KEEPER Alan Marriott could make a shock return to the first team almost a month ahead of schedule for Saturday’s FA Cup second round tie at neighbours Lincoln City (1pm).
Marriott dislocated his shoulder in late September and was expected to be back around Christmas time.
But he came through yesterday’s Mansfield Town reserves 0-0 draw at Hull City unscathed and is now a serious contender to face his former club on Saturday.
Manager Paul Cox said: “The good thing is that Alan wanted to play against Hull to improve his fitness levels and is champing at the bit.
“He took a good bang after about 10 minutes and was fine, so that will have done him the world of good. He did really well and it was nice to see him back.
“Alan is one of the best keepers at this level of football and we know what he can do.
“I need to sit down and talk to him and see if he is mentally ready. I have some big decisions to make for Saturday.
“Nick Wright also did well again and Adam Murray also played, so they are all in contention now.”
Stags must quickly get Tuesday’s 2-1 FA Trophy replay exit at Matlock out of their system as they pit their wits against ex-Mansfield boss David Holdsworth’s Imps on Saturday and Cox said: “We just have to take Tuesday on the chin.
“I made a lot of changes to give other players the chance to stake their claim and they let themselves down.
“We now have a big game ahead on Saturday. And, being positive, we are only seven points off top spot with a game in hand, so we are actually in a better position than we were this time last season.
“It is the first time we’ve reached the second round in four or five years and what is at stake is huge, not just the chance of pitting yourself against a Premier League club if you are lucky but also the prize money at stake.”
John Dempster is back in the squad after being given time off this week following the death of one of his close friends.
Stags will take over 1,000 fans to Lincoln. The game is all-ticket to away fans and these must be bought by 5pm on Friday with the One Call stadium ticket office open until 8pm tonight.