Derby day is one of the biggest in any fan’s calendar, but with Notts County and Mansfield Town just three points apart in the League Two table and the fight to get into League One heating up, this Saturday’s clash between the two East Midlands clubs is going to be pivotal in both sides’ promotion-based dreams.
Mansfield are bringing over 4,000 supporters to Meadow Lane and will certainly add an extra edge to this already tense fixture. Stags manager David Flitcroft has said that he wants to reward the travelling fans with a win, as since coming into the managerial role he has only secured 2 points from a possible 6. He said that his squad wants to be successful this season, that they are committed and that the club has done a fantastic job of pushing their promotion hopes.
However, he has acknowledged that Meadow Lane is a ‘fortress’ and they can only win the game if the players perform well. Goalkeeper Conrad Logan has also spoken to the press ahead of the derby, stating that the Stags are under no illusions and they have to take their victory against the Magpies earlier in the season with a pinch of salt. He acknowledges that this is a different game to the one they faced in September, but said the team have got to keep doing what they have been so far this season and that the number of travelling supporters could give them ‘a bit of will that might get us over the line’.
“the ones who come out on top are the ones who handle the pressure the best”
After a disappointing loss to Cambridge United, Notts County have shown their resilience by getting a draw and a win in their following games to put themselves back in the automatic promotion places. On 10th March they beat Forest Green Rovers to get their first away win since Boxing Day and are full of confidence approaching derby day. Kevin Nolan has stated that Mansfield are a good team who are always up for a battle, but he thinks his side can get a ‘positive result’.
Nolan said, “on the day, when you have an intense derby and something to fight for, the ones who come out on top are the ones who handle the pressure the best’ – and the boss believes his squad can do that. Defender Matt Tootle was one of the players on the score sheet at the weekend and did his now infamous slug celebration. Toots said that in training he has been working on getting in attacking positions more often and is keen to score again, but the slug will not be returning as he doesn’t want it to ‘lose it’s charm’.
Looking forward to Saturday’s clash, Tootle has said that players have to disregard what is happening in the stands and remember that it is just another game of football; something which will be important this weekend with nearly one quarter of the fans at Meadow Lane being there to support the opposition.
With Luton’s 6 point lead vanishing as Accrington Stanley overtook them to sit in first with a game in hand, it is evident there is still everything to play for in League Two, with the top three being separated by 6 points and the top seven by 13. County haven’t beaten Mansfield in the league since 1998, and if Mansfield win this tie it will put both teams on equal points in joint third position in the league. The pressure facing these players is monumental, and they have to keep their heads. Matt Tootle said he is approaching this game with ‘fire in the belly but ice in the mind’, and on Saturday fans will see if some of that fire can give County the edge to try and lessen the gap to second place, or if the pressure will be too much for an expectant large crowd at Meadow Lane.