NEILSON ON MANSFIELD
Alan Neilson sat before the press on Thursday afternoon ahead of his second home début as caretaker boss when Mansfield visit Kenilworth Road tomorrow afternoon.
Speculation slices through the football club as the managerial vultures swarm with the post still vacant but Neilson has one sole focus ahead of this weekend's fixture, three points.
“The focus of myself and the staff is just to focus on the game.” he said at the press conference.
“Focus on Mansfield, how they will play, how we will counteract it and how we can hopefully get the three points.”
The departure of Paul Buckle shocked the entire football club from players to fans alike, Neilson spoke honestly about a turbulent week within the club.
“It was a shock to everybody's systems,” he said,
“But the players came in Wednesday and trained, trained Thursday and Friday and try to prepare everyone for the game on Saturday.
“You never know what is going to happen in football so we will just focus on Mansfield.”
Tuesday night's 1-1 draw at Macclesfield marked Neilson's third spell as caretaker boss for the Hatters but he insists no major overhaul in their preparation for this Saturday under different leadership.
“Not really anything different we are just trying to get the quality out.” Neilson said,
“I think we saw in the second half against Macclesfield there wasn't enough quality, we didn't pass the ball well enough and it looked like they were bigger, better and stronger than us. That comes from winning games, winning football matches.
“After the game last Saturday against Millwall there was a big disappointment because we felt we let ourselves down. Personally I think we let ourselves down again on Tuesday, we let 10 men come back into the game.
“Our focus now is to get the players to relax, feel comfortable on the ball, we know they are good players we just need to give them to confidence to go out and show the fans how good they are.”
Many a view from the terraces have been questioning why the form is so consistent in the league compared to the cup miracles the Orange magician's have conjured up in this seasons cup campaign. Neilson put's that down to a lack of pressure against the bigger opponents and a bigger stage for the Hatters to express themselves.
“If you look at the cup games, there has been no pressure.
“We've played Wolves of the Championship, Norwich City of the Premier League and Millwall of the Championship. We are the underdogs, nearly every game we play in the league we're favourites and that takes a lot out of the players when they go out and express themselves.
“We've told the players, if you make a mistake forget about it and then the next time you make a good pass, good shot, good header, good save whatever it may be just to go out and relax, feel no pressure and enjoy it.
“If you look at the table, we're not going to kid ourselves, we're points behind with only one game in hand so that adds a bit of pressure. Our home form has been good, we've only lost three home games all season, against the lower sides, and seven away games which isn't good enough.
“It's going to be difficult, there's still 17 games to go and I've looked at the average of points to get into the play-off's and its 80. We need to go on a good run, you look at Kidderminster who lost their first five league games and look where they are now. They are absolutely flying, they're on a great run, we know we have the players to go on a great run and that's got to start Saturday.”
Recent acquisitions to the Hatters squad have been added to install a certain amount of physicality to the Town dressing room, something Neilson agree's is important but only to a certain extent.
“You do need big players,” he said,
“But you need players that are strong on the ball. It's not just about having big strong players that are going to kick players, you need big strong players that are going to be strong enough to get hold of the ball and want the ball under pressure.
“We know we have got good players here, we just have to give them the confidence and the mentality to go out and express themselves and perform. Don't worry if you make a mistake, forget about it and do better next time.”
Questions then pushed Neilson for his suspected team sheet. Not giving anything away however Neilson has a full strength squad to pick from including Wayne Thomas after his international clearance finally came through.
“Me and the coaching staff spoke about this yesterday afternoon when we were going through all the different formations and different teams we could select, we've been in this situation before so we will focus on Saturday.
“Mansfield are going to be tough, they are always tough. We saw down there this season with five minutes to go, we're winning 2-1 and they bring a big lad on up front and we drew 2-2. To come away from there with a point is not the end of the world but when your winning 2-1 with about five minutes to go you do expect to win the game.
“We know they are going to be big, strong, physical but we have to be mentally strong enough to win the physical battle and go and play our football.”