Mansfield Town are just 90 minutes away from promotion to League One after they beat Northampton Town 3-1 on aggregate in their play-off semi-final.
The hard work for Mansfield was done in the first leg, with goals from Rhys Oates and Jordan Bowery helping them to a 2-1 lead of Northampton, who had pulled one back through Ali Koiki.
Before the play-off semi-finals, Clough had asked his players not to blow it, after a season of hard work that had seen them unfavoured to get to this stage just a few months ago when they were struggling for results in League Two.
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And they were not fazed by the occasion of the second leg at Sixfields, with Stephen McLaughlin putting the away side 3-1 up on aggregate after 30 minutes, handing them full control of the tie. It’s control they would not cede and now Mansfield are just one win away from a return to the third tier of English football for the first time in 20 years.
It’s testament to the work Clough and his team has done too. Towards the end of October, Mansfield were joint-bottom of League Two and other clubs may have pulled the trigger to find a new manager. But Mansfield stuck with Clough and after they got an important win against Tranmere they didn’t look back.
Including the win over Tranmere, Mansfield won 12 of their 13 league games between the end of October and start of February, only losing to Sutton United. By the end of that run, Mansfield were in the play-off places and they wouldn’t drop out again – as we all know.
And Clough was quick to mention the change in feeling at Mansfield over the season.
“We sat in the dressing room about seven, eight months ago having lost 2-0, we were joint-bottom of the league I think, we really were rock bottom,” he told Sky Sports.
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“So for them to come here and experience a slightly different feeling is lovely for them.
“We had belief this season once we stayed up last year and finished the season well, started this season well then had a terrible run. But once we got that first win in October against Tranmere the run has been brilliant since then.
“And we just want to take it one step more if we can.”
Mansfield will now watch eagerly on Thursday to find out who they will face at Wembley, Port Vale or Swindon.