‘Different feeling around Mansfield Town this season,’ says promotion hungry defender

Mansfield Town defender Mal Benning believes the Stags can go all the way this season and finally gain promotion.

Friday, 25th January 2019, 7:30 am
Mansfield's Mal Benning. Picture by Howard Roe/AHPIX.com.

One of the club’s longest-serving players, Benning has twice been involved in ‘nearly’ campaigns under the two previous managers.

But he says the feeling around the club is very different this time around under David Flitcroft and the increase in quality and confidence is very apparent.

“The first season I was here we were in and around the play-offs quite a bit. And last season we were up there in the play-offs quite a bit too,” he said.

“But now we are in the top three it’s a different feeling.

“In games like Saturday at Colchester in seasons gone by, at 2-0 down we would not have come back.

“It’s a different feeling and a different quality this year. You can really tell that, so hopefully it’s going to be a good season.

“People talk about the togetherness of the squad. But this year you can actually feel it.

“The gaffer has thought about the new signings and they have all gelled quite well.

“So, as a squad, we are very tight knit. I know everyone says that, but this is genuine this year as you can probably tell.

“There is a good feeling around the club at the moment and a positive one.

“We are sitting up there at the moment but we can’t rest on our laurels. We just have to keep going and hope we can finish in that top three.”

Stags underlined that current confidence by coming from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at promotion rivals Colchester last weekend.

Benning said: “The win meant a lot as it kept us in the top three. Hopefully it can spur us on to keep going.

“There were a few stern words at half-time. It wasn’t the gaffer losing it but more him asking why were we going to let such a good opportunity go and could we do more to turn the game around?

“We just knew if we could get the first goal in the second half we’d have the momentum to go on and win it.

“We had two losses on the bounce, which we didn’t want, but the way we’ve reacted has been superb.”

This Saturday Stags host a visit from play-off chasing Tranmere Rovers, who boast the division’s top scorer in 20-goal James Norwood, and Benning is expecting a bruising afternoon.

“Whenever I do check the scores he (Norwood) always seems to be on the scoresheet, but our back three are probably the best back three in the league so hopefully we can keep him quiet,” he said.

“From the game earlier on in the season I am expecting a physical test to be fair.

“I think they can play a bit of football when they want to, but they are a physical side and in your faces, so we will be prepared for that.”