PREVIEWS AND TEAM NEWS
Stags look to continue impressive form
CHAD website, 23 March 2006
STAGS head into the weekend's crunch match with promotion-chasing rivals Bristol Rovers looking to secure three vital points to continue their play-off charge.
The Field Mill team, who have no new injury worries going into the top-half clash, will be looking to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches and close the eight-point gap currently separating them from Peterborough United, who occupy the last play-off spot.
And delighted boss Peter Shirtliff believes his fast-improving squad are now playing the sort of football capable of continuing their surge up the table.
Said Shirtliff: "We are playing very well right now but we are not complacent and are just focusing and preparing hard for the Bristol Rovers game. We are taking one game at a time and keeping our feet on the ground, if we keep doing this then we have the chance to get success.
"The players are very confident at the moment because of the good results and performances. We now have to keep this run going starting on Saturday. We have done very well in recent months and were unlucky not to get more points over the Christmas period.
"The players now know that it is very hard to get into the squad and they know they have to play very well to stay in the team. We now have good competition for places."
But despite Saturday's impressive victory over Northampton Town Shirtliff has warned his players to expect another tough test ahead at The Memorial Ground.
He said: "We should have beaten them when they came to Field Mill but we gifted them a point through our own stupidity. We have been a lot tighter at the back lately but Richard Walker and Junior Agogo are two of the best goalscorers in the league and will be tough to face.
"But if we can stop them from playing then we will go a long way to stopping Bristol Rovers. They are a good side and this will be a tough match for us."
And although Shirtliff declared he is happy with his side's recent performances he was quick to play down any talk of promotion.
"We have lost 14 games which is too many and we have also conceded too many goals but we are improving and are much steadier at the back now and hopefully we can continue this good run we are on," he said.
"You never know about the play-offs but I am not thinking about them just yet. I just want us to get as many points as we can as soon as we can and if we can get the win on Saturday that will be a step in the right direction."
Meanwhile, Shirtliff has this week played down transfer rumours linking Stags topscorer Richard Barker with a host of clubs including Derby, Grimsby and Swansea.
The future of the prolific hitman has been at the centre of increased speculation in recent weeks following his impressive season, which has seen him score 22 goals already.
But Shirtliff told Chad there was no truth in the rumours, saying: "Nobody has phoned me or the chairman about him and as far as I am concerned he is going nowhere. He is here for another season yet and is enjoying his time at the club and we do not want to lose him."
Stags squad player Fraser McLachlan is expected to sign on loan for conference high-flyers Morecombe Town until the end of the season later today.
The 23-year-old midfielder has failed to establish himself as a first-team player and has made just eight appearances this season.
22 March 2006
Hunt eyeing Stags clash
Bristol Rovers midfielder James Hunt is eager for the team to return to winning ways at home to Mansfield on Saturday.
The Pirates' play-off hopes have been dealt a huge blow in recent weeks with consecutive defeats against Notts County, Oxford and Shrewsbury leaving them six points adrift of the top seven.
The Stags' visit to the Memorial Stadium represents a chance to get the promotion push back on track and Hunt believes ending the campaign on a high is of the utmost importance.
"It's been very disappointing for us all recently but we must put it all behind us and hopefully on Saturday everything will seem ok again," the 29-year-old told the club's official website.
"It's a home game, and with five of our last eight being at home it's a chance for us to improve our results before the season ends. All the games are winnable for us and hopefully we can start to show that at the weekend.
"We just want to get back to winning games and get as many points on the board as possible. If we end up in the top seven then good, but if not it's important we make sure we are in good shape for next year."
Paul Trollope has challenged his out-of-contract Bristol Rovers players to prove that they are worth a new deal. Saturday's defeat at Shrewsbury means the Pirates are now unlikely to make the League Two play-offs this season.
But first team coach Trollope insists that there is still plenty to play for - especially for the squad members uncertain of their future.
Craig Hinton, John Anderson, Christian Edwards, Aaron Lescott, Jon Bass, Craig Disley, Stuart Campbell and Ali Gibb all have deals which expire in June.
And Trollope maintains he has yet to make a decision on most of them.
"I have had discussions with Lennie (Lawrence, director of football), but nothing has been finalised yet," said Trollope.
"There are still decisions to be made and players can still change our minds either way.
"That's why it's important for them, and us, to make sure we continue to train properly, continue to try to improve and finish the season strongly.
"There are eight games left and that's a good run of matches. If someone comes in or gets a chance and does well then they could change our minds.
"We've also got to have one eye on next season, we don't want to allow this season to just peter out. I can assure you that me and Lennie won't
Latest | March 2006