Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough says his side can expect a tough test at home to Hartlepool United on Friday night as the boss calls for his players to ‘disregard’ the opposition’s league position when the two teams lock horns at One Call Stadium.
Stags have the opportunity to finish the evening in the automatic places, should they defeat United.
The visiting Monkey Hangers sit 24th in Sky Bet League Two but picked up a positive result in new manager Keith Curle’s first match in charge last weekend – a 0-0 draw against Gillingham.
The amber and blue are four unbeaten in the league and have the opportunity to extend a magnificent sequence of form that has seen the gaffer’s squad record just one home league loss since October 2021.
Speaking to iFollow Stags in a news conference at RH Academy yesterday, Nigel said: “[We’re] Completely and utterly disregarding Hartlepool’s league position. They've changed their manager in the last week.
“[He’s] Somebody we know very well [that] has come in.
“The first thing he's done is get a clean sheet at home. I think he’ll be sorting them out defensively before he does anything else.
“When a new manager comes in everything changes, they get a point on Saturday at home which is a great start.
“When you’re losing games, you start with a 0-0 and that gives you something to build on and that’s what he’s done, and I think Keith will be looking forward to coming to our place.
“There won't be an air of complacency in our place. We’ll be reminding the players [the importance of the game].
“We’ve done our hard work on the road but don’t waste it on Friday because it's not going to be an easy game.”
Mansfield produced a superb comeback away at Crewe last weekend.
Two late goals from Will Swan and Oli Hawkins ensured Stags left Mornflake Stadium with all three points as the boss recorded his 50th win as Stags’ manager.
“I think we’ll certainly be on a high because when you win a game in that manner, the euphoria tends to last usually a few days,” said Nigel.
“Not many times [do] you do that during a season and I don't think we've scored too many late winners. We haven't needed to a lot of the time.
“We've been sort of protecting a lead rather than coming from behind.
“If that can happen one, two, three times in a season it certainly keeps the confidence going.”
This season, Mansfield have picked up the most points from losing positions in Sky Bet League Two.
“When you do go behind there's a certain way you've got to react.
“You’ve got to try and get back in the game.
“[The] Most important thing we tell the players is when you concede, don't concede another one quickly and that keeps you in the game.
“If you’re only one goal behind that can change at any point – very quickly as we saw on Saturday.
“Don't go two goals behind like we did at Salford [City]. [It makes it] Difficult to get back in the game.”
Over 1,200 supporters backed the Stags at Crewe on Saturday with another big crowd expected for Mansfield’s return to One Call Stadium on Friday night.
“The way the crowds have increased [in] the last 12 [to] 18 months, you certainly sense that [the supporters are enjoying it],” said the gaffer.
“I go up and down the stairs at the back of the stand to the office and down to the dressing room and I see people filing in.
“I see them having a pie, a Bovril, a beer before the game and everything; especially in the summer, it's lovely to see them out there early and you can see them looking forward to the game.
“I said on Saturday, when you have that sort of following away from home [and] at home it increases the responsibility you feel to put on a performance for them.”
Nigel also provided the latest on the injury front.
“Anthony Hartigan now [makes it] two shoulder [injuries alongside] Rhys Oates.
“They’re the two that’ll probably be missing [the longest], certainly Rhys Oates
“Anthony is coming along okay, [he’s] not going to have an operation so it’s good news.
“As soon as he feels comfortable, we’ll strap him up and get him out on the training pitch and see how it feels.
“Hiram Boateng should start light training this week. Realistically, we’re looking for him to get some game time against Derby next week [in the Papa Johns Trophy].”