RUSSELL, HIGGINSON, BRISCOE, EDINBURGH REACTION
video interviews with Duncan Russell, Conor Higginson, Louis Briscoe --->
video interview with Conor Higginson --->
Justin Edinburgh reaction --->
Second Stags keeper facing Wembley heartbreak - Home debutant Higginson praises fans
MANSFIELD Town face an anxious wait on the fitness of number one keeper Alan Marriott with the FA Trophy final at Wembley just five weeks away, reports John Lomas.
Marriott, out since early October with a groin injury, was back between the posts for Saturday's 2-1 win over Rushden but was forced off after only 42 minutes with a broken finger.
The news came just 48 hours after it was revealed that David Grof, on loan from Notts County and who has been in goal for much of Marriott's absence, will be ineligible to play for Mansfield in the Trophy final.
Stags boss Duncan Russell, forced to watch the game from the stands after the FA charged him with misconduct for comments made about the referee last weekend, said: “It is too early to say what chance Alan has of playing at Wembley. We will just have to see how it goes.
“It is typical of our luck with injuries at the moment. We were down to the bare minimum. Players kept dropping out all week.
“We deserved that win today without a doubt as we by far the better side. We should have been 2-0 up in the first five minutes. Their keeper made some miraculous saves.
“Again we gifted a team a goal. If we could stop doing that we'd be further up the league. But it was a good team performance with good work ethic.
“I was pleased for Louis to get the winner. To be honest I was on the headphones to Paul Hall at the time saying Louis was out of position and he went and scored.
“He can be a frustrating player but you know he will always pop up and score you a goal.”
“I was pleased with young Conor Higginson on his home debut too. He did ever so well and is only going to get better and better. He looked as good as anyone out there and is an exciting young lad.
“We played him wide right but he is a centre forward and I am sure he will get a chance in that position before the season ends.”
Teenager Higginson said: “I was at home talking to my mum and dad and said I wasn't sure I would even make the bench.
“But when I got to the ground the gaffer took me upstairs and was talking about starting me on the right. Then the adrenalin started pumping and I was really excited.
“I ended up starting and doing all right. I'd give myself a seven out of 10 but I could have done better.
“I am a centre forward but it's on my CV I can play right or left or behind the striker, but as long as I am in the first 11 here I don't mind playing centre half if I have to.
“Being a local lad it means a lot to play in front of the fans. I love them to bits and have the upmost respect for them. It was nerve-racking but I enjoyed it and now want to try to keep the shirt.”
Goalscorer Briscoe, celebrating his 23rd birthday, had a quiet afternoon but scored the winner and said: “It was nice that I finally turned up in the game in the last minute.
“We gave away a sloppy goal but got back into it and dominated after that.
“We definitely seem to like to do it the hard way here which is exciting for the fans but it is not nice to keep going behind. If we could get some clean sheets we will always score goals.”
Diamonds boss Justin Edinburgh said: “Not for the first time this season two individual efforts have cost us the game. But in terms of effort and application we gave of our best.
“We haven't got a real centre half in the club and with the embargo in place it is difficult. So I can only commend the players for their attitude and desire today.
“It is easy to feel sorry for yourself. But, although Joe Day has kept us in the game in the first half with his saves, I thought we were good with the ball today, though lethargic when we didn't have it in getting back into position.
“All in all on chances Mansfield probably deserved the points.”
Once again wages were not paid at Rushden this week and he added: “It has been very difficult and it's not the first time it has happened. But, if I am honest, today they played for me, for the fans and for the football club.
“It has not been easy this season and I will be glad to see the back of it. It has been tough emotionally, physically, mentally and now financially.
“Let's get the weekend out the way and hopefully there will be some kind of payment to the players made.”
Stags boss full of praise for debutant Higginson
DUNCAN Russell today praised the performance of home debutant Conor Higginson in Mansfield Town's 2-1 victory over Rushden and Diamonds.
The teenager – back from his loan spell at Evo-Stik Division One South club Glapwell – was asked to step straight into the team in an unfamiliar position on the right side of midfield.
But Higginson, a striker by trade, did not look out of place and played his part in helping the Stags bounce back from successive defeats to Kidderminster and Crawley.
Manager Russell was certainly pleased enough by what he saw and said: "It was great to be able to give Conor a shot and I thought he did well, especially playing out of position.
"I always said when his loan spell came to an end he would come back to the club because we train with us day in day out and is as good as any of his peers.
"He will get better and better and I think he will score goals.
"Up front is his preferred position and we will see him in that position before the season is out, I'm sure."
The Stags had gone behind after 15 minutes when former Stag Aaron O'Connor drilled home from 15 yards.
They levelled midway through the half through Luke Medley, but left it late to seal victory with Louis Briscoe's 16th goal of the season in the final minute of normal time.
It takes him level in the club's top goalscoring charts with Paul Connor and was his 13th goal since the turn of the year.
Russell said: "I was just saying in my headphones to Paul Hall (Russell was sat in the Quarry |Lane End serving a one-game touchline ban) that Louis was not in the right position and then he went and scored!
"You do have your frustrations with him from time to time, but you can't take him off because he can turn up and score a goal for you.
"That's what he did in this match and that is why he is in the side."
Manager Russell sets Stags a top-ten target in league
DUNCAN Russell has set his Mansfield Town side a target of finishing in the Blue Square Bet Premier's top ten after watching a 2-1 victory over Rushden and Diamonds at the weekend.
The Stags left it late to seal all three points thanks to Louis Briscoe's 16th of the season in the final minute of normal time.
Rushden had earlier taken the lead, only for that to be cancelled out by Luke Medley.
Mansfield are currently 13th in the table but have games in hand on all those above them and the Mansfield boss – who watched the game from the Quarry Lane stand because of a one-game touchline ban – is keen to see his side capitalise.
"I want us to finish as high as we can. For the moment I couldn't give two hoots about our Wembley trip," said Russell.
"The league is the focus and I want us to finish where we should be, which is higher than where we are now.
"If that happens to be an outside chance of the play-offs, which is unlikely, that's great, but I would say top ten is a bare minimum.
"If we can finish tenth in the table and then go to Wembley and win I think you can class that as a very good season."
In what was an absorbing game with Rushden, Russell was delighted with the application he saw from his side.
He was again forced to switch the team around as Gary Silk (foot) and Kevin Sandwith (illness) joined an already lengthy list of absentees.
Russell said: "I said in the pre-match team talk that it was important we got back to winning ways.
"The players did tremendously well and had a good work ethic.
"The game before at Crawley we lost and we weren't expected to do anything but it's really pleasing to bounce back in the way we did.
"We deserved to win the game. We were by far the better side and I'm sure Justin (Edinburgh, Rushden manager) would admit that.
"We should have been two-up in the first ten minutes when there were two great chances for Paul Connor.
"We could have had a lot more goals but their keeper (Joe Day) pulled off a couple of miracle saves."
Alan Marriott made a long-awaited return to the first team for his first game since the 5-2 home defeat by AFC Wimbledon in early October.
But the keeper was forced off late in the first half with a suspected dislocated finger that could threaten his hopes of playing in the FA Trophy final at Wembley.
"We won't know the extent of the injury until we have it x-rayed. If it's just a dislocation then we can strap it up and with all the padding in those big gloves then it shouldn't be a problem," said Russell.
"But we have to make sure there is not a fracture first."
It was the fifth game in a row where Mansfield have fallen behind.
Russell said: "I didn't have to say anything about the goal we conceded to the lads at half-time because they know where it came from."
Birthday boy Briscoe celebrates with late winning goal
BIRTHDAY boy Louis Briscoe grabbed Mansfield Town's last-gasp winner against Rushden and Diamonds – then urged the man he has joined as the club's top scorer, Paul Connor, not to get too down in the dumps.
The winger celebrated turning 23 by striking his 13th goal since the turn of the year in the final minute of normal time to seal a 2-1 win and bring his overall haul to 16, matching that of the former Lincoln and Rochdale striker.
Briscoe's rich vein of form has coincided with a drought for Connor, who has not scored in his last nine matches.
The front man's last strike was in the 2-2 FA Trophy draw at Chasetown and he was out of luck on five separate occasions in the first half against the Diamonds.
But while admitting he would be delighted to end the season as leading marksmen, Briscoe is hoping Connor hits the goal trail once more and make that task a hard one.
"Conns was a bit down in the dressing room after the game because it isn't running for him at the moment," said Briscoe.
"He is still working so hard for the team and playing well but it just isn't happening in front of goal and that showed again.
"On another day, when things are going for you, he would have had an early hat-trick.
"But when your luck is out then you seem to come up against keepers who pull off great saves and the goals seem that much smaller.
"But Conns is too good a player to not be scoring again soon and I'm sure he will. I reckon he will get 20 by the end of the season.
"I would love to finish as top scorer, especially from midfield, which would be some achievement, but I still reckon Conns will take some beating."
Briscoe felt Mansfield were worthy winners – even if it took them until late on to find the win
Higginson delighted to make Mansfield debut
CONOR Higginson was thrilled to make his Mansfield Town home debut – but admitted stepping up three levels and playing out of position to do it was tough.
The 19-year-old striker has been playing most of the season out on loan at Evo-Stik Division One South club Glapwell.
But following the expiry of his loan spell, he was called straight into the team on the right flank for Mansfield's 2-1 success over Rushden.
"I was shattered after the game, but I was delighted to get that first game at Field Mill," said Higginson. "My mum and dad and little brother were all here, so I was chuffed to bits to play quite well for them in a game we won.
"I would have been disappointed, because of the way we played, if we had not got the three points, but Louis Briscoe came up trumps for us again.
"I was pleased with how things went for me. I was a bit leggy near the end, but I expected that because I am stepping up in standard.
"I have been playing at Evo-Stik South level, so it takes a bit of getting used to because the tempo is definitely a lot higher.
"You could sense the crowd wanted me to do well as a local lad and they got behind me, which was great.
"I was playing out on the right, but I fancy my chances of scoring from anywhere. I don't mind where I am picked if I can do a job for the team."
Higginson is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Tom Naylor, who has graduated to becoming a first team regular in recent weeks after progressing through the youth set-up.
He said: "I want to be in the same boat as Tom, who has been an inspiration to me. He's had a chance and he's kept his shirt. I'm hoping I can keep my shirt as well now.
"They say you can't change a winning side, but I know there are players to come back from injury."
Latest | April 2011