No frills Stevenage will be tough nut for Stags to crack
Mansfield Town will need to see off a solid, no frills Stevenage side, proving grateful for their EFL reprieve, if they want to end a run of eight games without a win at the Lamex Stadium on Saturday.
Despite a nine point cushion, Stags are still not safe from being dragged into the relegation dogfight at the last minute.
And they face a Stevenage side whose proud place in mid-table and recent 12-game unbeaten run show how they have taken full advantage of their relegation reprieve last season when now liquidated Macclesfield Town were given a points deduction for financial misconduct.
Last weekend's 2-1 defeat by Salford City halted that unbeaten run, but Mansfield manager Nigel Clough said: “Stevenage don't make mistakes like we do and are probably as organised and solid as any team in the league, hence their unbeaten run of that length of games.
“You can't have that run if you are making errors. They are just a very organised, solid team – nothing fancy, nothing special.
“To be saved last year as they were, to being halfway up the league, it's been a great turnaround for them.
“They have no frills. They are just good, experienced League Two players who are confident in what they are doing.”
Clough added: “I think they've really appreciated the second chance they got.
“There were quotes at the end of last season when they did escape that 'we don't want to be in this position again'. They have gone on from that this season and had that 12 game unbeaten run.
“Barrow have also shown that spirit and fight, and one or two other teams down there. We are not losing too many games either That's what gets you out of it – character.”
Individual errors continue to cost Mansfield vital points and to come away from Stevenage with any reward, Clough said “We need to avoid making mistakes first and foremost, which might give us a chance, and then someone put in a goal for us. A decision or a bounce of the ball might help.
“We are playing as well as anybody. I know we haven't won for a good few weeks, but you look at the games we could have won in that run – even the two defeats were from mistakes. We just need to concentrate on both penalty areas.
“Getting these mistakes out of the way is part of our development this season.
“They have to learn from them. We can't have this leeway next season if we're going to challenge.
“We could have beaten Newport last week but the performance was once again punctuated by an individual error which possibly cost us the chance of three points.
“But when you are 1-0 down with 15 minutes to go against such a good side, who are know for being tight and difficult to break down when they do go 1-0 ahead, I thought we responded very well.”
Clough knows that another defeat on Saturday combined with more success for their improving rivals around them could pile on the pressure for Tuesday's visit of Scunthorpe United.
“We don't want it to get to that stage,” he said. “The other teams, Southend and Grimsby have tough games as well.
“But we don't want to be looking at them too much. We want to be doing it on our own.
“If we get two positive results Saturday/Tuesday it could see us safe. That is the aim.”
Clough said a rare blank week between games has been a big boost this week.
“It's been lovely doing a bit of crossing and shooting and some finishing which, literally, when you're playing you don't get time for,” he said.
“It's been a welcome boost, though we are back to Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday next week and we must make sure we are on it those three games.
“It's been a mental grind, not being able to get a couple of days break, take a step back and a deep breath and recover from those games.
“We had nine consecutive Tuesday games and it's good we have only lost the two.”
Stevenage keeper Jamie Cumming, who kept four clean sheets from six games in March, an unbeaten month for Alex Revell's men, has been nominated for EFL Player of the Month.