INJURY WORRIES OVER BACK FOUR
Play-off injury worries over Stags' entire back four
MANSFIELD Town's entire back four face a race against time to be fit for Thursday night's Third Division play-off semi-final second leg after picking up knocks at Northampton on Sunday.
Worst affected is promising teenager Alex John-Baptiste who limped off with a calf strain midway through the second half - his chances are 60-40 against playing at best.
But Rhys Day (hamstring), Bobby Hassell (knee) and Adam Eaton (groin) will all missed training tomorrow(Tuesday) and will not be considered for the Northampton game if they do not train today on Wednesday.
"With no back four it might be a case of 'don't look back, look forward', on Thursday night," smiled manager Keith Curle.
"I am hopeful all four will come through. We will give it another 24 hours to see if these knocks settle down, but they do need to train on Wednesday to give themselves a chance.
"Because of our focus and the focus of the rest of the team, if they are not fit on Wednesday then contingency plans will be put into place.
"Alex is the biggest doubt but I am hopeful we got him off the pitch quickly enough after he felt his calf to give him a chance of playing. We thought that was the right thing to do.
"They were superb as a back four on Sunday and worked very hard. But I am confident we have enough players in this squad to fill in for anyone who misses out with injury.
"I believe in my squad and that I can pick any combination of 11 players from it and they would be good enough and capable of winning the game."
One player on standby is central defender Dave Artell who has not started a game since 16th March, since when John-Baptiste has made such an impact.
"It's been a frustrating time for Dave but he's been a true professional and knows he has to wait his turn," said Curle.
"That is the sort of strength of character and togetherness I have been instilling in this squad. We all succeed together."
When John-Baptiste left the field on Sunday, Curle again resisted the temptation to bring on the aerially dominant Artell in favour of moving round and utilising the speed and agility of Bobby Hassell and Lee Williamson.
"With players of the speed of Asamoah out there I felt I needed speed rather than strength in there and it worked perfectly.
"I know there a few who say they can't understand it. But I was pleased with how it worked and sometimes you just have to pat yourself on the back if no one else will!"
Latest | May 2004