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Easter period ‘significant’ in ‘unbelievably tight’ promotion hunt – boss

4 April 2023

Club News

Easter period ‘significant’ in ‘unbelievably tight’ promotion hunt – boss

4 April 2023

Manager Nigel Clough says Stags’ two games over Easter, starting with Good Friday’s encounter away at Swindon Town, could be ‘significant’ with eight matches remaining in the regular league season.

Mansfield enter the contest without defeat in four outings, winning 4-1 at home to Crawley in the club’s latest clash on Saturday.

The boss’ side sit one place outside the top seven with a game in hand to play as the race for promotion nears its conclusion.

Stags will travel to Wiltshire this Friday before hosting Rochdale at One Call Stadium on Easter Monday.

Speaking to iFollow Stags in a news conference this morning, Nigel said: “With only eight games to go, six points up for grabs in three days, it [the Easter period] can be significant.

“You lose a couple of games and all of a sudden, you’re out of it, you win a couple of games and you’re right in there.

“[The league is] Unbelievably tight. To be so close to getting into the top seven again [is great] but we know with eight games to go it’s in our hands.”

On Friday’s opponents, the boss provided his assessment.

“[Swindon are] A little bit unpredictable.

“We know from playing them earlier in the season, despite the change of manager, the quality that they have.

“[They’re] One of two teams to put five past us on our own patch which isn’t nice, but they’ve got a lot of quality players.

“We want to get two positive results over the Easter period and then with half a dozen to go we’ll see where we sit in the league.”

When asked about Charlie Austin – Swindon’s joint-top goalscorer with eight goals – the manager said: “They’ve [Swindon] got a lot of good players but when you’ve got someone with his goalscoring experience at the highest level then it is inevitable that he’ll get the headlines and get the goals which he has done since January.

“I don’t think there’ll be a more dangerous player on the pitch [for Swindon] than him.”

Juggling a plethora of injuries, the gaffer is eager for the return of absentees in the business end of the campaign.

“We need our players back because when you play the best teams in the league you need your best players on the pitch,” he said.

“That’s when we’ve struggled, when we haven’t had them.

“Looking back over the two-and-a-half years we’ve been here; the two periods when we’ve struggled to win enough games have been the two where we’ve had the injuries.”

On the injury latest, Nigel said: “It depends on the protocols he [Riley Harbottle] has to go through and also, he had a very stiff and sore neck from the challenge, so we’ll see how he is.

“50/50 I would say [the chances of Callum Johnson returning for Swindon].

“He [Johnson] certainly hasn’t joined in training yet, that’s always the benchmark. As you get towards the ned of the season that goes out the window a little bit – we need them on the pitch.

“I would say they’re [Callum Johnson and George Maris] the two closest ones [to a return] with Riley [as well].

“He’s [Louis Reed] not too far away. [There was] A little setback for him but Monday is a possibility, outside chance, but I would think the following Saturday at Grimsby [he should be fit for].

“He’s [Stephen McLaughlin] having scans on his ankle. It did really disrupt things the tackle at Northampton that he got when he came on for those 20 minutes. It was a big setback; we’re just waiting for the results.”

“Hopefully he’ll [James Gale] train this week. He pulled out on Friday [and] didn’t train at all before the Crawley game.”

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