Stags all set for Bath opener, despite injuries

DESPITE the crowded treatment room, Mansfield Town are raring to go for Saturday’s Blue Square Bet Premier opener at home to Bath City (3pm).

With Stags fans who have a ticket stub from May’s trip to Wembley gaining admission for £2, a huge crowd is expected.

It is just a shame boss Paul Cox is unable to put out his first choice side.

John Thompson and Richie Sutton are still sidelined from the pre-season ‘friendly’ fracas at Ilkeston while Martin Riley, also badly cut by the elbow of Gary Ricketts in that game, will play with padding on the wound.

Left back Joe Kendrick serves a one game ban from last season while Paul Bolland and Rhys Day are out injured and Adam Smith and Lindon Meikle face late fitness tests.

Short on defenders after Ricketts put three in hospital at Ilkeston in just over an hour, Stags will today offer a one month contract to ex-Tranmere Rovers centre half Nick Wood as cover after he impressed on trial over the past three weeks.

“The chairman understands the situation and has allowed me to bring Nick in,” said Cox. “This offers Nick a chance to show he wants to be here and play for this club. He has certainly done well in pre-season.

“Usually in pre-season you get a mixed bag of injuries. But in one game I almost lost my entire back four which is frustrating.

“John Thompson is a mess. The chairman went to visit him and he is still stressed but just wants to get back playing.

“But I think he could be five, six, seven, even eight weeks before he returns. The injuries he has sustained to his face are shocking. They are probably the worst I have ever seen.”

On his other knocks, he added: “Paul Bolland and Richie Sutton are not quite ready, but Lindon Meikle could make the bench which would be a massive boost. Adam Smith is 50-50 with his knee.”

Defensively, Cox will have to pick a back four from Matt Bell, Martin Riley, Tom Naylor, Luke O’Neill and Nick Wood.

“It’s not for us to sit and cry about the injuries, everyone gets them and hopefully we have had ours now early on,” said Cox.

“Our injury list gives opportunities to players like Matt Bell and Luke O’Neill. Whoever goes out there for us, I want a good performance and a good result.

“There are still a million and one things we need to improve on, but I am delighted with how quickly the players have gelled together and we are ahead of where I thought we would be.

“I like things done yesterday but I know we won’t really get our teeth in it as I want for a few weeks yet. We will make a few mistakes and there will be the odd stumble here and there. But they are an honest bunch of lads who will give honest performances.

“It’s a big project and I look back where we were six or seven weeks ago and it’s a bit frightening. But the lads have taken everything I have asked of them on board.

“Now they are running round like schoolboys and excited for Saturday.”

He added: “It will be a very proud moment when we walk out at Field Mill and I hope the crowd give us a big welcome.

“I cannot thank the supporters enough for the way they have backed us so far and I have had some lovely letters and messages from well-wishers. Now I hope we can reward them with a good result.

“We have had Bath watched and I know patience will be the key.

“They will come here not wanting to lose and will be very hard to break down. Adie (manager Britton) has done a fantastic job and will have them well organised.”

The Romans, who finished above Stags in 10th last season after a final day win over Mansfield at home, will include Paul Stonehouse and Mark Preece, who were released from Field Mill this summer.