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Stags still believe they can make the cut
CHAD.co.uk, 01 April 2010, By John Lomas
MANSFIELD Town's players enjoyed the club's annual golf day with the supporters yesterday knowing they have probably missed the cut for this year's BSP play-offs.
But, despite midweek results worsening their situation – they are now 10 points from the top five with only six games to play – the Stags are still refusing to accept they are stuck in the BSP bunker for another year.
"It is a challenge," said first team coach Gareth Holmes ahead of two Easter games against Wrexham at home on Saturday and away to Cambridge on Monday which could finally seal Mansfield's fate.
"But history has always been changed by people who stand up to challenges and fight in adversity.
"You won't succeed in every challenge, but we will go into the rest of the games with a vigour and a belief and do our best – that's all we can do.
"We want to finish as high as we can and if we get into the play-offs then brilliant."
Midfielder Jon Challinor added: "At the end of the day you have to look at the bigger picture and there are 18 points still to play for and we will fight to win every one of them, starting against Wrexham on Saturday.
"You never know what will happen. We have still got to play the teams around us and if they lose a game they could lose their confidence.
"We must pick up as many points as we can and take it from there.
"We really should be in the play-off spots but for whatever reason we have dropped off recently. The ball hasn't been dropping for us though a lot of teams could say that.
"I really can't put my finger on it. There have been games where we have played really well and others where we haven't turned up. It is down to the inconsistency of the team."
At least Stags have played more football in their last three games than they have all year. "Ask any footballer and you want to get it down and play, every team wants to," said Challinor.
"But it doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes you have go to mix it up. Maybe we were just being too direct too soon all the time.
"So we sat down and had a chat about taking that extra pass and trying to work it from the back."
Skipper Luke Foster said: "We have to be realistic, the table doesn't lie and we are where we are for a reason.
"But there have been a lot of plusses this season. People are ruling us out but football is a funny game and anything can still happen.
"We are hoping on other teams slipping up but we have to keep going to the end of the season for ourselves, for the manager and for the fans. If we don't make it this time, we can then take that form into next season and hit the ground running.
"The play-offs is a hard task now but not Mission Impossible. Anyone can beat anyone else in this league as we have seen and we need two or three results to go for us.
"It would be silly to say we can afford to lose many. So we must just concentrate on us and no one else and see what happens."
Wrexham have won both games against David Holdsworth since he came to Mansfield, but the current form book shows Stags only losing one in nine and the Dragons only winning one in nine.
"Wrexham are a good passing side and have got the ball down and played football with mixed success," said Gareth Holmes.
"But on their day they are a threat. They have some good players and some are bound to be out of contract in the summer and will be wanting to earn their bread.
"We have been higher than Wrexham all season and we are looking to maintain that."
On the golf day, he (edit - this was Holmes saying this...) added: "It was a very enjoyable day. You get the chance to speak to local fans and build up a rappore.
"I spent a lot of time in the bunkers, I think I was building sandcastles! It took me more like six hours to get round instead of four and a half.
"We have a very loyal fan base here and on the golf day you get to hear fans' opinions and you are able to put your opinions to them. It gives good insight."
Stags' Holmes: Fans' views important
Evening Post, April 02, 2010
GARETH Holmes spent much of Wednesday trudging around in sand, but the Mansfield Town first team coach is not burying his head in it.
Along with boss David Holdsworth and several of the Stags squad, he played in the club's golf day and, as a player of self-confessed limited ability, hit the bunkers as much as the fairways.
But while his Rufford Park round was nothing to write home about, he was delighted to get the chance to meet some of the club's loyal supporters and listen to their views.
And the former Hucknall and Eastwood player, one of the youngest coaches in the game at 28 to have qualified for his A licence, was only too happy to offer his thoughts in return.
As the people who effectively bankroll the club, Holmes believes it is important to take on board the supporters' opinions – even if it means spending extra hours out on the golf course.
"I don't play much golf, so I played off 28 and that was for a good reason," said Holmes. "I spent plenty of time in the bunkers and I was zig-zagging across the course.
"Blair Sturrock is the best player, he plays off scratch and Ryan Williams is useful too, although I think he is a bit of a bandit! But I spent something like six hours on the course rather than the usual four.
"The good thing was that it gave me plenty of time to chat to fans and put faces to the people who get behind us; what they are feeling about recent games and the season.
"That's not easy when emotions are running high after games, but it was nice in that environment to be able to talk over our respective views.
"These people and the many other fans back us year in, year out and you can see the affection they have for the club.
"We have a very loyal fan base and we want to reward them with success.
"(Kevin) Keegan said about the Geordies that going to Newcastle's ground is like their opera house.
"That is true of the fans here on a smaller scale, where they come after a hard week's work to be entertained.
"We have to strike the balance between entertaining and getting the results and we have not been too far off in the last couple of weeks."
Mansfield finished 12th in the Blue Square Premier last season with 62 points
Had they not have been deducted the six points they earned against Chester City following their expulsion from the league, the Stags would have already passed that tally this season.
But more importantly, Holmes wants an improvement in their positioning, a top ten finish at the very least, as Mansfield host Wrexham tomorrow.
He said: "You are always looking to have an end product and you always have to be moving forward and trying to get higher up the division.
"If you are going further down than where you have been before, that is not where you want to be.
"For some people the final position in the league table is the defining factor over whether you have made progress.
"Other people would view it as watching beautiful football week in week out, even if it means finishing lower down the table. We all have our own views but ours is that we need to strike a balance.
"We don't want to be here forever, we want to be back in the Football League as soon as possible.
"To do that we need the players to make the right decisions at the right time, whether that's to play free-flowing football or to show the resilience we need to grind out a result."
With one eye on next season, Holmes warns it will not get any easier for the Stags as they bid to get back in Football's elite at the third attempt.
"If you look at the attendance records in this league, there are six teams whose average would be in the top 12 of League Two," said Holmes.
"That's an incredible stat and shows the serious level of competition in this division and how hard it is to get out of.
"If you'd have said ten years ago that Oxford, Luton, Cambridge, Wrexham, York and ourselves would have been in the Conference, you wouldn't have believed it.
"It is only going to get more competitive next year as well with the possibility of Darlington and Grimsby coming down and only one automatic promotion place."
Stags' Foster: No surrender on play-offs
Evening Post, April 02, 2010
MANSFIELD Town skipper Luke Foster insists making the Blue Square Premier play-offs 'is not mission impossible.'
But even if the Stags do not clinch a top five place, he is determined to end the season in a positive manner.
Mansfield are now ten points off the play-off places with six games to go and a maximum 18 points available.
Foster says it is not in the players' thinking to give up until they have been mathematically ruled out.
"It is going to be hard to do it now but it is not mission impossible," he said.
"There are still points to play for and if two or three results go our way it could still be all to play for – if we do the business.
"I think we have to win pretty much every game now to have any chance. The thing to do is look after ourselves and not worry about anyone else.
"No matter what, we have to make sure we finish this season on a high so we can hit the ground running next season.
"We want to get back in the League and this time next year I want us to be top of the table or in the play-off places.
"I want to be looking forward to a big game in the semi-final at Field Mill and the possibility of a trip to Wembley."
Tomorrow the Stags, who have lost one of their last nine games, host a Wrexham side who have won only one in ten.
Foster added: "Wrexham have a lot of experienced players and they have probably not done as well as they could have done considering their resources and stadium.
"As long as we make sure we stop their attacking threat then we have got a good chance because we are playing some good stuff now and they aren't as strong as people think."
Holdsworth keen on Stags summer status quo
Evening Post, April 01, 2010
MANSFIELD Town's squad is unlikely to undergo wholesale changes in the summer, David Holdsworth confirmed today.
Last summer saw the Stags boss shake things up at Field Mill, releasing a number of players and bringing in his own signings.
Although the odds are firmly against the Stags making the play-offs this season, they have made a steady improvement on 2008-09.
As a result, Holdsworth will be content to tinker with personnel but not completely rebuild.
"There are lots of things that the players can learn but they do have a good togetherness," said Holdsworth.
"Consistency is what we want from the players and the likes of Alan Marriott, Rob Duffy, Kyle Perry and Gary Silk have done that.
"The left-back area has been a concern at times. It is where a few goals came from earlier in the season.
"But I feel the players have grown as the season has gone on, a lot of them have stepped up, with the likes of Blair Sturrock an example.
"I do have to make decisions, I think there are 14 players out of contract, including the young ones.
"But we have a nucleus of players we want to keep."
As always, Holdsworth is not just planning for Saturday's home game with Wrexham, but also has one eye on the future.
He said: "I have already drawn plans up for next season. We have got some very good friendlies in the pipeline and the players will be reporting back for pre-season training on June 26.
"We have already started looking at areas where we can improve.
"We have been almost there on a lot of occasions. It has been a terrific season in terms of (scoring) goals.
"But we have to address the balance at the other end. We have to be mentally stronger. Sometimes we have accepted things a little too easily.
"And we have to take more responsibility in wide areas when defending."
Challinor keen to stay at Stags
Evening Post, March 31, 2010
JON Challinor today pledged to 'give his all' in a bid to win a new deal at Mansfield Town.
The goalscoring midfielder was signed by David Holdsworth in November from Cambridge United, initially on loan.
He later signed for the rest of the season and has since become a regular in the side.
But the former Rushden and Aldershot man is one of several players whose deal runs out at the end of the season.
He is hoping to use the last six games of the season to push his case for staying at Field Mill in 2010-11.
"The important thing is that the gaffer has given me the chance to play regularly," said Challinor.
"We have got about 3,000 fans here on average this season and that's what you want to be playing in front of and if we do well next season, more fans will come out.
"We have had an initial chat about next season just to see where we are and he has said he is looking to keep me.
"But he has put a contract on hold until the end of the season, so we just have to see where it goes.
"I think every player at the club is on trial and fighting for their futures, especially those, like me, who will be out of contract.
"We will have to see how those players will respond, but for me it will give me an edge in fighting for a new deal.
"I'm enjoying it here. They are a great bunch of lads."
Burgess keen to forget 'difficult season' at Stags
Saturday, April 03, 2010
MIDFIELDER Andy Burgess today revealed he already has one eye on next season – and helping Mansfield Town to glory.
The Stags still have six games left in 2009-10 – four of them at Field Mill – starting with today's home game against Wrexham.
But with their play-off chances almost at an end, there is a determination among the Stags squad to make further progress next season.
And after a personal nine months to forget – during which he has served an FA ban for betting on BSP games – Burgess is determined to lead from the front in the final year of his 18-month deal.
"This club should be up there, right at the top. It's a massive club in terms of the Blue Square Premier," he said.
"If we don't do it this season, and this is probably said every season, we certainly want to be up there next season.
"It's about consistency. In everything, it helps if you have consistency of selection with not many injuries and suspensions.
"It has been a difficult season for me. I have not played anywhere near as many games as I've wanted to.
"Hopefully I can play regularly and offer a lot more."
Burgess has generally been used on the left by David Holdsworth.
But he is keen to offer his creative input in the middle of the park, as he did for the majority of his two stints at Rushden and Diamonds.
He said: " I prefer to be in the middle. That way you are involved for 90 minutes.
"But I don't know if the manager sees me as a central midfielder."
Stags midfielder Challinor back in the goal groove
Saturday, April 03, 2010
STRIKERS are renowned for venting their feelings of frustration when stuck in a lean spell, but it can happen to midfielders as well.
Take Jon Challinor for instance. He hoped to enjoy a scoring spree when he joined Mansfield Town from Cambridge United.
But it didn't happen, despite a goal on his debut in a 1-1 draw with Eastbourne.
Challinor came to Field Mill with an excellent strike rate.
He hit a goal roughly every four games and scored 11 times in one season for Aldershot and 12 in another for Exeter City.
But his touch deserted him in his early months in north Notts, leading him to examine his game after a run of 11 goalless games.
Thankfully for him and Mansfield, that self-analysis seems to have worked.
Challinor has found the net in recent games against Salisbury and Kettering and hopes there are more to come before the end of the campaign, which includes games against Wrexham this afternoon and previous club Cambridge on Monday.
"In some games, I haven't been getting anywhere near the penalty box, let alone having a shot, so I have sat down and analysed what has been going wrong," he said.
"I decided now I have got fitter I could get forward a lot more, rather than sitting back.
"If the forwards aren't scoring, we haven't really shared goals around that well.
"So I know I need to be chipping in. The good thing is I'm now getting lots more shots off, because I'm in and around the box a lot more."
Challinor says a change in playing style has helped.
He said: "The gaffer has encouraged us to play the ball more. It's a shame we have not played like it sooner. Everyone prefers to play on the floor.
"It is not always easy to do it. But it is down to the players to be brave, get on the ball and, if they make mistakes, then so be it."
Several players, Challinor included, are out of contract in the summer, but the 29-year-old hopes changes are minimal.
"We can carry on what we have started next season, now we have started to play some good stuff. We can build on it," he said. "You have to have continuity. It will be good to keep the nucleus of the squad.
"You are not starting from scratch, an understanding is already there."
First though, Challinor is focusing on today's clash with Dean Saunders' men, who Mansfield have lost to on all three occasions since dropping into the Blue Square Premier.
He said: "They are a capable side but with the better style of football we will try to take the game to them."
After that Challinor returns to his old Cambridge stomping ground, where he says Stags will have to be on their guard.
"At the moment, the one person who stands out for them is Danny Crow," he said. "He has really come into his own, with 21 goals."
Challinor is never going to be that prolific in Mansfield's final six games, but if he can net on two or three occasions, he will be more than happy.
Latest | April 2010