LAWRENCE: THAT WAS A MASSIVE VICTORY
STAGS FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS
BY STEVIE RODEN
Stags star Liam Lawrence said today Mansfield would reach Division Two through the play-offs.
But he is disappointed they did not secure automatic promotion.
The Mansfield Town winger, who scored again in the win at Huddersfield that secured a play-off place, said: "That was a massive victory for us and you could see what it meant to the fans.
"It should have been automatic promotion because there have been games where we have slipped up.
"But we are playing well and are confident of going up through the play-offs. We are looking forward to them."
Manager Keith Curle said: "We did it in style. We needed a big performance and we got it.
"I told them before the game to have that belief in their own ability. To be successful you have to wear your heart on your sleeve and they did that.
"We knew Huddersfield were a good team and were always going to be a threat but we earned the right to play and we did it in the right manner.
"Now we are in the play-offs, we are focused. When you get into these situations you have to have that belief."
More than 1,700 Stags supporters travelled to the McAlpine Stadium for the crunch game.
Curle added: "The travelling fans were absolutely magnificent, each and every one of them was superb.
"Now we have to go into the Northampton game next week and finish the league season on the front foot."
SOLID STAGS GRAB THEIR REWARD
Huddersfield 1 v 3 Mansfield Town
As Liam Lawrence gave a radio interview on the touchline, Huddersfield boss Peter Jackson came and peered over his shoulder, trying to put him off.
But the face-pulling, the arm around Lawrence's shoulder and attempts to stare out the Stags midfielder didn't work.
Lawrence simply smiled and carried on, having a friendly poke back by talking about his goal that sealed the match.
It was enough for Jackson to see he had lost the second battle of the day and, with a wink and a grin, he left Lawrence to it and trotted off back down the tunnel.
The poignant thing about this light-hearted moment was that no matter what Jackson tried to do, Lawrence failed to falter. It was the exact same reaction that saw Mansfield put in probably the performance of the season to win an absolutely massive game.
Nobody was intimidated; not one player was put off by the pressure of the occasion. Instead they reacted with a spirited but most of all, top drawer display of football. And their efforts resulted in a definite play-off place.
The kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes to enable all 18,633 to cram into the plush McAlpine Stadium.
That fact highlighted its importance - a game where the Terriers could seal automatic promotion and Mansfield needed three points to ensure a play-off place.
And with the atmosphere building inside the ground, thoughts turned to whether Mansfield would have the bottle for the big occasion.
That has been a criticism throughout the season and many believe it is the reason the top three has eluded them. However, on Saturday, the stakes were the highest they had been and the Stags reacted in a way most people would not have anticipated.
The first 15 minutes were flat and the travelling fans could have been forgiven for thinking it was not going to be their day. John McAliskey scored from close range early on after a barrage of pressure. But on 20 minutes Rhys Day headed home Wayne Corden's corner and that was the turning point.
From then on, the Stags had the confidence and belief to play football and instead of sitting back and waiting for a chance, they took the match to Huddersfield, showing great guts with every player wanting to win everything.
Craig Disley epitomised the display with his endless running and vital tackles.
Huddersfield are a very good side. They topped the home form table going into this match and still look set to go up automatically. But as soon as Mansfield stamped their authority on the match, the hosts began to run out of ideas and the chances they did create, they failed to convert.
Another problem this season has been Mansfield's habit of going in at the break with a lead, only to come undone in the second half. However, after Junior Mendes capitalised on a mistake by David Mirfin to score shortly before half-time, Keith Curle was determined it would not happen again. He told his players to continue where they left off and they did not disappoint.
Almost immediately after the restart, Mirfin turned the ball against his own bar and despite it appearing to bounce over the line, the referee waved play on. But despite Huddersfield having their chances, through McAliskey, Booth and former Stags striker Iffy Onuora, Mansfield had 12 shots on target throughout the game.
The kind of football that saw them scoring freely at the beginning of the season suddenly came back. At every opportunity Mansfield were quick to break and carved open the Huddersfield back four.
So when Lawrence got on the end of a lay-off by Colin Larkin with 15 minutes to go, the Stags deserved to go 3-1 up. After drilling it in from 12 yards out, he celebrated by ripping off his shirt and diving into the travelling Stags fans, kissing the badge on his shirt - before being booked by Steve Tanner.
His 22 goals have been vital during this campaign and in games they have been the difference between losing and winning a match. But on Saturday every player did his job, both individually and collectively. And that included Adam Eaton who made his comeback after a long-standing groin problem.
The frustrating point has to be why they cannot perform like it every week.
Inconsistency has cost them automatic promotion - they have failed to win back-to-back games since Boxing Day.
That was a point Lawrence was keen to stress during his interview, while Jackson tried to distract him, but it now has to be forgotten.
The play-offs have been reached and the dream is still alive. And when you talk of play-offs, the best possible way to go into them is when you are at the top of your game.
On Saturday, Mansfield put in a superb away display, in front of the biggest crowd of the season.
It proved all the doubters wrong and showed they can handle the pressure.
They are qualities that will be needed over the next few weeks and Mansfield should not worry about who they will end up playing.
The fact is, on Saturday's showing, the other teams in the play-offs will be keeping their fingers crossed that they do not have to meet Mansfield.
The Stags are now the team to fear.
The belief and confidence is there in abundance. Everybody associated with Mansfield realise they have seen a team that is capable of rising to the occasion, getting to Cardiff and being victorious at the Millennium Stadium. They just have to reproduce that form.
And as Peter Jackson walked back down the tunnel after his jovial efforts to distract Lawrence from talking about his latest heroics, he had good reason to be worried.
He knows if his team slip up next week, the play-offs could be their only route to Division Two. And if that did happen, I doubt he would relish the prospect of meeting the Stags again.
Latest | May 2004