Tight at the top for Stags
AS the season hurtles towards Christmas, there is still no sign of anyone taking control at the top of a thrilling Division Three.
Stags missed the chance to go top on Saturday when they were held 3-3 in a Field Mill thriller by Huddersfield Town while Yeovil Town were holding Hull City - Yeovil's first ever League draw.
This Saturday Stags will take on Mansfield old boy Colin Calderwood when they travel to an all-ticket clash at Northampton Town where Calderwood recently took over as manager.
"It's so close at the top," said Curle. "There are six or seven teams that could finish in the top three and no one has managed to break away yet.
"Christmas is going to be very important as, with so many games together, if anyone can gain maximum points that could be the kickstart they need to create a gap away from fourth spot.
"Some people said the table would take shape after six or seven games. But I've always believed it would take at least 20."
After a run of four home games in five matches, Stags now face a tougher task of three of their next four being away, starting with Saturday's trip to Sixfields Stadium.
"I have played against Colin Calderwood lots of times," said Curle. "This is his first step into management and I hope he's enjoying it as much as I am.
"Northampton don't have a great deal of pace in the team in key areas ands they like to keep things tight in front of their back four.
"So we will have to work hard to create our own space."
Tom Curtis (hamstring), Junior Mendes (knee), Tony Vaughan and Jason White (both illness) are all hoping to be fit by Saturday.
Stags fans are urged not to travel to the game without advance tickets as they will not be permitted entry to the ground on the day.
Prices for South Stand tickets are £14 for adults and £9.50 for U16s, over-60s and students.
Prices for Alwyn Hargreaves Family Stand tickets - a no smoking stand - are £15 adults, £8 for over-60s and students and £4 for U16s.
They will be on sale until 4.30pm on Friday at Field Mill.
It took a stoppage time goal from substitute Craig Disley to salvage Mansfield a point last Saturday after a heart-stopping clash with Huddersfield.
"It was an entertaining affair for the neutral - it had the lot," said Curle. "As a manager it brought frustration and delight.
"I can't criticise the performance level but, no matter how much time I spent coaching on the training pitch, I couldn't legislate for the two goal head start we gifted them.
"After that, the character and desire we showed to get a result was magnificent.
"We have a belief in that changing room and I know they will keep going for 90 minutes, physically and mentally."
Frustrations ran high at 2-0 down and, at one point, Stags duo Lee Williamson and Dave Artell had to be dragged apart after an argument developed between the two near the halfway line.
"I didn't see the incident myself," said Curle. "But my money would have been on Dave Artell! I think it would have been a bit of a mismatch!"
A strong Stags reserves side lost 2-0 away against a York City reserves side in a friendly last week, battling well after conceding two sloppy early goals. And yesterday Mansfield were due to travel to Chesterfield to face the Spireites' second string.
Talented teenage defender Alex John Baptiste is due back in training after tests revealed he is not suffering from glandular fever.
John-Baptiste has been off ill and Curle said: "Thankfully it wasn't as bad as we'd first feared and he is coming back in to train with us.
"Alex has lost a bit of weight and his strength levels are down. But he will get a bit of TLC from the physio and we'll soon have him ready for first team duties again."
Latest | November 2003