Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough hopes 'incredible' injury jinx is over after two more players bite the dust

Despite the injury list, Stags remain unbeaten after this 0-0 home draw with Bradford City on Saturday. Photo by Chris & Jeanette Holloway/The Bigger
Despite the injury list, Stags remain unbeaten after this 0-0 home draw with Bradford City on Saturday. Photo by Chris & Jeanette Holloway/The Bigger

Rhys Oates and Stephen Quinn had picked up knocks but were expected to play last weekend.

So Stags were shocked when scans showed ruptured ankle ligaments for Oates and a two to three month lay-off plus a knee ligament injury for Quinn that will sideline him for three to four months.

After last season's injury nightmares, Clough can scarcely believe his eyes.

He said: “It is actually incredible. I am not sure what we've done to deserve this - to have eight or nine missing and no two injuries the same.

“That says everything about how random they are and how unlucky it is.

“Rhys and Quinny will be two huge misses on the back of potentially our back four with Elliott Hewitt, Steve McLaughlin, Alfie Kilgour and Callum Johnson.

“We missed them on Saturday with Rhys' dynamism and Quinny's creativity. But we are going to have to battle on without them.

“Our aim now is obviously to stay in contention for the next two or three months until they are back and a few of the others back as well.

“The good thing is is I don't think I have to explain it to supporters as we have been through it all for the last year or so. They understand. They get it and we are going to do everything we can to stay there or thereabouts while we wait for the players to come back.

“It is rotten luck. They are all just contact injuries, football injuries, muscle injuries or whatever.

“Sometimes you have runs of bad luck like this in football and we just seem to be in an extended one.

“We had it last season but usually it stops at the end of a season and you get everybody fit pre-season if you can.

“Squads are designed to deal with two, three, four injuries but it is very difficult when you're missing eight, nine, 10.”

Stags were unable to conclude a loan deal for a striker on deadline day but still have the free agent market to utilise if needed.

“We did try for a loan but had one or two problems with the club we were trying to get him from and just couldn't quite get it through. So we didn't pursue that one,” said Clough.

“There are still one or two free agents out there we talked to before the window closed, so we can pick up on those.

“One or two we spoke to were waiting to see if they got any better offers as they are in a position now where they can sign for anybody.

“But the good news is Aaron Lewis isn't far away. Him and Hiram Boateng will hopefully be the next two back, then Callum Johnson and hopefully Stephen McLaughlin. Before you know it, it will soon be Christmas we we will have Oatsey and Quinny back.

“Aaron Lewis is the best out of the muscle injuries at the moment. He is looking to train later this week with a view to being back involved with the squad on Saturday.

“Hiram Boateng will probably be the week after and, if all goes well, Callum Johnson the week after that.

“That is why we didn't majorly pursue people coming in before the deadline as we knew we'd got these players coming back.

“With James Gale getting back on the pitch on Saturday and doing well it is not an absolute must to bring anyone in at this stage.

“Once we get people back defensively, it will free Jordan Bowery to go back up top from his 'more familiar defensive role' these days. He has been brilliant in the first eight games for us.

“If a really good one comes along we will have a look at it. But as long as other lads are not far away - and we don't get any more injuries - then we should be okay.”

Clough said, with their situation, he was delighted to stay unbeaten and be in the top seven.

“Despite the disruption we've had and changes with injury, generally we have defended well and been unlucky with a few of the goals we've conceded, which have been wonder goals,” he said.

“But our all-round play, resilience and character in coming back from being behind on a number of occasions builds up confidence and enables you to build an unbeaten run at this stage.

“Despite the injuries we have been getting results and that is the pleasing thing – even the clean sheet on Saturday. We have only conceded in one of the four games at home, which is good, despite probably having a different back four in every game, never mind every half game.

“Some of the football we played on Saturday was a bit flat and tired but some of the football we have played has been exceptional.

“I am very pleased in the circumstances.”

He added: “It is a tough start to the season for all clubs with eight games in the first four weeks. It tests the squad early on as you're not into the swing of things or routine of playing Saturday/Tuesday. Everyone is at different levels.

“On Saturday we had players who have played every minute of every game and then we had Ollie Clarke playing his first game as was Lewis Brunt. I think there are only one or two of the starting XI you'd say would be in good nick at the moment with the game time they have had.”

Stags finally have a blank week ahead of Saturday's trip to Accrington Stanley.

“We can now take stock a little bit and assess where we are,” said Clough.

“Taking everything into perspective I think we are in a pretty good place as a team and as a club.

“To be three points off the top of the league, unbeaten and should have another couple of points on the board at least - and through to the third round of the Carabao Cup - I don't think it's been a bad start, especially when you consider having eight, nine, 10 people out most weeks.

“The next week will be down to what individual players need. Some won't need to do much this week and others will need to get some work in that they have missed in the last few weeks.

“With eight games in four weeks it's difficult to push the players in training with the injuries we've got. We have to get them through the games.

“With September looking a lighter month we can get some more work into those who didn't do or missed some pre-season.”

On Saturday's trip he said: “We have been to Accrington in the Northern Premier with Burton, all the way up into the league, and I have never, ever had an easy game there.

“Gary Crosby went to watch them at Notts County on Saturday and they were very unlucky not to get something.

“They will be 4-4-2 and they will be competitive. They play a little bit as well.

“I would put it down as one of our toughest away games.”