Port Vale boss Darrell Clarke saw former club Mansfield hit back for a deserved 1-1 draw and immediately tipped Nigel Clough’s strugglers to challenge for promotion.
Struggling Mansfield have not won for 13 games but deserved their second-half equaliser, having already had a penalty saved in a game visiting Vale were lucky to finish with a point from.
“Mansfield will finish in the top 10, top seven, mark my words,” said Clarke as a run of six wins in seven games was halted.
“This is a tough place to come. They were one of the favourites for a reason. They’ve been on a bad run but they will finish top 10.
“Full credit to Mansfield – I thought they were outstanding on the night.
“We were nowhere near the standards we’ve set for the majority of the season, but you have nights like that when you’re not quite at it and you need to get something in the bag and we managed to nick a point.
“Mansfield are in a false position for me. They have got good, talented players and a good, talented manager.
“We were a little bit fortunate for the point. But we will take it.
“We have a home game on Saturday and we can turn this into a positive week. You are not going to keep winning and winning and sometimes you’ve just got to dig in for that ugly point like we did today.
“Maybe we could have held on for the three points but it would have been a bit of an injustice.”
Mansfield dominated the first half hour but went behind to a magnificent Tom Conlon free-kick from a central point 20 yards out, over the wall and into the top-right corner on 33 minutes.
They should have levelled on 42 minutes after Dan Jones fouled Rhys Oates, but Lucas Covolan saved Oli Hawkins’ spot kick.
Stags continued to press and were deservedly level on 64 minutes as George Lapslie turned home Jordan Bowery’s low cross.
Nigel Clough was delighted with his side and said: “It was a brilliant performance from the first minute to the last and it renews the belief.
“We know we’re not a bad team and better than our position in the league but we have to prove that week in, week out.
“That was the closest we’ve been to the early weeks of the season.
“We had Stephen Quinn back on the pitch so it’s no coincidence our performance was better with him in the team.
“The support at the end was unbelievable. It feels like we’ve not won for 100 games but we got a standing ovation.
“I said to the players, that’s what they want to see. That performance that endeavour tonight, that spirit, that desire, that’s all we ask of you.
“I said if we win we win, if we don’t you will get a standing ovation with that sort of performance.”
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