Mansfield hit as key man Howell faces lay-off
STAGS boss Paul Cox has revealed influential central midfielder Anthony Howell could face a prolonged spell on the sidelines.
The 26-year-old has been a key figure in Mansfield's rise into the play-offs in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
But he pulled up in the warm-up with a niggling knee injury at Luton Town last Saturday and was replaced by Chris Clements shortly before the 3-2 win.
It was hoped he would be back to face Lincoln City on Tuesday, but had to sit out the game – which the Stags won 1-0 thanks to Matt Green's dramatic goal in stoppage time.
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It lifted the Stags to fourth, but ahead of facing Telford, Woking and Stockport inside a week, Cox revealed Howell is still a doubt.
"I feel for the kid," said Cox. "We hoped he would be back but it is troubling him and he is going to go and get it looked at.
"It looks like he could be out for a bit which is not great given the form he was in. Anthony has been so influential.
"Hopefully it won't be too long but we have to get on with it."
Mansfield made it eight wins from their last nine league matches when they won on Tuesday at Sincil Bank.
They trail leaders Wrexham by five points with a game in hand and still have to play them twice.
And despite Clements replacing Howell being the only change in the last six games, Cox said the whole squad will come into play.
That was shown in the last two games as Lindon Meikle came on to score the winner at Luton and set up the winner at Lincoln, while Ben Hutchinson and Matt Rhead also made an influence after coming off the bench.
The midweek showing was poor by recent standards and Cox said: "The first half we were lucky, we did not play well. But we kept a clean sheet and got the goal and won the game, although Lincoln will feel unlucky.
"Maybe freshening it up is something I will look at.
"The group of boys are enjoying themselves; there is a good spirit in the dressing room and that can get you a long way.
"It is about keeping them ticking over, mentally and physically, and I think the mental aspect is more important so that they understand the door is still open to them.
"We let ourselves down at Newport (the only defeat in the last nine games). But in terms of consistency, the level has been quite good and I probably stuck my neck out after Newport and put myself out for some criticism if we did not bounce back by not making changes. But I know what makes these boys tick and they are the ones that keep winning football matches. It is down to them."