Stags are hot on Tigers' tails
MANSFIELD Town - the country's top goalscorers - are back in second spot on goal difference after their fourth successive victory, just one point behind leaders Hull City.
While Stags were winning 2-0 at bottom club Carlisle United, Hull were crashing to only their second defeat of the season at Huddersfield Town.
Ironically Huddersfield are this Saturday's visitors to Field Mill (3pm) and, while they have won six successive game at home, the Terriers have only won once away all season.
"It was a great result for Huddersfield which will get a bit of belief back for them," said manager Keith Curle, who celebrated his 40th birthday on Friday.
"But, likewise, they will come here to meet a team who are playing with a lot of confidence right now and who can be very disciplined when needed as at Carlisle.
"I had a chat with the chairman and we agreed that from the Carlisle game we were entering a crucial six-game spell for our season.
"Every game is massive and we now have high expectation levels. Now is a great time to kick on and it would be nice to see us a couple of points ahead of Hull by the time we go there on 20th December."
Curle has had his critics this season, despite the club's success but, since that blip of three defeats last month, they have been temporarily silenced.
"Winning games changes opinons," he said. "Criticism doesn't worry me - it comes with the territory. The better we do, the harder we work and the chairman is fully behind what we are trying to do and paid for us to stay overnight at Carlisle which I believed was the professional thing to do.
"It's nice to be second and let's hope we stay there longer than we did before we went to Doncaster last month!"
Curle's personal analogy of a season is that teams' laces will sometimes come undone while others will march on past them, stopping here and there to tie their own laces.
"Our laces may have come undone last month but last Saturday it was Hull's turn to see their laces come undone," he said. "Huddersfield's had come undone against Accrington Stanley and Scunthorpe, but they were back in their stride very quickly against Hull.
"Huddersfield play a 3-5-2 system which has its strengths and weaknesses and we know their biggest strength is the front two of Andy Booth and Jon Stead who we'll have to watch carefully."
Wayne Corden and Junior Mendes were Mansfield's goal heroes in the 2-0 win at Carlisle on Saturday which was the perfect gift for Curle, who spent his 40th birthday with his squad at a Carlisle hotel.
"I thought the application and attitude of the players was absolutely first class," said Curle.
"As none of the lads sent me a birthday card, I wanted three points as a birthday present which they gave me.
"Everyone expected us to win. But I knew from the reports we'd had and seeing them give Hull a run for their money, they are not that bad and we'd have to earn the right to get the points."
"In the first half they did not play like a side 10 points adrift at the bottom and we really had to give 100 per cent toi earn the right to play.
"Now we've given ourselves a platform to build on.
"I was particularly pleased to se the players run over to our fans without any prompting at the end.
"The lads want to do it for them home and away and appreciated the backing given to them."
Stags' only casualty from Saturday was Colin Larkin who limped off after a dead leg suffered the week before began to stiffen up again.
But he should be fit to face Huddersfield along with Iyseden Christie who missed the trip with illness.
The only change to Saturday's starting 11 was Lee Williamson in at the expense of the previous week's hat-trick hero Neil MacKenzie.
But Curle said: "Neil, being professional, took the decision well.
"He knows I only make decisions like that for the good of the team. WIthout any disrespect to him, looking at the game I felt I needed more of a defensive quality in the midfield than Macca has.
"Having said that, I knew if I needed someone to open them up with his passing then I had someone there on the bench."
Latest | November 2003