RUSSELL, BRISCOE AND MONEY REACTION
Duncan Russell and Richard Money reaction --->
Stags boss hopes reaching Wembley will give the whole town a lift
MANSFIELD Town boss Duncan Russell hopes reaching Wembley has put a smile on the face of the whole town.
Stags beat Luton 2-1 on aggregate on Saturday to secure a place in the FA Trophy final against fellow Blue Square Bet Premier side Darlington and it will be Mansfield's first big-time day out since they lost the 2004 Division Three play-off final at the Millennium Stadium to Huddersfield.
Russell said: "Mansfield people are a very earthy community. They have come from a mining mentality and I just hope when they all go to work this morning it will have put a smile on their face.
"This is not just for Mansfield Town the club, but the town of Mansfield and I'm sure they will get behind us in their droves going to Wembley.
"Hopefully, this can kickstart the club back to better times after some difficult years."
Russell has only been handed a contract until the end of the season, but hopes his FA Trophy exploits will help him land a deal for next season.
"I could be out of a job the following day after the final – we'll have to see what the chairman (John Radford) wants," said Russell.
"He is away on business at the moment so I can't knock on his door! If he wants to give me another season I hope I have proved I'm worth it.
"But I want a few more points in the bag in the league first where it's business as usual."
And match-winner Louis Briscoe added: "The gaffer and Paul (Hall) have always just told us to go out and play and I think they have made a difference.
"The gaffer has brought in some of his own ideas and a couple of players have gone in and out.
"I think in February and March if you look at our results we have been more consistent.
"We haven't got to the final before, so I think that you have to say they have made an improvement."
Briscoe admitted he could not have foreseen Mansfield going all the way to Wembley when he netted in the 5-0 success over Worksop back in December.
"The lads have all put a massive shift in not just against Luton, but all the way through," he said.
"We have been very professional against the teams below us. The 5-0 over Worksop could have been a 1-0 defeat if we hadn't been careful.
"We just about shaded it at home and for an hour at Luton we soaked it up before managing to get on top."
Russell sets his sights on bringing FA Trophy back to Field Mill
WEMBLEY-BOUND Mansfield Town manager Duncan Russell has set his sights on bringing home the FA Trophy when they square up to Darlington in the May 7 showpiece.
The Stags clinched a trip to the legendary stadium with a dramatic, aggregate 2-1 victory over Luton Town on Saturday.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg at Field Mill, the Hatters hit back to post the same scoreline after 90 minutes at Kenilworth Road through Lloyd Owusu.
But after Luton had two players sent off, Mansfield's Louis Briscoe netted two minutes from the end of extra-time, converting the rebound from his own missed penalty.
It was enough for a 1-1 draw and victory over two legs, which sparked wild scenes from players, management and almost 1,000 travelling fans.
It clinched the club's first Wembley visit for 24 years and Russell said: "I'm desperate to secure the FA Trophy.
"We are not just going to turn up at Wembley for the occasion.
"It's an unbelievable feeling to have got there and I want these players to go on and make their own history.
"I've been very lucky that I have been to Wembley and the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, before for big finals with MK Dons, Walsall and Wolves.
"I've never been on the losing side yet – and I'm not about to start now."
Russell revealed that the winning goal was a bit of a blur – not just down to the emotion, but because he didn't actually see it.
He said: "The clock had ticked on to 28 minutes of extra-time and we'd only got two minutes to score when we got the penalty.
"I thought whoever takes this could be a hero. I didn't really see the kick because all my bench jumped up.
"Kevin (Pilkington) pulled off a great save from Louis. I have to admit I did fear the worst because we were doing penalty drills when Pilks was here on loan and he knew our players' favourite positions.
"But Louis followed up with the rebound and I knew then that would be it."
Stags used sports psychiatrist to help clinch trip to Wembley
MANSFIELD Town used a sports psychiatrist to help clinch a trip to Wembley amid the white-hot atmosphere of Luton's Kenilworth Road, manager Duncan Russell revealed today.
The majority of the 6,000-plus fans for the FA Trophy semi-final second leg were rooting for a home side victory and did everything they could to steer the Hatters to the win.
But while two Luton players, Claude Gnakpa and Alex Lawless lost their heads and were sent off, Mansfield kept all 11 players on the pitch.
Russell believes that was key to earning a 1-1 draw after extra-time, which saw Mansfield through to the final after they had won the first leg 1-0 at Field Mill.
Louis Briscoe was the Stags hero with his 12th goal of the season two minutes from time as he followed up his own missed penalty.
"One of the things I said to the players was to give ourselves a chance. We needed to keep our discipline and 11 men on the field," said Russell.
"I'm very happy with the way they kept their cool. Slowly but surely, little things are coming and making us a better side.
"It was a hostile atmosphere. A sports psychiatrist came in and watched the lads and then we put some things together about the game.
"We told them the only difference was that the reward is playing at Wembley.
"Other than that, everything else was still the same. The size of the pitch, the fans, the size of the goals. It was still 11 v 11.
"They were told to play the game and not the occasion, don't fall in a pressure cooker.
"They did that brilliantly and I think we went there 1-0 up and managed to put them in the pressure cooker."
Russell rang the praises of two of his senior professionals, who were not involved in the match.
He said: "Steve Foster in the dressing room at half-time, full-time and in the hotel before was immense and so was Adam Murray.
"They were not involved but they deserve a pat on the back because they were so mature and helpful and the other players look up to them."
Match-winner Briscoe hails best moment of his career
LOUIS Briscoe described the feeling of scoring the goal that sent Mansfield Town to Wembley as the best moment of his career.
The winger has hit a purple patch of form since the turn of the year and been arguably the club's most consistent performer.
And in the crucial semi-final second leg against Luton at Kenilworth Road, Briscoe came up trumps once again, scoring at the second attempt from a penalty against former team-mate Kevin Pilkington – who was playing for the Stags on loan as recently as January.
It was the former Port Vale man's ninth goal of 2011, 12th overall, and enough to give Mansfield the 1-1 draw they needed after beating the Hatters 1-0 at home.
"I can't even begin to explain how brilliant it feels. It was the biggest game of my career, so certainly the biggest goal," said Briscoe.
"It is the greatest feeling I have ever had in the game when the ball went in – but I hope there are more moments like that to come.
"I thought it was a penalty. Luke Graham (ex-Mansfield) came out with his hands up. I didn't think the shot was going in, but there you go.
"I know Pilks well and I get on really well with him. He knew I was going to hit it hard and stayed strong to make the save.
"The ball could have gone anywhere, but I was lucky that it fell to me so I could score. I know if they had gone through then he would have felt for us, so I do feel sorry for him."
Briscoe paid tribute to the management team of Duncan Russell and Paul Hall who took over from David Holdsworth in November and have subsequently led the side to FA Trophy victories over Worksop, Newport, Alfreton, Chasetown and now favourites Luton.
He said: "It's great for the gaffer, Paul Hall, the fitness coach Steve (Bonnington), physio Jason (Truscott) and all the rest of the staff."
On-loan Grof gives his girlfriend Wembley present
GOALKEEPER David Grof hopes he did not upstage his girlfriend's birthday by helping Mansfield Town to Wembley.
The Hungarian invited her to watch him at Kenilworth Road as part of her big day and she saw him play an important role in helping the Stags draw 1-1 with Luton and clinch an aggregate 2-1 FA Trophy semi-final success.
Grof admitted it was a memorable day all-round for the couple as Louis Briscoe's goal sealed a 1-1 draw on the day after Mansfield won the first leg 1-0.
"It's just an amazing feeling to have got to Wembley. My girlfriend was up in the stand celebrating her birthday and I just hope I didn't taken the shine off it," said Grof. "I'm definitely going to be taking her out for a really nice meal. I didn't want her special day to be about me.
"But I know she was just delighted for me and it's a big achievement for everyone at the club."
Grof only arrived at Mansfield on loan from Notts County in January as third choice behind the injured Alan Marriott and Neil Collett.
But when former Coventry man Collett was struck down by a knee problem, the 21-year-old has seized his chance.
Now he is keen to fight off his rivals and keep hold of his jersey for the May 7 final against Darlington.
Grof said: "I came here not long ago and already I have enjoyed what is one of the moments of my career so far.
"It's something I could never really have expected when I joined the club at the start of this year. I didn't even know they were still in the FA Trophy!
"I would love to go on now and play in the final and I will be doing everything I can in the league to do it.
"I expected another busy game like I had at Field Mill and I got it at times."
FRUSTRATION, ANGER, PRIDE
lutontown.co.uk, Sat 19 Mar 2011
After his rallying cry on Friday in a defiant display at his pre-match press conference Town boss Richard Money was left with mixed emotions after seeing his side cruelly denied a place in the FA Trophy final following the 1-1 draw against Mansfield.
Down to nine men for the whole of extra time following the dismissals to Claude Gnakpa and Alex Lawless, the Hatters succumbed to a last-gasp goal from Louis Briscoe, tapping home after his initial penalty has been superbly kept out by Kevin Pilkington.
After asking for the players and supporters to work as one and getting exactly the response he wanted, the manager was clearly gutted for everyone involved as the Stags celebrated the prospect of meeting Darlington at Wembley on 7th May.
"It's a mixture of emotions," the boss told Hatters Player afterwards. "Frustrations, some anger but overall a great deal of pride for not just the team but for the supporters.
"I put my neck on the line yesterday and asked for a huge effort and what I asked for I got, the players were fantastic and the crowd superb, right from the first minute.
"I see this as a turning point. Together we have shown what are capable of. Whatever happens in the regular season we have to use this an experience for whatever we have to deal with if the situation of the Play-Offs arises and if it does we'll look to come through on the right side of things.
"We had a huddle at the end and I thought it was important that we showed the support our unity and it was then just as important that we had the opportunity to thank the fans for the support they'd given us, and that's what we want it to be like from here on in."
Money had mentioned the fine lines in football had gone against his men in recent weeks after the first leg and again at Cambridge on Tuesday.
And it was the same again against the Stags and the manager thinks Lady Luck isn't quite with his side at the minute with decisions not quite going their way.
"It was a familiar story first half - we hit the post and the ball rolls along the along line. The other week they hit the post and it goes in. We score a great goal from Lloyd and then you're looking to push on," he said.
"Then we've had two men sent-off. I think both are harsh and it probably summed up our day. Lawless jumps into his man, he doesn't lead with his arm, the player gets his head to it first while Claude was just about to be brought off for Amari Morgan-Smith.
"Then there's the penalty decision which is just a farce. If that's a penalty then we should have had 20 penalties this year.
"The referee missed the worst tackle and it's left George Pilkington with a big hole in his leg. We're not sure how long he's going to be out for.
"I didn't speak with the referee and don't wish too. I don't want to see him in my life again.
"We said after we went down to nine men that we need to stay organised and get through to penalties but that said we were very good and very brave - we had three forwards on the pitch to try and get some forward momentum.
"But it wasn't to be. Obviously we're disappointed but I hope the fans can be a bit blasé - they've had the JPT two years ago and now there are bigger matches to come."
The boss shook hands with fans and was applauded off the pitch at the end by the Hatters faithful which was something he admitted meant a lot to him.
"It meant an awful," he said. "I know I'm not everyone's cup of tea and people say 'his pr is poor' but it's not about pr, I think this club needs a manager who tells them what they need to hear, not want they want to hear.
"I know that makes me unpopular sometimes but I need to try and explain to people that this team have done very, very well."
All said and done and after six ties the road to Wembley has ended and whilst it was evident that whole club felt disappointment, there's still the prospect of promotion and the boss hopes this set-back can have a positive effect.
"You never know how much losing a league game can hurt you," he said. "You can never gauge that. But it gives us another experience of a two-legged tie of great importance. I think the biggest lesson learned is that the away leg is crucial. We played well at York last season and lost and I was disappointed after the first leg against Mansfield.
"But there are 12 league games left - objectives may chance. For Rushden we will have Pilkington, Gleeson, Murray, Lawless and Gnakpa all missing.
"If we have go into the play-offs then we have to make sure we hit them in good form. There were signs of that today and we've shown there is nothing to fear."
Stags boss so proud of his Wembley bound heroes
HE has had his critics and he is only under contract until the summer, but Stags manager Duncan Russell is tonight celebrating taking his side to Wembley for the FA Trophy final on 7th May.
The 1-1 draw against nine-man Luton Town in today's semi-final second leg gave them a 2-1 aggregate win over the competition favourites.
The Hatters thought they had managed to get through extra-time with only nine men after Alex Lawless and Claude Gnapka were sent-off near the end of the 90 minutes.
But Louis Briscoe was the hero as he tucked the ball home at the second time of asking on 118 minutes after Kevin Pilkington had saved his spot kick.
A delighted Russell, despite still having abuse shouted at him by furious home fans as he met the press, said: “That was absolutely unbelievable.
“I am very proud of my players tonight.
“It has been 24 years since the club last played at Wembley and I am really happy not just for the club but for the whole town to be going to Wembley.
“We are giantkillers. We have come here against all the odds and beaten the bigger club.
“We rode our luck at times, though we also had some great chances to go in front.
“I told them at half-time to keep working at it and don't fall asleep. Unfortunately Luton equalised straight away and I was unhappy with how we let them score.
“At that point I thought it was going to be ones of those games. I certainly didn't want extra-time.
“Then Luton suddenly had two men sent-off and both were sendings-off without a doubt. Both were ludicrous as our men were not going anywhere.
“Kyle Nix was knocked unconscious after being smashed on the back of the head and he won't be allowed to take part on Tuesday now either.
“The nine men defended very well and got men behind the ball. We should have tried to beat them by playing one and two touch passing, but we didn't do that as it seemed everyone wanted to be the hero and win the game for us.
“I can't say for sure if it was a penalty or not, I couldn't really see it and will look again on the DVD.
“Louis put it away on the follow up and he is delighted – especially as he knows he gets a goal bonus – and I am very happy for him.
“I think his girlfriend and having a baby have calmed him down a bit and he is staying in more and looking after his body better and reaping the rewards.”
He added: “I have told the lads to go out and enjoy themselves tonight. But not tomorrow as I want them in on Monday to train for Tuesday's trip to Histon.
“It is open who will be in the first 11 for Wembley so there is no sitting back in the league.
“I want to finish as high as possible and anyone not making effort in the league won't figure in my mind for the FA Trophy final.”
Russell faces an anxious wait over his own future in the summer and added: “The chairman is away on holiday right now so I can't go knocking on his door.
“I could be out of a job the following day after Wembley. They gave me until the end of the season and I hope I have proved my worth.
“But I have always said as long as I am in this post I will continue to keep doing my best.”
Furious Luton boss Richard Money said: “It was a day that will be pivotal in my reign here as I thought that as a football club – players and fans – today we showed what we are capable of together for the rest of the season.“I don't want to comment much on the decisions, but I do know that George Pilkington has a massive hole in his foot from Louis Briscoe's challenge who went on to score the winner.
“I don't think either of the (Claude Gnapka's) yellow cards were yellow cards – they were about worth a yellow between them – and Alex Lawless jumped for the ball and did not lead with his arm.
“If he (the referee) wants to send two of our players off, Mansfield could have had three or four sent off. But that's football.
“For the penalty, how was the lad going to get out of the way of that?
“It wasn't to be for us today. We have to learn lessons and one is that the away leg is important.
“We did everything we needed to do today. But not scoring at Mansfield last weekend has come back to bite us.”
Stags hero Briscoe salutes fans
MANSFIELD Town's FA Trophy semi-final hero Louis Briscoe relived his dramatic extra time penalty which clinched the Stags 2-1 aggregate win over Luton and their second ever trip to Wembley.
Briscoe, whose shot had been charged down to create the controversial spot kick deep into the extra period as the Stags fought to break down the nine-men home side, said: “Was it a penalty? Well, Luke Graham's arms went up and not in a natural-looking way which suggests to me it was a penalty.
“I tried to make it a bit more exciting by not scoring first time!
“Kevin Pilkington knows me and knows I am not the cutest. So he made a great save but the ball fell back to my lap and I put it away.
“He saw me score a similar penalty against Newport straight down the middle so Kevin must have remembered that.
“At the end I consoled a couple of the Luton players that I knew and shook hands, then went to celebrate with the away fans, who were brilliant and got right behind us.
“It is a brilliant feeling. It has been a great run right from Worksop away where, no disrespect we could have been turned over against the odds, and Chasetown away, who had already knocked out Grimsby and Kettering.
“Our run might have taken us a bit longer than it should have, but we are at Wembley now.
“Now everyone will be fighting for their places against Darlington, who are not a poor side.”
Everyone is bouncing, says Stags semi final man of match Naylor
MANSFIELD Town's young defender Tom Naylor was named man of the match after the thrilling 1-1 draw at Luton which clinched a place in the Wembley final of the FA Trophy.
After the last gasp Louis Briscoe goal sent the Stags through, he said: “I am over the moon, this is absolutely fantastic.
“Everyone wants to go to Wembley and now we are there we might as well make a day of it!
“Everyone is going absolutely mad in the dressing room, there are photographers in there, and everyone is bouncing up and down, listening to music and singing.
“Now I hope we are able to bring the cup back to Field Mill.
“We just kept on going today. My dad texted me to say he thought it was the best I had ever played and I thought I did well.
“Now we have to concentrate on the league, hopefully get into the top 10, and know that at the end of it all we have the bonus of a Wembley final waiting for us.”
Goalkeeper David Grof added: “I still can't believe it.
“It is a dream come true for me and for my family, particularly my dad and my brother. I did it for them as well.
“When I was growing up, English football was the best for me and I always followed it. You always want to play in England and to play in a final at the national stadium is a dream.
“I am only 21 and it will be the biggest day of my career if I play.
“I have to stay professional. We have league games coming up and I need to keep working hard and try to play in all the rest of our games and stay number one goalkeeper here.”
He added: “We expected Luton to come at us and I have no idea how I made that first save to be honest. I just reacted to it and my right hand just kept the ball out.
“It wasn't nice playing on their side of the ground. I could hear them shouting at me. But at the other end our fans were amazing to me. It was unbelievable to see so many come down.”
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