CURLE READY FOR THE CRUCIAL TEST
CURLE READY FOR THE CRUCIAL TEST
Evening Post, 25 April 2003
Even in forcing out another battle cry to his relegation-threatened squad to try and inspire them to one last push, Keith Curle does not need to be told, for this season at least, the time for talking is over.
If the Stags fail to beat Tranmere Rovers tomorrow, it's all over. Back to Division Three and even that might not be enough to extend their stay away from the basement beyond a solitary season. Curle believes he shouldn't have to go around the club, beating a drum trying to force the message home to his, in the main, young charges because the importance of the situation is graphically demonstrated by a simple glance at the league table.
And, he knows, with the vibes that have been around Field Mill this week, the message is coming across loud and clear.
He said: "The players don't need telling how important this match is and you can tell by the atmosphere around the place. All they seem to be talking and thinking about is tomorrow.
"They don't want to be thinking about what they are doing in training.
"You can tell they just want to bring it on and all they have got in their minds is tomorrow's game.
"I've had a little chat to them and we have to be single-minded. If everyone goes about their individual jobs then everything should come together and that will give us the best opportunity of achieving our aims.
"Nothing would be worse than everyone else losing and then we lost so we have to make sure that doesn't happen and it is all about us."
It could have been so different had the Stags managed to hold onto their 3-2 advantage at Blackpool on Monday, but, from a performance point of view, he was pleased with what he saw in the second half, particularly.
With Curle himself out with a groin injury and Adam Eaton having to go under the knife to rectify a hernia problem, he is likely to continue with teenagers Alex John-Baptiste and Jake Buxton in the heart of the defence.
He was also pleased with the contributions of substitutes Colin Larkin and Andy White, who both scored, and it would be a surprise if they didn't start.
He said: "I think we played well and got about them as a team and created opportunities.
"I think I had the best 45 minutes out of both Colin and Andy since I came to the club.
"I was very pleased with the whole back four as both Baps and Jake did well and there was a welcome return to form from Jamie Clarke, who has taken his chance well in the last couple of games.
"But it is still bitterly disappointing that we had seven people in the six yard box marking two of their players for that late corner and the lad still scored.
"In many ways, it is all about the preparation. If you slack during the week then you will slack on a Saturday afternoon.
"Even things like being late or turning up at the wrong place are inexcusable. You have to do things properly and get things right, and that applies off the field as well as on it."
Tranmere have managed to force themselves into the play-off fight with a run of 14 unbeaten games and they sent Northampton down with a 4-0 victory on Monday.
But Curle is adamant they have plenty to lose as well.
He said: "The one thing no one at this club can fail to realise this season is that the game lasts 90 minutes and, whatever happens at Tranmere, we are not going to win anything before the final whistle.
"They have been on a very good run lately and still have ambitions of promotion and many people think it is a case of them sending us down.
"I don't look at it like that. I see it as an opportunity for us to end their hopes of reaching the play-offs."
MANSFIELD (probable): Pilkington, Clarke, Buxton, Baptiste, Hassell, Lawrence, Williamson, Curtis, Corden, White, Larkin. Subs: Welch, Gadsby, Mendes, Mitchell, Disley.
STAGS SWEATING ON OTHER RESULTS
Evening Post, 25 April 2003
After weeks of treating every game like a cup final, the cliche bandwagon has rolled on if you are involved in the relegation scrap in Division Two.
Now, you have to wheel out the one that "the lads are really up for it", or - if you are in the privileged position currently occupied by Chesterfield - you can talk about it "being in your own hands". For the Stags, the only phrase that fits the bill is of the three-word variety, ending in the words "or bust".
If they fail to win at Prenton Park tomorrow, then they will be saying "Yo" to Yeovil, dancing with Darlington and maybe even contemplating derby-day at Doncaster.
But, if they can manage to be the first team in 14 matches to beat Tranmere Rovers, there are still a series of results which can condemn the Stags back on the trail to Carlisle and Torquay.
A victory for Chesterfield over Bristol City or Cheltenham over Blackpool would send Stags down and they would be looking to make up a goal-difference margin of 13 goals in their last game against Northampton if they won and Huddersfield were successful at Port Vale.
Stags' fate will only go to the final game if the three teams above them lose and they win or, following a victory, Chesterfield lose and both Cheltenham and Huddersfield draw.
Central figures at the other three clubs are predictably towing the party line.
Huddersfield striker Jon Stead said: "We are not out of it yet.
"We have to turn it round and the lads will be doing everything in the last two matches to get two wins.
"We are determined to fight to the very last to stay up and no one has written us off."
Chesterfield's David Reeves said: "It is still in our hands. We have a tough game against Bristol City and the lads really shouldn't need getting up for it.
"We are looking on the positive side because there have been too many negatives this season."
And Cheltenham boss Bobby Gould said: "I felt that everyone was writing our epitaph but the players have shown they have got plenty of fight in them."
Spot the similarities?
They aren't all going to be right and, come tomorrow tea-time, the picture should be lot clearer.
Particularly for the Stags.
Tranmere striker Stuart Barlow looks set to be out for the clash with relegation-threatened Mansfield after breaking down in training with a groin problem.
Boss Ray Mathias may also again be without Tyrone Loran, who has a niggling knee injury, while Alan Navarro is also suffering from a similar problem which has ruled him out.
Micky Mellon may come in for Loran after setting up two goals as a substitute in the 4-0 defeat of Northampton.
Alex Hay will also be hoping for a start after hitting his first goal for Rovers against the Cobblers.
Mansfield player-manager Keith Curle is set to return from injury for the vital game at Prenton Park.
Curle, who has missed the last two games with a groin injury, came through a 45-minute run-out with the reserves in midweek and has included himself in the squad.
Scott Sellars is also likely to return from a stomach bug after completing a 90-minute spell at left-back in the reserve-team game.
Those are likely to be the only changes as second-from-bottom Mansfield try and clinch maximum points from their final two games to stand any chance of avoiding the drop.
Latest | April 2003