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goalkeeper Ed Eley signs on loan for one month --->
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Quintet face fitness tests for Barrow trip
CHAD.co.uk, 28 September 2009
By John Lomas
ALMOST half of the Mansfield Town side that beat Hayes and Yeading on Saturday are struggling to be fit for tomorrow night's long haul up to Barrow (7.45pm).
Manager David Holdsworth admitted today that, in other circumstances, Alan Marriott, Rob Duffy, Jake Speight, Kyle Nix and Craig Armstrong might not have played on Saturday as they struggled on with injuries.
Now all five will spend today in the physio's room before late fitness tests in the morning decide if they will travel to Cumbria.
"The players are really showing their mettle," said Holdsworth. "There can't be too many players doing what they have been doing, putting their necks on the line when others would be out injured.
"That's a tremendous position as a manager as it means these players want to go out and play for the club. I can remember when Howard Kendall was my manager - I would have gone and played on the moon for him if he'd asked me to and I am delighted with them.
"All of them have a slim chance tomorrow. We have had to cancel training today except for the fringe players and lads who are out on loan. We have even lost one of them with Grant Ryan injured at the weekend. I think we are going to have to build an extension to the physio's room!"
Duffy and Armstrong battled on after pain-killing injections, Duffy responding with a hat-trick, and Nix soldiered on for 21 minutes before a dreadful tackle saw him hobble off.
"Kyle Nix was already black and blue with the bleeding coming out from the kick he got in midweek," said Holdsworth. "Then on Saturday I thought he got singled out for some bad challenges. After he had gone off it was Jake Speight who got the worst of it. But he still ran himself into the ground for us and deserved a goal.
"I would have taken him off and given him a rest if we hadn't already lost Kyle. His work rate was tremendous. Jake got belted again Oxford and had a dead leg-cum-strain but is hungry for success and wanted to carry on.
"Some of Hayes' challenges were shocking and they were lucky not have to have a man sent off.
"But I thought he was a sensible referee on Saturday. Last week we had two sent off for 'handbags', but the lad on Saturday used common sense and I thought he did a decent job."
He added: "We need to make sure we have cover for all of them and then get them in early tomorrow for some sort of fitness test. We have a four and a half hour bus journey ahead of us and there won't be another chance to stretch their legs until we get to the hotel. I am sure they will play if they can."
The biggest worry must be the goalkeeping position with no cover on the bench and the manager added: "If we can bring someone in as back-up this week we will do, but I won't talk about it or mention names until it happens.
"Alan Marriott turned his ankle in training on the hard ground on Friday which gave me a few more grey hairs as we already have Tim Sandercombe out.
"Tim could be a week or three weeks - you can't rush a thigh strain. He is a young man who is just learning about his body. We just have to let nature and the physio do their jobs."
With Gary Mills suspended and Luke Jones also out injured, it leaves Holdsworth with a stretched squad. But one boost is the return of big striker Kyle Perry after a three match ban - and he could find himelf straight back in the side in place of hat-trick hero Duffy.
"Kyle has worked very hard on the training ground and has kept his fitness levels right," said Holdsworth.
"So I may well put him back in and leave Rob out. Rob will want to play after scoring a hat-trick on Saturday but you can only nurse an injury though so much.
"Kyle did well against Barrow down here. The big man showed what he was all about and they couldn't cope with his physical presence and strength.
"There were a lot of things going on out there that the officials didn't see and I expect a similiar game tomorrow.
"Barrow will respect us after we beat them here. They will understand what we are about and we beat them fair and square.
"But they have taken two players in and they do have ability and the physical aspect which is a huge part. We will respect them and know we have to earn the result."
Holdsworth is hoping for news on how long centre half Jones will be out this week.
"Luke is going to see a specialist who performed a small operation on him two years ago to get his thoughts on the injury.
"If he does need an operation it will be more than two months befoe he is back when you take into account the time it will take to get fully fit. But he a fit lad and a strong boy. Luke is a good professional who looks after himself."
Saturday's win pushed the Stags back up into fourth place, a point behind second-placed Kettering Town and nine behind leaders Oxford United.
Barrow were soundly beaten 3-0 at Salisbury and are 17th, just two point outside the drop zone.
They have not win in their last seven games and have only won one of their six home games so far.
Last week they tried to shore their side up by bringing in loan signings Malvin Kamara and Neil Wainwright, who was briefly on loan with the Stags just before their relegation from the Football League 18 months ago.
Mansfield beat Barrow 4-1 at Field Mill on 18th August with two late Daryl Clare penalties added to earlier strikes by Duffy and Speight.
STAGS' PERRY HOPEFUL OF BARROW START
Kyle Perry is standing by to make an immediate Mansfield Town return at Barrow
tonight - if Saturday's hat-trick hero Rob Duffy cannot shake off an ankle
injury. The striker is free to play again after serving a three-match suspension
for allegedly kicking out at Lee Boylan in the 3-2 home defeat to Stevenage. The
former Port Vale man has six goals to his name and is desperate to be handed a
recall. But his chances may depend on the fitness of Duffy, the club's top
scorer with seven goals. The Welshman has been given pain-killing injections
before his last two matches. Boss David Holdsworth insists it is going to be a
tough call to make, especially as Perry caused Barrow problems when the Stags
were 4-1 winners over the Bluebirds at Field Mill in August. "I'm delighted to
have Kyle available again. He's been champing at the bit," said Holdsworth. He
has been working very hard off the field and on the training ground and kept his
fitness levels right. It was such a disappointment for him to get sent off
against Stevenage, especially as he was on a hat-trick. I am tempted to put him
straight in and give Rob Duffy a rest. You can only nurse an injury like his so
much. Duffers is on a high and will want to play, but the big man (Perry) showed
against Barrow last time what he was about and we're expecting a physical game."
Holdsworth is hoping his side will draw confidence from their comfortable win
against Barrow earlier in the campaign. Holdsworth said: "I think they will have
respect us and understand what we are about. However it is still going to be a
tough test because they will be smarting for that. We have to match them
physically first if we are going to go on and play our football."
GRAHAM REWARDED FOR HIS PATIENCE
Hollywood had Cool Hand Luke, Mansfield have Cool Head Luke. Central defender
Luke Graham was made to wait for his chance to impress in the middle of the
Mansfield defence. The good form of Scott Garner and Luke Jones in the early
stages of the campaign had largely confined him to the bench, aside from a start
at Grays as a makeshift left-back. But the former Northampton and Kettering man
was patience personified - and that is now paying off. An ankle injury to Jones
that could see him require surgery and is expected to rule him out for two
months, means Graham has the chance to take centre stage. And, so far, he has
not made a bad start. Two home games in a week have yielded a maximum six points
and included a win over previously unbeaten Oxford. The 23-year-old has played a
key part in that, helping the Stags climb into fourth spot in the Blue Square
Premier table. Now he is eyeing more success both from a team and personal point
of view. "It is tough on Luke (Jones) because he has been excellent for us,
particularly early on in the season," said Graham. He and Scott Garner had
formed a good partnership and I understood why I was not playing, even though I
wanted to be. If people are doing their jobs, then you can have no complaints at
not being in the team. I obviously wish him a speedy recovery, because you want
us to be strong as a club. I want the team to do well rather than myself and
that means having Luke fit so we have three of us keeping each other honest. I
want to play in every game like every other player. Hopefully, Scott and myself
can form a partnership now. We played together in the pre-season friendly
against Leicester and I recall that went quite well. We have got different
strengths and one of mine is organising and talking. I think he listens well and
he has helped me out, too. I think we have complemented each other well so far."
Graham knew his return to the side would be a significant test against an Oxford
side unbeaten in 11 matches. They had beaten Eastbourne 4-0 in their previous
game and strikers James Constable, Jamie Cook and Matt Green were all in tip-top
form. Graham said: "It was not easy to come straight into a game like that. They
had perhaps one of the best strikers in the league in Constable. "But I had been
patient to get my chance and I was confident in my ability. I didn't want to let
anyone down, so I was pleased with the way it went. Even so, I was still annoyed
that he got the goal after keeping him quiet for most of the game. They are a
good bunch of lads here and we had been feeling it after three losses. We had
suffered from a bit of bad luck, but people have showed their characters. But
now I have to be on my mettle. There is no point performing in one game - you
have to be consistent."
Mansfield have lost their last two away games at Kidderminster and Rushden and
Diamonds with contrasting displays. The performance at Aggbrough in losing 3-1
was comfortably their worst of the season while at Nene Park they were unlucky
to lose 1-0. Graham is looking for the Stags to get back to winning ways on the
road at Holker Street, Barrow tonight. "It is understandable there are still
some question marks over our away form," he said. When you are away, the fans
back the home sides and sometimes referees can favour them. Perhaps mentally we
are getting it a little bit wrong, trying to defend things too much. We have not
been getting the right formula and we have to be mentally stronger. Barrow will
be a very tough place to go. I have been up there a few times with Kettering and
I know it is a long way. We went there three times one season. But we believe we
have it in us to go up there, get a victory and keep our good form going."
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