Nigel Clough admits Mansfield play-off campaign ‘highly unlikely’ after defeat

·2-min read
Isaac Parkin/PA Wire

Mansfield boss Nigel Clough admitted their Sky Bet League Two play-off dream looks to be over after a 2-1 home defeat by bogey side Harrogate.

The injury-hit Stags now head to Colchester for the final game three points outside the play-offs and with a poorer goal difference than their rivals above them.

“We have fallen short in the 45th game and, barring a miracle, not managed to take it to Colchester next week,” he said.

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“And I thought today’s game epitomised the season we’ve had, certainly here at the One Call.

“It is now highly unlikely we will make it now, but we will go there to try to win the game, as we do every game, and you never know – we will see what happens. But I am realistic and I don’t really believe in miracles.”

The Stags have never beaten Harrogate in their seven meetings and when Alfie Kilgour turned a Matty Daly ball past his own keeper in the 27th minute, the writing was on the wall.

Daly bagged a second in the 39th minute and, although Will Swan pulled one back in the 67th minute, Harrogate stood firm with keeper Mark Oxley making two superb saves to deny Lucas Akins and Ollie Clarke.

“It was a desperately unlucky first goal we conceded,” said Clough.

“Everyone was completely flattened by that. We knew then that we were up against it.

“Then they got another one. We were controlling the game and creating chances before that and after that.

“But we missed chances and the ball was not dropping for us throughout the game.

“I thought we looked a bit physically and mentally tired.

“Sometimes you need a break and their keeper made an incredible save from the corner. We have not had many breaks.”

Harrogate made themselves safe from the drop in midweek and have now only lost once in nine games.

Boss Simon Weaver said: “The spirit we showed second half can’t be undervalued. Since January we have rediscovered that and what we’ve been about.

“Going to bigger places than ourselves and fighting for the badge.

“It was an inspired second-half rearguard performance. Everyone was up for it.

“We have no sulkers here and everyone wants to be up for the ride next season and be part of it.

“We have been in a dogfight but we’ve produced top-seven, top-five form over the last part of the season – the business end when everything is at stake. Reputations and careers are at stake.

“So to come through it like these lads have done speaks volumes for them as characters. They have done it together and we are immensely proud of them.

“Both teams have been under pressure for some time now and I am so proud of our players that stood up to that as men.”