Stags use fortnight off for ‘mini pre-season’

MANSFIELD Town’s players face a ‘mini pre-season’ after their FA Cup exit left them with a 14-day break from action.

The breathing space couldn’t have been better-timed as they again disappointed at Field Mill, losing 2-1 to form side Cambridge United on Saturday, despite being the better side over 90 minutes.

That is now just two wins from their last seven home games with a section of fans becoming increasingly critical.

Stags’ next game is at Telford on Saturday, 19th November and they don’t play at the Mill again until Tuesday, 29th against Gateshead.

Boss Paul Cox will be using the fortnight to look at trialists and fine-tune his current squad with more new faces expected to follow this week’s signings of Keiron Freeman and Nick Hegarty.

“We want to put this minor blip behind us and start winning football matches,” he said.

“Training will be stepped up and we will have a mini pre-season with some tough behind-closed-doors games with sides who will test us.

“I want to go into the Telford game firing on all cylinders.

“We have Northampton on Tuesday and Forest on Thursday lined-up for this week and I want another early next week.

“The injured lads need a game or two and I can try one or two things out.

“I still feel we have had a good start to the season and Saturday was only our fourth defeat in the league – there are only five clubs in the league who have lost less. We are only six points off third place with a game in hand.”

He added: “We are coming up to an important part of the season and want to rejuvenate ourselves a bit and take stock of where we are.

“The lads have put a lot in and sometimes you need a break. I want to get the lads fired up for the second third of the season.

“We need to get back on track or players can lose a bit of heart and confidence.

“I want to see us go on another run. Cambridge are a benchmark as they have only lost one in 16 and are now third. They are a hard-working, organised unit who are hard to beat and take their chances when they come.”

Although aware his side need to improve their home record, he feels most fans are still behind him and his team.

“There is always going to be a small section that you cannot please,” he said.

“I speak to fans after every game and, whatever the result, the majority say they are happy as long as they see the team grafting and working hard for them which I thought we did on Saturday.

“I asked for a reaction from the lads after Tuesday and I think I got that. I don’t think we really deserved to lose it but that happens in football. We are just going through a spell at the minute when things are not going for us.

“I don’t want to be too damning of the lads. The common feeling among the supporters I spoke to afterwards was ‘how did we not get something out of that’?

Giant centre half Ben Futcher returned to Bury after his third and final month on loan this week and, unable to try to sign him until January, Cox admitted: “I may need to bring in someone like Futcher. We need a big presence in the side and I have a few on trial this week who fit that bill.”

Adam Smith and Lee Stevenson are back from loan spells and Rhys Day and John Thompson are also building up fitness for a return from injury with just Louis Briscoe and Joe Kendrick currently on the treatment table.