder.
"The scar is very neat.
"[He can’t do any] Real movement at the moment, but he will start jogging within the next week or so and get things moving.
"[It’s a] Couple of weeks since he did it [rupturing his pectoral muscle], so we're talking two and a half months until he's back in action.
"He [Elliott Hewitt] came in from the warm-up [on Saturday] and was violently ill.
"He sat down and he looked terrible, really rough.
"Jordan Bowery and Oli Hawkins have missed games with this [bug] recently.
"His wife came and picked him up from the stadium.
"He's feeling a lot better, [and] should be in contention for next week.
"He'll be back [in training today] doing a little bit.
"[He'll] Do a bit on Wednesday and Friday and then he's back available again.
"James Perch tweaked his knee with a blocked tackle on the edge of the box in the second-half [at Doncaster].
"He managed to continue for 10-15 minutes but was then replaced by Kieran Wallace.
"He's the only one we need to check on.”
Goalkeeper Christy Pym has impressed since joining on loan from Peterborough in the summer. The shot-stopper produced a superb save to deny George Miller’s header on 32 minutes at Doncaster.
"The save in the first-half from Christy Pym was outstanding.
"I think it's as good as there has been.
"That was the top save he's made since he's been with us.”
With morale at a high, the manager revealed he and the squad went out for a meal last night to further enhance Stags’ collective bond.
"We always try and do it at this time of year after the transfer window,” he said.
"We'll train, and [then] go for a bite to eat.
"I encourage the players to organise their own [social] things as well.
"It's a vital part in team building.”
After missing out on the signing of a forward on deadline day at the eleventh hour, Nigel gave the latest on any potential addition of a free agent in the foreseeable future.
"We've looked through a significant number of free agents in general,” said the manager.
"We've had an offer for James Gale to go out on loan, but he's still part of the squad at the moment.
"We've had Theo Robinson working with us [in training].
"Lucas [Akins] was up top on Saturday, I thought it was a magnificent centre-forward’s performance from him.
"[Lucas] Is a very good all round team player.”