RUSSELL AND MILLS REACTION
Stags boss Russell: Play-offs look a big ask now after York defeat
DUNCAN RUSSELL today admitted Mansfield Town are facing an uphill battle to secure a place in the play-offs this season – but reminded his players they are only 90 minutes away from Wembley.
A 2-1 defeat at York City left the Stags 16 points off the top-five in the Conference – albeit with five games in hand.
But manager Russell conceded that may be too big a gap for his team to bridge as they go into an exhausting finale to the campaign.
"It is a big ask for us now. If we had kicked on and got three points, we would have been much better off," he said.
"We have lost four games in 20, which is not a bad stat. But I am just disappointed to have lost the game in the manner we did. We did not deserve to lose.
"I can tell you that we will keep fighting for every point. We want to finish as high as we possibly can in the table and see where that takes us.
"But now we can prepare for 90 minutes of football that could take us to a Wembley final."
Russell was frustrated to see Jamie Reed score twice to cancel out an opening goal from Tom Naylor, which had given Mansfield a half-time lead.
"I thought we gifted them two goals. They were sloppy goals to concede," he said.
"I was disappointed not to get a point out of that because I thought it was the least we deserved.
"I am a little bit annoyed that we did not make them work for their goals.
"It has to frustrate you as a player. You have to sit down and ask whether you lost the game or whether you gave it away.
"I thought we gave it away, I really did. I do not mind losing a game against a team that deserves it. I will hold my hands up then.
"But they did not deserve to win that, we deserved a point. They had a lucky night."
Russell furious as Stags gift it to York
STAGS manager Duncan Russell was furious to see his side give up two goals against the run of play to gift York City a 2-1 win and see their eight-game unbeaten run ended at Bootham Crescent last night.
Stags led 1-0 and looked comfy until Steve Foster's 59th minute error gifted Jamie Reed the first of his 11-minute brace.
Russell, who rested six of his players ahead of Saturday's FA Trophy showdown at Luton Town, said: “The players have got to sit and look at themselves and ask if we lost that one or gave it away?
“I don't mind losing a game that the opposition have deserved to win. You hold your hands up. But I don't think York deserved to win that. They had a lucky night.
“I was disappointed not to get a point tonight as I thought we deserved at least that.
“The first goal we gave away totally changed the game. Steve Foster has held his hands up in the dressing room in front of the players. He said he slipped and couldn't help it.
“I was annoyed to see us gifting goals. We don't want to go back to that as we had stopped doing that.
“For their second goal, when you have a one against one between a winger and a full back, the full back has to show him down the line, not let him inside. They were two sloppy goals.
“We missed two great chances too when Ashley Cain only had the keeper to beat but shot against his legs and when Adam Smith put the ball into the keeper's hands.”
Stags' scorer was young defender Tom Naylor with his first goal for the club and Russell added: “I was pleased for Tom. He is good in the air and I always thought he could get a goal from a set piece.
“I was happy with Niall O'Rafferty's debut though he was a bit nervous and fatigued a bit early. Also Danny Spence showed he can play right back as well as left back. So I was pleased with certain areas.”
Although Stags have five games in hand on some sides, they are now 16 points adrift of the play-offs and Russell said: “The play-offs are a big ask now. If we had kept on and got at least a point tonight who knows. But we have only lost four in 20 which is not a bad statistic.
“We will keep fighting for every point and try to finish as high as we possible can in the table.
“Now we will rally the team ready for Luton on Saturday. Regardless of where we finish in the table, to get to Wembley would be a massive feat and be great for this football club if we could do it.
“We have rested certain players tonight and we will go to Luton full of optimism.”
Russell will be speaking to Stoke City loanee Louis Moult today to see if his back injury has improved ahead of the weekend semi-final second leg when Stags defend their 1-0 advantage.
Luton tickets went on general sale at Field Mill this morning with just 450 of the 1,000 allocation remaining
Gary Mills was delighted with the character of his side after fighting back to defeat Mansfield Town 2-1 at Bootham Crescent.
"We haven't been 1-0 down at half-time for a while and I asked the players to show me some character and they gave me a great response," Mills told The Press. "I don't think you can get better than that and all that passion is what football's all about.
"If people were having a drink in the city centre last night, I'm sure they could hear the roar from there. I know we had 5,000 fans that went to Bolton but, as good as that performance was, last night's second-half display was a lot better."
But things appeared bad for the hosts in their bid to claim an end-of-season play-off place until the arrival Reed.
"It's always tempting to start him and we have big decisions to make selection-wise going into every game," Mills continued. "He keeps saying pick me and he did what we bought him to do last night - score goals."
York will though be without skipper Chris Smith for the next couple of games after collecting his tenth caution of the season.
"Chris Smith's booking was the only downside of the evening but what a superb replacement I have in TY [McGurk]," added Mills.
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