WE DESERVED FANTASTIC RUN
Evening Post, 14 April 2006
Gus Uhlenbeek feels a turnaround in Mansfield's form this season was always on the cards.
Mansfield were bottom of the Football League at the end of September shortly after the resignation of Carlton Palmer.
Since then the Stags have steadily climbed the league and are now in a comfortable mid-table position with fives games to go.
Saturday's draw at Lincoln all but ended their hopes of reaching the end-of-season play-offs.
But Uhlenbeek feels there is still plenty of positives to draw from the campaign, especially since the turn of the year as the Stags prepare for tomorrow's visit of promotion-chasing Orient.
"I'm not at all surprised by the run we have put together because as a squad there was always the ability there," he said.
"But it is only since Christmas that we have really started to show that and the recent good run we had got us the points that we needed.
"I just think that now things are going for us a little bit more. We are having the luck that was not going our way earlier in the season.
"We have had some fortune in the last couple of home games with goal-line decisions going our way.
"Before, they would have gone the other way. You seem to get more of the breaks when you are on a good run."
Once teams have nothing left to play for other than pride - as could be the case for the Stags in the last two or three games - the threat is there that the intensity level of the players could drop.
But Uhlenbeek is keen to see that scenario avoided as he believes a good finish to the season can help a side get off to a flyer in their next one.
He said: "We have five games left now and we want to win as many of them as we can, even if we don't get into the play-offs.
"Getting good results at the end of the season always helps because when the players come back after their summer break, they still have a good feeling.
"They still have the memories of playing well from the end of the previous season and it can be a real confidence boost for everyone."
Former Sheffield United, Chesterfield and Wycombe player Uhlenbeek is one of several senior players out of contract in the summer. He has still to hear from the club about his future, although he is hoping he will be staying at Field Mill.
"I haven't heard anything from the club yet and I believe now it will go right to the end of the season before anything is finalised," said Uhlenbeek.
"All I can do is try to play well and show what I can do."
STAGS 'STILL HAVE LOTS TO PLAY FOR'
Evening Post, 14 April 2006
Mansfield boss Peter Shirtliff insists there is still plenty to play for.
Sitting comfortably in mid-table, Shirtliff feels the likes of Leyton Orient and Carlisle can be used as a yardstick for their recent progress.
"We have done well to progress up the league as we have because things looked precarious in October and November - credit to the players for that," he said.
"But the season is far from over in my eyes and I won't have any problems in motivating the players because I'm looking forward to all the games.
"We have teams to play in the top part of the table and how we play against them will be a measure of how far we have come.
"I am also disappointed with the number of goals we have conceded, especially away from home.
"It is far too easy to score against us and beat us away from home and that is the biggest factor why we are where we are in the league.
"That has to be improved upon while keeping our home form going too."
As with all managers, Shirtliff has one eye on next season - his first full campaign as Stags boss.
He believes Mansfield can be a match for the more wealthy clubs in League Two if things go right over the break.
"I would have taken the position we are in now when I took the job but we can build on that.
"I always thought we would claw ourselves away from the bottom but with a bit of surgery we can compete next year.
"If I can get the players I want to bring in, then we will be able to do well."
LEYTON ARRIVE IN CRACKING FORM
Evening Post, 14 April 2006
Leyton Orient come to Field Mill tomorrow having lost only once in their last 11 matches.
That run of form has taken them to the fringe of the automatic promotion places, with the Os lying fourth - but only behind Northampton on goal difference.
With 13 goals, Gary Alexander has ably led the line for the Os, but Ling believes others must start to chip in if they are to seal promotion.
"Defensively, and as a midfield four, we look like we can stop teams from scoring", he said, "We just need a little bit more coming forward."
With five games to go, the manager admits the race for second and third places is hotting up, "I think Carlisle are clear, and you can't discount Wycombe but they'll have to get out of their rut soon," he said. "At the moment it looks like being two from ourselves, Grimsby and Northampton".
Last chance saloon for Stags?
CHAD website, 13 April 2006
PETER Shirtliff is looking forward to a make or break Easter for Mansfield Town's outside promotion hopes.
Stags, seven points adrift of the Play-offs, face London sides Leyton Orient and Barnet over three days this weekend aiming to keep their season alive.
"It is one of those situations," he said. "The lads are not silly. They realise it's last chance saloon.
"It is going to be difficult, but not impossible. Let's try to get six points over Easter and just see where it takes us.
"We have done very well at home recently and if we can win both games this weekend, I'll bet there will be twists and turns elsewhere. That table could look very different on Tuesday.
"This weekend could decide our season. But we are looking to keep the season alive right down to the last game. If we can do that then they will hve done very well."
Despite treatment, Gareth Jelleyman (knee) and Adam Birchall (ankle) have still not returned to training and look unlikely to figure.
But Jon Hjelde (calf) has improved and could yet prove his fitness if he can get back into training tomorrow (Friday).
Simon Brown, who faces an operation on his stomach hernia before the end of the month, is again feeling uncomfortable and a late decision will be taken as to whether he can take his place on the bench for what is becoming a regular cameo role.
Saturday's opponents Leyton Orient (3pm) are fourth and still hopeful of automatic promotion.
They have won three and drawn one of their last five games and won one and drawn three of their last five aways.
But Stags have only lost once in 11 games and only once in their last 13 at home. They have also won their last three home games on the bounce.
Monday's opponents, Barnet (3pm) have won two and drawn one of their last four to boost their survival hopes.
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