Mansfield v Pompey: The insider

Stags defender Ryan Tafazolli   Picture: Steve UttleyStags defender Ryan Tafazolli   Picture: Steve Uttley
Stags defender Ryan Tafazolli Picture: Steve Uttley
Mansfield have this season been overachievers, exceeding expectations and gatecrashing the play-off spots.

In Adam Murray’s first full season he has worked miracles and it would be a shame if the Stags couldn’t finish in the top seven.

He came in last season to stop a sinking ship with an awful squad and helped keep them in the Football League by the skin of their teeth.

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Since then Murray has brought in his own men, is planning to introduce a residential academy, and things are going well off the pitch as well as on it.

He has done an incredible job at the bookies’ pre-season favourites to go down. In doing so, raising expectations.

The Stags are presently 11th, with a run of three successive defeats seeing them drop at the worst possible time.

The expectations this season was to advance on last year – yet they have instead been in the play-off spots virtually the whole season.

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They are currently five points off seventh place with 10 games remaining, so there is still a chance.

One strange statistic is Mansfield have not yet beaten any side in the top 12 of League Two this season.

Murray has a tiny squad which has creaked in recent weeks with injuries, suspensions and loss of form.

Goalscoring has also been a bit of a problem, but this week they recruited Manny Dieseruvwe on loan from Chesterfield.

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Craig Westcarr has been sent on loan to Southport, but the returning Matt Green has scored 11 times during the campaign.

He had a nightmare with injuries during a two-year spell at Birmingham, having left Field Mill in 2013, but is fine again now.

In the centre of defence, Ryan Tafazolli and Krystian Pearce have been immaculate this season.

Tafazolli is out of contract this summer and realistically the Stags will loose him – he will go higher. Formerly on Southampton’s books, he is good in the air, very composed on the ground and chips in with goals.

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Mal Benning is an ex-Walsall left-back who has been absolutely outstanding.

Of his three goals this season, two have been some of the best you will ever see – pinpoint volleys from outside the box. Certainly one of the players of the season.

Murray has had three spells at the club as a player before retiring to become the youngest manager in the Football League last season.

He is very happy at Field Mill and hopefully can keep impressing by leading them into the play-offs.