Martin Riley is convinced his ‘lucky headband’ is one of the reasons Mansfield Town have gone on a winning streak to join the end of season play-offs battle.
The central defender has worn a small black band to keep his long hair back in recent games – and the side have gone on to win four on the bounce ahead of today’s trip to Accrington Stanley (3pm), his only regret being that other players have not joined in him in sporting this fashion statement!
“A group of us were going to grow our hair but a few have had it cut already,” he smiled. “A few of the lads also said they were going to wear these but I am the only one with the guts to go out there wearing it.
“We haven’t lost since I’ve worn it and we have kept four clean sheets out of five, so it is going to be staying on for the rest of the season to be sure.”
Riley headed home one of the Stags’ three set piece goals in the 3-0 win over Rochdale last weekend and said: “That was a bit of a collector’s item and it was a great day for everyone.
“We are a big, physical side and set pieces are important for us. We take a lot of pride in them. We don’t concede many and we have scored a few from them which has been good.
“I think we’ve now kept about 16 clean sheets, which is good for a season. When we have lost games we have obviously shipped a few goals in those. But otherwise, especially second half of the season, we have been very tight defensively.”
Keeper Alan Marriott missed out through injury last weekend, but on-loan Crystal Palace keeper Lewis Price quickly got in the act with a clean sheet as Stags moved to wining six points of the play-off with four games to go.
“Obviously Mazza has to take a lot of credit for the clean sheets,” said Riley. “He has been brilliant. But we’ve got Pricey in there now and he is a Premier League keeper. He was magnificent at the weekend.
“He made a great save just before half-time in a one-on-one, he also made a couple of great saves in training on Friday so we all knew straight away we had got a very good goalkeeper.
“I hope he can help us get another clean sheet tomorrow.”
Despite the spartan surroundings of the Crown Ground, Riley knows today’s opponents Accrington Stanley will be far from an easy proposition, having already seen them come from 2-1 down near the end to win 3-2 at Mansfield.
“It does feel very non-League in the surroundings there, but they are doing all right at the moment and it will be a very tight game,” he said.
“But the way we are playing we will go there with confidence, especially with what is at stake. These are very exciting times for everyone.
“We were down there in the table not long back. So it’s massive credit to the staff and players for dragging ourselves out of that and moving us up to where we are now.
“We did have whispers about the play-offs in the camp. Everyone knew as a group what we were capable. But it has will be remarkable if we end up going into the last game of the season with something to play for. To get into the play-offs would be an unbelievable achievement.
“These opportunities don’t come round very often. It’s been done in the past. Look at Crawley and Stevenage. They’ve bounced right up to League One from the Conference and held their own. There is no reason we can’t do it.”