Mansfield Town boss Adam Murray believes Saturday’s opponents Bristol Rovers are a shining example of what happens when you keep a group of talented players together for a few seasons.
Murray said play-off rivals Rovers’ current consistency is exactly what he is hoping to achieve over the next couple of years as his newly-formed squad from last summer start to really gel.
Former Stags star Darrell Clarke was heartbroken the last time Mansfield visited the Memorial Stadium two years ago as a Junior Daniel goal relegated them to the Conference.
But his talented squad then clicked into gear and came back up at the first time of asking, now looking set to go up again as they really get into their groove.
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“Speaking to a couple of people down there on Tuesday, the one thing Bristol Rovers have got at the minute is a bit of momentum,” said Murray.
“What Clarkey has done down there is he’s put a group together that got relegated, but he kept most of them together and they obviously got promoted. Now they are going again.
“What they are showing is what we’re trying to get and what will come with time which is consistency.
“His group and their settled environment has given him time to get that consistency. Yes, they have good players, but I look at my players and they are just as good.
“The thing they probably have over us at the moment is that consistency because they have been together for almost three years. They have a togetherness which gives you the chance to build and be consistent.
“It made me happy going to watch them as I know in my heart of heart that that’s where we will be – it will come to us.
“That may sound a bit arrogant but I am sure. You want to quicken it up but unfortunately you can’t quicken time up. We know which bits and bobs we need to tweak to make us better. That will come with time.
“To go and watch Bristol on Tuesday night was great with us playing them on Saturday but also to look at the bigger picture a bit.”
Murray was impressed with what he saw as they beat AFC Wimbledon 3-1, but believes his own side have enough in the locker to push the Pirates off course in Saturday’s big game.
Stags were unlucky at home to Rovers in October as they had two men sent off and then lost 2-1 to a last gasp Matty Taylor goal in an ill-tempered thriller.
Murray said: “I had watched a few of their games before last night and they are obviously very good at playing a couple of different shapes. He is a bit like us as he changes his shape for different teams.
“They are very efficient at doing that as they have played together a lot. They work very smoothly and are strong in areas.
“They are a threat going forwards and have some good goalscorers in the team which always helps.
“But this is League Two so every team have their weaknesses and I thought here at home against them we were the better side first half until we got the ‘28 sending-offs that left us with three players’!
“We are going there to try to win the game. We are looking forward to it. We are in the part of the season now that’s exciting.”
Along with Darrell Clarke, there is another Mansfield Town connection down there with the arrival of former Stags star winger Liam Lawrence from Shrewsbury Town in January.
However, he suffered a calf strain last weekend and could miss out on Saturday.
“Liam has only just got there and I think he’s injured and Clarkey is obviously a Mansfield boy, but I think that’s it as far as the connections go,” said Murray.
“It doesn’t really mean anything to us. It’s Mansfield v Bristol and it’s a game we want to win.
“We want to get three points on the board and get the frustration of the last two weekends out the way. They were two games that I don’t know how we lost and you come away from them feeling very angry.”
He added: “The atmosphere down there is fantastic. It is a massive club – you don’t realise how big it is. We looked around on Tuesday and it was packed.
“They are not a League Two outfit. Fair play to them, they are going for it. “They just got new owners and I read in the programme they have put all kinds of things in place already. They’ve got a performance specialist – and this is in League Two.
“They are having a crack and it will be interesting how it pans out.”