RUSSELL, MITCHLEY, GROF, BRABIN REACTION
video interview with Duncan Russell, Danny Mitchley and David Grof --->
IT'S ONLY HALF-TIME
lutontown.co.uk, Sun 13 Mar 2011
Assistant manager Gary Brabin could not believe the Town came away from Field Mill with a 1-0 deficit to overturn in next Saturday's second leg.
Despite creating numerous chances the Hatters could not find a way past Mansfield goalkeeper David Grof who pulled off six outstanding saves to give the Stags a slender advantage.
"Their goalkeeper's put in a man-of-the-match performance which sums it up," Brabin told the press afterwards. "We've hit the bar and their goalkeeper's made five or six excellent saves.
"The players are all disappointed we haven't come away with a victory so to lose is even more frustrating because Kevin Pilkington's barely had a save to make at the other end."
It sets-up the second leg at Kenilworth Road perfectly and Brabin hopes the Town support can help the club reach a second Wembley final in three years in six days time.
"Our fans have been excellent again, Coming up to Mansfield for a noon kick-off on a Sunday and I hope they come out and back the boys next Saturday," he said.
"We know it will be tough because we're a goal down but if there's a full house at Kenilworth Road who knows what can happen. It's still all to play for.
"We're still very much in the tie and it's only half-time, yes we've lost today but there's plenty of positives to take out of the game.
"On another day we come off the pitch as winners and it's only an inspired display from their goalkeeper that's prevented us from doing that.
"The manager's disappointed we haven't won because we know we should have done but we've got another 90 minutes ahead of us and I'm sure at Kenilworth Road next week we'll give the supporters something to shout about."
Brabin revealed that left-back Freddie Murray sustained a knock that saw him substituted while Lloyd Owusu also took a bang to the head shortly before he was substituted.
"If we lose Freddie for the next two games it'll be a blow," he said. "We're not quite sure what the problem is but we'll assess it tomorrow.
"As for Lloyd he's okay, it was a blow to the head but it was a tactical decision to replace him for Danny Crow."
Forget Wembley dream for now, urges Stags boss
STAGS manager Duncan Russell has warned his players to forget their Wembley dreams and concentrate on a crucial BSBP league game at York City on Tuesday night, reports John Lomas.
A Danny Mitchley strike gave Mansfield Town a 1-0 FA Trophy semi-final first leg lead at Field Mill today to put one foot in Wembley Stadium.
The second leg is at Luton on Saturday, but Russell said: “I was delighted with the win, but I really won't bother about the second leg until after Tuesday.
“I have to be blinkered and concentrate on reading the reports we have about York and working out a way to beat them.
“I will tell my players to enjoy the 1-0 win and then calm down. They need to rest up as we have a difficult game on Tuesday and must make sure they are right for it.
“It was really important we took a lead today, especially with the home tie coming first.
“The job is only half-done and we now have to go to Luton and recreate that performance.
“We must go there and make sure we don't lose the game. Even if we draw it we would go through.
“Over 90 minutes today I thought we were the better team. We should have scored more goals. We put some good balls across the six yard box which someone should have been getting on the end of.
“When they pushed another man up top for a final push we were under some pressure. But we held our nerve and defended well.”
Stags' two heroes today were goalscorer Mitchley and keeper David Grof, who made a string of saves.
It was Mitchley's fourth goal in four starts in a season in which he has struggled to be a regular. But it was his second crucial goal in six days and Russell said: “That's the mark of a good player to step up to this level and produce a goal.
“I have always said Danny is a good player. There are a few things we need to work on and he can become a complete forward.”
On Grof, he added: “I thought he was outstanding today and pulled off some great saves.
“Our defenders need to give him a pat on the back today as he kept us in the game.
“His best save was in the first half when he reached up and got a hand to it when he had already gone the other way.”
Grof said: “I really enjoyed that. I enjoy these sorts of games when I am busy and they only come a few times each season.
“I was pleased to keep a clean sheet and everyone knows my game is all about shot-stopping. But it wasn't just about me – the whole team were amazing today.
“Playing at Wembley would be a dream come true. It was my dad's dream as well but never happened for him. So he would be just as happy for me if I got there.
“Spending so much time on the bench you start to lose confidence so it is good to be here and playing. I am very happy here and glad I came.
“But I know Alan Marriott is a great keeper, one of the best in this league, and it won't be easy staying in the team. I have just got to give 110 per cent in my performances and try to stay in until the end of the season.”
Goal hero Mitchley said: “I was absolutely made up to score today as they didn't give us many opportunities.
“It was a great team performance. We defended well and caused them some problems. I am not sure if Paul Connor's 'goal' was offside.
“But it's only halfway. We have now got to go down there and keep it tight. We must try not to concede and see if we can nick a goal.
“The pressure is now on Luton. If we can keep it tight for the first half hour then their crowd won't be too happy with the expectations they have. If we can do that then we have a really, really good chance.”
Luton assistant manager Gary Brabin said: “We are disappointed as we wanted more from the first game.
“We know we are a lot better than that. But it's only half-time and today has given us a better insight as to what Mansfield are all about.
“We now know what we are up against next weekend. We know exactly what we have to do.
“Mansfield worked really hard and probably in the end deserved their lead. But, if anything, based on chances, I think we had the better chances today and their keeper made some outstanding saves.
“Now we must concentrate on Tuesday's league game, get the three points, then we know what we have to do on Saturday.”
Stags legend Kevin Pilkington, who was only back at Field Mill on loan recently, was upset to be booed by the home fans on his return as Luton keeper today.
“It wasn't the reception I was hoping for and I was very disappointed seeing as what I have done for the club.
“But I enjoyed the game. I have only had two saves to make, yet we have come away losing 1-0.
“We have to fancy our chances with the second leg being back at home but there are two teams and we already have to claw back a goal so start the match on the back foot.”
Russell: Stags still have a big job to do against Luton
DUNCAN Russell has stressed Mansfield Town are only halfway towards earning a trip to Wembley after beating Luton Town 1-0 in the first leg of their FA Trophy semi-final.
Striker Danny Mitchley was the match-winner at Field Mill with a well-taken goal in the 62nd minute, firing past former Stags and Notts County goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington.
But the home side also had man-of-the-match goalkeeper David Grof to thank for securing the win, as the Hungarian pulled off at least five top-drawer saves.
Russell said: "I think the win was really important, especially when you're the home team. We can go down there now and know that if we don't lose the game we will go through.
"It was important to keep a clean sheet if we could. The goalkeeper was outstanding, pulling off some great saves.
"For a lot of the match, I thought we were the better team but we knew they would have a final push and we defended well.
"I've told the players to enjoy it but they know we are only halfway there. In the second leg, we will have to recreate what we did here."
Russell also paid tribute to goalscorer Mitchley, who netted his second goal in two games.
He said: "It was nice to see him score against a good footballing team like Luton.
"It was a crucial goal and that makes for a good player, when you can step in to such an important game and produce a goal like that.
"He's a good player. We know the things he needs to work on in his game but I think he could be a complete forward who is going to cause problems for teams."
Mitchley: Now we have to do it all again
MATCH-winner Danny Mitchley said Mansfield Town thoroughly deserved their 1-0 win over Luton Town, but warned that the Stags still have work to do to reach a Wembley cup final.
After his 62nd minute goal secured a 1-0 in the first leg of the FA Trophy semi-final between the two sides, Mitchley said: "They kept it tight at the back and didn't give us many opportunities to get the ball down and get in behind.
"I saw a little opening and got a shot in and thought the keeper had saved it. I then thought it was going to come back out off the post but Paul (Connor) was waiting to tap it in anyway.
"I was delighted that it went in though. I'm made up to be on the scoresheet again."
The striker added: "I think it was a tense game but one where the defenders were excellent.
"Grof was outstanding. They could have easily drawn but he made the saves and we defended well when we had to."
Mitchley said the Stags would now do all they could to complete the job at Kenilworth Road on Saturday to secure a trip to Wembley.
He said: "We'll take this game as a win but it's only halfway in the tie.
"We have got to look to go down there, keep it really right and I think we've got a really good chance.
"It's going to be a completely different game down there. They have a good following who will make some noise.
"We're going to have to work on our game-plan and hopefully nick a goal."
Before that match, Mansfield face a trip to York City in the league tomorrow.
Mitchley stressed that the Stags would be fully focused on securing another good result.
He said: "That's a big game for us as we need to win every league game to stand a chance of making the play-offs. The lads are going to be committed for that game."
Grof: Stags turned in a great team effort
MAN-of-the-match David Grof was quick to praise his team-mates for their hard work in securing a vital win over Luton Town.
The Hungarian goalkeeper pulled of at least five saves to ensure the Stags took a 1-0 lead into the second leg of the FA Trophy semi-final.
Grof, who is on loan at Field Mill from Notts County until the end of the season, said: "I really enjoyed it. Shot-stopping is my game and I like those types of games when I'm busy and to help the team win is amazing.
"It wasn't just me but the whole team defended well."
Within seconds of being announced as man-of-the-match on the tannoy, Grof had to pull off a smart stop to deny Luton an equaliser.
He said: "I heard the announcement but I had a one-on-one and had to concentrate on that. All season I've been on the bench so it's good to be playing."
Grof said his aim now was to keep his place in the side over Alan Marriott, starting in the Blue Square Premier game at York City tomorrow.
He said: "Everyone knows Alan is a great goalkeeper and one of the best in this league. I'm giving 110 per cent and giving a performance like that to stay in the team."
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