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Resilient performance pleases Harbottle

18 February 2023

Defender Riley Harbottle credited Mansfield’s steely defensive performance after Stags beat Tranmere 2-0 at Prenton Park.

The 22-year-old nodded Nigel Clough’s side ahead on 34 minutes to open the scoring and claim his fourth league goal of the season. 

January signing Davis Keillor-Dunn netted for the first time in Stags’ colours to kill off the contest in the 54th minute. 

Mansfield have now won their last three league matches, recording three consecutive clean sheets in the process. 

And the Nottingham Forest loanee was delighted after the match and said to iFollow Stags: “It was a brilliant victory, a great win, a great clean sheet and three more points on the table.

“I don’t think [the result was ever in doubt]. You look [back] at other games this season where we’ve been two [goals] up and lost the game. We’re confident enough [now] to know that when we get that lead we’re going to defend it. 

“I think with the experience we’ve got in the group, they’re always going to drag the lads through [to the finish line]. It was tough on the legs at the end but we dug in and it was a great performance. 

“I can’t name a man of the match, I thought every single person was brilliant.” 

Mansfield currently sit fifth in the League Two table, six games unbeaten in which they have conceded only twice. Harbottle believes Stags’ blend of experience and fresh faces in defence has encouraged the team’s prolific form of recent weeks.  

“The gaffer has been big on it [keeping clean sheets] especially after the Christmas period,” he said.  

“Alfie [Kilgour] has come in and given a big lift to the group, he’s a great lad. 

“Alfie offers something a bit different [to former Stags’ defender Oli Hawkins], he’s played there [in central defence] all his life. As a defender sometimes it is hard to come in [to a new team]. Alfie has been brilliant and he’s a pleasure to have in the changing room. 

“I think the most important [member of Stags’ defence] is Perchy [James Perch]. His experience and his performances in the last few games have really dug us out of situations, and he’s been the catalyst to [Stags’ strong defensive] performances.” 

“Perchy is a calm head and he keeps everyone focussed. We had tough patches today where they [Tranmere] were on top and we just needed to be composed and hold out for the win.” 

Harbottle also contributed for Mansfield in the attacking third, rising to head home Stephen Quinn’s guided left-sided cross and snatch the lead before the break. 

“I didn’t really see it until late,” he said. “We’ll have to watch it back but I think it might have been a shoulder or head onto the shoulder, but it goes in [so] I’ll take it. 

“[It is] two [goals] in two [games] against Tranmere so I’m happy.”

Harbottle summed up Stags’ week, saying: “Yes [it has been the perfect week], nine points out of nine, but we’ve got 16 [important games] left. 

“We’re not really focusing on the table at the moment, just focusing on us and not anybody else. If we keep doing what we’re doing and playing how we’re playing, I don’t think we’ve got anything to worry about.” 

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