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CHELTENHAM PREVIEWS
6th March 2017 19:26


Play-offs in manager's sights ahead of Cheltenham
mansfieldtown.net, 2nd March 2017

Stags’ boss Steve Evans is targeting a place in the play-off pack with a positive result in Saturday's Sky Bet League Two clash at Cheltenham Town.

Following Tuesday’s 0-0 draw away to Yeovil Town, Stags currently sit one point outside of the play-offs and a win in Gloucestershire on Saturday (04 March, 3.00pm kick-off) could see us in the play-off positions.

And after Tuesday’s 206-mile journey home from Somerset, the manager gave the players Wednesday off to recover and he now expects them to be fresh and ready to prepare for the visit to Cheltenham.

“We need to be full of freshness; we changed that up last week and surprised many with the Newport game," the Stags' manager said.

Read more at http://www.mansfieldtown.net/news/article/2016-17/play-offs-in-managers-sights-ahead-of-cheltenham-3604406.aspx#BQEcsuRiuWjYGQHL.99

“We surprised many, maybe, down at Yeovil and we might surprise one or two with what we do down at Cheltenham.

“I trust every one of these players; they’ve got fantastic attitudes, they’ve got great abilities as well and we’ll need to freshen it up because we want freshness about our performance.

“We just need to make sure that we go there, we work as hard as we can. We take the chances when they come, which we didn’t do on Tuesday evening, and we defend properly.

“That gives you the recipe of having a chance of adding to the points tally. We have to be in contention with the play-off group when we come out of Whaddon Road on Saturday evening.”

The former Leeds United gaffer says he is expecting a difficult game against an in-form Robins’ side on Saturday and says there is no room for excuses from his side.

“Going to Cheltenham with the state of the pitch, it’s a field, it’s not a playing surface,” the Stags’ manager said.

“[They’ve got] a manager who’s had to change the type of players that he likes to work with in January because Gary Johnson is a football man.

“I remember the outstanding Bristol City team he had that got to the play-off final, it was a stunning team and they got it down and played. He went in to Cheltenham, he played that way getting out of the National League and into League Two and then the pitch plays a part so they’ve signed players to play in a certain way.

“At this stage of the season, you don’t always turn up and play on the best of pitches. We will not be offering the pitch at Cheltenham as any excuse on Saturday, I won’t allow anyone to use that excuse, not even me afterwards if it went against us.”

With strikers Danny Rose and Matt Green both staying at home for Tuesday’s trip to Yeovil, the boss says both players will be assessed over the next two days before a decision is made as to whether they’ll travel to Cheltenham.

However, defender Kyle Howkins is now available for selection whilst fellow centre-half George Taft is also nearing a return to first team duties.

“We’ll give Danny Rose and we’ll give Matt Green the opportunity to be fit for Saturday. Is it a touch early? Well we’ll see if they can train today and tomorrow, if they can’t then obviously they miss out but it’ll be a certainty that they’ll be involved most likely next week, but there’s a chance for Saturday.

“I gave my permission to Tony Pulis and the gang at West Bromwich Albion telling them to play him [Kyle Howkins] on Monday night. He was excellent, we got the game watched, so Kyle becomes a big option to us as well.

“George Taft, everyday he gets nearer to getting back in to first team action. So we’ve got the two new signings that we spoke about, Taft and Howkins, they’re in the building now and ready to be selected if called upon.”

Supporters can view Steve Evans’ news conference, in full, by logging in to Stags PlayerHD.

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Poor Cheltenham pitch will be no excuse for Stags on Saturday
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, 2 Mar 2017

Mansfield Town will not use Cheltenham Town’s poor playing surface as an excuse if things don’t go their way at Whaddon Road on Saturday.

Carlisle’s ex-Stags boss Keith Curle described it as a ‘dump of a pitch’ after their 1-0 defeat there on Tuesday and today Stags boss Steve Evans admitted it was more like a field than a football pitch. But he insisted his players knew what lay ahead and he will pick a side suited to the state of the pitch.

“It’s a field, not a playing surface and it’s meant the manager has had to change in January the type of players he likes to work with,” said Evans.

Read more at: http://www.hucknalldispatch.co.uk/sport/football/poor-cheltenham-pitch-will-be-no-excuse-for-stags-on-saturday-1-8417742

“Gary Johnson is a football man who likes to get it on the grass and play football. Some of his teams have been outstanding.

“I remember the Bristol City team he had that went to the play-off finals. They were a stunning team who got it down and played.

“He went to Cheltenham and played that way getting out of the National League and up into League Two.

“But the pitch has played a part and now they have had to sign players to play in a certain way.

“I have no problem with that as you have to find a way to win a football match.”

The pitch certainly upset Keith Curle in midweek and Evans smiled: “Gary Johnson probably had a glass of wine yesterday and a little chuckle at that comment.

“At this stage of the season you don’t always turn up and play on the best of pitches.

“We will not be offering the pitch at Cheltenham as any excuse on Saturday. I won’t allow anyone to make that excuse, not even me afterwards if it went against us.

“We have to go there and we know what we are getting in advance - there’s no secrets.

“Me and my staff here fancied Cheltenham to beat Carlisle on Tuesday with the state of the pitch and style of play.”

He added: “It will certainly affect how we approach it and may affect which personnel is picked.

“It’s not a game, dare I say it, where any team is going to be playing any sort of silky football unless you’re 3-0 up, then you can knock it around anyone.”

After watching manager Johnson take Cheltenham back into the League at the first attempt, Evans admitted he was a fan as he plotted to halt the Robins’ three-game winning run.

“Gary Johnson has worked a miracle going in there, rejuvenating them and getting them back up from the Conference into the Football League,” he said.

“They have a manager who said he thinks he had the best January transfer window in the league. That was evident by their results quickly changing.

“I’d expect nothing less from Gary Johnson. He is a winner as a manager. “The one thing his players will be doing is giving him everything.

“If we match them 100 per cent for effort it gives us chance of winning as we have a lot of quality.”

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Injured Stags strike pair must prove their fitness
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, 2 Mar 2017

Mansfield Town strikers Danny Rose and Matt Green face a race against time to be on the team coach to Cheltenham tomorrow ahead of Saturday’s clash at Whaddon Road.

The pair were again ruled out of the long midweek trip to Yeovil Town and Evans said he would give them every chance to make the coach and may need to make other changes, depending how well the players had recovered from the midweek game.

But Stags will welcome back loanee centre half Kyle Howkins into the squad after his knee injury.

“We will have a good look at the boys today and see how fresh people are,” he said.

Read more at: http://www.hucknalldispatch.co.uk/sport/football/injured-stags-strike-pair-must-prove-their-fitness-1-8417789

“They’ve had a day off yesterday to basically sleep off their long night. But if we have to make changes, I trust every one of these players.”

He added: “We will give Danny Rose and Matt Green the opportunity to be fit for Saturday. We will see if they can train today and tomorrow.

“If they can’t they will miss out, but we’re hopeful they will be on the team coach.

“Green is just a little groin problem after he pinged a ball in the half-time warm-up on Saturday. He just felt something uncomfortable.

“Danny trained last Friday and shaped up to be in the team and then just felt a tightness of his hamstring - nothing pulled or strained.

“We all know what groins and hamstrings can be. You either have to have them 100 per cent right or the chances of recovery are slim and they’ll be injured again.”

On Howkins, he added: “I gave my permission to Tony Pulis and the gang at West Brom to play Kyle Howkins on Monday night.

“We got the game watched and he was excellent. So Kyle becomes a big option to us as well.”

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Stags fully focused for ‘tasty’ Cheltenham trip, says Evans
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas

Mansfield Town tomorrow begin a mouthwatering March with this weekend’s tough trip to Cheltenham Town followed by a potential make or break week of Saturday home games against top three clubs Plymouth and Carlisle sandwiching a midweek trip to play-off rivals Colchester United.

“Every one is tasty, but they are tasty in August and they are tasty in March and April,” said boss Steve Evans.

“I have always been a manager that says on the opening day of the season this could be the three points that earns you promotion.

Read more at: http://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/mansfield-town/stags-fully-focused-for-tasty-cheltenham-trip-says-evans-1-8420073

“That tells you that you’re confident of winning promotion, but it’s often the case it could be the three points that costs you promotion.

“From our point of view we have an opportunity to go into March playing against teams at different ends of the table with different objectives.

“We can only focus on ourselves and one game at a time.” Before Stags’ 0-0 draw at Yeovil Town on Tuesday, Evans said he wanted four points out of the two trips down the M5 this week, increasing pressure on the side to win at Whaddon Road.

“Every point is crucial,” he said.

“When I said we needed four points, that was to make sure we stayed in contention with the play-offs as we came out of Cheltenham which I said four week ago.

“When I sit down with my chairman and the chief executive here I don’t talk a game at a time, that’s too short-sighted in football, especially in this league and probably all the way up to and including the Championship where bottom can beat top on any given day of the week.

“We just need to go there, make sure we work as hard as we can and, if we take the chances when they come, which we didn’t do on Tuesday, and defend properly, it gives us a chance to leave Whaddon Road with something.”

Evans is hoping his side can continue their impressive second half showing from Tuesday night, when they could have had five goals.

“It was certainly two points dropped, but another one nearer where we want to go at the same time,” he said.

“I’ve got a track record that says I win at Yeovil and we should have won this time.

“Whether it’s the journey and going down the day before, there is a lot of sitting about for your players which is unusual, but we didn’t start right.

“But second half we were fantastic and some of the football was a pleasure to watch. You make five or six clear-cut, golden opportunities and you have to take one of them. We will play a lot worse than that and win.

“The players here know the prize and the journey home on Tuesday night was a bit quiet as they know we left two points behind in Yeovil.

“Talking about the evening I don’t think John Radford told me I’d work night shifts coming here, getting at home after 5am!”

Evans fully expects to be in the dug-out tomorrow, despite an FA charge hanging over him following his ‘dismissal’ at Grimsby Town two weekends back.

“I am still waiting to hear from the powers that be,” he said. “I’ve done my bit so no doubt we’ll go and have a hearing - and I do expect a full and fair hearing.

“We will answer that when the Football Association set a date.”

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Evans: ‘MacDonald will be a star performer for Stags’
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas

Mansfield Town boss Steve Evans has promised Alex MacDonald will be a star for the club next season.

Evans was delighted to bring the winger in from Oxford United in the January window and, although he is showing glimpses of his ability, Evans believes next season he will become a firm favourite with the fans.

Read more at: http://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/mansfield-town/evans-macdonald-will-be-a-star-performer-for-stags-1-8419317

I though Alex MacDonald was unplayable for 20 minutes in the second half on Tuesday,” said Evans.

“The plan was to give him 70 minutes and I think we did that all bar a few minutes.”

Evans said MacDonald's confidence was on the rise as he got fitter and it also helped he had moved into a nearby village to avoid commuting.

He said: “Alex came into the building bouncing like a six-year-old on a spacehopper this morning. He was 'Spacehopper MacDonald' this morning and looking lively.

“I think we'll soon see MacDonald the parish councillor from what they tell me, he's taken over the village he's moved into!"

Evans added: “Alex is a lovely kid. He came here out of condition. We knew we got him out of condition otherwise we might not have got him.

“He's not there yet. But, whatever level we are playing next season, he is going to be an absolute star. I can say that now.

“For 20 minutes on Tuesday just before half-time he literally grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. We needed someone to do that.

“He and Joel Byrom in the second half suddenly inter-linked, broke their lines and became proper players.”

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Byrom beginning to blossom in Stags' midfield
mansfieldtown.net, 2nd March 2017

Stags’ midfielder Joel Byrom believes he is beginning to get back to the performance levels which he knows he is capable of as he enters his third month at the club.

The former Northampton Town man joined the club at the start of the January transfer window and has since played a part in every one of the Stags’ Sky Bet League Two matches.

And after a solid start to his Stags’ career, the former Stevenage midfielder thinks he is now returning to the type of form which has seen him win three career promotions.

“I think I started well when I came in and then obviously it catches up with you a little bit,” Byrom said.

Read more at http://www.mansfieldtown.net/news/article/2016-17/byrom-beginning-to-blossom-in-stags-midfield-3604953.aspx#WBEfTj923eDvKcvs.99

“I had a couple of off-games but I think I’m starting to get my fitness levels back up to where I want them to be and where the manager wants them to be and I'll hopefully kick on now until the end of the season."

We face Cheltenham Town on Saturday as they continue their quest for a League Two play-off spot and Byrom says Stags will need to ‘win the battle’ in order to return to Mansfield with points in the bag.

“You’ve got to match them, you’ve got to win the battle and then play on top of that. There will be times when you can get the ball down and play and we’ve got to work that to our advantage and create chances from that.

“The pitch will make it difficult but I think you’ve still got to look at it where you’ve just got to work harder than the opposition, win more tackles, win more headers - I think [you've got to do that] in League Two in general most weeks.

“It doesn’t matter what the pitch is like, we’ve just got to make sure when there is the time to get the ball down, we do it well and we create good chances from it.”

With 12 games remaining of the 2016/17 Sky Bet League Two season, the Lancashire-born 30-year-old says the team who finish the campaign with momentum often go on to achieve promotion.

“You have teams who go on runs and it’s normally the team towards the end of the season who get the momentum who go on and pick up wins and get runs going and get into the play-offs or into the automatic spots.

“That team that gets itself in the play-offs on a good run tends to do well in the play-offs, so we’ve just got to keep looking to pick up points [in] every game.

“You look at a [match] and you think it’s going to go one way and it goes the other way. We’ve just got to be one of those teams who doesn’t get on the end of one of those dodgy results.”

Supporters can view Joel Byrom’s full news conference by logging in to Stags PlayerHD.

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Byrom relishing a key week for Stags Joel Byrom
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, 2 Mar 2017

Mansfield Town midfielder Joel Byrom says he and his teammates are relishing what could be a pivotal week ahead in the Stags’ season.

A trip to Cheltenham Town on Saturday will be followed by a visit from second-placed Plymouth on Tuesday and then a game at fellow play-off chasers Colchester United.

And Byrom says that Mansfield have nothing to fear from those matches.

He said: “It’s the old cliche of one game at a time. It’s a big week for us with those games but they’re the sort of weeks you want to be involved in as a footballer as so much can ride on them.

Read more at: http://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/mansfield-town/byrom-relishing-a-key-week-for-stags-1-8417893

“They’re the games everyone wants to play in rather than games where there’s not much to play for. We’re not afraid of anyone as we’ve shown with our form since January that we’re as good as any team in this division.”

Byrom believes Stags were unlucky to come away from Yeovil Town with just a point on Tuesday night in a 0-0 draw, despite the hosts having had the better start.

He said: “It’s always tough at Yeovil. They played with a lot of energy early on and we struggled a bit in the first-half, but the manager got into us at half-time and in the second-half we had more than enough chances to win the game and played some really good stuff.

“We couldn’t live with their intensity in the first 10-15 minutes but we picked things up towards half-time and then carried that into the second-half.

“Ben Whiteman, Krystian Pearce and I all had good chances to score but we couldn’t find the net, but we’ve got to take the positives from the game in that the second-half performance was good and something for us to carry into the Cheltenham game.” Byrom was quick to praise the impact of fellow new signings Alex MacDonald and Alfie Potter alongside him in midfield. The trio have performed well together in recent games, with Byrom well aware of the qualities the new faces possessed long before they became teammates. He said: ““Alex and Alfie are great signings to add to the midfield. I’ve played against them both before and they always seemed to score against the teams I was playing for. “They’re full of energy and it’s good to have players like that around as it brings good competition for places as well as goals and assists.

“I started well when I came in but things caught up with me a bit and I had a couple of off games, but I’m starting to get back to where I want to be and where the manager wants me to be and can hopefully kick on now to the end of the season.” On Saturday’s upcoming trip to Cheltenham, Byrom says that whilst on paper Stags will be favourites to win, the form book can regularly be upset at this stage of the season. He added: “Carlisle went to Cheltenham and were beaten on Tuesday and the pitch didn’t look great so it’ll be a tough battle and we’ll need to get the ball down and play and create chances again. The pitch might make it difficult but if we work harder and win more tackles and headers we’ll be half way there, but if the chance is there to get it down and play we’ll do that. “Teams will be going on runs between now and the end. It happens every year and any side that makes a late run into the play-offs or goes into them in good form usually does well in them.

“There have been some strange results flying around but you’re going to get that every week now. We’ve just got to be one of those teams that isn’t on the end of a strange result.

“You have to make sure you recover quickly from the long trips like we had to Yeovil, more on a mental level than physical. It starts from the second the previous game finishes in readiness for the next one.”

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Mutual respect between former non-league foes
By Jon Palmer, March 02, 2017, gloucestershirelive.co.uk

There are not many things Gary Johnson and Steve Evans have not experienced on the touchline.

The managers have done battle in the technical area many times over the years, with Gary Johnson's Yeovil Town finishing third the year Evans led Boston United to the National League title in 2001/02.

Johnson's men followed the Pilgrims into the Football League 12 months later, with both managers capturing the championship in their second season at the helm.

They will go head to head at Whaddon Road on Saturday, with 54-year-old Evans now in charge of Mansfield Town.

They both have multiple promotions on their extensive CVs and 61-year-old Johnson said he admires the Glaswegian's passion.

"I remember one season the game before he was up against me, he squirted water at the opposition manager," Johnson said.

Read more at http://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/mutual-respect-between-former-non-league-foes/story-30175657-detail/story.html#2igrEWZ04SLJ3wyx.99

"The first thing I said to him was 'would you mind not squirting me with water' and he obliged!

"He is a competitor and an aggressive one, which is why I am sure is why his teams do well. There is no hiding place.

"We can all put on a nice persona, but sometimes you have to be that manager that gets the best out of his teams and Steve does that.

"When he was at Boston and I was at Yeovil we were both trying to get into the Football League.

"His personality is forceful and he has done well for himself so whatever his style is, it works."

Evans, who led Rotherham United to the Championship, said: "Cheltenham have a manager who said he thinks he had the best January transfer window in the league.

"That was evident by their results quickly changing.

"I'd expect nothing less from Gary Johnson. He is a winner as a manager.

"The one thing his players will be doing is giving him everything."

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