video interview with Holdsworth and Challinor, Wed 17 Feb 2010 --->
Challinor: Stags must grab play-off chance
Evening Post, February 20, 2010
JON Challinor says it is a big psychological boost for Mansfield Town to know they can move back into the play-offs by beating Rushden and Diamonds today.
The Stags dropped out of the Blue Square Premier's top five after three consecutive defeats to Wrexham, Gateshead and Stevenage.
However, a 4-2 success at Tamworth last Saturday, coupled with Rushden's 1-0 defeat at Oxford in midweek, makes this afternoon's Field Mill clash a particularly significant one.
Victory would push the Stags back above the Diamonds into fifth place, albeit having played one game more.
Defeat would leave Mansfield trailing their Northamptonshire rivals by five points.
But midfielder Challinor lines up against his former team-mates determined to make the most of the opportunity.
"Every game is a big game but this one is added to because they are in the play-offs and that's where we want to be," said the 29-year-old.
"We lost 1-0 at their place before I was here earlier in the season so we have a score to settle.
"Oxford did us a favour in the week, because you obviously want any of the teams around you to lose.
"No team likes to lose, but Rushden's defeat does give us an opportunity and we have to look at that.
"There are a number of teams who can get in the play-offs, including ourselves, and this is a chance to get back in there.
"Rushden will be hurting and it is down to us now to make sure they stay that way."
For Challinor it is a meeting with the club that gave him his big break, but he insists there will be no spilt loyalties.
He said: "I started there when I was a young kid and I always wanted to go back there, which I later did.
"The club is close to my heart and I had a great time and it is good to see them doing well.
"But come this afternoon, I will be doing my utmost to make sure Mansfield get the three points.
"I know the majority of their players and the pone that stands out is Lee Tomlin, but they are not a one man team."
Rushden wary of Stags' set piece threat
Evening Post, February 19, 2010
RUSHDEN and Diamonds must overcome a few bumps and bruises ahead of their visit to Mansfield Town tomorrow.
A handful of key players were withdrawn from yesterday's training session as a precaution.
Diamonds took several knocks in the 1-0 midweek defeat at Oxford United – although assistant-boss Stone expects them to recover for the trip to Field Mill.
"We feel we know Mansfield very well," he said.
"We had a good result against them at home, we watched them at AFC Wimbledon a few weeks ago and we also got video footage of their game at Stevenage Borough.
"They will be very strong opposition. Their major strength is being physical and they rely on set pieces.
"We know if we can counteract those elements then, hopefully, our style of play might be able to cause them problems."
Rushden are looking to quickly put their setback at the Kassam Stadium – their first defeat in eight games – behind them.
Stone added: "Come three o'clock tomorrow we will be ready to put the Oxford result to bed – even though the performance was good.
"The defeat was tough to take as not a lot went for us with the referee's decisions. We were only four minutes away from a well-earned point.
"It does say a lot about how far we've come as a group that we were disappointed on Tuesday.
"If we are measuring ourselves against the top two teams in the division over those tough fixtures, there wasn't a gap of any kind."
Former Mansfield striker Aaron O'Connor is likely to play despite a swollen toe.
Holdsworth: Fans crucial to Stags' hopes
Evening Post, February 19, 2010
DAVID Holdsworth today urged Mansfield Town fans to inspire fear in the opposition rather than their own team during the end-of-season run-in.
The Stags were booed off following their 2-0 defeat to Gateshead in their last home game in front of a season-best crowd of 7,261.
Manager Holdsworth readily acknowledges the fans are free to voice their opinions.
But he says positive vocal backing for his side could be critical in their run of five home games in six, starting against Rushden and Diamonds tomorrow.
"I talked with an assistant coach of another team who came to our game against Gateshead and he said he felt the home fans turned on the players," said Holdsworth.
"But I told him that was the passion of the supporters. They desperately want us to do well.
"You only have to look at last week to see that. We lost three games in a row yet the turn-out at Tamworth was monumental.
"We go places and know if we can keep sides quiet early on then their supporters will get the hump after 20 minutes.
"Other teams try that at Mansfield because they know how passionate the fans are.
"What I would ask is they stick by us in home games – we have only lost two in the 14 months since I have been here.
"We want our stadium to be intimidating for the opposition and not our own players."
Holdsworth agrees that tomorrow's clash at Field Mill is an important game in the context of Mansfield's season.
But he rejects the thinking that this one match could make or break the Stags' 2009-2010 campaign.
He said: "It was a big game before we played Tamworth and this is another big one.
"This and the York clash on Tuesday are against teams who are going to be in the thick of it.
"Rushden have sneaked up there quietly and they have some very talented players.
"But it will only be February 20 and nothing will be decided then. If we were to lose then it would make it an uphill task and we would be ready for that.
"People have their different perspectives, but I think it's drastic to say this game will decide our fate."
Burgess backing on Stags coming good
Evening Post, February 19, 2010
AS he talked for the first time about his one-month suspension for breaking FA betting rules, the apologetic tone and sheepish demeanour of Andy Burgess spoke volumes.
Head slightly bowed, it was undisputedly clear the Mansfield Town midfielder was sorry for his actions that are accepted as being naïve rather than malicious.
In a misguided notion, Burgess placed two punts on matches when with Rushden and Diamonds last season.
The first, ironically, as it has turned out, was on a game against the Stags, where he put £45.45 on his team to win. Mansfield, however, secured a 1-0 victory through Rob Duffy's late penalty.
Bedford-born Burgess also bet another £5 on Curtis Woodhouse, himself a future Mansfield player, to bag the first goal in Rushden's game against Kidderminster earlier in the 2008-2009 campaign.
The implications of a professional betting on a game in which he played were serious enough for the 28-year-old to be banned for four weeks from his hearing on January 21.
Burgess was also fined £500 and given a further suspended three-month ban.
But after frustratingly sitting out six games, where he has also been struck down by a calf injury, the talented ball player is adamant he has learned his lesson.
"To be honest I couldn't remember even having put the bets on when it all happened," he said.
"But I have served my time and it certainly won't be happening again. I'm hoping to put it behind me now.
"I was a little bit surprised because it was a fair while ago and I had forgotten about it.
"I do regret doing it but it was one of those things and hopefully I can move on. I'm very pleased to be back. It feels like ages since I have played.
"Throughout the suspension I have had the calf problem, so I would probably not have been in contention anyway.
"But I have been training for the best part of a week-and-a-half now and my fitness levels are up so I'm looking forward to getting back out on the pitch."
It may be that after such a long time out, the best Burgess can hope for tomorrow against is a place on the bench.
Again, it is not without a sense of irony that Rushden, the club he has played for more than 300 times over two spells, should be the visitors.
Burgess has immense respect for the way Justin Edinburgh's side have stormed up the Blue Square Premier table.
A 1-0 defeat at Oxford on Tuesday night was their first league defeat in eight matches.
He said: "I was a Rushden for two years as a YT and then had seven years in the first team before moving to Oxford and coming back.
"It was a magnificent place to win things and I know a lot of the lads we will come up against.
"It doesn't surprise me they have moved up the league because they have a lot of talented players.
"Justin has brought a strong togetherness and work ethic and they are very determined.
"He has played a the top level and knows what it takes to be successful and is putting that into his team, making them difficult to beat."
Burgess knows it will be no easy task to work his way back into the Mansfield side with Kyle Nix and Gary Mills having regained their places in the side and Matt Somner, Ollie Hotchkiss, Louis Briscoe and Ryan Williams all fighting to start.
"The competition in midfield is fierce, as it is elsewhere, because we have quite a big squad – but that's a good thing," he said.
"No-one predicted Nixy and Millsy would get back in when they did but they have done fantastically well, while Soms has not been able to get on the bench for the last two matches.
"I will try to cement my place in the team and do my best in training, but the gaffer is paid to make decisions.
"That's the good thing about this squad – everyone is in the same mindset that they want Mansfield to do well whether they are in the team or not."
Like his boss David Holdsworth, Burgess does not believe Mansfield are out of the play-off race if they lose to Rushden.
He said: "There are still a lot of games to go after this one. It is a massive game but I don't think it defines our season.
"If we can take points from those teams around us it really does help, but if we lose the season isn't finished.
"Teams can go on eight and nine game unbeaten runs and if you do that, it puts you right back in the frame."
If Mansfield are to claim a play-off spot, Burgess will have some part to play – that much you can bet on.
Spotlight on Mansfield v Rushden
Evening Post, February 19, 2010
Mansfield (from): Marriott, Silk, Foster, Garner, Nicholas, Nix, Mills, Challinor, Shaw, Duffy, Perry, Brough, Briscoe, Sturrock, Williams, Armstrong, Collett, Burgess.
Rushden (from): Roberts, Corcoran, Osano, Stuart, Robinson, Wolleaston, Terry, Byrne, Tomlin, Farrell, O'Connor, Louis, Downer, Porter, Akurang, Day.
Luke Jones is suspended for Mansfield after his sending off at Stevenage while Jake Speight is ruled out with a knee injury.
Andy Burgess is back from his FA ban but may not be fit enough to be considered to start, along with Ollie Hotchkiss who has been ill and had ankle trouble.
Rushden are without Neil Cousins who has a knee complaint.
Simon Downer is 50-50 with a back problem after coming off against Oxford in midweek.
One to watch
Aaron O'Connor: The former Mansfield striker has scored nine goals in 26 appearances since joining the Diamonds in the summer.
Justin Edinburgh. The former FA Cup winner with Spurs in 1991 took over as Diamonds boss in April 2009 having previously managed Grays.
Let's raise the roof, says Stags boss
CHAD.co.uk, 17 February 2010, By John Lomas
STAGS boss David Holdsworth played down the importance of beating play-off rivals Rushden on Saturday and called on Stags fans to raise the roof.
It is the first of three huge home matches in a spell of five home games in six and he said: "They are all big games now which we said before the Tamworth match.
"This week we play two sides in front us in the league, so we are underdogs which is a different proposition.
"They are two teams who were always going to be in the thick of it. Rushden have gone about their jobs quietly and have some very good players.
"But it is not a season-defining game. People have different perspectives on it and I respect that.
"But nothing will be won this weekend, whatever the result. There is a long way to go though we won't underestimate Rushden.
"There are no easy games left. We have some big, big games coming up and if you can't enjoy this you shouldn't be in football - it's fantastic."
Stags' last home game saw only their second BSP home defeat in 14 months but they were booed off at half and full-time of the 2-0 home reversal to Gateshead.
"I spoke to an assistant manager from another club who was at the Gateshead game and he said he felt the fans had turned against the players.
"But I told him our fans are passionate people and I could understand why they were upset.
"They wanted us to win as badly as the players did.
"But it can boost the opposition. When we go away somewhere that we feel the fans might get the hump if they are not winning after 20 minutes then you do try to use it to your advantage.
"I know our fans will be behind us as long as we show effort and commitment. We want it to be intimidating for the opposition here and not for our own players. The fans can make the difference.
"To see that many and hear how they got behind us at Tamworth after three defeats was monumental. They showed what they are all about.
"I know the fans here are long-suffering and after the three defeats I was surprised how many turned up at Tamworth.
"It was fantastic and just shows how much people care about this football club. It was a great pleasure to thank them at the end of the match.
"We are going to need that sort of support for the rest of this season, especially with all the home games.
"I wish I could pick that crowd up from Saturday and put them in the same spot together at Field Mill. That noise makes a big difference and they can play their part."
Stags are still sixth and sides around them have games in hand. But with nine of the last 14 games at Field Mill, they still have a great chance.
"It is exciting and there are a lot of twitchy people out there," said Holdsworth.
"The dynamic of this football club has changed and we can now manage Conference football. Crawley manager Steve Evans was correct when he said this is a powerful and unforgiving league.
"It is very competitive. Look at the scalps Ebbsfleet have taken.
"After three defeats some people throw a bit of mud at you, but our confidence didn't wane and the boys bounced back.
"To be fair, two of those defeats were a fine line and the other game we will just forget about. Against Gateshead and Stevenage we had two deflected goals against us which knocked the stuffing out of us.
"So the boys deserve credit for the Tamworth win as do those working around me.
"I received a couple of harsh letters from respectable fans who came to watch the Gateshead game.
"I always take criticism on board and try to analyse it, though it is nice to get a well done sometimes too. We all care about this club and expectation levels are high, and rightly so, though this is a very tough league.
"It is all about feeling positive about every game we have left now.
"We never go too high or too low whatever the result. We have a good togetherness here and we win, draw or lose together.
"We don't get arrogant or cocky over one win."
One lingering worry is that penniless Chester City, whom Stags have beaten twice this season, could fold this week and their record expunged.
"Chester is a difficult one and it would be a catastrophe if they folded," said Holdsworth.
"You don't want any football club to go out of existence. We will just have to wait and see what happens."
Two key games between four sides above Mansfield last night saw Oxford end Rushden's seven-game unbeaten run 1-0 with a late strike while York and Luton drew 0-0.
"On numerical results, the games went as well as we would have liked on Tuesday night. I was at one and Gareth at the other, said Holdsworth.
Ollie Hotchkiss was back in training today after being off all week with illness. he is also recoving from an ankle injury and is probably another week away from rejoining the squad.
But former Diamonds star Andy Burgess has shaken off his calf injury and completed his month-long FA ban for breaching rules on betting and, despite a lack of match fitness, could be considered for a place on the bench against his old club.
Darren Manseram has left after just one day on trial at Field Mill but fellow striker James McPike, who played against Stags for Kettering earlier this season, has now arived on trial.
Centre half Matt Heywood also continues his trial period.
CHAD VIDEO --->
Burgess on the betting scandal
CHAD.co.uk, 17 February 2010
RUSHDEN and Diamonds legend Andy Burgess is back in the Mansfield Town squad for their crucial 'six-pointer' against his old club this weekend after competing a month-long suspension for falling foul of FA betting rules.
In this exclusive Chad video, Burgess talks about the flutters that sparked the betting scandal, his time at Rushden, where he played 333 games in two spells, and his hopes for Mansfield Town where fans have yet to see the best of one of the lower leagues' most talented players.
Burgess wants to put one over on Rushden
mansfieldtown.net, Wed 17 Feb 2010
Midfielder Andy Burgess is relishing the thought of locking horns with one of his former clubs.
The 28-year-old former Luton man made over 300 appearances for the Diamonds during two spells at the club and could line up against them on Saturday after completing a one-month suspension.
Clearly itching to get back on the pitch he said: "I'm very pleased to be back in contention - It feels likes ages since I've played.
"It was a magnificent place for me to grow up and learn about being a footballer. You remember things like that in you career.
"I'm very grateful for being able to be captain there and I look back with great fondness on my time there."
He said that there would be no room for sentiment, however, after kick off as both sides fight for a play off spot and promotion to the Football League. Our opponents have won six out of their last eight games in the Blue Square Premier but a win would see us leapfrog them back into the top five.
He added: "It's nice to put one over on your old club but Mansfield Town FC are the most important thing and getting the three points.
"I'm impressed by Rushden this season and I am not surprised by their position. They work very hard and are a difficult team to beat.
"Justin's (Edinburgh) played at the top level himself and got them playing very well.
"It will be a very tough game and one everybody is looking forward to. It's a massively important game because it is at home, against one of our rivals and will help shape the league abit more."
'Rushden Rejects' ready to roar!
CHAD.co.uk, 17 February 2010, By John Lomas
Jon Challinor and the rest of the 'Rushden Rejects' at Field Mill can't wait to put one over on their old club in this Saturday's titanic play-off six-pointer at Field Mill.
Long throw expert Challinor is joined by fellow ex-Diamonds Alan Marriott, Andy Burgess, Gary Mills and Rob Duffy in the Mansfield dressing room and said: "I started there as a young kid and always wanted to go back there.
"A couple of seasons ago that's what I did and I had a great time there. The club is very close to my heart and it's good to see them doing well.
"But on Saturday we want to take their position and I will be doing my utmost to get three points for us.
"When I came here and then Andy Burgess we got labelled the 'Rushden Rejects'.
"But we have all played together before and know each other's games inside out which must help the team and the gaffer must have realised that when he signed us.
"I know the majority of their squad and we know we must stop Lee Tomlin as everything seems to go through him. But they are not a one man team. There are others that can produce that moment of magic, but we have players in our squad that can keep them quiet."
He added: "It is massively exciting to be in and around the play-offs and pushing for promotion. Every team wants to be there and it is nerve-wracking. That's what you thrive on.
"Every game is a big game now. Additionally Rushden are in the play-off places and that's where we want to be.
"On the back of the Tamworth game we now want to get on a run. Every game will be hard and we need to be on top of our game. When we do, we can beat anyone in this league.
"We also have a score to settle after losing to Rushden down there.
"You have to prepare right as a player. You never know what might happen on matchday. But you give yourself the best chance of doing well by preparing right.
"Every player loves to play in the big games. You raise your game knowing the stakes are massive.
"The gaffer prepares you right but once you have crossed that white line it is down to the players to do the job. It's down to us to beat Rushden and go above them."
Challinor has been in and out of the Mansfield side and played different positions and said: "I missed a couple of games which no players wants to but now I am back in I am happy playing whatever position the gaffer wants me to play in whatever formation he chooses."
When he is in the side, Challinor also offers that extra weapon of a long throw.
"I have had it throughout my career," he said. "It is an added extra for the opposition to have to defend and it's good for me that we have scored two goals from it. So why change it if it's working?
"All the long throw people are now coming out of the woodwork. If it works for Rory Delap at Stoke in the Premiership then why not for our league?"
But Challinor now has long throw competition in new signing Andy Nicholas.
"If I take a throw-in and he can get on the end of it and score like at Tamworth then I am sure he won't be too bothered," he said. "We both have good distance so, whichever side the ball goes out, we can launch it."
Diamonds had won six and drawn one of seven games before last night's 1-0 loss at leaders Oxford while Stags are full of confidence after ending their spell of three defeats on the bounce with a superb 4-2 win at in-form Tamworth.
Shaw: Stags facing defining moment
Evening Post, February 18, 2010
MANSFIELD Town's home double header against play-off rivals Rushden and York could define their season, striker Jon Shaw said today.
The Stags slipped outside the Blue Square Premier top five after defeats to Wrexham, Gateshead and Stevenage.
They bounced back strongly with a 4-2 victory at Tamworth last Saturday – although they are still sixth, having played more games than their rivals.
That is why Shaw – who has scored in his first two starts for the club – believes matches with Diamonds on Saturday and the Ministermen on Tuesday could be so crucial.
"These are going to be two big games. After these four days, we will have a lot clearer picture of where our season is," he said.
"We are playing against teams who are on fantastic runs but we are not frightened of anyone. Tamworth were unbeaten in ten but we went there and turned them over.
"People do bring it up that we haven't beaten many of the top sides but we don't talk about in the dressing room.
"If we don't beat many top teams but still beat the others to get in the play-offs, then that will do for us.
"But it would be nice to beat teams like Rushden and York to get that off our backs and it would boost our confidence."
Shaw says the Mansfield players are determined to put in some strong performances at Field Mill after their 2-0 defeat to Gateshead last time.
He said: "It was a bad day all round in our last home game.
"To get so many people coming to the game (where fans could pay what they wanted) and then perform like that was hugely disappointing.
"We owe the fans because we let them down, as well as the manager and ourselves."
Holdsworth runs rule over another triallist
Evening Post, February 17, 2010
DAVID Holdsworth is to cast his eye over another triallist at Mansfield Town in the shape of former Kettering striker James McPike.
The 21-year-old one-time Birmingham youngster has joined central defender Matt Heywood in training with the Stags.
But after taking a look at another forward, Darren Mansaram, boss Holdsworth will not be pursuing his interest.
Meanwhile, midfielder Ollie Hotchkiss has returned today after illness but is still looking to shake off an ankle injury.
Jake Speight video interview --->
Latest | February 2010