Forest Green Rovers will be looking to make amends for a disappointing display at Cambridge when they make the trip north to face Mansfield Town at Field Mill.
Mark Cooper’s side remain in the automatic promotion places, and sit four points behind leaders and local rivals Cheltenham Town.
As for Mansfield, they are marooned in 16th position, having suffered a tough few years following their play-off semi-final defeat to Newport County in 2019.
Despite their stuttering form, with just two wins in their past 12, Cooper is under no illusions of the task facing his side on Tuesday night.
⚽️ Forest Green Rovers’ manager, Mark Cooper provided an update on defender Jordan Moore-Taylor's injury. pic.twitter.com/stQyShPUoL— Park Life Sport (@ParkLife_Sport) March 22, 2021
‘Nigel (Clough) had an incredible effect when he came in,” the 52-year-old proclaimed. He’s a top manager at this level and above, he always gets his teams at it and playing.
“Next season I’m sure they’ll be a massive threat in the division. They’re still competitive in every game that I’ve seen, they beat Cheltenham the other week didn’t they.
“They’re dangerous opposition.”
“If you don’t fight you won’t win, even if you have Lionel Messi” – Mark Cooper ahead of Forest Green Rovers’ trip to Mansfield Town
Rovers fell to a drab defeat on the road at Cambridge last time out, though have several first-team players out through injury.
Whilst admitting his hand has been forced in regards to team selection, Cooper admitted those on the pitch needed to raise their levels if they are to maintain a promotion push.
“I’m not looking for any excuses but we are just looking to get through this period at the minute as best we can by putting as many points on the board as possible until we get the players back that can help us on the pitch.
“If we go down the park now and we play 11 against 11, and put our jumpers down for goalpost, the team that runs, fights, and competes the most will win the game unless they’ve got Lionel Messi in the team.
“If you don’t compete in a game, it’s impossible to win.
“For whatever reason, we didn’t compete. We were devoid of energy, and for 45 minutes we were passive, we didn’t affect the opposition.”
Amongst those currently sidelined are Kane Wilson, Ebou Adams, and Jordan Moore-Taylor, though the former Exeter City midfielder revealed that the later could be available for selection as early as Saturday.
“We’re hoping that Jordan is going to be available for us to play on Saturday, which will be just over four weeks.
“Ebou is progressing but he won’t be available for the next two games.”
The only goal on Saturday came courtesy of Norwich City legend Wes Hoolahan, who waltzed through the visiting defence to slot past goalkeeper Lewis Thomas.
It was a crucial match, with Cambridge and Forest Green occupying the second and third automatic promotion slot respectively.
It was the nature of the goal which frustrated Cooper, who lamented his side’s defensive display.
“It was Great ability from Wes, he’s a top player, but we had three players around him who dillied-and dallied.
“Nobody engaged Wes Hoolahan, we just let him shoot, it was passive defending, we’ve got to be better than that.”
It’s been a hectic schedule of late, with Mansfield themselves scheduled to compete 13 times in the next six weeks.
Alongside the delay caused by COVID-19, the pitch at Field Mill has been culpable for several postponements, and Cooper went on record last February stating that he would have to observe the state of the turf before choosing his team.
“They’re had lots of games called off haven’t they, and they have to play them all in a short space of time.
“We haven’t got much choice with the team at the minute if I’m honest. I will work on the team today, and prepare them for tomorrow night.