Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough has revealed he is still angry about his side’s 2-1 defeat against Swindon Town last month, a result which remains their only league loss this season.
The Stags’ 17-game unbeaten start to the League Two campaign came to an end in dramatic circumstances at the County Ground when the division’s top goalscorer Jake Young was on hand to slot home his second of the game in the 93rd minute, sending the home fans into ecstasy.
Tranmere visited Field Mill three days later, but the Nottinghamshire side twice had to come from behind to salvage a point against a team struggling near the foot of the table. It’s a pair of results which has seen Mansfield slip from second to fourth, with Wrexham and Barrow taking advantage to move into the automatic promotion places.
They also departed all three cup competitions in the space of three weeks, although Clough believes their early FA Cup exit may have been a blessing in disguise. With the second round having taken place this past weekend, Mansfield were given a rare opportunity to rest their legs ahead of their clash with MK Dons this Saturday.
Speaking to club media, the ex-Burton Albion boss revealed it gave him time to reflect on the opening few months of the season, although the Swindon result still bothers him:
“It was nice to get a few days away from training.
“It was good thinking time if anything – reflecting on how the first three months of the season has gone.
“Generally, I think we have to be extremely pleased with how it’s (the season so far) gone. We have only lost the one league game – I’m still angry about that at Swindon – but in general terms I think we’re in good shape.
“Players are coming back from injury and it’s looking good.”
It’s been 20 years since Mansfield competed in the third tier and the aim will be to achieve promotion after narrowly missing out on a play-off spot on the final day of last season. Asked if he is planning on strengthening his squad once the transfer window reopens next month, Clough said:
“I think (the club’s January transfer activity) is going to depend a lot on how we get through the next six games.
“We’re very happy with the squad at the moment. There’s always something that crops up where you might take one but if everybody comes through unscathed, we’ve got six games in the next 22 days which is a heavy schedule, then we may just leave it.
“We’ll see what sort of shape we’re in then. It’s a nice position to be in.”
Mansfield seemed to have thrown all their energy into their unbeaten start that when that first defeat came in 1-0 reverse against Port Vale in the Carabao Cup in late October, it seemed to knock the wind out of their sails. Clough is probably right in that last weekend’s break came at the perfect time as it has given them a chance to heal some tired legs and welcome back a number of stars from injury.
A major problem this season has been turning draws into wins and that is something that the manager will be looking to correct. MK Dons have largely underperformed this season, although their recent form has been good and they will represent a stern test.