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Sunderland v Mansfield Town: Emirates FA Cup First Round

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Fan Focus: Mansfield fan Sam says “anything can happen in the FA Cup” ahead of facing the Lads!

Ahead of Sunderland’s FA Cup Round One tie at the Stadium of Light, we spoke to Mansfield fan Sam Binch of Mansfield Musings to discuss Nigel Clough’s progress since being appointed as their manager!

Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Mansfield currently sit 20th in League, having won just 3 of your 15 matches - what has gone wrong so far this season?

Sam Binch: The squad wasn’t deep enough to cope with injuries and suspensions. At one stage we had ten players unavailable, including our best two players James Perch (out for the season with a fractured skull) and Stephen Quinn (suspended for six games) and four centre backs.

This meant our top scorer Ollie Hawkins has had to play centre back for the last few weeks, whilst our other new attackers Rhys Oates and Danny Johnson have not fully settled.


MC: Nigel Clough was seen as a marquee appointment when he joined the club, does he still have the support of the fanbase?

SB: He does, quite surprisingly in my eyes. We’ve just been on a winless run of 14 games in all competitions which would have seen off a manager with a lesser reputation in my opinion.

The injury crisis has helped paper over a few issues that were already in evidence prior, such as defensive issues which were not rectified by summer recruitment.

Our performances have improved over the last couple of home games so hopefully we’re stabilising.

Northampton Town v Mansfield Town - Sky Bet League Two
Nigel Clough managed the Burton side that relegated Sunderland to League One.
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

MC: The club signed many new players in the summer including Ollie Hawkins, Stephen Quinn and Rhys Oates - have your new signings just not clicked?

SB: Hit and miss is how I would describe the summer recruitment, but I think a lot of the recruitment was meant to add depth to the squad rather than improve the first team.

With a fully fit squad on the opening day, five were new signings, even though Quinn had finished off the previous season on loan.

Nathan Bishop has done well on the whole between the sticks, and Ollie Hawkins has played well both at the back and in attack. Danny Johnson has been a disappointment so far, but scored last weekend so hopefully that gives him a bit of confidence.

Rhys Oates has shown in bursts what he’s capable of, and last week put in a man of the match performance with a goal and an assist, as well as winning a penalty, so hopefully he is now settling in. We needed stronger recruitment in defence, but missed out on several targets.


MC: Which of your current players do you think can cause Sunderland problems during the match?

SB: Stephen Quinn is our best player. He controls the left hand side of the pitch, linking well with left-back Stephen McLaughlin, but the latter is a doubt for Saturday.

Quinn has played at the highest level, and his quality still shines through despite being in the twilight of his career.


MC: Are you expecting Mansfield to take the FA Cup seriously this season, or is the focus solely on your league campaign?

SB: Clough has stated that the priority is the league, and whilst he will aim to put out a side to win the game, he will not risk anyone carrying a knock. I think the majority of the side that won last weekend will start.

Mansfield Town v Harrogate Town - Sky Bet League Two
Stephen Quinn has made 59 Premier League appearances and has 18 caps for Ireland.
Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

MC: What style of play can Sunderland expect to encounter from Clough’s side?

SB: We’ve mainly operated with a 4-4-2 diamond formation. We try and get down the ball down and play, with a huge emphasis on the left flank. If McLaughlin does not start, the emphasis will likely not be as obvious.

Our full-backs like to push on with George Maris anchoring the midfield and filling the gaps. There will be plenty of crosses into the box.


MC: Which eleven Mansfield players do you think will start the match?

SB: Bishop, Gordon, Rawson, Hawkins, Hewitt, Maris, Clarke, Quinn, Charsley, Oates, Johnson.


MC: Lastly, Mansfield knocked Sunderland out of the FA Cup last season at the Stadium of Light, are you expecting deja vu?

SB: I think it’s unrealistic to expect a win, but Sunderland don’t look to be in the best of form, whilst ours has picked up as of late. Anything can happen in the FA Cup.

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