Mal Benning cannot wait to play in his ‘Biggest’ game for Mansfield Town

Mansfield Town v Port Vale.'Mal Benning picks the ball up and tries a repeat of last Saturday's goal at Chesterfield.
Mansfield Town v Port Vale.'Mal Benning picks the ball up and tries a repeat of last Saturday's goal at Chesterfield.

Back to top form and basking in the glory of his winning goal at Chesterfield, Mansfield Town left back Mal Benning can’t wait for tomorrow’s huge home clash with Crawley Town.

Stags have to win while either Lincoln or Coventry lose and Benning admitted: “It’s the biggest game I’ve played in and we are looking forward to it.

“If Coventry were losing and we won 1-0 in the 90th minute it would be a great feeling. I’ve thought about all the scenarios in my head.

“I guess the scores from elsewhere will filter onto the pitch. I think the gaffer and the bench will have a clue what’s happening in the other games.

“As long as we do our job and get the win that will be enough to take care of things hopefully.”

He added: “We need to win. We can’t draw or lose. Our mindset is to win.

“We all know it’s a massive game and if results go our way we are in the play-offs, but we are staying calm and preparing right.

“Over the last month or so we knew we had to win every game, so we will continue to do the right stuff in preparation and hope to put on a good performance.

“We are in good spirits after that big win at Yeovil. We had nothing to lose in the second half so we came out all guns blazing.”

Benning knows little about visiting Crawley, saying: “I didn’t play in the away fixture at Crawley so I’ve not seen them this season.

“But when we played them at the back end of last season and drew 2-2, they were a good footballing team.

“They have some good technical players. But it’s more about us. As long as we’re on our game it will be fine.

“We won’t get too worked up over it. We know what’s needed.”

Benning has had a mixed season, having lost his place to Johnny Hunt for a while.

“This season had been very up and down for me,” he said.

“Obviously I wasn’t in the team for 15 or so games. But once I’ve come back I’ve cemented my place. I’m glad to be finishing it off well.

“In the past two seasons I’ve played pretty much every game I was available for. So it’s not been a nice feeling when I’ve missed out.

“I feel like I’ve got much better here over my three years playing game after game. You learn quite a bit.”

Benning has certainly looked a much improved player in recent games with massively increased fitness and some superb crossing - and he credits new manager David Flitcroft for the improvements.

“To be honest it’s down to training,” he said. “We’ve been doing a lot of crossing and finishing since the gaffer has come in - he’s been good like that.

“Obviously the more you work on something the better you get. As you can tell in matches my crossing is getting better.

“It’s been incredible since he came to be fair. He is very meticulous in what he does in training and match preparations and analysis.

“For me, personally, he came up to me after the Yeovil game and said my distances during the game had gone up 1km which shows how much fitness has gone up.

“That’s from the tempo of training and the gaffer’s work ethic. It’s a lot more intense and our fitness is improving as you can tell by the late comeback at Yeovil. He is a very good manager.”

Benning, now cheekily christened Sir Mal at the ground for his crucial goal at Chesterfield, cherishes his winner against the old enemy, but insisted that was now firmly in the past and he is only looking forward.

“It was good but I’ve forgotten about it now as football moves on quickly,” he smiled.

“It was a good feeling at the time, especially after just coming back from a red card. I watched it back a few times in that first week, but now I’ve put it to the back of my mind.

“It was one of the best moments of my career.”

Instead, all focus is now on a day when Stags start as outsiders of the three sides for the play-offs.

However, he warned: “Football is a funny game and anything can actually happen, especially with Barnet having a good chance of beating Chesterfield, making Morecambe need to win.

“Morecambe are a horrible team to play against. As long as we do our job correctly anything can happen, and hopefully something does happen and we end up in the play-offs.”