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CLOUGH AND OATES REVIEW SALFORD GAME & PREVIEW FGR
7th May 2022 0:18


Top seven finish is our only target - boss
mansfieldtown.net, Tuesday 3rd May 2022

Stags’ boss Nigel Clough says he is proud of how far his squad has come this season, but that it will count for nothing if his charges do not acquire a top seven finish this term.

Mansfield Town face Forest Green Rovers at One Call Stadium this Saturday (3pm kick-off) in a mouthwatering clash for both sides.

In a day of enthralling conundrums, the amber and blue could finish in the automatic positions, play-off places or miss out on a top-seven finish.

After a 2-2 draw against Salford City on Monday, the Stags need a point against title-chasing Forest Green Rovers to secure a play-off place.

Speaking to the local media in his news conference on Tuesday morning, the boss said: “There will be a lot of pride [reflecting on progress made] but I do not want it to dissolve to nothing,” he said.

“We missed an opportunity on Monday at Salford so we do not want to miss another one because these chances do not come very often.

https://www.mansfieldtown.net/news/2022/may/top-seven-finish-is-our-only-target---boss/

“You have got to work very hard over 45 games to be in this position to have a chance of getting into the play-offs and gaining promotion.

“Two teams have secured automatics and there is another six or seven that are fighting for promotion after that.

“Someone is going to miss out and I hope that it is not us but it is incredibly tight. Three teams can still get automatics with the rest fighting for the play-offs.”

Only a point separates the Stags in fifth place and Northampton Town in the final automatic promotion place as the season reaches its conclusion.

“With Bristol Rovers getting the late winner last Saturday, we needed two wins to get automatics,” Nigel said.

“There is no point in looking back at it now and we are where we are. We need to quickly put whatever behind us from the draw away at Salford and focus on the game against Forest Green.”

Ahead of an exciting final day of the season, the Stags’ manager wants his players to focus on the task in hand.

“It is a very exciting end to the season for everyone. I think with Exeter playing Port Vale, Forest Green needing a win and with us needing a point, it will be an incredibly exciting final day.

“The [other] scores will not matter to us too much. We will have a look at them [the scores] at half-time and we will go from there.

“A point or three will guarantee a play-off spot and that is what we need to focus on.”

The gaffer also provided an update on the injuries to defender James Perch and midfielder Stephen Quinn.

“He [James Perch] is okay,” Nigel said.

“He got a couple of whacks to the side of his head, but he has that protector on which is good.

“When Tom [Whittamore] the physio went on, he did all the protocols and checks, but he was okay, and we gave him a breather in the last five to 10 minutes just in case.

“He [Stephen Quinn] tried to train on Sunday afternoon and he did a little bit, but he was very restricted in what he could do.

“He is only 60% as good as he is. He did not declare himself unfit but deep down he knew that the time was still not right.”

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Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough again upset over refereeing standards in League Two after Salford City setback
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, Tuesday 3rd May 2022

As Mansfield Town look set to miss out on a top three finish this weekend, boss Nigel Clough again had harsh words over the standard of refereeing this season that has cost them so many points.

At Carlisle on Easter Monday, Stags looked to have gone ahead as the ball crossed the line, but the officials missed it and then allowed United an offside winner.

The latest disappointment came in Monday's 2-2 draw at Salford City when TV replays showed that midfielder Matty Lund had stood on Matty Longstaff's ankle after fouling him and should have been sent off.

He stayed on and netted the crucial equaliser that looks likely to sentence Stags to the play-offs at best.

https://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/mansfield-town-boss-nigel-clough-again-upset-over-refereeing-standards-in-league-two-after-salford-city-setback-3680482

“We were very disappointed with the officials on Saturday,” said Clough. “We have had Mr (Seb) Stockbridge on a few occasions and I was very, very disappointed in how he performed on Monday inclduing ignoring his fourth official, which he did several times in the first half.

“We get told that's what they are there for, the fourth official, when they are closest (to an incident), but he chose to ignore her on every occasion.”

On the Lund incident, he added: “The referee was right there. That was one of the things we were disappointed with.

“When you look back over the 45 games I think we have a fair argument to be very disappointed in the standard general and the decisions that have gone against us, starting at Colchester.

“There were a couple of decisions at Port Vale and the lad scored yesterday who should have been sent off against Oldham.

“Having seen what I've seen I think Oldham are the unluckiest team in the league.

“The things that have gone against them this season, I don't think anyone could have done any more than John Sheridan.

“But from decisions and everything I think they are the unluckiest team in the league - and we're not far behind them.”

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Boss Nigel Clough says ‘stranger things have happened’ as Mansfield Town refuse to give up on automatic promotion bid
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, Tuesday 3rd May 2022

Although the chance of Mansfield Town securing a top three automatic promotion spot is now highly unlikely, boss Nigel Clough said stranger things have happened.

Clough will not give up on it until it is mathematically impossible, but wants to make sure his side at least ensure second prize of a spot in the play-offs when they face title-chasing Forest Green Rovers at home in Saturday's massive final regular season game.

If either Northampton Town and Bristol Rovers win their last game then it's over for the Stags with the Cobblers away at Barrow and, more ominously, the Gas at home to bottom club Scunthorpe United.

“The odds are now massively against us,” admitted Clough.

https://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/boss-nigel-clough-says-stranger-things-have-happened-as-mansfield-town-refuse-to-give-up-on-automatic-promotion-bid-3680490

“But anything can happen, especially on the final day. That's why you don't rule it out. All we can do is win our game and then Northampton and Bristol Rovers have to score.

“It's not beyond the realms - stranger things have happened on the final, day, though it is as highly unlikely as it is all three teams below us will win away from home and stop us getting into the play-offs.

“It is as entertaining a last day as any league in the country.

“I have been in similar situations and the final day can be very cruel at times.”

He added: “We thought all along that 81 points would be enough to secure automatic, but we can't get that now.

“But this is much better than being halfway up the league and playing for nothing or battling relegation.

“Northampton have a tough one at Barrow and I actually think the favourites are Bristol Rovers, to be fair.

“They are at home to Scunthorpe, which is an ideal fixture on the last day of the season.

“So unless Scunthorpe produce something miraculous that they haven't done over the last 45 games, then I think Bristol Rovers are favourites.

“If Northampton win they are up and they know what they need to do, but it's tough going to Barrow.

“Scunthorpe have played a few youngsters recently. I am not sure on the rules on that though I completely understand why they're doing it looking ahead to next season.

“Scunthorpe are very genuine and I know Keith Hill. They will have a go as much as they possibly can. But it is a big ask for them.”

Stags have already equalled their best points total in 20 years but know it will be tough to add to that total against a Forest Green side desperate for victory on Saturday.

“Winning the title is a big incentive for Forest Green with rivals Exeter playing Port Vale for the title, who are also trying to get the result to get into the play-offs,” said Clough.

“It's not a case of Forest Green coming here and being halfway to the beach. They will be desperate to win the league.

“I think Forest Green have suffered as they were so far ahead.

“When you get as far ahead as they were, they were almost promoted just after Christmas unless they had an absolute disaster, which they've not had.

“They were promoted with four or five games to go, but I think they have suffered from being 'too good' in the first half of the season, though I am sure they will take that.”

Stags only need a point to ensure the play-offs, but Clough said they would be going for the win.

“I think it is almost impossible in football to play for a draw,” he said.

“And we are not the sort of side who can go away from home and 'park the bus'. I don't think we're capable of that with our sort of team.

“We go for the wins and that is what has got us where we are now.”

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Mansfield Town waiting on fitness of key veteran stars ahead of big Forest Green Rovers promotion clash
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, Tuesday 3rd May 2022

Mansfield Town defender James Perch looks set to be fit for this weekend's final crunch game against Forest Green Rovers.

But fellow veteran, midfielder Stephen Quinn, is 50-50 and could struggle to return from his hip injury.

Perch has returned early from a fractured skull and was again in the wars on Monday at Salford.

“He is okay. He got a couple of whacks on the side of his head, but he had that protective guard on which is good,” said manager Nigel Clough.

https://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/mansfield-town-waiting-on-fitness-of-key-veteran-stars-ahead-of-big-forest-green-rovers-promotion-clash-3680523

“When Tom (Whittamore) the physio went on, he did all the protocols and checks to make sure.

“He said he was actually fine and we kept asking him every few minutes. Then we just gave him a breather for the last five or 10 minutes just in case.”

He added: “Quinny tried to train on Sunday afternoon. He did a little bit but he was very restricted in what he could do.

“He was about 60 per cent of what he normally is. Then you have the risk of making it much worse.

“At only 60 per cent, as good as he is, we are not playing him.

“He doesn't declare himself unfit. But he agreed and said it was probably best, so he knew deep down.”

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Mansfield Town won’t be distracted by scores elsewhere as they bid for promotion on last day against Forest Green Rovers
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, Tuesday 3rd May 2022

Nigel Clough said he and his staff won't be looking at scores from elsewhere until later on in the game as Mansfield Town go into the nailbiting final day against Forest Green Rovers on Saturday still with three possible outcomes.

Stags could secure automatic promotion, a place in the play-offs or miss out altogether depending on their score and others elsewhere.

“We won't bother about the other scores early on. We will get the half-times and take it from there,” said the Stags boss.

“We had a very bad experience with that at Burton on the final day when we were safe with four minutes to go up at Preston.

https://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/mansfield-town-wont-be-distracted-by-scores-elsewhere-as-they-bid-for-promotion-on-last-day-against-forest-green-rovers-3681170

“Bolton needed to score twice against Forest in the last four minutes and they did that.

“We thought we were relatively safe with a point and it didn't work out, so I am not a great fan of it.

“Let's just do our job. We know if we get a point or three we are guaranteed a play-off spot, that's all we need to focus on.”

He added: “All three results are possible and I don't want us to miss out.

“Someone is going to miss out and it is all incredibly tight. Three teams can still get automatic and the others are vying for the play-offs.

“There will be an incredibly elated football club somewhere on Saturday night who has got that last automatic spot.

“But we have to make sure we get in that top seven.

“Our last two home fixtures have been excellent with two clean sheets.

“We have scored six goals now in three games, we look dangerous, and we look like we're going to create, so we have to make sure we're solid and don't concede.”

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Great season for club and fans whatever happens on Saturday, says Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, Tuesday 3rd May 2022

Whatever happens on the final day of the season, Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough said it had been an unbelievably exciting campaign, he believed fans had enjoyed it too, and he wanted it to end on a high.

Stags could achieve promotion, a place in the play-offs or see their season come to an abrupt end when title-chasing Forest Green Rovers visit on Saturday.

But Clough said: “It has been an unbelievably exciting season - a rollercoaster with ups and downs all the way through, and we're still in there fighting. Let's finish on a high.

“I have never had a season like this as a manager.

https://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/great-season-for-club-and-fans-whatever-happens-on-saturday-says-mansfield-town-boss-nigel-clough-3681187

“Usually you're pretty constant. You will have your dips when you'll lose a few games, but to go on that long run we did without winning and then to win as many as we did was incredible.

“To win 13 out of our last 14 home games from where we came from is still remarkable.”

He continued: “I think the supporters have enjoyed it in the main.

“They pay a lot of their hard-earned money to come and watch and travel all over the country in numbers. So we are entitled to try to entertain and put a performance on.

“I honestly think they would rather see us have a real, real go.

“If we'd offered them a 0-0 at Salford with not much going off or a 2-2 with end to end stuff I think they would go for the 2-2. You have to have the entertainment factor there too.

“I know whatever happens on Saturday they will still be supportive. We want a positive outcome to the day but they will still be with us.

“If you can stick with a team like they did throughout that 14-game run without a win you know they will be with you on Saturday whatever.”

Clough said the club was proud of the way it had bounced back from that run of 14 games without a win but, after Monday's dropped points at Salford, urged players not to miss another rare opportunity for success this weekend.

“When we left Northampton in October second from bottom, everybody was absolutely on the floor,” he said.

“If you had said then that on the last day of the season we're not guaranteed to be in the play-offs but still have a chance of automatic, everybody at this club, including supporters, would have taken that.

“We have pride in that. But I don't want it to dissolve into nothing and waste all the work we've put in, not just over the last six months, but over the last nine to 18 months.

“I don't want to waste it on Saturday. I felt there was an element on that on Monday where we missed an opportunity.

“We mustn't miss another one as they don't come along very often.

“You have to work very hard over 45 games to be in this position and a chance of the play-offs and a chance of promotion.”

Had Stags won at Salford their fate would have been in their own hands on Saturday.

“We were despondent on Monday as it was now out of our hands,” he said.

“We knew with Bristol Rovers getting a late winner on Saturday we needed two wins to get automatic.

“But there is no point in looking back on that now. We are where we are and we are still in with a chance.

“We need to put whatever disappointment there was at drawing 2-2 at Salford in a very entertaining game, very quickly behind us as we don't even get a full week - it's only five days.

“It's gone, everything is focused on Forest Green now to get a point or more and we are still in with a chance of getting promoted.”

With Stags so unlucky on major decisions this season Clough said it was easy to see how they could already be up.

“We are eight points off the top and when you look back over 45 games you can get those eight points off the top of your head,” he said.

“But we need to make sure we get in the play-offs so everything after that goes out the window for now.

“Everything is focused towards Saturday and nothing else matters. We will deal with whatever comes after that.”

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Wanted list on hold, but few squad changes expected this summer for Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, Tuesday 3rd May 2022

Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough does not envisage too many squad changes over the summer months, whichever division his side end up in.

But he has put his wanted list on hold for now until this season's destination is confirmed.

On Saturday Stags could gain automatic promotion, settle for the play-offs or miss our altogether in a dramatic final day.

“The list is on hold right now,” said Clough.

https://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/wanted-list-on-hold-but-few-squad-changes-expected-this-summer-for-mansfield-town-boss-nigel-clough-3681211

“We do have one, though I don't think there will be massive numbers of players coming in as we do have a good squad.

“When you look back over the season, we have that eight point gap to the top, yet if we'd got anything during that run without a win, or even outside that run, we had a fair shout for automatic promotion, even with the injuries.

“So we feel we're not far away anyway. So it doesn't need disrupting too much. It just needs four or five players, depending on who we lose.

“Then we will have a good enough squad if we don't make it this year, to have a real challenge next year.”

He added: “The loan players are totally up to their parent clubs.

“There are no guarantees with any of them, especially the likes of Matty Longstaff on the deal we have. It's highly unlikely we'll get him again.”

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No risks for boss Nigel Clough as Mansfield Town aim for Notts FA Senior Cup glory for first time in 90 years
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, Tuesday 3rd May 2022

Mansfield Town will only field a couple of senior players when they take on Carlton Town in tonight's final of the Notts FA Senior Cup at Basford United’s Greenwich Avenue ground (7.45pm).

With possible play-offs ahead, Stags boss Nigel Clough was taking no chances and said: “We have the Notts Senior Cup final at Basford, but with it being on artificial, not many of the lads want to play on that and we won't be risking anybody.

“Jason Law will play for a run-out and probably Marek Stech, just to keep his hand in.”

Otherwise the side will largely comprise U23 players.

https://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/no-risks-for-boss-nigel-clough-as-mansfield-town-aim-for-notts-fa-senior-cup-glory-for-first-time-in-90-years-3679972

Stags last week hammered Newark 7-1 to become the first Mansfield Town side to reach the final of this competition since 1935 when the reserves lost 3-1 to Notts County Reserves on Sutton Town's ground.

The last time the club lifted the trophy was when their reserves beat Forest Reserves 3-2 on Newark Town's ground in 1932.

Mansfield Town Ladies have also reached the Notts FA Women's County Cup final this season where they will face Nottingham Forest Women on Wednesday, 11th May also at Basford United.

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Fans will play big role in final match - striker
mansfieldtown.net, Tuesday 3rd May 2022

Mansfield Town top goal scorer Rhys Oates says the supporters will play a ‘big part’ in Saturday’s showdown at home to Forest Green Rovers.

Stags’ leading talisman - with 11 goals in all competitions - was buoyed by a travelling following of 1,286 supporters’ in Mansfield’s 2-2 draw at Salford City on Monday.

And now Oates is looking forward to playing in front of a sell-out crowd in the home stands this weekend when Stags welcome title-chasing Forest Green Rovers to One Call Stadium.

Nigel Clough’s men head into the final game of the regular season knowing that a point would secure a place in the end-of-season play-offs, but could also finish in third place or miss out on a top seven position, depending on other results.

“I think the fans play a big part in it,” said Oates speaking at a news conference on Tuesday in the build-up to Saturday’s fascinating encounter.

“They’ve backed us. They’ve been amazing away from home as well.

https://www.mansfieldtown.net/news/2022/may/fans-will-play-big-role-in-final-match---striker/

“They were amazing yesterday [Monday]. I reckon there could have been more Stags fans than Salford fans. They sing for 90 minutes and they’re like a 12th man. They keep you going, they’re just amazing and they have been all season.”

The former Hartlepool striker is confident that Mansfield can gain a positive result this weekend.

“I’ll be confident and I’ll think all the 11 [starting] lads will be.

“I think we’ve been confident going into every game that we can win.

“All we need is a point for the play-offs but we’re going to go and try to win the game and see what happens whether Northampton and Bristol [Rovers] are going to drop points and that’ll do it for us but we just have to concentrate on us.

“We only need a point [to secure a position in the play-offs] but we are only going to go for three points to try and win the game and hope other teams do us favours.

“All we are going to be concentrating on is three o’clock at the One Call and that’s it for us and then come quarter to five, five o’clock, and see how the other results have gone.

“It’s a big game and we’ve just got to concentrate on us.”

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Mansfield Town must focus on the job in hand of beating Forest Green and hope other results go their way says Rhys Oates
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, Tuesday 3rd May 2022

Mansfield Town top scorer Rhys Oates said Stags must focus solely on beating Forest Green Rovers in Saturday's final regular season game and not worry what is happening elsewhere.

Stags know a single point against a Rovers side who will be chasing the title, would be enough to secure a play-off place, but a win and two other results going for them could yet snatch Stags an unlikely automatic promotion place.

“It is a big game and we have just got to concentrate on us - the 18 that are on the bench and starting,” said Oates.

“We will concentrate on getting the three points and see what happens at the end of the game.

https://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/mansfield-town-must-focus-on-the-job-in-hand-of-beating-forest-green-and-hope-other-results-go-their-way-says-rhys-oates-3678690

“I am confident. I think we've been confident we can win going into every game.

“All we need is a point for the play-offs but we're going to go and win the game and see what happens if Northampton and Bristol Rovers are going to drop points which would do it for us.

“We just hope other teams can do us favours.”

He added: “We believe we can do it.

“We've shown that in the last five months coming from second bottom in the league to being where we are now.

“It is an unbelievable achievement and we've proved we can win games, especially at home.

“If we win on Saturday we will have the joint best home record in the league.

“The fans play a big part in it. They have been amazing away from home too.

“I think there were more Mansfield fans than Salford fans there on Monday and they sang for the whole 90 minutes. They keep you going.

“It will be an amazing day. The fans have been class all season and we just want them to stick by us for the last game and see where it takes us.

“We are very good on the ball at home, we play football very well and are a lot more confident at home, though we've proved we can still win away too.

“We have won 13 of our last 14 home matches and without those we wouldn't be playing for anything now.”

Forest Green are without the injured Matty Stevens, but Oates knows how good fellow his striker, Jamille Matt, is.

“The likes of Jamille Matt are always going to cause problems with the size of him and he has a lot of assists as well as goals,” he said.

“So you can never think because the other lad is out for the season that they're not going to be a threat going forwards.

“So we still need to be defensively strong and take our chances when we get them down the other end.”

He added: “We would like this to be the last game of the season - in a positive way. But, if it's not, then three more games, we will just take it as it comes.

“We know the place will be bouncing - it has been bouncing for months. Hopefully it will be a good day.”Oates has just returned from a thigh injury and said: “I am feeling good.

“We did well to get my quad right so quick. I have had no problems with it since I got back playing and the rest of me feels good.”

Oates now has 11 goals from a fantastic season and he said: “The lads have been class and helped me settle in from day one.

“It took me a while to get going. I think I only got one in the first 14/15 games.

“But it was just a confidence thing, and once I got that second goal they just started flowing in and my confidence grew.

“I think it was just getting used to playing with new players. We had a few new ones in and that's all it took. Once we gelled we showed what we could do.”

He said he will feel no nerves on Saturday, having experienced every sort of big game, culminating in promotion last season with Hartlepool United.

“I have experienced it all in the last few years,” he said.

“I have been in a few relegation battles and then obviously last year we had a chance of automatic at Hartlepool with five games left, which got away from us. But then with the play-offs it all went well in the end and we managed to do it.

“I don't feel nerves pre-match. I used to but that comes with experience and you get used to atmospheres.

“I feel like I have played in quite a few big games now and I am used to it.

“You just have to try to treat it as another game and go into it full of confidence. You can't get over-excited or too nervous, just focused on the 90 minutes.”

Oates knows that promotion with Stags would also see him return to play his first club, Barnsley, who have been relegated from the Championship.

“It was a shame for them to go down - it was a tough season for them,” he said.

“But if we go up it would be nice to go back to where I grew up playing.

“As a second year scholar there I got academy player of the year, had a good season and got my pro from there.

“I think I made nine appearances, all off the bench, no starts. But it was good to get some experience in League One at a young age.”

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Speculation about other jobs, title hopes and transfer window plans - Forest Green Rovers boss Rob Edwards ahead of Mansfield Town away
Title will be decided on final day of the season

5 MAY 2022

https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/speculation-jobs-title-hopes-transfer-7042621

You were pretty down after Saturday’s defeat at home to Harrogate. What has motivated the motivator since then?

We all have to get back on the bike and go again. What motivates me is us getting a reaction from the weekend. It’s a really big game against a big club who need to win. That’s exciting. We want to take momentum into next season. It’s the 46th game and we don’t want to go out on a damp squib. We need to react and show people we’re a good team. We’ve shown we are over the previous 40-odd games. I was disappointed with Saturday, and the lads were disappointed. We can’t dwell on it. We have to learn from it and be better. We’ve said all along that there will be down points in the season - I’m just glad we’ve had our down time after we got promoted. We know there is still the potential of winning a league title and that’s a big motivation. It didn’t particularly look like that on Saturday - which probably frustrated me the most. I’m well aware that we all want to win the league, but we’re also aware that Exeter are in pole position and that Mansfield need to win the game. There’s not much more to say. There are a lot of things there that are going to get us up for it. I hope the fans see that. We can never guarantee the win, but we can guarantee that we’ll work hard and give absolutely everything.

Mansfield need to win to have any hopes of clinching automatic promotion. Do you expect them to be more nervous than you?

They could be. I don’t know. It’s difficult to get over the line, and we’ve experienced that ourselves. We saw on Monday that Mansfield and Port Vale both failed to take advantage of their games. It is difficult, and the pressure will be on them, no doubt about it. It’d be great to take advantage of that. We need to focus on ourselves - and that’s my main concern. They have to go for it. They have Nigel Clough who has done hundreds of games, is very experienced and has got over the line before with Burton. He knows what to do and he has very good players. It’s going to be a difficult game, but we have to concentrate on ourselves. We’ve got a chance to finish top of the league. Only four teams across the 92 get the chance to win a league title. We’re going into the final day with a chance of doing that, so we don’t need any other motivation.

How do you get your mojo back?

By not accepting what happened on Saturday. We know we have to be better in both boxes, we have to react better when we lose the ball and we can’t give the ball away as cheaply as we did on Saturday against a good counter-attacking team. We know what we have to do. The training has been good during this week. The lads have reacted in the right way. They’ve done that all season long. I expect a reaction, and I’m actually putting a bit of pressure on the players now because I know they’re capable. In the so-called big games, we’ve performed well. We haven’t won all of them, but we’ve performed well. I’m certainly expecting a good performance. They’ve shown it in training, so hopefully we turn up on Saturday.

You beat Mansfield 1-0 only a month ago. How much better do you expect them to be with home advantage?

I thought they were good that night. They showed their power and quality, especially in the first 15 minutes. We grew into the game and maybe just shaded the first half, although they missed a good chance at the beginning of the game with Lucas Akins. We went 1-0 up and I thought it was deserved. They made a couple of changes at half-time, and then the sending off helped. We knew that was an important game and a really big three points for us. They’ll have home advantage and they’re going to try and use that. I watched Port Vale’s game on Monday and they had home advantage with a big crowd, but it can go two ways. If you start well then they can help you, but then the home fans can get nervous if you don’t start well and make one or two mistakes. If we perform the way we’d like to, then the home crowd could get nervous like the players could. We know what’s coming. They’re a very good team who play with a lot of energy. They’re fluid, with players popping up all over the place with forward running. We have to make sure we look after ourselves.

When you know what’s coming, does it come down to anything more than desire and a performance?

That’s definitely something I want to see, the desire. I want to see the basics - the things that weren’t there on Saturday, like they have been for the vast majority of the season. They know how we’ll play, but it comes down to desire. I want to see a performance. There will be mistakes, but it’s about how we react from those mistakes. We didn’t do that well enough on Saturday - and that upset me. I had really mixed emotions after Saturday. I was incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved, but you want to see it out well and we have high standards which we dropped well below. We want to get back at it.

Injuries, how’s the squad?

Yes, everybody is good. Matty (Stevens) aside - everybody trained on Thursday.

Will the recent form provide a little bit of food for thought over the summer? Does the form mean you won’t be going into League One with any sort of complacency?

If we look at the last few games and how we’ve performed. Bristol Rovers - the performance was brilliant. On another day we win the game, but what a performance that was. What a day that was. Swindon was always going to be difficult after the high emotions of the weekend, but the performance was really good. Nobody goes there and has more of the ball than them - but we did that in the first half, even though we conceded a couple of goals. We hit the woodwork, and we probably should have got something from the game. Saturday was the one. Over the course of the season, you can count on one hand the poor performances we’ve had. Port Vale at home is the first one, Barrow away, and Saturday against Harrogate. We really dropped our levels in those games and they’ve been the worst performances. Over 45 games, that isn’t too shabby. In terms of results, it’s been tough over the last few months, and I think that’s down to a combination of things that we can discuss at a later date. I think one of those reasons is the psychological side. It’s tough to get over the line, and we’ve seen that up and down the country. We have got over the line, so I don’t think we should be too critical, but we have to be better going into next season. Definitely.

Has this season surpassed expectations? Did you have a goal at the start of the season?

We wanted to get promoted and we’ve achieved that. Now we have a chance to win the league title. We’ve not given up on that. We have an opportunity to go one better. If I'm being honest, I knew we were capable of getting promoted, but to actually achieve it is such a good feeling.

And this squad will be remembered for years to come, because they’ve made history…

They have, and you have to enjoy these moments. I’ve said that a lot over the weeks and months. It doesn’t happen often. Promotions don’t happen often at football clubs. You have to enjoy it, you have to milk it and live in the moment. Everybody is quick to criticise, but we’ve received a lot of compliments and praise this season. We have to take that in a humble way and enjoy it. In football, there are tough times, so if you can’t enjoy the good times, then you will never enjoy anything. There are more bumps and knocks in football than there are ups. This year we’ve had lots of ups and we have to enjoy it. Overall, I’m delighted and very proud of everything, but I’m well aware that it’s not done yet and we have game number 46 to come.

How motivated are the players to wrestle back top spot after being toppled last week?

We are winners and we want to win every game. To be in the position we’ve been in all season and to not finish there would be a slight frustration. We’re going to give absolutely everything and see what happens. We can’t guarantee a win, but we can guarantee a performance, because that is what will help us get the win. We know if we go there and perform like we did on Saturday then we have no chance. No chance. But if we go there and perform like we did against Bristol Rovers or like against Mansfield at home, then we have every chance of getting something from the game. We might only need a point. I’m really excited and looking forward to the challenge. We know it’ll be difficult, but let’s give it a good go. What’s the worst that can happen? We finish in second, which is a great season. That’s the worst that can happen. That’s not bad.

What has Jamille Matt brought to the team both on and off the pitch this season?

He’s a leader. He’s experienced. He’s a calming influence, but a motivational influence as well. He’s somebody that the players can turn to and talk to. He’s somebody who can help get messages across to the players from me and Richie (Kyle). He’s that link between us. He’s hugely influential and I can’t speak highly enough of the man. He’s chipped in with a lot of goals this season, and I know there hasn’t been as many recently, but he’s given absolutely everything. Everybody at this football club should be very grateful for what he’s given to Forest Green over the last couple of years. He’s been a massive influence across two successful seasons.

How did Matty Stevens’ operation go last week and when do you expect him to be back?

I wouldn’t put a timeframe on it, but we know it’s long-term. The operation went well and the surgeon was happy. That part of it went well, and it’s been great to have him around the place. He seems okay mentally - he’s smiling and he seems with it. There are going to be tough times ahead, but we need to support him. We’re going to give him absolutely everything, just like he’s given us absolutely everything. He’s somebody who can come back stronger from this sort of injury, because he’s got the right mentality and I have no doubts he’ll be back next season scoring goals again and working hard for the team. I don’t think it’s fair on him, the staff or the fans to put a timeframe on it, because if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. We have to take our time. It’s so early in the process, and all we can do is support him.

The 2022/23 season starts in July due to the World Cup. Are you going to have any time to relax with the family?

I’ll try and get away with the family, which will be nice. They deserve it. I’m looking forward to a break and putting the phone away for a little bit. You need that time to recharge the batteries, because it is intense. I’ll get a little bit of time away, but we’re due back on June 23, so it’s earlier than normal. We haven’t got to worry about the play-offs this year, which is great. That gives us more time to relax and to prepare for next season.

Will you have a big squad overhaul over the summer, or will it be a couple of tweaks?

There will be changes this time. It’ll be different to last year. Last year, a lot of the group were already signed on. This time, there’ll be a few more changes. We have a core group who will be here with us, which is great, but inevitably, there will be changes. Regardless of what league we were going to be in next season, that was always going to be the case. We’re working hard behind-the-scenes to ensure we’re in good shape. Some players will move on, and some players will come in, but we’ll be in good shape.

How do you deal with reports linking you with jobs in the Championship? And how do you deal with reports linking your players to other clubs?

It’s purely speculation. Mansfield is my focus. I can’t control that type of thing - it’s pure speculation. I concentrate on my job. As for the players, we know we’ve had lads who have performed for us really well this season. There will be interest from elsewhere because we’ve had good performers and we’ve won promotion. There will always be people looking at our players. A lot of them are at a good age and a lot of them can progress and play higher. The good thing is that we’ll be playing at a higher level next season. It’s stuff we can’t control. We can’t control who looks at our players. We need to do everything we can to keep a strong group together - which we will do. If one or two move on, then we’ll replace them with good quality players. That’s something this football club has done over the last few years.

How is Jordan Moore-Taylor after being forced off with a neck injury against Harrogate?

He’s good. He did a bit of light training on Tuesday and he trained fully on Thursday. He’s in good shape.

You made your TV punditry debut for the televised League Two games on Monday. How did you find that, and were you making notes whilst watching Mansfield’s draw against Salford ?

Richie went to the game, so I let him do all of that stuff! I had to concentrate on speaking at the right times and not embarrassing myself. I was concentrating on making sure I didn’t say anything wrong. I enjoyed it. It was nice to be asked to do that, and it was very enjoyable. It was nice to watch Mansfield’s game - and Richie was there watching it live.

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