Ollie Clarke: Strong finish to the season is important
chad.co.uk, Friday 23rd April 2021
Skipper Ollie Clarke says there is a strong desire in the Mansfield Town squad to finish the season on a high and give fans optimism for the next campaign.
Stags head to Manchester on Saturday to face a Salford City side still every bit in play-off contention, sitting in ninth place in SkyBet League Two and just three points behind seventh-placed Newport County.
Gary Bowyer’s men have lost just once in their last five games and Clarke believes that now Stags’ safety is secured, he and his team-mates can go out and enjoy the remaining games.
He said: “The pressure is off now and we can go and enjoy the last three games.
"We want to finish the season on a high so that the fans come back with a bit of optimism for next season because we’ve got a very good squad here and I think that for various reasons we haven’t come together and performed as a whole on the pitch, but the times that we have done you can see that there is something in there to be built on with a few additions.
"You want to see the season out strongly and given we’ve picked up some good form we almost wouldn’t want to stop playing, so we want to keep performances going and be able to hit the ground running next season.”
Clarke also praised the impact of manager Nigel Clough since he arrived to replace Graham Coughlan.
He said: “It’s down to his training and the way he is - particularly his hard-working mentality. What we do in training is pretty simple stuff in that he doesn’t complicate anything, but you have to put your hard work in and then you get your rest days.
"We don’t look into too much of the other teams’ details, we just worry about ourselves and work on ourselves and if we show teams what we’re trying to do then we’ll probably come out better off.”
Regarding Tuesday’s fine win over Scunthorpe, Clarke, like his team-mates, was over the moon as the Stags confirmed their safety in League Two.
He said: “Everyone came together over the last few games and we performed quite well in terms of a decent away performance and clean sheet and then we brought that home against Scunthorpe when we were very solid and played some nice football, which is what we need to continue doing.”
Like Mansfield, Salford were winners in midweek after overcoming hosts Walsall 2-0 with goals from veteran striker Ian Henderson - his 15th goal of the season - and Jordan Turnbull.
Why was Nigel Clough mixing with Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon and Donald Trump in Scotland?
Nigel Clough has been pictured with some key figures in world politics whilst watching a football match in Scotland.
Clough was pictured behind British prime minister Boris Johnson, former US president Donald Trump and Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, all of whom were munching on burgers.
OK, so it wasn’t actually Johnson, Trump and Sturgeon - merely cardboard cut-outs, but Clough really was there as he took in a match between Hamilton Academical and Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership.
Speculation is rife amongst Stags fans as to who Clough could have been there to see play, with the favourite currently being Devante Cole, who was loaned to Clough at Burton Albion from Wigan and is the son of former Manchester United striker, Andrew, although several other names could be possibilities.
April 23, 2021
Salford City will continue to push for a play-off spot this weekend when Mansfield Town visit The Peninsula Stadium.
Gary Bowyer’s side are three points behind Newport County in seventh, who play eighth-place Exeter City on Saturday. Because of that a win can’t put The Ammies into the top seven, but it would certainly keep the pressure and the chase on.
April has been a month of improvement for Salford, winning three of six outings and losing just once, and in the final four games of the season the whole squad will have a part to play.
With four goals and an assist in six in April, Ian Henderson is weighing in with his share but the Ammies’ top scorer agrees that it’s down to the efforts of the squad. Vying for a second career promotion from League Two, the 36-year-old feels Salford are in a decent place at the moment.
“I think it’s a good position to be in, we’ve got ourselves in the best possible position with four games remaining and this may sound a little bit cliché but all we can do is play against our opponents, give it our best and try and bring home some points to keep on racking them up on the points tally.
“I’d like to think all of us as individuals and a team have contributed throughout the season, irrespective of who is scoring the goals or playing.
“The whole squad has really, really contributed and now going into this final part of the season we’re going to need everyone to stick together to put us in the best possible position.”
Salford have no new injury concerns, with Mani Dieseruvwe in contention after managing a knock. James Wilson and Bruno Andrade are nearing a return but not quite ready.
Unbeaten in four now, Mansfield visit The Peninsula Stadium for the first time hoping to make it three wins in a row for the first time since they did it in January… With a 2-1 win against Salford.
Clough has already stated that now they will use the remaining games to have a look at some of the younger players, with 20-year-old Tyrese Sinclair leading the way and scoring twice in three games.
Youth doesn’t make Mansfield any less of a threat, and the vastly experienced Henderson is still expecting a thorough challenge from Saturday’s visitors.
“I think they’ll be a resolute team, [like any] Mansfield team I’ve ever played.
“When we played them this season they were down our throats and they played a little bit of a different formation than they’d been used to so it’s going to be a competitive game.
“All games in League Two will be like that and it’s down to us to implement our style, our individual and team personality on the game, and again win our battles, our individual duels, then as a collective hope to bring back three points.”