Stags aim to end home misery
MANSFIELD Town are on a mission to give their home fans a happy Easter when struggling Chester City visit on Friday (7.45pm).
Then it's off to face former Stags boss Stuart Watkiss as Kidderminster Harriers fight for their Coca-Cola League lives on Monday (7.45pm - comment from Martin - this is incorrect; it is 3.00 at Kidderminster - I just rang the club to confirm (again)).
On recent form Stags will be less worried about going away.
Mansfield have only taken one point from their last four home games and the last Field Mill appearance against Oxford United was their poorest display of the season.
In stark contrast, they are unbeaten in four away games and manager Carlton Palmer needs his young side to show the same form before the dwindling home crowds who have booed the side from the field for the last four home games.
"Being realistic, the Play-offs are out of our reach now," said Palmer.
"We raised expectations with some good results so there has been a lot of disappointment over our recent home results.
"We want to put it right this Friday and turn in a good home performance.
"The fact that it is a Friday night under lights should help the atmosphere.
"I asked the home fans to get behind us for the Oxford game and they were brilliant. We were very poor that day and you don't expect to leave the field to a good reception when you've played like that.
"What upset me that day was the lack of desire shown by the players.
"But we looked much better on Saturday at Bristol Rovers.
"The trouble here is that too many players are sitting on guaranteed contracts and are not hungry enough any more.
"We threw youngsters in on Saturday and they showed how hungry they are to be in the side."
Palmer is reluctant to change a side that scored four away from home but concedes he can't go with five in midfield at home.
"I have a real dilemma for Friday as it is very hard to leave someone out when our midfield played so well," he said.
"And Simon Brown was very unlucky he didn't get a game after his excellent cameo appearance against Oxford."
Palmer also has other worries.
Tom Curtis, Adam Murray and Rhys Day were all left out the side on Saturday and Palmer said: "Tom wasn't fit and we will have to see how he goes.
"Adam Murray's fitness levels have dropped due to him missing training on Mondays and Tuesdays due to an ankle problem he has. His level of performance has correspondingly dipped as well.
"We brought Rhys Day back in but I was really disappointed in his standard of fitness. He is another three or four weeks away from playing in the first team again and needs to get about a stone off his weight."
Jake Buxton soldiered on at Bristol Rovers, despite not being fully fit before kick-off and is likely to do the same this Friday.
But skipper Alex John-Baptiste could yet force himself back into the reckoning after a worrying spell of headaches eased.
"We were getting very concerned for Alex as he was getting severe headaches and the next step was to have a brain scan," said Palmer. "Doctors were wondering if the problem was linked to the glandular fever he suffered. But the tests have come back all clear and he hasn't had any more headaches for the past few days.
"He has missed two weeks of training and we will just have to see how he goes."
Palmer added: "Over Easter I expect more of the same that we showed at Bristol while cutting out the mistakes.
"Firstly we need to give the home fans the win they deserve and play some good football.
"And I want to instill a winning mentality and attitude into the players as we look towards next season."
Mansfield won 3-0 at Chester back in August and City's recent form has been poor, promoting calls for boss Ian Rush to quit.
But, after conceding 14 goals in five winless games, Chester bounced back to beat Notts County 3-2 last weekend.
That moved them onto 41 points - eight points clear of the drop zone with eight games to play.
With Stuart Watkiss in charge, Kidderminster Harriers are maing a superb fight to stay up.
Their home 0-0 draw against relegation rivals Rushden and Diamonds on Saturday was a huge disappointment for them, but was at least a fifth game unbeaten.
They are four points from safety with eight games to go and Watkiss has set them a target of winning five of those games, starting with Saturday's trip to Darlington.
Mansfield Town have a special Easter Executive package offer for Friday.
The hospitality package is normally £50 but is on offer for just £35 this Friday.
It includes a match ticket, a match programme, a two-course meal, wine and half-time refreshments.
There is also one car parking space available between four people on the package.
For more details call 0870 7563160.
Latest | March 2005