HJELDE: BOSS HAS TRANSFORMED US, PLUS HOLLAND+COKE
Stags look to play-offs
CHAD, 15 March 2006
STAGS head into Saturday's crunch game with promotion-chasing Northampton Town looking to secure three vital points to help reignite their play-off push.
The Field Mill team, who have no new injury worries ahead of the clash, will be aiming to be build on Saturday's crushing 5-0 victory over Boston United and extend their impressive unbeaten streak to eight.
And Stags' assistant manager Paul Holland believes the morale-boosting win will help give the team the confidence needed to continue their climb up the League Two ladder.
Said Holland: "Morale is very high after the Boston game. It has got people buzzing and the next game cannot come soon enough for us. We have been playing very well lately and have been due to beat a team heavily for a while.
"The Darlington defeat helped bring us back down to earth and we have really pushed on since then and moved up the table. We are playing excellent football and making Field Mill a hard place to come and win at."
He added: "There is excellent competition for places in the team now and spirit is high among the players. They are really enjoying themselves and turning that into excellent performances on the field.
"Everyone is a lot more relaxed about things now than at the start of the season and we are managing to bring the best out of the players and get the results."
And despite the Cobblers being eight places and 15 points better off than Mansfield, Holland is confident the Stags can turn in a top performance and take all three points.
He said: "Northampton are a good team who are always up there and are there or thereabouts this season, but in this league anyone can beat anyone and there is no reason why we cannot pick up the three points and push on towards the play-offs.
"Although we are in mid-table at the moment, the season is anything but dead. We have one eye looking over our shoulders at the relegation zone and one eye on the play-offs, and there is still everything to play for at this stage."
Peter Shirtliff welcomed Rhys Day and Adam Birchall back into his squad last weekend after they came through a reserve workout in midweek.
However, he has decided not to pursue striker Arkadiusz Zarczynski after his appearance in the same game — a 2-0 behind-closed-doors home defeat to a very strong Rushden and Diamonds side.
The Pole had turned up at the ground asking for a trial and Shirtliff said: "To be fair he did OK.
"But I have decided he is not what we are looking for in terms of style.
"I wish him well and hope he gets fixed up somewhere. Sometimes these things work out, sometimes they don't."
PIED PIPER'S MERRY TUNE!
Mansfield 5 - 0 Boston United
AN Everton scout was one of a number of representatives from English League clubs, including Nottingham Forest, at Field Mill on Saturday.
The man from Goodison Park was there to check on the progress of Lawrence Wilson.
But the fear for Peter Shirtliff is that Everton will not only rob Mansfield of the services of the winger when his loan spell expires at the end of the season - but also relieve the Stags of one or two of their other starlets.
If not the Premiership side, then possibly one of the other host of clubs present on a day when Mansfield turned on the style.
Wilson was the pick of their young bucks and was unfortunate not to add his name to the score sheet as Shirtliff's side collected their biggest victory of the season.
But he was not the only one to shine on a day when, as Shirtliff said, you would be hard pressed to single out a Mansfield player who was anything short of outstanding.
He said: "I thought there were some excellent performances from our lads."
The Stags manager has become something of a Pied Piper at Field Mill with a collection of exciting young men playing to his tune. They certainly led Boston a merry dance - tearing holes in the visitors' defence before a second-half ambush left Steve Evans' side shell-shocked and the 3,000-strong crowd breathless.
The 5-0 score line in no way flattered Mansfield. Indeed, if not for some profligate finishing from Ritchie Barker, in particular, they could have been as many as 3-0 up inside the opening ten minutes.
The Stags skipper looked like the mantle of being named League Two player of the month was weighing heavily on his shoulders when firing over with only goalkeeper Michel Kuipers to beat in the first minute.
But Barker's controlled volley two minutes before half-time put them into a lead they were never in danger of relinquishing.
While the finish was exquisite, it was the provider of the cross that had Boston chasing shadows.
Wilson's pace, control and crossing ability from the left terrified the visitors. He followed up his first-half assist with an even better ball for Gus Uhlenbeek to get on the score sheet after the break - and had Boston tied in knots before driving against the post from 20-plus yards. Shirtliff aims to make a concerted challenge at the other end of League Two next year after taking Mansfield from rock bottom to safety in his short spell in charge.
But if he is to mount a serious promotion challenge, he will need to convince Everton to let him keep hold of Wilson, whose runs down the left perfectly balanced the probes of Uhlenbeek on the right. While the Goodison youngster was the best of the starlets on the day, it was the veteran Dutchman who had the greatest impact, orchestrating the second-half onslaught, having a hand in two of the goals, scoring another.
His cross-shot just after the break was turned into his own net by Mark Greaves and he followed that up by setting Reet free to add Mansfield's third. When Uhlenbeek got on the end of Wilson's drilled cross just after the hour, it was the least he deserved.
It was evidence of the burgeoning squad being built by Shirtliff that he could bring Simon Brown off the bench to further terrorise Boston.
Brown won and converted a penalty to complete an incredible day for Mansfield.
"I want the players to trust in me because I believe I can build a squad that can compete next season at the other end of the league," said Shirtliff. "I've not come here to be a manager at the bottom, I want to be at the top."
HJELDE: BOSS HAS TRANSFORMED US
Evening Post, 13 March 2006
Jon Olav Hjelde reckons Mansfield would be play-off contenders if Peter Shirtliff had been in charge from the start of the season.
The Stags defender has watched Shirtliff lift his side from the foot of League Two to safety and believes he can lead the young side to promotion in the coming years.
''If you take the points since Peter has been here - if he'd been here from the start - we'd probably be in the play-offs right now,'' said Hjelde. ''It's quite a turnaround from being rock-bottom and four points adrift.
''I think this is how it should have been all season, but we had a bad start and young players getting used to the club. There's a lot of young lads who can play in a higher division in a couple of years. We should at least be in the top ten next season.
''The young ones are the future and if they can get the experience this season it will help us challenge for something next year.''
Hjelde says Shirtliff's effect has been spectacular since taking over from Carlton Palmer earlier in the season. ''His training sessions are very good and if players are happy during the week, they play well at the weekend and he's changed the tactics a bit,'' he said. ''He's got everyone enjoying themselves.''
Cobblers game can't come quick enough
The Stags are still on a high after their best result since August 2003. The last time a stags team netted five and kept a clean sheet it was now Premiership man Liam Lawrence who dominated activity on the pitch. The recent outing against Boston united at the week end marked the team's seventh game unbeaten and intentions are high in the Field Mill changing room.
"Obviously any five nil win victory gets the players buzzing and as far as they are concerned the next game (Northampton Sat 18 March 3.00) can't come quick enough. I think this result has been coming since the game away at Darlington when we got beat four nil.
"It really hurt going all that way to get beat by four goals and it brought some of the players back down to earth. But spirits remained high and the training has been good and since that game we have kicked on and performances were as good as they have been all season. But we mustn't forget our season is not over yet there is still some time to go and we will keep on going right up to the last game and who knows what will happen.
"We have given the older players a day off today but the younger players and the ones that haven't figured lately reported for duty as normal." Said Assistant boss Paul Holland.
Along with the non playing personnel Stephen Dawson who limped off the pitch at the weekend after a clash of heads reported for training with a black eye but he was unable to train. But Holland feels that this sums up the spirit in the camp at the moment.
"Stephen Dawson came in this morning wanting to train which is typical of the lad. His eye is shut and black and there was no way he could train but it shows the motivation amongst the squad at the moment. Every body knows that they are not guaranteed a spot in the team and want to train in order to keep their place which is good for Mansfield Town.
"The lads who did train came this morning and did a good two hours of football which is good for them." He added.
Paul 'Dutch' Holland is under no disillusion about the season refusing to be drawn on the issue of table position except to say:
"The mood around the club at the moment is as good as it has ever been and people are enjoying coming to work. When you enjoy your work you tend to work harder and the harder you work the results will start to follow.
"This weekend's opponent Northampton are a good team. They were pre-seasons favourites to go up and I think that they haven't disappointed anybody. They are up there or thereabouts so we know that we have to be at least as good as we were at the weekend if we are to get anything out of the game.
"We are only nine points from the play-offs but we are only nine points from relegation so we will have one eye looking over our shoulder and one eye looking forward. But after everybody talking about relegation fights for so long it is nice to hear people dare mention the play-offs." He said.
Audio interview with Giles Coke from BBC Radio Nottingham (RealPlayer needed)
Audio interview with Peter Shirtliff from BBC Radio Nottingham (RealPlayer needed)
WE LACKED SPIRIT AND COMMITMENT
Evening Post, 13 March 2006
Manager Steve Evans criticised his players' attitude after watching Masfield put five past them.
It was the second time they had suffered a 5-0 defeat in less than two months, with the other coming at home to Carlisle in January.
Evans said: ''We've got to put this into perspective. We've gone on the road and we've not performed.
''When you are in the league position we are, the goals don't matter, it's how you lose. And we've lost badly.
''We've lacked spirit, we've lacked commitment and we've lacked passion. Normally you can't say that about my teams
''Mansfield are not a Carlisle, but they've taken advantage of us having a poor day and they've had a brilliant day.''
Latest | March 2006