FOOTBALL has been, largely, without fans for 10 months, and while Harry Kewell admits there is an obvious void he refuses to put empty stands down to Latics’ poor home form.

Oldham have celebrated just two League Two wins at Boundary Park this season.

Although head coach Kewell agrees that stadiums are missing the buzz generated by supporters – noting that some unexpected results have occurred behind closed doors throughout the divisions – he is not putting that down as a factor in his own side’s disappointing points return.

However, with Latics due to play at home for the first time this calendar year, when they entertain Mansfield tonight (kick-off 7.45pm), he hopes a new year brings impetus.

“From League Two, to League One to the Championship to the Premier League, you’ve got players coming in (to opposition grounds) now not afraid. They’re not afraid of getting stick from fans (because games are behind closed doors), they don’t have to hide in their shell because they’re not getting pressured from fans,” said Kewell.

“It’s a problem for home games but you are professional and you’ve got to be able to deal with it. We’ve had enough time now to be able to play this game without fans so that’s what we have to concentrate on and that’s how we’re dealing with it.

“I don’t put our bad form at home down to the fans not being here. It would be fantastic if they were there. But we’ve got to be able to switch on and we must not concede sloppy goals.”

Another psychological hurdle Latics must overcome is facing the division’s form team.

Mansfield head to Boundary Park having had their three-game winning streak in League Two interrupted by an FA Cup exit.

But Kewell is convinced the extra-time defeat to Cheltenham Town at the weekend won’t knock them off their stride.

“Take away their defeat against Cheltenham in the FA Cup, where I think they put up a good fight against a fantastic team, they are probably the in form-team at the moment,” said Kewell of counterpart Nigel Clough’s side.

“They started poorly at the start of the year, obviously they’ve changed their manager and a new manager has come in and now he’s starting to get results.

“I think they’ve won their last three so they’re going to be coming here with confidence.”

It is quite the turnaround from a terrible start in which the Stags were winless in their opening 14 games in all competitions.

Since Clough was named as Graham Coughlan’s successor in November, the former Burton Albion, Derby County and Sheffield United boss has experienced only two league defeats.

“What I’ve seen is they really don’t want to take chances in their own half and they want to try to create opportunities in the opposition half, so they play long, direct,” noted Kewell.

“They’ve got (Jordan) Bowery who is a fantastic player who can compete in the air, he’s their top goalscorer, and they’ve got (Jamie) Reid who can cause problems up top, and they’ve got experienced players who can control games, so it’s going to be a very tough task for us. But like all games in football you’ve got to be ready and disciplined and compact and work hard and be ready to exploit the certain weaknesses that we’ve kind of identified.”