In-form Mansfield Town facing the ultimate test at leaders Forest Green Rovers

Mansfield Town in action on a rainy afternoon at Forest Green last season.Mansfield Town in action on a rainy afternoon at Forest Green last season.
Mansfield Town in action on a rainy afternoon at Forest Green last season.
Mansfield Town's golden run of form faces the ultimate test on Saturday when they head south to play free-scoring League Two leaders Forest Green Rovers.

“They are the outstanding team in the division so far,” admitted Stags boss Nigel Clough as his side aim to make it 10 wins in 11 games.

“They had a freak result at the weekend with that 5-5 draw at Oldham, having been 4-1 ahead. Not that they needed it, but I think that will have probably given them a kick up the backside if they needed one.

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“They score bags of goals, they're full of confidence and they're top of the league for a good reason.”

Strikers Matt Stevens and Jamille Matt sit in the division's top three scorers with 13 apiece and Clough said: “We've had them watched the last two games and we are well aware of their goalscoring abilities, but also we look at the service and where those chances are coming from.

“I think the two lads out wide have provided an awful lot of their situations and chances that they have put away.

“Kane Wilson bombs down that right hand side and they mix it up as well like all good teams.

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“They play it out a bit but they also hit the big lad up front and get it out wide. It's hard to stop every avenue.”

Rovers have twice come close to promotion in the last three seasons after losing in the play-offs and Clough said: “I think Mark Cooper has laid the foundations over many seasons for them and if he'd stayed it was only a matter of time before they went up.

“I think they would have gone up last season had they not lost their big centre forward with a terrible arm injury that put him out for three or four months.

“Mark laid a lot of the foundations and they have just taken it on to a different level this season.”

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Stags' 2-1 win over Salford City last weekend edged them to within just four points of the play-offs and only six off the top three automatic promotion spots.

Clough said: “That's how quickly the league table can turn around. But we're not even halfway yet so we're not looking at it too closely.

“You always look after Christmas - there are another 12 points at stake in the next couple of weeks. Let's see where we are in the New Year and we will hopefully be a bit closer than that.

“The remarkable thing is to win nine games – no draws – nine out of 10 is incredible. But we felt we were not too far away, even when we couldn't win.

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“We tried to be as even and level headed about it as we could. We knew we weren't the worst team in the league and we're probably not the best team, as good as Forest Green.

“But we know that on our day we are capable of competing and challenging for the top seven, which was our aim at the start of the season.

“We didn't get carried away either way. We just needed some players back and when we got Stephen Quinn back that was a catalyst for us.

“Now we are playing with a level of confidence we certainly didn't have two or three months ago.

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“But another three points at stake is all Saturday is about. Win, lose or draw on Saturday we're still in a good position going forward.

“It would be lovely to keep the run going but win or draw, anything we get down there will be a bonus.

“But the three games over Christmas – those nine points in a week – I think they will dictate a lot more where we are going to be.