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FLITCROFT, ATKINSON, MACDONALD, DUFF REACTION
10th March 2019 18:45


Stags ‘fought tooth and nail’ - manager
mansfieldtown.net, 2 March 2019

Stags’ boss David Flitcroft has said that his charges ‘fought tooth and nail’ to record a win in today’s 4-2 victory over Cheltenham Town at One Call Stadium.

After taking a two-goal lead into half-time courtesy of a CJ Hamilton brace, the Stags were pegged back to two-apiece following efforts from Chris Hussey and Charlie Raglan.

However, the duo of Will Atkinson and Alex MacDonald came off the bench to secure the three points from a thrilling encounter.

The manager described the performance as a ‘good day’s work.’

“We picked the team knowing we could change shape to a back-four,” said the boss. “It didn’t feel right for the first 15 minutes, but once we switched, some of the quality was fantastic.

https://www.mansfieldtown.net/news/2019/march/gaffer-post-cheltenham/

“He [Hamilton] wants to threaten in behind and he does. He’s devastating when he makes those runs.

“I challenged the team to step up to the plate in the absence of Tyler [Walker] and they have done.

“It’s not a free-kick on the edge of our box [which led to a Cheltenham goal]. Chris Hussey has stepped up and it’s a brilliant free-kick, but we shouldn’t have been in that position.

“At 2-1 they [Cheltenham] had something to fight for. They got the second goal from a great delivery. At 2-2, it was one of those games that was on a knife edge.

“The fighting quality, resilience and the ‘not lose’ mentality [was there]. I was buzzing for him [Atkinson]. It was nearly already a goal and he’s finished it off.

“For Macca [Alex MacDonald] to come on [and score] - he’s calling himself Thierry Henry in there! He powered away and it’s a really calm finish to seal a brilliant win.

“They [players] are a credit, they fought tooth and nail to give our supporters a victory today.

“The players have worked hard after two defeats and they’ve fought. It’s a really good day’s work today.”

The Stags’ chief says that the win was a result of the entire squad coming together.

“Tyler [Walker] is a miss and he scores late goals - you have that in the back of your mind. I think the momentum shifted at 2-2, and we had to come out and fight again.

“It did need Macca’s goal to calm everyone down. 3-2 is a dangerous scoreline and they held off well. We locked the pitch down.

“Cheltenham made a good change with Tyrone Barnett, because he caused us a few problems. All credit to Cheltenham in the second-half for making an absolute fist of it.

“It’s a really pleasing day and we’ve had a lot of positives. I’m delighted with the squad. Everyone has played a part.

“There is a real cohesion in the squad. They want each other to do well and that’s important.”

The manager was also delighted with how his players ‘stepped up’ in the absence of top scorer Tyler Walker, who was suspended for the match.

“Scoring four goals without Tyler [was a positive]. I think that’s a standout moment for us as we have relied on his goals.

“CJ has stepped up to the plate and Will Atkinson came in late on and stepped up to the plate. It’s important that they did because Tyler has felt that on him all year.

“To not have Tyler, the lads could have gone into their shells, but they didn’t. It was good today and I really enjoyed it.

“It was another [under-18s go free] offer that our owners put on, and the stadium was electric.”

In addition, the manager explained his decision to introduce Atkinson at half-time, and also provided an update on defender Matt Preston, who missed today’s game with a knee injury.

“I felt down that [right] side, we might be able to get Will Atkinson on as a more advanced midfield player.

“Chris Hussey for them is probably their man influence so I wanted a real calm head down that side, and Will gave us that.

“First 20 minutes of the second-half, he was nice and calm and kept the ball well. The fact that he’s got a goal is a bonus.

“For about three or four weeks now he [Preston] has been struggling with his knee joint. He trains every day and commits every day.

“He just couldn’t make the game. He came off the training ground yesterday and iced it [knee] up. He’s been managing it. It can flare up anytime and it did yesterday.

“We’ll get a scan done on it and an injection, and hopefully we’ll have him back.”

iFollow Stags subscribers can watch the manager’s interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.

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David Flitcroft praises Mansfield Town squad players after 'pleasing' win over Cheltenham Town
chad.co.uk, by STEPHEN THIRKILL, Saturday 02 March 2019

Mansfield Town boss David Flitcroft praised the contribution of his squad players after their 4-2 win over Cheltenham Town.

“The squad shone through today and that is what the game is about. Will Atkinson and Alex have both played a big part in this win. “It is really pleasing today, there are many positives. Everyone is playing a part. “The players that aren’t involved at the moment are all down there and there is a real team spirit, that is important. “The players have really stepped up today and embraced the responsibility.

Read more at: https://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/mansfield-town/david-flitcroft-praises-mansfield-town-squad-players-after-pleasing-win-over-cheltenham-town-1-9626312

“Scoring four goals without Tyler Walker is a real standout moment for us as we have relied on his goals.

“At 2-2 we had to work hard to get the momentum back and the players fought hard to do that. “We looked comfortable at 3-2 but that is always a dangerous score and we needed that fourth goal. “Cheltenham caused us some real problems and issues in the second half, This was a tough game and a very pleasing win.”

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Stags' squad showed character in victory - midfielder
mansfieldtown.net, 2 March 2019

Match-winner Will Atkinson believes that his Mansfield Town teammates showed character in abundance to overcome Cheltenham Town, despite the Robins threatening a comeback.

Wing-back CJ Hamilton notched a four-minute brace as the first half drew to a close - but saw his double cancelled out within a ten minute spell in the second period.

Midfielder Chris Hussey and centre-half Charlie Raglan restored parity for the away side, however, their efforts would be in vain when Atkinson and Alex MacDonald, both introduced as substitutes, scored a goal apiece.

And Atkinson highlighted the Stags’ character as one of the main components behind the latest victory at One Call Stadium.

“It had everything in that second half and coming on at two-nil up you’re looking to see the game through,” he began.

https://www.mansfieldtown.net/news/2019/march/atkinson-post-cheltenham/

“The next goal was vital and they got it with a quality free-kick. We know he [Hussey] has a great left foot but to then concede from another set-piece is disappointing.

“It meant we had to show character, which I think we did in abundance.

“It would have been easy to hold onto the draw but knowing the players we had out on the pitch I always fancied us to get a goal. And I’m even more pleased that it was me that got it.”

The 30-year-old then detailed the buoyant mood in the Stags’ dressing room, following a pulsating affair that saw Mansfield score four goals for the first time since late September.

“The boys are buzzing downstairs. They’re happy for me and they’re happy for Macca [Alex MacDonald] also coming back from a long-term injury.

“It’s great for him to get the goal but it’s a big win from the position we saw ourselves in first half. To be pegged back and then show the character we did is great.

“I took a little bit of stick earlier on in the season after missing a few good chances, especially with my head, but you’ve just got to keep believing in those positions and luckily that one went in today.

Atkinson, who has made 23 appearances for the Stags this season, scored his first goal of the season on Saturday afternoon.

And the midfielder wants to build upon this into the latter stages of the campaign.

“Every player wants to play and I’m no different to that,” Atkinson continued.

“I’ve played games my entire career so it’s been tough for me at times, but we’ve got a great squad so I’ve just got to be ready when called upon, which I was today.

“There were mixed emotions but mainly I was just pleased to see it go in.

“I thought the player was going to volley it at the same so I half shut my eyes, threw my head at it and when I’d opened them again it had gone in. [I was] delighted to see it go in.

“My ambitions are the same as they’ve always been - it’s to get in the team, stay in the team and get promoted.”

iFollow Stags subscribers can watch the midfielder's interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.

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Mansfield Town scorer Will Atkinson praises players’ character after 4-2 win over Cheltenham Town
chad.co.uk, by STEPHEN THIRKILL, Saturday 02 March 2019

Substitute and matchwinner Will Atkinson lauded the character of his Mansfield Town teammates after they shrugged off a Cheltenham Town comeback to clinch three vital points in their quest for promotion.

“It had everything in that second half,” said Atkinson.

Read more at: https://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/local/mansfield-town-scorer-will-atkinson-praises-players-character-after-4-2-win-over-cheltenham-town-1-9626401

“Coming on at two-nil up you’re looking to see the game through. “The next goal was vital and they got it with a quality free-kick. We know he [Hussey] has a great left foot, but to then concede from another set-piece is disappointing. “It meant we had to show character, which I think we did in abundance.

“It would have been easy to hold on to the draw but knowing the players we had out on the pitch I always fancied us to get a goal. And I’m even more pleased that it was me that got it.”

Atkinson said the dressing room was buzzing after the win “It’s a big win from the position we saw ourselves in first half and to be then pegged back. To show the character we did is great. “I took a little bit of stick earlier on in the season after missing a few good chances, especially with my head, but you’ve just got to keep believing in those positions and luckily that one went in today.

“I thought the player was going to volley it at the same so I half shut my eyes, threw my head at it and when I’d opened them again it had gone in. [I was] delighted to see it go in.”

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Goalscorer full of praise for Stags' faithful
mansfieldtown.net, 2 March 2019

Midfielder Alex MacDonald paid homage to the Stags’ faithful after netting a superb solo goal during Mansfield Town’s 4-2 victory against Cheltenham Town.

MacDonald had been sidelined for five months following an injury he suffered against Cambridge United in September, and today marked only his second appearance since returning to full fitness.

Leading on from a substitute appearance against Notts County, the much-loved midfielder replaced teammate Nicky Ajose and duly wrapped up proceedings with a fine goal that began at the half-way line.

However, despite notching his first goal of the season, MacDonald instead deflected praise onto the Mansfield contingent.

“The goal meant the world to me, to be honest,” the midfielder affirmed.

https://www.mansfieldtown.net/news/2019/march/macca-post-cheltenham/

“I know I played at Notts County but to be out in front of our home fans - who are magnificent and have been since the day I walked in - hearing them sing my name after I’d scored was a proud moment for me.

“When you’ve got all the players that you’ve watched for five months, they have seen bits and pieces of how hard it’s been for me personally, I’m the kind of character that needs to be involved in football so when that got taken away from me it hurt me.

“To be back involved when we were celebrating I tried to keep the boys around me for as long as I could. It was nice to hear the lads say some things to me.

“It was just about how pleased and happy they were for me, saying that all that hard work has paid off. I respect them and thank them for that.”

The 28-year-old, who cut an emotional figure, explained his personal battle to regain match sharpness following the injury lay-off.

“It has been hard - it must be over five months since I’ve really played in the first team and over the last couple of weeks it’s been hard sitting there and watching.

“But I realise the task I’ve got trying to get back in this team. It is a team that’s playing very well at the top of the division and I’m realistic to know I won’t just walk back into it.

“I’ve got a lot of hard miles to go, but the goal was quite special - it’s been a long, hard slog since being injured.

“When you’re in the gym on your own, you don’t realise how hard it is. Players have told me in the past about how lonely it can be when you’re injured and how much you don’t feel part of it.

“I hope that I don’t have to experience that again. I want to keep myself fit and play in big games like that; I want to contribute towards the team because it’s something I feel I can do.”

MacDonald then noted the key aspects behind his magnificent finish, before spelling out his ambitions for the remainder of the season.

“It’s not something I’m known for, showing a bit of pace,” he joked. “I think I raised a few eyebrows when I raced through!

“I got put in that position and I just tried to close the ball down, it ricocheted to me and I took a good touch past their right-back.

“I was one-on-one with their ‘keeper and luckily I put in the back of the net.

“I want more minutes and I want to keep contributing and helping the lads in training. I’ll do everything I can in training to get myself into the manager’s thoughts to be in that starting XI.”

iFollow Stags subscribers can watch the midfielder's interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow.

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“Magnificent” Mansfield Town fans saluted by Alex MacDonald on his goalscoring return from injury
chad.co.uk, by STEPHEN THIRKILL, Saturday 02 March 2019

Popular Mansfield Town midfielder Alex MacDonald paid tribute to the “magnificent” Stags fans - and revealed his tough battle for fitness - after returning from a five-month injury lay-off with a goal. MacDonald capped off Mansfield’s 4-2 home win over Cheltenham Town with a late strike in his second substitute’s appearance since returning to action.

“The goal meant the world to me,” said MacDonald, who scored after Will Atkinson had restored the Stags’ lead.

Read more at: https://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/magnificent-mansfield-town-fans-saluted-by-alex-macdonald-on-his-goalscoring-return-from-injury-1-9626572

“To be out in front of our home fans, who are magnificent and have been since the day I walked in... hearing them sing my name after I’d scored was a proud moment.”

MacDonald also appreciated the support and reaction of his team-mates to his special goal. “The players have seen bits and pieces of how hard it’s been for me personally,” he said. “I’m the kind of character who needs to be involved in football, so when that got taken away from me it hurt me.

“When we were celebrating I tried to keep the boys around me for as long as I could. It was nice to hear the lads say some things to me. “It was just about how pleased and happy they were for me, saying that all that hard work has paid off. I respect them and thank them for that.”

Talking about his battle for fitness he added: “It’s been a long, hard slog since being injured. “When you’re in the gym on your own, you don’t realise how hard it is. Players have told me in the past about how lonely it can be when you’re injured and how much you don’t feel part of it.

“I hope that I don’t have to experience that again. I want to keep myself fit and play in big games like that; I want to contribute towards the team because it’s something I feel I can do. “It has been hard - it must be over five months since I’ve really played in the first team and over the last couple of weeks it’s been hard sitting there and watching.

“But I realise the task I’ve got trying to get back in this team. It is a team that’s playing very well at the top of the division and I’m realistic to know I won’t just walk back into it.”

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twitter
Alex Macdonald @alexmacca11
Thank you all for your messages. After a tough 5/6 months & even tougher week with it being my mums anniversary, that meant a lot today!

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"A neutral wouldn't have been able to tell which team was near the top and which was near the bottom" - every word of Cheltenham Town manager Michael Duff's interview after the 4-2 defeat at Mansfield Town
Mansfield Town 4 Cheltenham Town 2

gloucestershirelive.co.uk, By Jon Palmer, 2 MAR 2019

Yes, I felt we deserved a point and we were more than good value for a point at least. For the first 40 minutes we were excellent. How we've come in at half-time 2-0 down...it's two straight balls and we need to defend that better, we know that. We made a change at half-time and the response was probably another good 40 minutes again. We got ourselves back in the game and then it's just key moments in games. First contact we didn't win and second contact we didn't win from a corner, which is the disappointing thing. The last goal I am bothered, but it's neither here nor there in the 93rd or 94th minute. I said before the game there is a way to get beaten. Colchester wasn't good enough, Grimsby we showed a little bit of grit and determination, but didn't play very well. Today I thought we mixed it up. If you were a neutral watching the game you wouldn't know which team was top and which was near the bottom. It's credit to the lads and they don't get anything for it, but it's a start.

It's fair to say you're happier tonight than after some recent away performances?
I've just told the players, it's a strange one for me as you want to give them a cuddle and say well done, but you want to strangle them as well because it's individual errors that have cost us. The togetherness and spirit they showed, along with some quality as well at times on a difficult pitch that was a bit lively. We played as much good football as they did and they are known for being one of the best footballing teams in the league. So it's those key moments and I am amazed how we were 2-0 down at half-time. It's a defeat, but with lots of positives within it.

What made you make the change at half-time?
It was more of a tactical decision, not performance based at all. The way they played CJ Hamilton, standing on the left wing. Playing a three, that's the one area of the pitch you are not covered. Toze (Ben Tozer) came off and he responded brilliantly, didn't throw his toys out of the pram and realised the bigger picture and that it's not about him. The two more natural centre-halves with regards to playing in a four a lot more, stayed on and I thought we nullified the threat really well. He can catch pigeons, Hamilton and that was the difference in the game really.

Set pieces are always important and you conceded from one, but you scored from two very good ones too
Yes, Huss (Chris Hussey) has put a great ball in for the corner and a good header. They are important and it was a great free-kick of course. They are important as it's hard to score a goal. It's almost like a free hit. We have shown we have a little bit of imagination, but people who can head the ball as well. Their manager will be saying the same thing, disappointed to concede from a corner. There was nothing in the game at all.

https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/we-deserved-point-every-word-2602841

Did you think you could go on and win it?
Well it wasn't a case of scoring two and trying to shut up shop. We were well on top during that period so we didn't want to change too much. You tell the players to stay positive when you get back into a game, I don't want to take 2-2 now. We would have taken 2-2 of course, but we were trying to be positive and score another goal.

Have you been able to say to the players now they have shown they can compete against a side near the top?
We are not in the same market as Mansfield. We are not a top three of four team yet. But with performances, spirit and quality like that we can show we can be a better team that what we are.

How frustrating is it as a manager when you can see how well you've played, but you are still frustrated about the goals you've given away?
I am feeling exactly the same as the player are, I'm sure. They have run themselves into the ground today and done everything we've asked of them. It was just a few individual errors that have cost us the game

At this stage, any potential problems for Tuesday night in terms of injuries?
I don't know yet. I say my piece and then get out of the way and let them have a bit of time. I'll speak to Gav (Crowe) on the way home and see where we're at, but I don't think there's anything obvious.

What was the thinking behind the change of formation for the start of the game, with one up front?
They have a lot of fluidity in the middle of the pitch. Jorge Grant is a centre forward, but he goes and drops right in. They play a 'box' midfield so we matched them up because we have players who can play the same way. It did work and I thought we were excellent, but something didn't quite drop for us. I am not sure if it was a penalty (on Kevin Dawson) or not, but I didn't think it was a booking as he's had to jump to avoid contact. We also had one cleared off the line at the back post and a couple of things didn't go for us. The formation was good and then even going back to a back four worked as we've not done that for a long time and we hadn't worked on it. The players took that on well which was pleasing as well.

You wanted a goal away from home and you've scored your first two since New Year's Day (4-1 win at Yeovil). A decent performance as well, now you just need a result...
It's not easy winning a game of football, but recently the players haven't been good enough away from home. I thought that was a good performance that deserved more than we got.

* Cheltenham Town play Bury at home on Tuesday night (7.45pm).

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