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Dazzling form despite injuries emphasises squad strength – gaffer

21 February 2023

Club News

Dazzling form despite injuries emphasises squad strength – gaffer

21 February 2023

Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough says his side’s impressive recent form of three wins in a week, without conceding a goal, ‘emphasises the strength of our squad more than anything’ as Stags prepare for battle at home to promotion rivals Salford City this Saturday.

As many as nine first team players are currently sidelined but the gaffer feels the current run of six matches unbeaten showcases the quality of those performing at present.

Stags sit fifth in Sky Bet League Two – level on points with fourth place Northampton Town and just three points off Carlisle United in the automatic promotion positions – having played a game less.

Speaking to iFollow Stags in a news conference at RH Academy this afternoon, Nigel said: “I couldn’t ask for anymore, especially with the injuries we’ve had over that period as well.

“To get the three wins, nine points, and three clean sheets – it’s been an incredible week really.

“It just goes to emphasise the strength of the squad more than anything and also the team spirit within the squad has shone through.

“I think the strength of your squad isn’t shown up when everybody is fully fit, it’s when we’ve got a lot of players missing as we’ve had.”

Mansfield haven’t conceded a goal in the previous three matches and the boss lauded a collective attitude of desire from his players to protect Stags’ goal.

“There’s a [strong] mentality amongst the squad which is nice to see,” he said.

“There’s a determination to keep the ball out the net and that’s going to be a priority in the next 15 games.

“When you get one clean sheet, as we did against Gillingham, you think ‘come on – let’s build on it’.

“We got the one [clean sheet] at Carlisle and then it becomes almost a pride thing.

“Three games now without conceding, let’s keep it going.

“As much as everybody works for the clean sheet, and Lucas Akins up top does more than most in ensuring that, it’s still a defensive unit and a goalkeeper where they really have to be together.”

In strong form, the squad has had to overcome injury difficulties to ensure the club’s unbeaten run continues.

“Stephen McLaughlin had an injection in his ankle, and it settled it down,” said the boss.

“We’re hoping he’ll be doing a little bit of work outside later this week if not next week.

“John-Joe O’Toole has got his foot in a boot and is going to be in it for four weeks and then [will be out] for another four weeks after that probably.

“Callum Johnson is coming on well, he’s about the only one that is progressing well and might train later on in the week. I would think he’ll be 50/50 for Saturday.

“George Maris couldn’t do the warm-up at Tranmere which is why he was dropped off the bench. We’ll just see how he is day-to-day.

“Louis Reed; he’s coming on okay but will be a few weeks before he’s fit.

“Rhys Oates is coming on well with his shoulder but not imminently. [He’s] Not close to returning.

“Will Swan, we’ve not had good news on him really. He’s had a scan and [the results show] he’s done some ligament damage in his ankle in training last week.

“James Gale has these shin splints and tries to come back and then has a setback so we’re not sure how long he’ll be [out for].

“Anthony Hartigan with his shoulder, no real update on him. He’s coming on well but is several weeks away.”

On this weekend’s opponents, Nigel said: “[Salford are] As good on their day as anybody.

“We saw that early season. I thought we played well in pre-season but [on the opening day at Salford] we didn’t keep a clean sheet and we conceded two soft goals.

“It was as good an example as any as we’ve had even on the first day of why we’re not further up the league.

“Going forward we created lots of chances but didn’t take any. The highlight [lasting memory from the afternoon] was giving away those two soft goals.

“We can’t afford to do that on Saturday or in the next 15 games.”

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