PREVIEWS AND TEAM NEWS
CURLE DENIES BLADES SWOOP FOR LAWRENCE
Manager Keith Curle has quashed rumours that star midfielder Liam Lawrence is on his way to First Division Sheffield United in a £350,000 deal.
Blades boss Neil Warnock is reported to be ready to sign the 22-year-old to replace Rangers-bound Michael Brown.
Warnock, a friend of Curle, is believed to have been at Field Mill on Tuesday and saw Lawrence score an FA Cup hat-trick against Wycombe, taking his goal tally this season to 13.
But Curle, who played for Warnock at Bramall Lane, insists his former club have made no approach over the right-sided midfielder.
Curle said: "I have not heard anything about it but I have been made aware that it is in two national tabloids.
"But I speak to Neil Warnock about three or four times a week and there has been no contact about Liam.
"At a reported £350,000 it is getting closer to the valuation I have for Liam but at the moment I see him as invaluable to this football club.
"Obviously, I have to be realistic but I am determined to keep Liam here.
"But despite that I have to reiterate that I have received no contact from Neil Warnock about a possible transfer move for Liam."
The speculation surrounding Lawrence, who is out-of-contract at the end of the season, appeared to have died down after Rotherham's £125,000 bid was turned down last month.
But following his hat-trick heroics in midweek, it has flared up again ahead of the big clash with Hull City tomorrow.
The Tigers are two points ahead of Mansfield, although the Stags have a game in hand and this will be their biggest test so far in front of a what is expected to be a 20,000 crowd.
But Curle, who has Adam Eaton unavailable through illness, is confident his men can cope.
He said: "It is a great place to play football and I'm sure my players will give a good account of themselves.
"I have seen Hull play at home a couple of times and other teams have tried to nullify them and it has not worked. This is an opportunity for us to go there and put Hull on the back foot by playing our game. Then we have to make sure they do not hurt us.
"It is going to be an intimidating atmosphere but we have a great following and although we may be out numbered, we will be able to hear our fans."
Stags (probable): Pilkington, Hassell, Vaughan, Day, Artell, Williamson, Curtis, Corden, Lawrence, Mendes, Christie. Subs: Disley, Larkin, J White, Dimech, MacKenzie.
Meanwhile, Curle escaped with a £500 fine and no touchline ban after pleading guilty to a charge of "improper behaviour" over Mansfield's 2-1 victory at Cambridge in September.
The Stags boss gave his side of the story at a Football Association hearing in London.
He walked onto the pitch at half-time at the Abbey Stadium to confront referee Lee Cable about his decision to send both Rhys Day and Iyseden Christie off in the first half.
A policeman tried to intervene and it led to a heated exchange.
The referee stated in his report that the Stags boss was not to blame but asked him to sit in the stands for the second half and reported him to the FA for "improper behaviour".
Curle said: "I pleaded guilty and talked about the intensity of the game and in the end I got a fine of £500 for entering the field of play.
"I know it was wrong so I appreciate and respect their decision.
"I will look upon this as part of the learning curve in my role as manager."
Mansfield have parted with their third physio under Curle ahead of tomorrow's game.
First Barry Statham left when Curle arrived and then Ian Pearce departed by mutual consent after a fall-out with the management.
And replacement Kevin Farley resigned after Saturday's defeat against Lincoln.
Curle said: "People might start thinking I have got a problem with physios, but I don't. It is just Kevin was unable to devote enough time to the job. I was desperate to keep him here."
Hull Daily Mail:
TAYLOR PLAYS DOWN THREAT
Hull City manager Peter Taylor is refusing to allow Mansfield's prolific goal-scoring record to dictate his tactics.
The Stags, who visit the KC Stadium tomorrow, are the highest scorers in the Third Division, scoring 47 goals to the Tigers' 42.
Taylor watched midfielder Liam Lawrence, currently coveted by a host of higher-ranked teams, bang in a hat-trick in Mansfield's FA Cup second round replay win against Wycombe on Tuesday night.
The Stags' threat comes from all over the pitch and in strikers Junior Mendes and Iyesden Christie have a proven forward line with the experience to capitalise on any slack defending.
But Taylor believes his side have more than enough to cope with tomorrow's visitors.
He said: "I went to see them play in an FA Cup replay on Tuesday at home to Wycombe and they are a very good attacking side.
"Like us, they have probably conceded a few goals that their manager, Keith Curle, will be disappointed with. Their strength is definitely going forward.
"They did spring a bit of a surprise on Tuesday and left Christie on the bench. They played a four-three-three with two wide-men and it's obvious that Keith had seen something at Wycombe in the first game that he wanted to exploit.
"I'm not so sure which way they'll go until I see their team tomorrow but obviously if Christie and Mendes are in it, there's a good chance they will go four-four-two.
"With players like Lawrence in midfield, they are very exciting going forward.
"I also know Wayne Corden pretty well. I remember working with him when I was at Port Vale and he's almost like a mini-Peter Beagrie. He can be very dangerous on his day.
"If I just worried about Mansfield's strengths, then I probably wouldn't sleep very well.
"The real positive for us is that we are like Mansfield in that we are capable of scoring against anyone.
"We've got to be very positive and have a go at them."
Taylor has revealed that new signing Boaz Myhill could start tomorrow's match in place of Paul Musselwhite.
Keeper Myhill, who cost £50,000 last week from Aston Villa, had been expected to be on the bench for tomorrow's game.
Meanwhile, Danny Allsopp has reluctantly admitted defeat in what was always an uphill race against time to face Mansfield.
The Australian, who has been battling to recover from a groin injury, could be on the bench against The Stags but has confirmed he hopes to return to action in the Boxing Day derby at York.
Allsopp said: "It is frustrating but I haven't really done any training.
"We are getting there and the injury has definitely got a lot better over the last week. I'm just hoping everything goes right.
"I'd loved to have played against Mansfield. There is a chance I might be on the bench but we'll have to wait and see.
"The target, though, is definitely York and I just hope we go into that game on the back of a win."
Taylor has been tempted to recall Allsopp, who is still City's joint leading scorer this season, despite missing the last five games through injury.
However, Taylor stressed he is not prepared to gamble on the player's fitness and is ready to put his faith in the likes of Ben Burgess, Stuart Elliott and Jason Price.
Taylor said: "I know if I can get away without Danny tomorrow, he will be spot-on for York.
"He's doing well but he's not joined in any full training yet so it's very doubtful I'll go with him."
Taylor will not reveal his team until just before the kick-off but he is not short on options, even though Allsopp, Jamie Forrester and Alton Thelwell are still sidelined.
He could revert to the four-three-three formation which secured a 2-0 win in the last home game against Bury with Elliott and Price operating as the wide-men alongside Burgess in attack.
However, with Mansfield's own midfield strength in mind, Taylor might decide to switch to a four-four-two formation with Price or Elliott in an advanced role.
Stuart Green, dropped to the bench last week at Scunthorpe, will be gunning for a recall with Dean Keates and Andy Holt hoping to retain their places.
Hull Daily Mail:
MIDFIELD THE KEY TO VICTORY
Hull City skipper Ian Ashbee believes tomorrow's clash against promotion rivals Mansfield Town will be won or lost in midfield.
And Ashbee is determined to help his side dominate that key battle, even if it means upsetting his long-time friend Neil MacKenzie.
The pair were together as trainees at Birmingham City and then at Cambridge United. However, there will be no time for any favours tomorrow with MacKenzie hoping to earn a place in Mansfield's starting line-up.
Ashbee said: "Like me, Neil is a Brummie lad. There were a whole lot of us there as 16-year-olds and we were a pretty close knit bunch.
"We ended up at Cambridge together and then he went to Stoke. We haven't seen each other for while but I'm sure there will be a bit of banter flying around tomorrow."
While MacKenzie is by no means guaranteed a place in Mansfield's starting line-up, Ashbee will be one of the first names on Peter Taylor's teamsheet and he is well aware of the significance of tomorrow's match.
After Mansfield, City face York on Boxing Day and then entertain another of their main promotion rivals - Doncaster Rovers - next Sunday.
Ashbee added: "It's a big game tomorrow and a big week. In many ways, this is where it starts.
"We've got three games this week and then Cambridge at the start of the year. If we could win three out of the four, it would really set us up.
"At the moment, we're pleased with where we are in the table. We started off tremendously well. In fact, we were probably the victims of our own success.
"The fans expected us to be at the top every week which is only right in some ways but it's not football. It was never going to be like that.
"It's an open division and there are some good teams in it. There's not a lot between the top nine or 10 teams. It was the same last year. I think we were still in with a chance of the play-offs until March.
"We know there's a long way to go but if we can get the three points tomorrow it really would give us a lift."
While MacKenzie might have to settle for a place on the bench, Ashbee could come face-to-face with Mansfield star Liam Lawrence.
The 13-goal midfielder scored a hat-trick in the FA Cup win against Wycombe Wanderers earlier this week and is being linked with several higher ranked clubs.
Ashbee said: "Lawrence is a really good player. In fact, Mansfield are a good attacking side.
"They are the type of team who'll let you score three because they'd back themselves to score four. I think that could work in our favour because a lot of teams come to our ground and sit back. I'm sure they'll have a go at us and that should suit us because we should be able to hit them on the break.
"Overall, it will be won or lost in midfield. We need to be on our guard there. Lawrence is a key player and we need to work really hard and put him under pressure."
Ashbee went on to reveal that the spirit within the Tigers' squad is excellent, particularly after the welcome signs of improved fortunes in the last couple of weeks.
He continued: "Everyone is feeling good. We couldn't do much in training yesterday because the ground was rock hard. It was dangerous more than anything.
"There's been a bit of flu flying around, which is only to be expected at this time of the year. Apart from that, there's a positive feeling around the place and we're all looking forward to tomorrow.
"We've taken four points from the last six. We know there's room for improvement but we're confident we're going to be there or thereabouts."
Latest | December 2003