STAGS STILL AIMING HIGH
MANSFIELD Town can at least secure a play-offs spot and possibly condemn Carlisle United to relegation if they can beat the Cumbrians at Field Mill on Saturday.
But manager Keith Curle is not yet giving up on that automatic promotion third place spot which looks to be Huddersfield Town's right now.
"If we win on Saturday while Huddersfield lose at Hull and then we can win at Huddersfield the following week it would put both sides within a point of each other going into the last game which would be very interesting," said Curle.
"It's out of our hands and all we can do is keep our own house in order and beat Carlisle.
"Even if we did end up in the play-offs that's hardly doom and gloom.
"Yes, we'd all like to go up automatically but reaching the play-offs would still be a great achievement - we could go up the sexy way!
"Even the play-offs would be magnificent when you consider we have only brought in three new players and one loan player all season - far less than the rest of the clubs."
Stags are seven points adrift of Huddersfield, but a win a Saturday could open a nine-point gap over eighth-placed Northampton with two matches left if the Cobblers lose at Swansea.
Apart from long term injuries to Adam Eaton and Iyseden Christie, Curle has a full squad to choose from for Saturday's game.
Fans can stay on for free after the main match if they wish to see WNC Ladies v Forest Ladies.
WE HAVE TO FIND A MEAN STREAK
Evening Post, BY STEVIE RODEN, 23 April 2004
Stags playmaker Neil MacKenzie says nobody wants to be the team responsible for condemning Carlisle to the Conference - but insists Mansfield have no choice.
The midfielder knows three points tomorrow against the basement side will almost certainly send the Cumbrians down while guaranteeing Mansfield a play-off place.
But he is keen to point out that a Huddersfield slip at Hull tomorrow could set up a mammoth clash with the Terriers next week for the third automatic promotion place.
MacKenzie said: "It will be a tough game tomorrow because they are scrapping for their lives, but it is one we have to win.
"It is not ideal as nobody wants to be the side to put them out of the Football League but we have our things to play for and can't afford any sympathy.
"Two of our three remaining games are at home. We are confident we can get maximum points from them all. Confidence is high.
"A win tomorrow should mean we have a definite play-off place but, if Huddersfield lose, there are just four points in it and it makes our match with them the week after like a cup final.
"And if we win that, there will be just one point in it going into the last game. I know it is a long shot, but at this stage it is still a possibility."
MacKenzie has scored some vital goals this season, including the winner against Hull in December.
But he knows the team have dropped precious points that cost them dear in the promotion race.
"We are disappointed that we are not closer to that third place at this stage," he said.
"It is a sign of a good side when you come back from 2-1 down like Huddersfield did last Saturday and then get a good result like their win at Northampton in midweek.
"When under pressure they have produced the results whereas, at times, we have not.
"We have given points away against Cambridge and Bristol Rovers at home."
MacKenzie says the players are still confident they will reach Division Two, even if it is through the play-offs.
"If Huddersfield do not slip up and we have to go through the play-offs, we will be ready because we are playing well," said the 28-year-old. "I would fancy our chances of getting to the final no matter who we played in the semi-final.
"At Cardiff, it will be about who performs the best on the day. But we fear nobody."
Laurent D'Jaffo has returned from a back injury and could replace Andy White in the starting line-up. And Keith Curle has no new injury worries but Iyseden Christie looks likely to be out for the rest of the season with his broken foot.
Stags (from): Pilkington, Hassell, Vaughan, John-Baptiste, Day, Curtis, MacKenzie, Lawrence, Corden, Larkin, D'Jaffo, J White, Artell, Disley, Williamson, Mendes, A White
BOSS CURLE HAILS HIS LIVEWIRE DUO
Evening Post, BY STEVIE RODEN, 23 April 2004
Manager Keith Curle has praised Colin Larkin and Alex John-Baptiste for the key roles they have played in Mansfield's recent return to form.
The pair have played in the last eight games, in which the Stags have lost just once, and have an even bigger part to play for the rest of the season.
Larkin had found himself down the pecking order of strikers but has been a real livewire in recent weeks since being brought back into the starting 11, scoring three goals in the last six games.
And Alex John-Baptiste, who is just 18-years-old, has been a rock alongside Rhys Day at the centre of the defence.
The teenager has been tipped as a star for the future and after loan spells with Tamworth and Burton earlier this season, he was put into the Mansfield side after they leaked 11 goals in three games.
Curle is determined to keep his hands on the young defender.
He said: "It is said about Alex all the time that he just wants to play and he is a natural defender and instrumental within the back four. I would like to keep him for as long as possible.
"And Colin Larkin has been superb. He has played a key part in the team framework. It is not only about scoring goals, he does a lot of hard work off the ball."
Latest | April 2004