PREVIEW: Mansfield Town v Luton Town

Alex Lacey heads clear against Mansfield last season
Alex Lacey heads clear against Mansfield last season

Mansfield Town remain firmly ensconced in the League Two play-off picture this season despite a stuttering run of results recently.

The Stags put last year’s disappointing position of 21st behind them early on with seven wins from their opening 14 games, to look like they could well be in the hunt to get out of the division at the right end this term.

However, since a 1-0 win at Yeovil on October 20, Adam Murray’s men have found results harder to come by, with just three league victories in in 12 fixtures since, drawing three and losing the other six.

Home form has been an issue for the Stags all season too, as although they beat Stevenage 2-1 last time out, they have only won four at Field Mill so far, drawing six and losing the other four.

Despite that, they remain firmly in the hunt for a top seven berth, sitting in ninth place, just two points away from Wycombe Wanderers who occupy the final spot for now, as Murray remains confident his side has what it takes, telling the Mansfield Chad: “We are going to have a go for 20 games and see where we end up. We want to try to sneak into that play-off place.

“I think probably three places will be taken, maybe four, so there are about six of us scrapping for that last four and we will be in the mix.

“We’ve 20 games left – let’s have a right good go and what will be will be. Let’s go and win football matches.”

With the January transfer window open, Murray has been relatively busy, signing versatile Walsall attacker James Baxendale on a month-long loan, with a view to a permanent deal, while winger Nathan Thomas has moved to Hartlepool United.

However, hopes to extend Notts County left back Blair Adams’ loan spell were denied with new Magpies boss Jamie Fullarton keen to look at all the players available to him.

Murray himself is impressing in his first managerial job too and was linked to the recent vacancy at Walsall, something that came as no shock to the Stags board.

A club statement at the time said: “The club is not surprised by the rumoured interest. It reflects the huge strides which have been made under his management.

“Adam is under contract with the club and we are confident that he will continue to build on the work which he has started for many more years to come.”

Team news: Hatters boss Nathan Jones will face decisions on Danny Green (ankle), Mark Tyler (back) and Ryan Hall (leg) after they all had to come off injured against Cambridge United at the weekend.

For Mansfield, striker Chris Beardsley is fit again after a shin problem, but striker Adi Yussuf (groin) and Mal Benning (knee) are both missing.

Top scorers: Hatters: Cameron McGeehan (9). Stags: Matt Green (9).

Man in the middle: Ben Toner - official has taken 17 games this season, showing 63 yellows and two reds so far.

One of those dismissals was Hatters defender Scott Cuthbert in the final minute against Notts County during the 3-2 defeat for Town back in September.

Promoted from the Conference last year where he took 23 matches, showing 55 yellows and three reds.

Has officiated Luton once before, that the 2-1 defeat at Welling in the FA Cup back in 2013.

Assistant referees are Jason Whiteley and Matthew Donohue, with the fourth official Joe Simpson.

In charge: Adam Murray - 34-year-old who began his career at Derby County, turning professional in August 1998.

Had spells at Mansfield, Kidderminster, Notts County, Carlisle United and Torquay United, before moving to Macclesfield in January 2007 for £17,500.

He was then on his way to Oxford 12 months later, and then moved to Luton Town in June 2010 for a short stint, but was loaned to Mansfield in October of the same year, with the move turning permanent in January 2011.

Became assistant manager at Field Mill in June 2012 and was appointed caretaker boss after Paul Cox departed in November 2014.

Named permanent boss in December 2014, as he became the youngest manager in the Premier League or the Football League at the time, before signing a new contract with the club in October last year.

View from the dug out: Mansfield boss Adam Murray - “You can have all the resources and pull in the massive crowds, but we work hard and we do a lot of work on the training ground that has got us to where we are.

“So we will go into this game confident. They have got a new manager, so they have that rush, but we believe we are a competitive team for anyone in this league. I know him (Nathan Jones) and his background and he is a very good coach.

“You can only go off one game really. You can look back at other games but you don’t know what he is putting in. The preparation will be about us.

“They’ve got a great squad – I think they’ve got something like 30 pros – so I think it’s just a matter of time before someone gets holds of it and points it in the right direction.

“We have to be aware of what they bring. But I have got so much belief in my team at the minute that when we get it right we are going to be okay.”

One to watch: Matt Green - 29-year-old striker who is back for his third spell at Mansfield.

Began life at Newport County and had spells at Cardiff, Darlington, Oxford, Torquay, Cheltenham and then Mansfield in July 2011, where he scored 54 goals during a loan and ultimately permanent stay.

Headed to Birmingham for two injury blighted seasons as he was restricted to 12 appearances, returning to Mansfield in the summer.

Netted nine goals in 27 games so far this season, including against AFC Wimbledon last weekend.

Played for both: George Pilkington. 34-year-old centre half who joined Luton in 2008 from Port Vale and went on to make 172 appearances scoring 12 times before he opted to join Mansfield.

Only played seven times for the club before moving to Macclesfield, where he remains, with 27 appearances so far this season.

Friendly faces: Stags manager Adam Murray had a brief spell at Luton Town in the 2010-11 season, making seven appearances, before he signed for Mansfield on loan and then permanently in January 2011.

We’ve got form: Luton have never tasted victory at Mansfield in a league contest, since their first visit back in 1932.

In that time, they have drawn six and lost seven matches, scoring 10 times and conceding 23 times.

They have enjoyed one triumph, that during a League Cup tie in 1989 though, when doubles from Roy Wegerle and Lars Elstrup led to a 4-3 win for the visitors.

The other cup meeting though, in the FA Trophy, saw Luton beaten once more, slipping to a 1-0 loss as their overall record reads one win, six draws and eight defeats, scoring 14 and conceding 27.

Last time out: Luton were beaten once more at Mansfield last season, going down 1-0 as Rakish Bingham netted the only goal of the game after 32 minutes.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths, Alex Lacey, Fraser Franks, Jake Howells (Ryan Hall 46), Jonathan Smith, Andy Drury, Matt Robinson (Nathan Oduwa 46), Mark Cullen, Jayden Stockley (Luke Guttridge 71).

Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Andy Parry, Shaun Whalley, Ross Lafayette.

Attendance: 2,998.

Referee: Kevin Johnson.