STAGS AIM FOR PLAY-OFFS IN CRUNCH GAME
STAGS could make life easier for themselves if they can clinch their place in the end of season play-offs with victory at rivals Huddersfield Town this Saturday (3pm).
But the Terriers are still going for the third and final automatic promotion slot and defeat for Stags would pile the pressure on for their final game at home to more play-off rivals in Northampton Town.
"It would make life easier if we could get the points this Saturday and we are very capable of doing just that," said Mansfield manager Keith Curle.
"But if there is one thing I have learned in my first full season as manager here it is that there is an easy way of doing things, a hard way of doing things and a Mansfield Town way of doing things!
"If we don't win on Saturday it doesn't worry us about the pressure for the last game as we love pressure. But simplicity is bliss so let's win on Saturday and get it out the way. Better sooner than later.
"I don't see us going to Huddersfield as underdogs in any way, certainly not at this end of the season. There are three points up for grabs with two good sides performing head to head.
"Huddersfield have done well to grind out the results recently though they did look nervy when we watched them at Northampton.
"They have some established pros with two or three hundred games under their belts. But we have some good young players who are gaining that experience and are capable of going there and taking the points.
"It has been buoyant in training this week and no one is feeling sorry for themselves. There is a time for 'ifs' and 'ands' in the summer. Right now we are focused soley on getting into the play-offs and winning them."
Curle has no new injury worries and even managed to get 90 minutes out of defender Adam Eaton in a midweek 2-0 friendly reserve win at Chesterfield.
Eaton did suffer some understandable discomfort at the end but has been told to carry on by a surgeon who is hoping to avoid any more operations for the unlucky youngster.
WE WILL NOT MESS IT UP!
Evening Post, STEVIE RODEN
Kevin Pilkington knows all about pressure. After all, he has played for Manchester United eight times.
But tomorrow he faces a different type of pressure. It may be the McAlpine Stadium and not Old Trafford, but it is still one of the biggest matches of the Mansfield captain's career.
There is a real possibility Stags could miss out on the play-offs.
Despite being in the top seven since late August, they are in danger of slipping out at the last minute.
The dream is still alive, but there are only 180 minutes of unpredictable football to achieve it.
Three points separate Mansfield from Northampton, who are in eighth place and visit Field Mill on the last day.
And it means the Cobblers and Huddersfield now stand between Pilkington's finest hour or a major low point.
"I have played in some big games, like when we got promoted two seasons ago, and this is another massive game for all of us," he said.
"We have been in the play-off places since the first few weeks of the season and it would be devastating if we did not do it now.
"But we are not thinking about that happening because we are confident we will not throw it away.
"Huddersfield have a lot of pressure on them too and as a professional footballer you thrive on this kind of pressure and we go there in a positive frame of mind.
"We know that if we win, we are almost guaranteed a play-off place because our goal difference is superior.
"But we want to get that victory at Huddersfield - that is the only game we are thinking about. Otherwise, it will be a very nervous last day.
"We want to be able to relax by then, knowing we are in with a shout of getting to Cardiff. It doesn't matter how you go up, as long as you do."
Over the past 44 matches, Mansfield fans have suffered the full range of emotions.
The Stags have thumped teams, been battered themselves, and beaten high-flying Hull twice - only to be beaten by struggling Carlisle, Rochdale and Darlington.
It is great for the neutral, but loyal fans will hope the Stags rediscover the ruthless streak that killed teams off earlier in the season.
Huddersfield top the form table at home, winning five and drawing one of their last six. And Northampton are best away, winning four, drawing one and losing just one.
There is nowhere to hide now. It is make or break.
STAGS (FROM): Pilkington, Hassell, Vaughan, Day, John-Baptiste, MacKenzie, Curtis, Lawrence, Corden, Mendes, Larkin, Disley, Artell, Williamson, D'Jaffo, Beardsley, A White, J White, Dimech, Buxton, Clarke.
Latest | April 2004