Mansfield Town manager Steve Evans believes tomorrow’s game at Cambridge United can be a yardstick as to how serious his new-look side are as play-off contenders this season.
Evans has brought in six new faces in January with more to come and believes Cambridge are a side who will finish in the play-offs, so sees this game as a great chance to assess his own team alongside.
“It is a real benchmark for us,” said Evans. “We get the opportunity to go and say – are we really contenders or are we kidding ourselves on and should we get ready in the summer?
“I think Saturday will tell us a lot about individuals. A team comes together made up by individual performances.
“We need to go there and be better than Cambridge on the day, and that’s going to be tough.”
He added: “I watched them first hand give a good Leeds United side the run-around for 60 minutes. Dare I say that cup tie should have been two or three nil to Cambridge at half-time.
“Only one or two outstanding saves by Marco Silvestri stopped that. We need to go there on the front foot and make sure we make it a game.
“It’s not always about wining and losing or getting a point, it’s just how close are we to Cambridge as I believe they will be up there.
“It chops and changes in this league but we can achieve if we stay in the pack at this minute in time.”
Evans is looking forward to seeing United boss Shaun Derry who, after a poor start this campaign has taken Cambridge to one point and one place outside the play-offs and is currently unbeaten in eight League games.
“I love the manager. I loved him as a player and I love him as a person,” said Evans.
“He often spoke to me when we were at Rotherham and at Leeds and he was always asking about the availability of players and my thoughts on players and he is one of the game’s real hard-working guys.
“I have a lot of respect for him - and I will have even more respect for him if he gets his hand in his pocket and gets a nice bottle of red wine for after the game!
“A big investment has gone into the team. Jez George has done a wonderful job and controls the club. He works very hand in glove with his board.
“They have used the money from the Manchester United game last year and the cup run and Leeds United game this year and I’ve heard Jez say he wants a couple more quality players.
“I believe they will be in the top seven come 6th May.”
The Stags head to the Abbey Stadium unbeaten in five games and not having conceded a goal in 377 minutes of football.
New signing, on-loan Peterborough striker Shaq Coulthirst goes straight into the Mansfield squad.