CURLE URGES STAGS TO BE RAZOR-SHARP
BY STEVIE RODEN
Mansfield boss Keith Curle has warned his players not to be complacent about Lincoln's poor away form.
The club's local rivals are still eighth in the table despite not winning away from home for two months.
But Curle knows that if his side are not on top of their game, there could be an upset.
His players are unbeaten in seven games and this is their first league match since he collected the Division Three manager-of-the-month award for November.
But the celebrations have now ended and the manager is taking it game by game in his quest for promotion.
He said: "We know we have to be on top form week-in, week-out and the Lincoln game is no different.
"They are doing well in eighth place and although their form is not the best away from home, we cannot take anything for granted.
"It will be a very tough, physical encounter and they have a strong backbone to their team.
"But we need to continue taking small steps on a long journey and as long as we stay focused, we can do that.
"And I will be drilling that into the players going into the Lincoln match."
The Red Imps are expected to bring about 1,000 fans and Curle hopes that will create a cracking atmosphere with a bumper crowd. And he urged everybody to get down to the ground to support the Stags' push for automatic promotion.
He said: "I want to top the 6,000 mark and I believe it can be achieved because we are playing entertaining football.
"But the bigger the crowd, the better for us because it doesn't faze my players, they thrive on it."
One good bit of news from the Lincoln camp is that their manager and former Stags man Keith Alexander is now out of hospital ''after falling ill last month. He had an operation to remove fluid off his brain and after weeks in hospital in Sheffield, he is now recovering at home.
First-team affairs are being managed by Gary Simpson but Curle said the former Mansfield player had all the Stags fans rooting for him to return to the job.
Curle added: "Our thoughts are with him and it is nice to see that after a long spell in hospital he has come through it and is now on the road to recovery."
Mansfield hope to have Adam Eaton back for selection in the near future after a lengthy spell out through injury but everybody else is fit. However, Tony Vaughan serves a one-match ban and could be replaced by either Jamie Clarke or Jake Buxton.
Stags (probable): Pilkington, Hassell, Clarke, Artell, Day, MacKenzie, Williamson, Disley, Lawrence, Mendes, Christie. Subs: J White, Dimech, Buxton, Curtis, Larkin,
THE TOUGHEST TEST FOR IMPS
12 December 2003
Stand-in manager Gary Simpson is steeling his Imps side for what he believes will be their toughest game of the season tomorrow.
Lincoln travel to Mansfield Town (3pm) on the back of successive defeats, having lost two on the road, 3-1 at Yeovil Town and 3-0 at Southend in the FA Cup second round last Saturday.
Now, after the disappointment of Tuesday's postponed LDV Vans Trophy tie at Halifax, it's a trip to face Division Three's form team in their own back yard, and Simpson acknowledges it represents a tough test.
"We knew this was going to be a tough period with four away games in a row," said Simpson.
"And the most difficult game is still to come tomorrow at Mansfield - it's probably our most difficult game of the season.
"They are scoring a lot of goals, but they are also letting a few in so they certainly do give you a chance.
"I can see us having to score to get something out of the game, but by playing three up front we always have a good chance of doing that.
"Obviously the travelling has taken a toll, but it has been harder because we have not been winning.
"We went to Yeovil and deserved something out of the game, but ended up with nothing. Then we went out of the FA Cup at Southend because we didn't play well, and then on Tuesday we were warming up at Halifax for the LDV Vans game when it called off.
"Had we won those games, then the effects of travelling wouldn't be a factor but we just have to get on with it."
The Imps will again be without striker Franny Green who continues to struggle to shake off the groin strain he picked up at Darlington four weeks ago. But Marcus Richardson, signed on loan from Hartlepool at the start of the week, joins the squad after playing 45 minutes for the reserves against Notts County on Wednesday.
Midfielder Richard Liburd played the full game, his first since sustaining a dead leg at Darlington, while defender Mark Bailey also had a useful run-out and could be pressing for a recall after his double hernia operation.
Skipper Paul Morgan, who would have missed Tuesday's game at Halifax with flu, trained yesterday and is definitely in the squad.
"Franny had more treatment yesterday and did some work, and providing there is no reaction he could start training again next week," said Simpson. "Some of the lads were able to get a run out for the reserves which was probably the only good thing to come out of Tuesday's postponement.
"I've got options and I think everyone will be looking forward to the game. It's a big test for them."
Defender Mark Camm has had his loan spell at Dr Marten Eastern Division outfit King's Lynn extended to a third month.
Camm (23) has played 12 games and scored twice for the Linnets so far.
Mansfield v Lincoln
Adam Eaton could return to action for Mansfield after eight months out with a career-threatening groin injury.
Player-manager Keith Curle is another fitness worry but he is hopeful of bouncing back from knee surgery, while Tony Vaughan serves a one-game ban.
Lincoln acting manager Gary Simpson hopes to have flu victim Paul Morgan available for selection.
Francis Green is definitely out of the trip to Field Mill with a groin injury.
Latest | December 2003