Opposition view: Clough says 'edgy' Mansfield 'can play a lot better' after play-off semi-final first leg

‘They did very well at stopping us playing our normal game tonight.’
Nigel Clough.Nigel Clough.
Nigel Clough.

Mansfield manager Nigel Clough gave credit to Northampton for ‘stopping’ his side from being ‘anywhere near’ their best in Saturday’s play-off semi-final first leg at Field Mill.

The Stags appeared on course for Wembley when they eased into a 2-0 first-half lead through goals from Rhys Oates and Jordan Bowery.

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But the home side managed just six shots in total during the game, only one of which came after half-time, while Northampton racked up almost double (11) and got their reward in a strong second-half display thanks to Ali Koiki’s first goal for the club.

“The effort and endeavour was remarkable tonight, as it has been for most of the season,” said Clough.

“It was another home victory, which is 14 out of 16 home league matches, which is incredible considering the pressure we were under in the last half-hour.

“A lot of credit must go to Northampton after they got the goal – they put pressure on us and we had to defend extremely well.”

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Despite hanging onto the lead, Clough was not especially pleased with his side’s performance.

“I wish the second leg was tomorrow as I think we can play a lot better than we did tonight,” he added.

“I think our nerves were a bit edgy at times and we didn't get our foot on the ball and play. I think we will be better away from home.

“We are still in there after 47 games. We are still in with a chance.

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“We didn't play anywhere nearly as well as we have done in recent weeks and months, but that's the nature of the play-offs.

“You just have to try to be effective and win the game. Also, don't make mistakes - we made one tonight and were punished for it.

“We gave the ball away cheaply on the edge of their box and then that's their strength, breaking as they did.

“They did very well at stopping us playing our normal game tonight. The minimum we should have had was a 2-0.”