Match preview: Stags ready for battle with promotion rivals

James Collins in action last weekend.
James Collins in action last weekend.

Mansfield Town host old enemy and promotion rivals Luton Town on Saturday (3pm) with Stags boss Steve Evans insisting his side go into the fixture as underdogs.

He also called on home fans to turn out in their numbers and make it ‘fever pitch’.

“I think it’s one of those games at home when we won’t be the favourites – and that will be unusual for this season,” said Evans.

“With the quality of squad and money spent, the demands on Luton to come here and win will be more than the demands on us.

“But we need the fans. I have said if we are up there in that top three or four after 10 we’ll get promoted.

“So we need them in this front 10 more than we need them in the last 10. That sounds a bit crazy, but we need them now.

“We know the importance of Saturday and what three points against Luton would mean.

“This is a really tough game for us. We need it fever pitch and we need a bit of hatred in there.

“The Mansfield public have been nothing short of staggering so far. When they are in full voice it’s quite intimidating when you come out. You meet that main stand and it’s really lively.

“We know the opposition end will be lively, Luton always bring an outstanding travelling support.

“I have been on the end of their stick many times, but they are great supporters.”

He added: “When I was at Rotherham I came here to watch Mansfield play Luton in the Conference and the atmosphere was fantastic and the performances on the pitch were fantastic. “It was full-blooded and that’s what we expect.”

Stags know they will have to keep a special eye on striker James Collins, who Evans tried to sign this summer but had to give in to the Hatters’ spending power in the end.

The former Crawley man netted a hat-trick on his debut and added another wonderful strike last weekend.

“We were in the mix trying to get him,” said Evans.

“I often make recommendations to a chairman - I never make a decision - but with the boy Collins I had to say it’s got too rich for us.

“It shows you the type of resources available at Luton, but they are a big club so they should have those type of resources.

“They have a good manager and a fantastic chairman, chief executive and board. They will bring a big support here – they are a big club at this level – and they are expected to be up there.”

Evans added: “They also have the boy (Danny) Hylton, who we took up to Rotherham in League One and he was unfortunate up there as we had some absolutely brilliant strikers and he couldn’t really get a run in the team. But he is a top player.”

Evans continued: “Luton and Mansfield games have always been good games I am told over the years and I am really looking forward to it.

“If you look at the investment down at Kenilworth Road this season, having lost in the play-offs last season - when they were very unlucky - they have made some, top, top signings, spending big money very wisely.

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“Collins and Hylton are as good as anyone in the league. Collins has scored goals for a number of years and I don’t think there is a coach in the league that wouldn’t bring Danny Hylton into their camp.

“They are very good players, but we have very good players as well.”

Whatever the result on Saturday, Evans knows it won’t be the be all or end all. But he stressed once again that points dropped now are gone forever.

“They are all big games,” he said. “I didn’t hide it after the defeat at Accrington, I said that one point that was there in the 92nd minute and we lost it, it never comes back. It’s gone forever.

“I’ve said three points in August is the same as three points in March.

“The only people that say differently are idiots. They don’t understand the game. Momentum builds from it.

“So it’s already a big game. But let’s not get carried away. It won’t be the difference between going up or staying down.

“If we beat Luton, nothing will change. We’ll prepare for the next game. If we lose, nothing will change, though we may be a bit more analytical which always happens.”

Luton’s season so far has been quite a mixture from a sublime showing against Yeovil, where they thumped the Glovers 8-2, followed by a creditable performance during the Carabao Cup exit to Ipswich.

They were then hugely below par, losing 1-0 at Barnet, but bounced back to defeat Colchester 3-0 on Saturday.

Stags will have winger Alex MacDonald back in contention, but Alfie Potter and Zander Diamond could miss out with knocks.

For the Hatters, Scott Cuthbert is out with a hip injury and Lawson D’Ath remains a doubt with a leg injury.