RUSSELL AND LING REACTION
audio interviews with Duncan Russell and Martin Ling from the BBC --->
New Stags boss Russell has every reason to be cheerful
DUNCAN Russell was left 'smiling like a Cheshire cat' after Mansfield moved up to sixth in the Blue Square Bet Premier table by thumping Cambridge United in his first game in permanent charge.
The new boss was appointed just before Christmas after three games in caretaker charge, during which the Stags had remained unbeaten.
And the visitors extended their run by beating Martin Ling's side 5-1 at the Abbey Stadium yesterday in what was their first league game for more than a month.
"I did think we would win with the way we have trained over Christmas and the fact the mood in the camp has been so positive," said Russell.
"But it was a fantastic result and we scored some great goals, especially the first two (from Adam Murray and Adam Smith).
"It was a great performance and the result was fully justified. I'm smiling like a Cheshire cat.
"What was important with the shape of 4-4-2 was the wingers (Smith and Louis Briscoe) had to get back in and be compact.
"I have always said that if we defend resolutely and get our bodies in the way, we have the ability to score goals.
"And when we have the ball going forward and confidence is high, then we are very difficult to defend against with the pace we have."
audio interview with Adam Smith --->
Mansfield Town troubles bond squad - Adam Smith
Mansfield Town winger Adam Smith believes the troubles at the club over the past month have brought the squad closer together.
The Stags, who won 5-1 at Cambridge on Tuesday, were locked out their Field Mill ground and had a change in manager over the past few weeks.
Smith told BBC Radio Nottingham: "It's a rollercoaster ride but it has probably made us stronger.
"We are a tight bunch anyway and we love each other."
Mansfield are now sixth in the Blue Square Bet Premier, three points adrift of the play-off places.
But they have suffered a traumatic December, being locked out of Field Mill at the beginning of the month, before returning a couple of weeks later after resolving a rent issue with landlord Keith Haslam.
Stags parted company with David Holdsworth in mid-November and recently appointed his assistant Duncan Russell until the end of the season.
"We've always kept together off the field and kept tight," Smith added.
"It's good for the team - we stay together and we don't know what's going on off the field.
"But as long as we stay together behind the scenes that's the main thing."
Smith convinced new bosses will win over the doubters
Duncan Russell hopes his great start as Mansfield Town manager will start to convince the doubters that he was the right appointment.
Adam Smith, who scored the goal of the game in Stags' magnificent 5-1 win at Cambridge United yesterday, said he and the players were certainly convinced by the decision to guv e Russell and Paul Hall the management jobs.
Said Smith: “I was over the moon by the appointments. I think they were the right people for the job and most of the lads thought the same.
“It is good to have them on board for the rest of the season and hopefully longer. I think they deserve the chance.
“Duncan Russell has done very well and Paul Hall, who I know personally has also played a big part in it.
“Training has been bright and breezy which has lifted everyone, so credit to them.
“It has been a rollercoaster ride recently, but that has probably made a stronger. We are a tight bunch anyway and we love each other so we stick together.”
Stags crushed Cambridge with a great display of attacking football with Smith and Louis Briscoe destroying the U's down the flanks.
“That was a nice late Christmas present and enjoyable to play in,” he said. “It was a good goal. I hit it sweet and as soon as it left my foot I knew it was in as I caught it right and the keeper had no chance.
“Tyrone Thompson said after the game 'you just don't score average goals do you?' but I would take a tap-in as they all count the same.
“There were some good goals on show for the fans and it was nice we got the majority of them. That was the main thing.
“Two-nil is a dodgy score as a goal back lifts the opposition and puts us on the back foot,
but the third goal from Rob Duffy put them to bed.
“We have been working on getting the ball wide like that in training and they encourage us to run at defenders which is what we enjoy doing.”
A delighted Russell said: “I am smiling like a Cheshire cat.
“I thought we could win this one as the lads have worked so hard and been so positive, even the players on the fringe were in the dressing room before and after the game
“It was a fantastic result and score with some great goals, especially the first two with Adam Murray from the edge of the box and 'Smithy' cutting in off the left hand side as he does so well to find the top corner.
“It was a really good performance and a justified result. We said to Louis Briscoe and Adam Smith at half-time to face them up and run at them as they are scared of you. When you can get them on the ball and their confidence is high they are very difficult to defend against.
“We said that even if you don't get past them you will get some reward like a free-kick.
“I know if we defend resolutely and with our hearts and bodies we will always score goals. That is in our camp. All we had to do was stop leaking goals which we are starting to do now.
“We must defend from the front. When you lose possession in a 4-4-2 you have to get back and help with defending and everyone did that.”
That is four games unbeaten at the helm for Russell but some Stags fans are still undecided on his appointment.
But he said: “It was a lovely feeling at the end and it's nice to look across and see our fans clapping and not booing. Results like this will win them over. They are an integral part of our club and I take my hat off to them for their support today.
“I have promised I will do my best for the club and will continue to do that. Hopefully the fans were entertained by that performance today, I know I would've been.”
The players certainly seem to be responding by the new duo's style of management which actively encourages players' input into the whole process.
“I believe strongly in ownership,” he said. “We left the players on their own for three or four minutes at half time to sort things out among themselves. They do have something to say. We tell them to play what you see, express yourself, and play with no fear.
“I just wish the Grimsby game was tomorrow now but the players have earned their time off.”
A bad day at the office, not a disaster - Ling
cambridge-news.co.uk, by Aaron Mason
Martin Ling defended his decision to go for broke after Cambridge United slumped to a 5-1 defeat at home to Mansfield yesterday.
The loss put an emphatic end to United's seven-match unbeaten run in the Blue Square Bet Premier going into their New Year's Day derby at home to Histon.
But Ling felt the scoreline flattered the Stags and stuck by his switch to an attacking 3-4-3 system in an effort to come back from 2-0 down.
He said: "We've gone 3-4-3 and they've exploited it. I take responsibility for those last three goals because by gambling it didn't pay off, whereas last time I was a wonder manager for doing it (when United came from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at home to Tamworth last month), so that's the rough with the smooth with this job.
"I said to 'Schof' (coach John Schofield) 'we might as well lose 5-0 as not be seen to be doing something about it'. That's the worst thing - to just sit on it and let it happen "We didn't expect that to happen, but that's the gamble you take as a manager.
"There's only a certain amount you can do from the sideline, the rest is down to the players.
"But I felt it was the right thing to do and I still feel that, even though we lost 5-1."
Ling said he remained confident in his squad's ability and effort to move on from the defeat and push on in the new year.
He said: "It hurts, but we'll brush ourselves down, and if I didn't think I had endeavour and people trying to do it right, then I wouldn't stay around.
"But they're giving it their all, and although there were a few disgruntled people at the end of the game - which you expect after losing 5-1 at home - we hadn't lost since October.
"Let's put it into perspective, it's a bad day at the office, but it's not the disaster that everyone wants to build it up to be." Ling said United also felt the loss of captain Paul Carden, who was suffering from a chest infection.
He said: "What he does that they all forget to do is the nitty-gritty and the horrible part of the game.
"He doesn't get an awful lot of good press, but we're a better side every time he's in it. "He covers an awful lot of cracks for our forward-thinking players and we missed him."
Ling: They Exposed Us
Despite seeing his Cambridge United side trounced 5-1 at home to Mansfield Town on Tuesday afternoon, manager Martin Ling was surprisingly upbeat when reviewing the performance of his side. He began by speaking with regret about misses from his front line at key moments in the game.
"I think the scoreline's deceiving. I'm not a manager who wears rose coloured glasses and the game was decided on fine dividing lines. We took a gamble and went 3-4-3, the same we did before (against Tamworth), Robbie scores a wondergoal with a great strike. Then we have Wayne Gray's chance to make it 2-2, we miss the chance and they go down the other end and make it 3-1. Then Wayne has another chance to make it 3-2.
"We've played worse this season and won games of football, no doubt about it. But there are little nitty gritty bits. I think their front two were better than our front two, their centre halves dominated our centre forwards which gave them a foundation to play from. That was never a 5-1 game but they exposed us when we took that gamble."
A drab opening the game sparked into life after the half hour mark with two outstanding strikes in quick succession allowing the visitors to seize the initiative, aided by a succession of misses from Wayne Gray and Danny Wright in the United forward line.
"We were there at thirty-three minutes then they go and get a wonder strike, two minutes later another wonder strike, two from outside the box when nine times out of ten you aren't even going to shoot from there. We got a wondergoal ourselves but we didn't quite convert the chances we had. Wrighty went through one on one before they scored, Gray's had a few but it just didn't happen for us. They could have won us the game, or at least make things a lot easier for us."
Having seen his side mount a memorable comeback from three goals behind to grab a point against Tamworth at The Abbey in November, it was clear that Ling's plan was to do the same as he changed the formation to three at the back at half time. History was not to repeat itself. Despite, as before, there being four goals after the interval, only one of them was for the hosts. Ling reflected on this afterwards.
"There are obviously things that can be done better which have got to be done, but I'll take responsibility for those last three goals because we were gambling. It hasn't paid off whereas last time I was a great manager for doing it. That's the rough and smooth of this job.
"We couldn't be seen to be doing nothing about it. We didn't expect it (the late goals) to happen but that's the gamble you take. I think doing nothing is the worst thing to do. There's only so much you can do from the sidelines and that's from making the substitutions, the rest is down to the players on the pitch. I still think it was the right thing to do doing it like that, even standing here after losing the game 5-1."
Already lacking Paul Carden due to a chest infection, stand-in captain Kevin Roberts was the man withdrawn at half time. The manager revealed that this was not an enforced substitution as he tried to change the pattern of the game.
"He took a whack but also I thought he was pretty poor in the first half. I felt we needed to change the system to get into it a little bit, and I thought Kev's distribution was poor. He's been having a really good season but I thought it was the right thing to do. I decided to have JP out too; it was a heavy pitch out there. Without Paul Carden we needed to be a bit tougher which is why Rory was in there.
The one name I just put on the board to all the players in there is Paul Carden. What he does that they all forget to do is the nitty gritty and does the horrible part of the game. He doesn't get a lot of good press but I say we're a better side every time he's in it. If you talk to our defensive players, he covers an awful lot of cracks for our forward thinking players. We missed him today and we miss him whenever he's not there."
Such is the nature of the captain's illness it appears that the Liverpudlian is a major doubt for Saturday's clash with neighbours Histon, against whom he scored the winning goal last season. Daryl Clare also missed out on a place on the sixteen due to a similar illness. One positive that can be taken from the day was the return to action of Brain Saah, who last featured at Gateshead at the end of October. Ling spoke of his understandable delight at the club captain returning to the matchday squad.
"Brian's been itching to get in there. We hoped he'd play for us on 18 December but because we've not had the games he's not had the opportunity. That's probably the first time he's been on grass since October when he had the operation! Every training session has been on astro or on the floor boards of a school hall. It was good to have him back but I also think that Coulson and Partridge have done a really good job in his absence."
United return to action at the weekend when they host Histon at The Abbey and Ling is keen to earn local bragging rights, while also looking ahead to the remainder of a congested January and February. "The atmosphere and the tempo will be in that game. Hopefully there'll be a few more here on New Year's Day, today's scoreline isn't going to drag an awful lot more in but we need to get one over on our local rivals for obvious reasons. Today's result needs to be put to bed and we need to put one over on our local rivals to be the pride of Cambridgeshire.
"We've played twenty-two now and by the end of February it'll be fourteen on top of that. By the end of February we'll only have ten games to go. Those games in January and February will tell us a lot about the way our season's going to be. By the first of March we're going to know if we've got a chance or not with ten games to go."
Ling finished by putting a positive slant on the day's proceedings and made it clear he is far from writing the season off this early.
"We'll brush ourselves down, it hurts talking about a 5-1 defeat but if I didn't think I'd had the endeavour and people trying to do right then I wouldn't stay around here. I think it's the right thing from my team that they're giving it their all.
"There's a few disgruntled people at the end of the game which you expect losing 5-1 at home but we hadn't lost since October. I know we hadn't played that many games but we hadn't lost in the league for the last seven. Let's put it into perspective. It's a bad day at the office but it's not the disaster that everyone wants to build it up to be."
Latest | December 2010