TEAM NEWS AND PREVIEWS
CURLE IS SO HAPPY TO KEEP IT CLEAN
Keith Curle says he has no worries about the goals drying up in recent weeks - as long as his side continues with the good habit of keeping clean sheets.
Mansfield have not conceded in five of their last seven league games, which is a massive turnaround to last season when they could not stop leaking goals.
And although the goals are not being scored as frequently, the clean sheets are ensuring maximum points with four of the last five matches ending 1-0.
Curle said: "There has been a little bit of negativity in talk about us only scoring one goal in a game but I look at the other side of things and we have kept five clean sheets in the last seven league matches.
"I am not worrying at all about the strikers not scoring because if you look at the work ethic, Iyseden Christie was the brightest he has been for a long while on Saturday.
"The goals are not coming for Junior Mendes but the work rate, commitment and application and the wanting to go out and perform is great. He will always do that."
The heavy snow and freezing temperatures being forecast for today have led to a lot of talk of the match being postponed.
But the Stags manager said the players were not letting that affect their focus.
He said: "Our mental approach is that the game is going ahead and all our focus is on getting a result.
"It will be difficult because I went to watch Scunthorpe against Sheffield Wednesday and they are very organised.
"They like to get the ball down and play and it is important we get at them and do not let them get into their rhythm. We need to carry on ensuring that we do not let goals in."
Tom Curtis, Lee Williamson, Bobby Hassell and Liam Lawrence are all back from suspension.
And with Rotherham not making a fresh bid to sign Lawrence just yet, the midfielder could be back in the squad.
But one injury setback is Tony Vaughan, who returned on Saturday after more than a month out of action, only to pick up a recurrence of his rib injury that could see him out for a further four weeks.
Curle said: "It is disappointing for Tony but we have other players coming back now. It would be an injustice to those players who played well on Saturday to say that people are guaranteed to be back in the starting line-up once they return.
"The competition for places is there and they know they have to perform on the pitch and in training to keep their place."
Stags (probable) Pilkington, Hassell, Buxton, Day, Dimech, Curtis, MacKenzie, Corden, Disley, Mendes, Christie. Subs: J White, Artell, Williamson, Larkin, A White.
IRON FACE REAL MAN SIZE JOB!
Scunthorpe United manager Brian Laws faces a selection poser ahead of tonight's re-arranged league game against Mansfield Town at Glanford Park.
Does he keep faith with the squad that performed so well in the FA Cup fourth round at Portsmouth on Saturday - or does he turn again to the three loan players he brought in 11 days ago? And perhaps the biggest question mark of all is whether rookie striker Andy Parton has done enough to win a place in the starting line-up after his bright 15 minute cameo appearance as a substitute at Fratton Park which included a stunning 86th minute goal.
The 20-year-old player has started only one game so far for the Iron and that ironically was at Mansfield in February 2002 where he collected a yellow card in a 2-1 defeat.
Since then he has been dogged by injury, but now he is knocking loudly on the door again for another first team opportunity.
Likewise defender Lee Ridley performed well at Portsmouth after coming on as a first half substitute for Wayne Graves.
But waiting in the wings to return are centre back Phil Gulliver from Middlesbrough and Bolton flank players Jeff Smith and Cleveland Taylor who were drafted into United's injury-hit squad just under a fortnight ago to make their debuts in a 0-0 draw at home to Bury.
The trio were all ineligible for the Iron for the FA Cup.
Whatever starting line-up Laws chooses, United are desperate to a return to winning form in the league after collecting just one point from their last five games.
That run has seen them slide into the bottom half of the table and they are now 14 points adrift of the play-off positions.
They do have games in hand but United must now start winning them to have any real chance of keeping their season alive.
And that will be far from easy for tonight is the first of five successive games against teams in the top eight in the table with Torquay, Doncaster, Oxford and Lincoln to follow.
"The next few games are a massive task for us but we have to rise above it. We are good enough," said the United boss.
"We are still smarting from the 5-0 defeat against Mansfield early in the season.
"It's nice to have a selection choice for tonight. But I have got to let my head rule rather than my heart. It's important that we pick the right team to play against them."
United are confident that tonight's game will go ahead despite the arrival of a wintry blast of weather.
"We have covered as much of the pitch as we can," said chief executive Don Rowing. "The biggest problem will be if the snow that has been forecast does arrive."
VICTORY WOULD PUT STAGS IN TOP THREE
High-flying Mansfield Town present Scunthorpe United's faltering promotion challenge with an imposing obstacle tonight.
The title contenders visit Glanford Park on the back of a fantastic league campaign, which has seen them move to just one point behind the top three in the third division. A surprise 3-1 defeat at the hands of mid-table Leyton Orient a fortnight ago may have put a temporary dent in Mansfield's title hopes, but they still have a lot to play for in the coming months.
The Stags trail leaders Hull City by seven points, but a win tonight could see them regain an automatic promotion spot.
The defeat against the O's is the club's only loss in 12 league outings and they look on course for a strong finish this term.
Manager Keith Curle has assembled an impressive squad - boasting talent such as highly-rated midfielder Liam Lawrence, who has become a target for a number of clubs from the higher divisions.
His agent Colin Gibson has been keen to orchestrate a move away from Field Mill, but both Curle and chairman Keith Haslam are determined to hang on to their prized asset.
A slender 1-0 victory over Southend United at Field Mill on Saturday will only add the to the confidence within Curle's camp and they will be looking to take all three points from their encounter with the Iron, who could take time to recover from exiting both the LDV Vans trophy and the FA Cup in less than a week.
The Stags will have fond memories of their last encounter with United, which ended with the Iron losing 5-0 in the corresponding league fixture in August.
And Curle, who was forced to field a much-weakened side against the Shrimpers, looks set to recall five players to the starting line-up after they were sidelined through suspension.
Lawrence, Tom Curtis, Lee Williamson and Bobby Hassall return to the fold following one-match bans after picking up five yellow cards each.
Malta international Luke Dimech is also back in contention after recovering from a knee injury, but Adam Eaton (ankle) and Tony Vaughan (rib) are still major doubts.
To add to Curle's woes, he is still without the services of Chris Beardsley and Craig Mitchell, who are out on loan, while Jamie Clarke is still banned following his sending off against Burnley in the FA Cup.
But the ambitious former England defender is already trawling through the talent from the top two divisions in a bid to bolster his squad.
He has already enquired about Leicester City striker Trevor Benjamin and he is even reported to be scouring the Premiership in search of young blood to help fire the club into Division Two.
Ananova: Preview: Scunthorpe v Mansfield Town
Scunthorpe will be boosted by the return of their three loan players for the clash with Mansfield.
Middlesbrough defender Phil Gulliver and Bolton midfielders Cleveland Taylor and Jeff Smith all missed the FA Cup defeat at Portsmouth after being refused permission to play by their parent clubs.
Defender Andy Butler may also make the squad after recovering from a bruised ankle.
Mansfield manager Keith Curle will see his squad boosted by the return from suspension of Lee Williamson, Bobby Hassell, Tom Curtis and Liam Lawrence.
But Jamie Clarke must sit out the game as he serves the final instalment of a two-game suspension.
Curle's sole fitness concern is defender Tony Vaughan, who has been rated doubtful after picking up a rib injury against Southend, while Neil MacKenzie continues to recover from a hand injury.
Stags ignore snow warnings
MANSFIELD Town will be heading for the East Coast tomorrow night for their return game with Scunthorpe United - hopefully!
The game, which is due to kick-off at 7.30pm, has to be in some doubt due to the dreadful winter weather forecast.
But Stags boss Keith Curle said: "Our mental approach is that the game will definitely be going ahead and we will train this afternoon and in the morning before we set off.
"We are being very professional and getting the players focused on going there and getting a result.
"I know we beat them 5-0 at our place. But it would be very difficult to go there and do it again.
"I saw them play Sheffield Wednesday. And, with a few players missing for their Cup game, they have lacked any continuity.
"But when we beat them five-nil we had about eight shots of which five flew in. Against Kidderminster we had 16 shots and only one went in!
"Brian Laws has brought three new faces in and he likes to get the ball down and play. It is important we don't let them get into a rhythm and we want to add another clean sheet to the four we've had in our last six League games."
Stags will definitely be without defender Tony Vaughan who aggravated a rib injury in his comeback on Saturday, when Stags beat Southend United 1-0, and could now face up to a month sidelined.
Midfielder Craig Disley also came off during his comeback match after hurting his back again. A specialist is set to take a look later today but the hope is that he will be all right to travel with the squad.
Bobby Hassell, one of five players suspended on Saturday, has had a few extra days to shake off an injury as well and is back in training and in contention.
Also available again after suspension are Liam Lawrence, Lee Williamson and Tom Curtis.
But Curle said no one had a divine right to walk back into the side.
"It would be an injustice on Saturday's team to say every player back from suspension will automatically get their place back," he said.
"I was proud of them on Saturday.
"I know there was some negativity again because we only won 1-0. But if you took out five players suspended and then lost another two injured during the game from any squad in this division against a side who had beaten good quality opposition in QPR four days earlier, any manager in our division would have happily taken a 1-0 win.
"Before the game, some people felt we were in danger of getting turned over. But we defended well."
Curle confirmed there had been no further contact from Rotherham United over Lawrence.
Curle had left Lawrence out of the side for the trip to Leyton Orient as he not considered Lawrence mentally fit enough to play with all the transfer speculation.
"Liam could be back in the suqad tomorrow, depending on what I see in training," said Curtle. "I need to know he is 'fit' again to play, then see him throw his hat in the ring and make himself available."
Both the home games with Doncaster Rovers and Hull City will be all-ticket at Field Mill and those tickets are on sale now.
For Saturday's game with Swansea City, Stags fans will again be able to use the South Stand with away fans being housed in the Bishop Street Stand.
Latest | January 2004