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4th January 2021 11:24

Manager targets winning start to 2021
mansfieldtown.net, Wednesday 30th December 2020

Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough says a winning start to 2021, which would also mean back-to-back victories for the Stags, would do ‘wonders’ for his side’s confidence.

The amber and blue welcome Port Vale to One Call Stadium this weekend, a fixture that follows the 3-2 win away at Scunthorpe United on Boxing Day.

Nigel Clough says that starting a new year on the front foot ‘gives everyone a lift’ heading into the second half of the campaign.

“We have several things to aim for, and that [back-to-back wins] is certainly one of them,” he told iFollow Stags. “The teams who are making progress in the league are getting back-to-back victories.

“It’s something we can aim for, and we want to get the New Year off to a good start. Let’s put 2020 behind us and get off to a good start [in 2021] with three points.

“I think that will do wonders for our confidence. It’s amazing, as it’s only a couple of days difference, but when you do start a new year off well, it gives everyone a lift.


“They [Port Vale] were right up there at the start of the season, but they’ve struggled a bit recently. They’re still more than capable and one of those teams who could easily challenge for the top six.

“The bottom teams are picking up results, and if you can get back-to-back wins, you can find yourself right in the mix of that next ‘pack’ very easily.

“There are some teams that seem to be getting dragged into it, and we have to try and get into that ‘pack’ and get above them.”

The Stags were set to face Salford City on Tuesday evening, but the match was postponed due to heavy snowfall in the area.

The boss offered his thoughts on the postponement, adding: “We were disappointed but not too surprised [with Salford postponement] after getting up and seeing the weather.

“We had a photo sent through quite early on by the groundsman [Michael Merriman], showing just how much snow was on the pitch.

“We knew it was doubtful. Anyone who has seen the games recently has seen how heavy the pitch has been with all the rain that we’ve had.

“If that sort of snow melts on it as well, you’ve not got much chance of getting the game on. The referee who came in at around 11am agreed straight away.

“We were disappointed, as we’d had a good win at Scunthorpe, and you want to play the game. We wanted to try and get that home win in 2020.

“David Waldie, the strength and conditioning coach, did a bit on Zoom with them [players] yesterday afternoon. Everybody is in as planned Wednesday morning for a good session. The Wednesday morning session will replace the Tuesday night.

“We’re very fortunate that we have a full-sized 3G pitch [at The RH Academy]. We’ll be having a session on there [due to frozen training pitches]. It’s wonderful to have these facilities, and hopefully next week the pitches will have recovered.”

Nigel Clough also discussed his side’s last outing, the 3-2 win at Scunthorpe on Boxing Day.

“I thought it was a good, all-round solid performance,” he said. “I was frustrated with the goals we conceded, because on the balance of play, we shouldn’t have been sweating in the last few minutes of the game.

“We made a couple of daft mistakes and got punished for them, but we still got the three points.

“I was very pleased with lots of things. It was interesting, as we usually do a bit more work, running-wise in games.

“The stats showed we were a little bit down, but I think that’s a good sign. To score three goals, win the game and not have to work as hard as they normally do, means people were playing their positions properly and we don’t have to go chasing the game.

“All those sorts of things gave us a lot of encouragement.”

Ahead of the January transfer window, the boss outlined when he plans to bring in players, as well as looking beyond next month to his targets for 2021.

“You can’t really get anybody in before Saturday [against Port Vale]. You have to have those lined up and all signed on New Year’s Day, so it’s unlikely.

“Realistically, you’re talking after the Cheltenham game [in the FA Cup]. I think we have good numbers, so maybe we might have one more go out than coming in.

“We want to keep Mansfield in the league, first and foremost, then try to progress from there. We want to build a squad in the summer to challenge at the other end of the league.

“Football is too unpredictable to set resolutions and predictions. We just do our best every day we come in.”

There was also an injury update on frontman Nicky Maynard, who has been recently sidelined with a hamstring issue.

“It [Maynard injury] is not too bad. I think it will be a week or two from here.

“He’ll keep working and he’ll be back when he’s comfortable. The good thing is with Nicky’s experience, he knows his body and knows his hamstring.

“He’ll wait until it’s absolutely right to come back.”

(Clough told Jake Garner on BBC Radio Nottingham that Maynard has a chance for the cup game at Cheltenham).

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


Nigel Clough 'disappointed' Mansfield Town's clash with Salford City was postponed, but believes club made right decision
chad.co.uk, By Duncan Browne, Wednesday 30th December 2020

Nigel Clough described Mansfield Town's postponed fixture against Salford City as 'disappointing but understandable'.

The Stags were due to host the Ammies last night, looking to build upon Boxing Day's 3-2 victory at Scunthorpe United.

However, the contest was put on hold due to snowfall at One Call Stadium.

"We were disappointed but it's understandable," Clough said.


"I got a message from the groundsman (Michael Merriman) yesterday morning saying there was quite a bit of snow on the pitch and, as it settled during the day, it would only add to the water that's on the pitch.

"Anyone that's seen the last few home games will know it's been pretty heavy anyway."

The squad were still put through their paces as strength and conditioning coach David Waldie hosted a Zoom session.

The Stags-Salford contest will now take place on Tuesday, January 5.

Using Harrogate Town's contest against Carlisle United - which was abandoned last night with the hosts leading 1-0 - as an example, Clough believes the club made the correct decision.

"You don't want games called off, not on the back of Saturdays win," he added.

"But you don't want to a do a Harrogate and be 15 minutes into the game and have it abandoned.

"We're a disappointed, but it's understandable with the weather."


Mansfield Town won't underestimate Port Vale, despite poor run of form
chad.co.uk, By Duncan Browne, Wednesday 30th December 2020

Nigel Clough believes that Port Vale's poor run of form will mean nothing going into Saturday's contest.

The Valiants will arrive at One Call Stadium with just one win in their past 11 League Two fixtures.

The Stags, meanwhile, have picked up four points from their past two matches, more than Vale have managed in their previous five games.


However, Town are still looking for their first league win at home this season, after recording six draws and four defeats.

"We've got to get that home win sooner rather than later," Clough said.

"It's a chance to do it on Saturday. It worries us a little bit when a team's had one win in 11.

"You don't keep on winning, you don't keep on losing in this league.

"Its all about us and what we do on Saturday. Hopefully, we can get three points."

Striker Nicky Maynard remains the club's only injury doubt, although Clough hopes he will be fit for next Saturday's FA Cup tie against Cheltenham Town.

"We’ve got a full squad to choose from, just Nicky Maynard out at the moment," the manager added.

"We're talking about maybe a couple of weeks, hes got a chance for the cup game."


Nigel Clough not a fan of the transfer window... but he's ready to make the most of it to bolster Mansfield Town squad
chad.co.uk, By Duncan Browne, Wednesday 30th December 2020

Nigel Clough admits he's not a fan of the transfer window... but he'll be hoping to make the most of it to bolster Mansfield Town's squad.

The Stags boss has already put together a list of potential targets as Football League clubs will be allowed to begin doing business once more from tomorrow (Monday).

"We've identified certain players we'd like to bring in and we've started work on that already," Clough said.

"There might be two or three out, two or three in. It certainly needs freshening up in certain areas and we'll keep working on that.


"We've got a lot of reasons for optimism in the next few months."

Despite his eagerness to add to his ranks, Clough confesses he doesn't believe the current transfer window model is advantageous to clubs in League Two, forcing them to be stretched financially.

He added: "I'm not a fan of transfer windows full stop. I think it still should be open all year round, especially for clubs at lower levels.

"It's not like the Premier League where you can put a 25-man squad in place and go again in January.

"I think you need much more flexibility at the lower league levels to do business, especially for loans.

"Everybody wants financial responsibility and all this does is encourage people to stock up and take more players just in case."


Home form must improve in New Year - skipper
mansfieldtown.net, Wednesday 30th December 2020

Mansfield Town captain Ollie Clarke says the Stags must improve their home form in 2021, and view the first game of the New Year - against Port Vale on Saturday - as a ‘clean slate’ on home soil.

The 28-year-old, who has made 16 outings this season, signed from Bristol Rovers in the summer.

The midfielder says that the Stags need to continue ‘taking the game’ to their opposition in the New Year, as he believes Mansfield are a better outfit when playing on the front foot.

“I think we need to improve in both boxes,” he told iFollow Stags. “We need to protect our leads a bit better and learn to be more streetwise at times.

“We just need to continue taking the game to the opposition, as when we do that, we look a much better outfit.

“On a whole, we need to try and keep it a bit tighter at the back to protect leads. We know that when we’re at it, we’re pretty much a match for anyone and we’re good enough to move up the league.


“You look at the home record and it’s been nowhere near good enough. We go into the New Year on Saturday and we want to start with a clean slate at home and go from there.”

Reflecting on 2020, the skipper looked back on the effect that the coronavirus pandemic had on last season, and his eventual summer move to One Call Stadium, a switch he says was the right decision.

“I know what I’m capable of and I knew [before recent run of games] I was capable of better, it’s just been the case this year where I haven’t had those runs of games [due to injury],” he added.

“The gaffer [Nigel Clough] has come in and he trusts me. I enjoy working under him and that probably gets a bit more out of me in terms of helping my game and doing the right things.

“Goals and assists ... I haven't got one of either of them yet ... it’s one of those where I want to improve on them. It’s not my out-and-out game to go out there and score goals, but it is a nice feeling when you do that.

“It [year] has been a lot different to what I’ve been used to, football-wise. We had a long lay-off and didn’t really expect what was coming to us in terms of the pandemic.

“Once I got my head around the fact that we probably weren’t going back to football [last season], I set my sights on a change. I decided to leave Bristol Rovers to try something new, as it was something I wanted to do.

“I’ve really enjoyed coming here and coming to this place [The RH Academy] to work every day. It’s an immaculate facility and it’s one where I hope it will be long-lasting. I’ve loved every minute so far.

“I knew it was the time to try something new and it [decision] was one I’m glad I made.”

"I have no commitments in terms or wife or girlfriend, so it was the perfect opportunity to go and try something new.

On the home form, Clarke said "It's quite embarrassing that we haven't won at home in the league."

The Stags were set to be in action on Tuesday evening, but the Sky Bet League Two home match against Salford City was postponed due to heavy snowfall in Mansfield.

Clarke says he was ‘disappointed’ with the postponement, as the amber and blue were looking forward to ‘testing themselves’ against an Ammies side that sit sixth in the table.

“I was a bit disappointed as I was looking forward to the game after Saturday. It was one where we were all looking forward to testing ourselves against one of the better sides in the division.

“We wanted to test ourselves to see where we’re at. When a game gets postponed it’s always frustrating, as you know you have to make it up.

“We were all looking forward to it as a group as we wanted to try and get our home form going.”

The midfielder also offered his final thoughts on Mansfield’s most recent outing, the 3-2 win at Scunthorpe on Boxing Day.

“It was a hard-fought victory and one we had to dig deep to see out. But I think it was deserved and I think on another day we win a bit more comfortably.

“Obviously it was much-needed at this stage of the season. We have to show more grit and determination sometimes to protect our lead, and be a bit more ruthless in both boxes.

“I think Saturday was probably a good example of that. We didn’t really take any risks and we dealt with what came into our box.

“There were a couple of errors on my behalf which started the attacks to the goals, which I was disappointed with. I hold my hands up and we move forward.”

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


Mansfield Town must put 'frustrating' first half of season behind them - Ollie Clarke
chad.co.uk, By Duncan Browne, Wednesday 30th December 2020

Ollie Clarke wants Mansfield Town to put their 'frustrating' first half of the season behind them and climb the League Two table.

The Stags will end 2020 21st in the standings, just three points clear of the bottom two.

"The league table says it's been a disappointing first half of the season really," the Town skipper admitted.


"It's not how we anticipated starting and it's not what we wanted to do.

"Unfortunately that's the way things panned out."

However, with 26 league games left to play and just 10 points separating Mansfield and Walsall, 10 places above them in the table, Clarke remains optimistic a good run can transform the season.

"There's still plenty of games to go," Clarke added.

"The sooner we put points on the board it gives us a bit more momentum.

"It's about getting that belief in this group of players. I think we've struggled with confidence and had different injuries at different times and not really got ourselves going.

"It's been frustrating for everyone involved."

When Nigel Clough first arrived at One Call Stadium he demanded Town begin turning defeats into draws and draws into wins.

While results have improved, Town are still eager for more victories.

To date, they have drawn 11 times this season. Clarke believes a little more ruthlessness will help.

He said: "When you look at the games where we've conceded late goals, we've given ourselves half a chance and somehow conceded in the last 5-10 minutes by not being ruthless enough, dealing with balls in the box or tracking runners.

"It's simple individual errors really."


Port Vale injury latest on James Gibbons, Dave Worrall, Cristian Montano, Mark Cullen and Manny Oyeleke
stokesentinel.co.uk, By Michael Baggaley, 31 DEC 2020

Port Vale manager John Askey has given a rundown of the players injured and those coming back to fitness

Defender James Gibbons is back in training and could be in contention for the home game with Grimsby on January 9.

The 22 year old had an operation on a hamstring injury he suffered in the closing stages of the EFL Trophy game at Wigan on October 6. But he was able to return to full training for the first time today.

He’s ahead of schedule and so, while Vale are hoping he could be in the squad for the Grimsby game, they will be monitoring him as he steps up his training.


Manager John Askey said: “He has been a big miss. Hopefully he can get back to how he was.

“This year was always going to be a big season for James. He is at that age now where you look to push on and it has been a set back to him and ourselves.

“He is a really fit lad, hopefully he can come back and start pushing for a place.”

The manager added: “The main thing is to get him back in training and get a feel of the ball because he has not trained at all other than running. Probably in another week, I would have thought around about the Grimsby game, there is a possibility.”

Gibbons will add welcome competition to the right back spot. Mitch Clark has returned to Leicester after his loan but Vale also have Zak Mills and Nathan Smith for that position.

Meanwhile, Askey revealed that David Worrall, Cristian Montano and Mark Cullen all trained today following ankle, thigh and knee injuries respectively.

So, the staff will assess how they come through training before deciding whether they can go into the squad for Saturday’s game at Mansfield.

Meanwhile, Vale are hopeful midfielder Manny Oyeleke could be back in training next week. He’s been sidelined with an ankle injury.


Port Vale player isolating with Covid-19 as club tests more of squad
stokesentinel.co.uk, By Michael Baggaley, 31 DEC 2020

John Askey has revealed another of his Port Vale squad has tested positive for Covid-19.

Vale aren’t revealing the identity of the player at this stage but are testing two players who were closest to the player.

Midfielder Tom Conlon is also currently isolating after a positive test and has sat out the last two games.

Askey said: “A player has come down with Covid overnight. That is the situation.”


He added: “The player in question is not available now for 14 days. The main thing is he doesn’t feel too ill.

“We have tested two lads who were sitting close to the player. We will get the results back some time today or tomorrow. Hopefully they will come back negative and then on (January) 5, the whole of football is being tested for Covid.

“You can see when everyone gets tested there are going to be a lot of games called off. It is what it is. We are just getting on with it and see what happens.”

The possibility of a national football break has been discussed in the media because of the number of players testing positive.

The rest of the squad have trained as normal today but Askey said players are concerned. He explained: “The main thing is safety. The worry the players have is...we have players who are at that age where they have young families, maybe have babies, and then their parents.

“The worry is not for themselves, it is for their families and the affect it has on them mentally.

“Like today, we have come in and we know a player we have been in close proximity with has got Covid.

“He has been with us for the last couple of days. So, you all start to worry then that you might pick it up. But until they say something is going to be done, you have to get on with it.”