HAMSHAW TO MISS MK DONS GAME
MK DONS V STAGS PREVIEW
Evening Post, 20 February 2007
There is a touch of deja vu about Mansfield's League Two position with the end of February fast approaching.
This time last season, the Stags faced a similar scenario - trying to secure enough points to secure their Football League status for another 12 months at least.
It is a situation that has come as a disappointment to many at the club - not least midfielder Stephen Dawson.
The 2005-2006 season was one of transition for many of the young Stags players, including the former Irish under-21 international.
But after learning their trade and bedding into professional football, their expectations were raised for the current campaign, with talk of the play-offs rife last summer.
Things have not turned out that way, though. Once again, the Stags have spent almost the entire campaign in the bottom half of the table.
Of course, they have never been in quite the same danger as last season, when they were bottom for a spell in October in Peter Shirtliff's first few weeks as manager.
That is reflected in a comparison in points totals. After 32 games last season, Mansfield were on 34 points, while this time round they have accumulated 38. But the club still need a few more to be certain of steering clear of the League Two trapdoor and, as Dawson admits, they are keen to secure them as soon as possible.
"We need to start picking up the points now, otherwise we are going to drop back into the trouble," said Dawson.
"We will need around 50 points this season to be safe, which means another four or five wins should do it. But it is not great to be talking about what we need to do to avoid the drop again. We had hoped to be looking at the other end of the table by the end of February.
"We have had chances to push on towards the play-offs, but we have not taken them and they are too far off to be able to do it now.
"Our last away game at Stockport was a good example of what has been the story of our season. It was a game we could have won but we came away with nothing."
Tonight's opponents Milton Keynes still harbour hopes of immediate automatic promotion back to League One after being relegated last season.
And the 21-year-old is under no illusions just how difficult a task faces Billy Dearden's side and the National Hockey Stadium.
Dawson said: "It will give us a real push to go on and finish the season well if we can beat MK Dons on their own patch.
"But they are a very good team, as we found then when we beat them (2-1) in the second game of the season at home.
"I still think they will go up one way or another - either automatically or through the play-offs. They are a big club with a good team and a new stadium in the pipeline. They probably expected to come and beat us at Field Mill, but we deserved to win that night and it is going to take a similar level of performance to get a result this time."
Dawson broke his goalscoring duck with Mansfield's second goal in the 3-2 loss at Accrington Stanley in January. Now he is hoping he can follow that up with one or two more strikes before the end of the season.
"It's always nice to score, but I haven't managed to find the back of the net since," said Dawson.
"I have got into some decent positions, but all my shots have gone well wide!"
"There are 15 games left and I would like to think I can get one or two more between now and then. But I would take not scoring again if we can finish the season well and finish in the top half of the table."
STAGS PIN HOPES ON ATTACKERS
Evening Post, 20 February 2007
Billy Dearden is banking on strikers Barry Conlon and Martin Gritton rediscovering their lethal partnership as Mansfield look to end a run of three games without a win tonight.
The duo were reunited on Saturday for the first time since Conlon was red-carded against Chester last month.
And though neither managed to find the back of the net in the 2-1 defeat to Grimsby, Dearden is confident they can find the form that saw them score five in their first three games together.
Mansfield travel to MK Dons tonight and Dearden said: "Before Conlon was suspended, the front two had a good understanding. But I didn't think they played as well on Saturday as before.
"I just hope they can gel together and get cracking."
Dearden also believes Mansfield have newfound resolve on the road.
"We will roll our sleeves up and give anybody a battle when we go away," he said.
"There's no problem and no fear wherever we go. You've got to be confident enough to give anybody a game."
Mansfield will be without Matt Hamshaw tonight. He is out for personal reasons. -
Hamshaw to miss Dons trip
CHAD website, 19 February 2007
Mansfield Town will be without winger Matt Hamshaw for 'personal reasons' for tomorrow night's tough trip to promotion-chasing Milton Keynes Dons (7.45pm).
Hamshaw had been in good form recently and his absence will hit the side even harder with fellow midfielders Callum Lloyd and Giles Coke on the injured list.
But manager Billy Dearden said: "We have just go to get on with it.
"With Callum and Giles injured, this leaves me very short in midfield and I will now really have to push it to get some one else in the building.
"I need something sorted quickly.
"I will speak again to the club with the lad I have been after but, if that can't be sorted, I may have to look elsewhere."
MK Dons sit fifth in the table, just three points off the top three automatic promotion places with a game in hand.
And the game is a return for Deadren to a club where he once worked as a scout.
"We know what a tough game it will be down there," he said. "I know one or two of their players from when I worked down there with Danny Wilson.
"It is a good, progressive club and they are desperate to get out this league as quickly as they can and will soon be moving into a new super arena.
"I did scouting for them and wrote match report assessments.
"It is a good club and it will be nice to see one or two of the people down there.
"But the most important thing is that we get cracking and get a result down there which we are capable of doing.
"Away from home we have been rolling our sleeves up and can give anyone a battle."
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