It’s been a brilliant few weeks for Mansfield Town. An uplift following the appointment of Nigel Clough has provided an exuberance and excitement around the club with a positive approach seen not just in players, but staff, supporters, all be them absent right now, the feeling is that good things will come, the journey is one of hope and optimism. The name Nigel Clough alone does that to you.
A man, who in his own right has achieved unprecedented success with Burton, is one who can take Mansfield Town to another level and beyond. Only once have the Stags played as high as the second tier of English football (in 1977/78), whilst that seems a way off right now, why not dream it can one day happen again?
It started with a bang… Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, not the monster they once were we know, but a team going strong a division above the Stags, beaten by little old Mansfield in the FA Cup first round, Richard Cooper rightly taking the plaudits, his men performing to how he asked (and more). Since then, performances have been all about impressing the new management team.
From Marek Stech in goal to Nicky Maynard up front, Mansfield Town’s players have responded to Clough’s simple request, to go at the opposition and get results.
Last night against Harrogate, in a game the Stags might have expected themselves to win, the result and performance was perhaps a reality check that there’s still a lot to improve in terms of ball retention and creating chances.
Clough said on his teams attacking prowess “That’s one of the reasons why we are where we are. There were bags of effort, a lot of scrapping, tackling, heading, but when we get in that final third, we have to do more.”
Mansfield have a pleasant distraction in the FA Cup at the weekend as they host Dagenham & Redbridge with £25,000 up for grabs for the winners. Money that during testing times cannot be overlooked, especially as the Stags struggle day to day without the funds brought in by fans.
Whether Clough will experiment or not, whether he’ll go strongest or rest some of his more experienced and ageing legs (like Perch and Maynard) for more testing times to come in trying immediately to stay in the football league, Clough now has a dilemma on what to favour most. I have no question that Clough will pick a side good enough to win, his cup credentials suggest that he always takes knock-out football seriously, but at what cost? The money lost from the football league will after all be more than that earned in winning an FA Cup game, longer term, even though it’s often better to have cash in the bank.
There’s no reason to suggest that Mansfield cannot focus on both, winning against Dagenham after all will provide good confidence ahead of Cambridge a week today in the league.
So many positives from youngsters like Kellan Gordon, George Lapslie, Harry Charsley and the returning Ollie Clarke to the midfield adding quality and a leader of late, to questions on what tweaks are needed to improve, at centre half perhaps, in offering a little more goal threat and creativity going forward? Clough given time, which he will be, can hopefully get it right.
December will test Mansfield Town to the maximum as their squad face seven league games which will go a long way to telling folk ‘where they are at’ when it comes to league two proceedings. If away from danger by January the Stags can then push on, if still involved in a relegation scrap by the start of 2021, it could be a long hard year ahead as the club look to survive and stay in the division they are in.
In Clough we trust of course we do, the potential we see certainly in the squad, but results are the thing that matters and by getting back on the saddle after a first fall will take bravery, the sort of bravery that can make or break managers and players, the sort of bravery that can define careers too.
Mansfield have a lot of good exciting stars that can potentially kick on towards great careers in time, in their Manager they have a man that will motivate and allow them to maximise their potential whilst at the club, the rest is down to them to ensure their individual performances are up to scratch, starting with the second round of the FA Cup at Field Mill on Sunday.
A win at the first attempt against Dagenham will show Mansfield can bounce back. The reality check to all is that hard work starts now.
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @mansfieldtownfc Jamie Reid in action for the Stags.