Recent history has seen Mansfield Town fair pretty well against North East opposition in the FA Cup. This season they replicated the magnificent feat of last by doing the double over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, a 1-0 win at the same stage of the competition, the first round proper, for two years running, this time courtesy of an early Rhys Oates goal after last season’s heroics were thanks largely to George Lapslie’s historical winner.
Having dealt with Sunderland, Mansfield knocked out another League One side as they beat Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat 3-2 in December to set up yet another tie against opposition from up the A1. This time in the form of Middlesbrough, flying high in the Championship, underneath former Notts County defender Chris Wilder who replaced Neil Warnock as Manager at the Riverside in November.
January 26th 2008 was the last time Mansfield played Boro, back then in round four of the cup, at Field Mill in front of over 6,000 spectators, a Lee Dong Gook goal after 17 minutes gave the then Premier League side an all important advantage before a late Jake Buxton own goal sent Stags crashing out of the competition, before relegation to the Conference later that year.
That was the last time Mansfield reached round four and this year’s prize fund for knocking out Boro would be a whopping £82,000 and potential tie against yet another top draw club.
Ahead of the game, Stags Manager Nigel Clough, himself of North East heritage and one up for the award of League Two Manager of the Month for December, suggested after a recent COVID layoff, that things in and around the One Call are hotting up ahead of Saturday’s 12:15pm kick off.
Clough stating “The majority of the players are back in and everybody is looking forward to it. I think the fact we haven’t played since Boxing Day heightens it a little bit.”
The club have recently sold Rollin Menayese to Walsall whilst Corey O’Keefe is back in Mansfield after a spell on loan at Rochdale, Clough mentioning that a number of his first team players are returning from covid layoffs and that his squad are “coming back at various stages this week and are at different levels of fitness.”
Clough suggesting “We’ve had a couple more cases already this week, so they’ll be missing for Saturday.”
But illness and isolation aside the Manager is looking forward to taking on a team that is fighting for promotion in the second tier of English football, Clough saying “We think it’s a good draw. We know that Chris’s priorities will certainly be the league, since he’s gone in there, he’s had an impact immediately.”
Clough continued “We thrive on being the underdog and have done over the years.
“There’s no greater feeling for the supporters and the club when you do cause an upset.
“We’ve already caused two in the earlier rounds, it would be lovely to make it a third one.”
*Main image @mansfieldtownfc Nigel Clough is looking forward to facing ‘dad’s old side.