New Mansfield Town boss Steve Evans plans to treat the Central League matches much more like conventional reserve games to keep his fringe players fit and ready for the first team.
Previous boss Adam Murray rarely used first teamers in the games as he wanted to largely use U21 players and saw the fixtures as a way of bridging the gap from youth to first team.
However, Evans has concerns over the fitness gap between parts of his squad and said: “It (the Central League) certainly needs us to play our players in it that aren’t playing for the first team.
“I think for obvious reasons Adam made a decision rightly or wrongly, that they (fringe players) don’t have to play in the U21s.
“We have always believed as a management team that if you’re not playing in the first team, you need to be playing competitive games.
“The boys are all fit, physically, yet you can train every day, but match fit is a different case altogether.
“When we can allow it to be around the fixtures, we will make sure as many of our players as possible who were on the bench or not involved with the first team on the Saturday, will play in the U21s.”
In the meantime, Evans staged an inter-squad game with fringe and youth players involved yesterday which saw players like Darius Henderson, Pat Hoban, Mitch Rose, Danny Rose and Jack Thomas all top up their fitness levels and push their claims for a place at Exeter on Saturday.
Evans said: “We had a lot of players involved in that for obvious reasons, people like Danny Rose, and Lee Collins is still catching up again on game time after being out. We had enough bodies out there to make sure we’re giving them some action.
“Danny is a perfect example. You would be entitled to say at this stage of the season, if I am not playing in the first team how do I get my minutes on the pitch? At Mansfield Town it just didn’t exist.
“We are trying to remedy that and make sure we are getting these players the minutes on the pitch. You have to give all your players an equal opportunity to stake a claim in the team, not just some.
“Paddy (Hoban) also played the game, scored a couple of goals, and was shooting from everywhere, which is normal for him. But he is a great lad with great enthusiasm.”
“Young Jack Thomas is another. The kid was sensational here in keeping Mansfield Town in the Football League and he must be given an opportunity to get some minutes on the pitch to stake a claim to be in our team.
“If you don’t get those minutes then you’re simply not ready when the chance comes.”