Chance for fringe players in Stags’ Trophy trip to Carlisle

Mansfield Town's Manager Steve Evans - Pic Chris Holloway
Mansfield Town's Manager Steve Evans - Pic Chris Holloway

Steve Evans will give his fringe players a chance to impress in Mansfield Town’s Checkatrade Trophy second round clash at high-flying League Two rivals Carlisle United tomorrow night.

But the new Stags boss said he would be respectful to the competition, would not be blooding youth players, and wanted to win the tie.

Evans has money to spend in the January window, but wants the current squad to show him what they can do in the meantime.

Stags were beaten 5-2 at Carlisle in their last game a week last Saturday and, despite the visit of Colchester United looming for a League clash on Saturday, Evans said: “Carlisle has been in the foremost of our thoughts because it’s the next match.

“Are we going to make changes? Yes. But we have people who have picked up little niggles and knocks who may be available for the weekend, and anyone under that umbrella will be left at home with the medical team.

“We will make changes, but we are very respectful of the rules and laws associated with the competition and we won’t be giving the club a fine.

“We will be ready to play Carlisle and it’s a wonderful opportunity for five or six lads who’ve not had a lot of football to show they should be in the team.”

With George Taft, Corbin Shires and Kyle Howkins ruled out injured and Kevan Hurst and Darius Henderson recovering from knocks, Stags fans are more likely to see the likes of Brian Jensen, James Baxendale, CJ Hamilton, Danny Rose and Jack Thomas, who are desperate for opportunities to impress.

The new-look competition has attracted much criticism for allowing big clubs to enter U23s sides and Evans agreed: “I think to involve U23s from clubs elsewhere is mad as you devalue it a bit.

“You’re not seeing Premier League players, you’re seeing youngsters and a lot of those youngsters are playing against men for the first time.

“I think it’s taken a bit away from it. But nobody will be telling me that when we kick off at Carlisle.”

Despite its critics, the Checkatrade Trophy does end with a Wembley final and the money that brings in.

He said: “I’ve only been to Wembley once as a manager – and you can only go to Wembley and win. “You would be, it’s a strong word suicidal, but you’d be pretty low if you left there getting beat.

“But we are a long way from that. We’re playing against a team that went top of the league when they beat us 5-2.

“In that last half hour they really showed their mettle and Keith Curle has multiple options and fantastic backing by a good chairman.

“I don’t really care what Carlisle do tomorrow. I think he’s got the opportunity to change four or five positions and he has the opportunity to leave it as it is after going out of the FA Cup on Saturday.

“If I was Keith and fighting at the top end of the league where they are I would probably most definitely make a number of changes.”

He added: “My only priority is trying to get a performance and a result at Carlisle. But, if I am being honest, losing at Carlisle and beating Colchester on Saturday – would that be the option I’d take? Yes.

“If I had to choose one of the games to win it would be here on Saturday. But Steve Evans wants to win both.”

Stags are likely to have their smallest following of the season in Cumbria and Evans said: “If you are a Stags fan and you’re making the trip first and foremost we should be applauding you.

“I’d so the same if it were Carlisle fans coming here for a Tuesday night in the Checkatrade.

“If they do make it, the most important thing is a safe journey there and back and we just hope we put in a better last 30 minutes than the last game up there.”

Stags will head north tomorrow, Evans adding: “To be fair the chairman offered me the chance to go up tonight, but it’s a long time sitting about on a Tuesday.

“We’ll go up there nice and early and the boys can relax and get their feet up, have some proper pre-match food before the game and do some stretches.

“Whatever team Keith picks it will be tough. They are in a good position with their strength in depth. But we’re still capable of going there and coming back in the next round.

“I’ve got a real good idea of the team, but I’ve always maintained Paul Raynor has a big say in that, so does the rest of the staff and the medical team.

“But we want to make sure we try to put in a level performance that sees us compete tomorrow night. “The real priority is Colchester on Saturday we can we win both? Yes, we can.”