OPINION: Mansfield Town beginning to look like a top-seven side

Mansfield Town v Cambridge United.
Danny Rose celebrates after scoring the winner late on in the second half.
Mansfield Town v Cambridge United. Danny Rose celebrates after scoring the winner late on in the second half.

Mansfield Town boss Steve Evans said in the week that this season’s line-up in League Two was the strongest for a few years.

He pointed to the investment of the likes of Coventry City as an example of the strength of the competition this season.

A quick look at the table shows the likes of Coventry, Swindon, Luton and, of course, Notts County, who have all played in the top tier of English football at one time or another.

Add to that Exeter, such a strong side last season who have retained most of their squad, and Carlisle, who I fully expect to rise up the table, and you can see what Evans means.

That’s why it is important to grind out results when you are not at your best — so also add the Stags to that strong line-up for League Two this season.

Yes, no doubt Cambridge will argue that Mansfield stole the points on Saturday — but how refreshing for the Stags to be on the right side of a steal after matches like Luton at the One Call Stadium this season, when the home side were so unlucky to concede crucial late goals.

Danny Rose was the matchwinner for the second successive Saturday as the amber and blue, far from anything like their best, at least showed great character to battle back from a goal down early in the second-half to overcome their Cambridge bogey with a late goal.

Jacob Mellis had earlier finally broken the Stags’ home goal drought against the Us with the quick equaliser from the penalty spot.

It is no coincidence that those two players got the goals — for surely if Evans learned anything from the 90 minutes on Saturday, aside from his side’s great determination to battle to the end, it is that the Stags look better when the creativity of Mellis is on the pitch and that when Rose plays there is always the chance of a goal.

Mansfield 2-1 Cambridge United

Post-match reaction

Evans said in midweek in his assessment of the division that he was more than happy with his own recruitment — and so he should be,

The 14 new faces are beginning to gel at the One Call and the Stags are now looking more like a side the bookmakers labelled as promotion favourites in the summer.

Afterall, isn’t winning when not at your best a sign of a team on their way to promotion?

The frustrating start of too many draws — and the last-minute defeat at Accrington — now seems a distant memory after two terrific weeks for the Stags.

Three wins from four matches and just one defeat in the league mean Evans’ side sit nicely in the play-off places. He has asked to be judged after 15 matches and if his side continues to make the same progress they have in recent weeks, the manager will be judged favourably.

Not all of his new faces have starred so far with striker Kane Hemmings, for example, yet to find the form the fans want.

But when you introduce so many new faces, it is inevitable that some will take longer to find their feet than others.

Evans will back his goalscorer to start finding the back of the net soon. For now the form of Rose is keeping the Stags in the play-off positions — and Evans will be delighted that he has so many strikers at his disposal after Lee Angol’s decent start to the season too.

Fifteen goals scored from nine matches is above average for the division and just nine goals conceded is among the best in Lleague Two as well.

In fact, as I said last week, central defender David Mirfin is fast becoming the manager’s first name on the teamsheet as he grows into his new club and new season.

Evans was honest enough to admit after the final side that his side might have been a little lucky to take all three points. Lucky sides win promotion!