BARKER INTERVIEW FROM EVENING POST
BOTTOM AGAIN BUT SMILES ARE BACK
Evening Post, 11 October 2005
They may be bottom of the league but at Mansfield IAN WILKERSON finds a team full of anticipation
One victory and everything seems right with the world. Even seeing Stockport leapfrog them again to leave Mansfield at the bottom of League Two will have done little to dampen the mood among the players at Field Mill this week.
Some fans may remain unhappy with chairman Keith Haslam but, as far as the players are concerned, a corner just might have been turned.
In normal circumstances a 4-0 home victory for a side bottom of the pile would be greeted with sighs of relief.
Surely now the confidence will come back.
Even at a club where the first team is still being picked by a caretaker-manager, unease is noticeably absent.
Instead, there is the expectation among the players more akin to a promotion push.
Following just one win in the league this season, skipper Richie Barker maintained the party line when he said Friday's thumping of Shrewsbury was not completely unexpected.
"We have said for a while that, if things click, and we keep a clean sheet and score the first couple of goals, we will go on," he said.
"We did that against Torquay and we could have won that game by four or five as well.
"It isn't anything unexpected."
Barker scored the third goal against Shrewsbury but admits Giles Coke's top-corner screamer was the break they needed.
"It's probably the little bit of luck we needed. A couple of weeks ago, that would have gone over or hit the bar, but it was in and we managed to go on and kill the game off.
"We are in the position where we don't want to be losing touch with the people above us.
"It's important for us to get in there when they slip up. We have done our goal difference no harm at all either."
Stags have scored 20 goals this season - more than any team outside the top six.
The number 24 in the against column is not such a pretty statistic.
It is all a bit reminiscent of the relegation season three years ago when the Stags scored 66, just two less than champions Wigan, but let in 97.
The former Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham striker said they proved against Shrewsbury they can sort themselves out at the back as well.
The game brought only the second clean sheet of the season in the league, the other being in the 3-0 win over the Gulls.
"We know we can play. It is just important we do the nasty things right.
"Although we played well against Shrewsbury, created chances and scored goals the pleasing thing was we kept a clean sheet and won tackles and headers. That has been letting us down in the last couple of weeks, but we competed well and that was the most important thing.
"A couple of the goals came from people closing down and winning tackles and pinching the ball back, which we weren't doing.
"However, only doing it once a month is not enough."
The Stags face the long trek north to Carlisle on Saturday but Barker believes there is no reason why they cannot keep up their good form under Peter Shirtliff.
He said: "We have to go on a run and, in the next few weeks, we have games where we have to make sure we are difficult to beat.
"Most teams that come up from the Conference ride high for a little bit and live on a bit of confidence so it will be difficult.
"People keep saying we are too good to go down but, until relegation is impossible, you cannot say it."
Latest | October 2005