Football - Field Mill capacity remains cut for Owls' visit

FIELD Mill's capacity remained at 4,676 today as Stags prepared to complete their pre-season friendlies with home clashes against Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow night (Wednesday, 7.45pm) and Rotherham United (Saturday, 3pm).

Stags had been hoping the county's Safety Advisory Group would give work done at the ground the thumbs-up in time for tonight's prestigious all-ticket clash with the Owls and return the capacity to just under 10,000.

But Wednesday still had tickets unsold from their 955 allocation for the North Stand yesterday and Stags are confident that they can cope with demand for this game.

"Obviously I am disappointed this has not been resolved in time for the Wednesday game and we apologise to anyone for any inconvenience," said chairman Keith Haslam yesterday.

"I do not really belive there are any issues of safety for anyone to worry about. The capacity will be adequate for this match and we are confident there will be no problem in restoring our capacity for the start of the new season.

"This is an issue that should not have been an issue."

An official club statement today said: "As has been in the public domain recently, Field Mill ground has been subject to a capacity reduction pending necessary works around the stadium.

"Most of this work has now been carried out and is awaiting final inspection and issue of a current and up to date safety certificate.

"Unfortunately, however, the tight time scale between now and the pre-season friendly game against Sheffield Wednesday means there is not enough time for the inspections to be carried out and the capacity will remain unchanged.

"Therefore the club will be keeping the away allocation to 955 in the North Stand.

"Stags fans can now purchase tickets for Blocks A, B, C, and D in the West Stand Lower limited to 650. Tickets will be on sale for WSL, WSU and QLE from the Field Mill office immediately.

"The club would just like to assure supporters that there are no safety issues within Field Mill and apologise for the inconvenience."

Away from the off-field problems, player-manager Carlton Palmer is praying his exciting new-look Stags side can avoid injury in these last two games and go into the new season with a clean bill of health.

And he admitted that, apart from a couple of positions, he still has a completely open mind about which 11 will start the season at Stockport the week after.

"I won't be happy until I am sitting down with my dinner and a glass of wine after the Rotherham game and everyone has come through fully fit," he said.

"I want to have the same problem I have now which is that, with one or two exceptions, I really don't know my starting line-up yet.

"It's a lovely headache to have and there will definitely be some very disappointed people come 3pm at Stockport.

"Myself, Peter Shirtliff and the chairman have worked really hard to put us in this position. Now I have to pick 11 of them for Stockport which is going to be a very close call..

"Peter and I are going up to watch Stockport this week and we will pick a team to beat Stockport rather than what is necessarily our best XI.

"Whatever, all 20 players will travel up to Stockport together on the coach. That's how we are doing it.

Despite conceding a late Junior Mendes goal to lose 2-1 at home to Huddersfield Town on Friday night (report inside), Stags once again impressed and Palmer and Kevin Pressman are now looking forward to facing their former club Sheffield Wednesday tonight.

Director of Football Peter Shirtliff and the injured Des Walker are also former Owls heroes.

Palmer said: "I really want to start buttoning things down now so there won't be too many changes.

"Wednesday have four or five new players and will be a very fit side.

"They probably won't be the best side we've faced pre-season as Derby County kept the ball very well.

"But they will play at a high tempo which is what we want. They will test our fitness and ability.

"The Huddersfield game was a terrific work-out for us and I was pleased with the players again - they were magnificent.

"Over the 90 minutes we were the better side again.

"I am looking for consistency, developing understanding and minutes on the pitch and I am getting all of that.

"Yes, you like to win football matches. But good performances equal results and if we can can play as well as the first two games on a consistent basis then we will football matches - no question about it.

"I thought we defended very well. Huddersfield scored their first when we were down to 10 men with Jason Talbot injured.

@And the second came when tiredness crept in for Rhys Day and Jake Buxton, who were both at the end of their first 90 minutes of the season.

"These games against sides from higher divisions give us the chance to learn something.

"There is no point playing against lesser sides and wining 13-0 like Aston Villa. What is the point?

"We have learned to keep our shape and discipline when going behind.

"We know we need a bit more steel about us too. There were three young lads on at the end and with a minute to go, they need to think that, having played exceptionally well to be on level terms, whatever happens we don't lose.

"That comes with experience and those lads will have learned something from what happened."

Palmer is happy with his own fitness levels and admits having Peter Shirtliff as his assistant will make being player-manager an easier task.

"At Stockport I had so much to worry about," said Palmer. "But, with Peter here to make decisions, I only have to worry about the football on match days.

"I have worked very hard every day for three months and I am feeling good. You have to do it properly. I came off after an hour the other night but could have continued.

"I am very open-minded about whether or not I will start the campaign. But if I decide I am then I am there for the long haul. If I have a bad game it will just be because I have had a bad game, not because I am 39! That must be taken on board.

"I believe in my own ability and if I feel I am fit then the likelihood is that I will start the season. I have been up against younger legs in the friendlies so far and more than lived with them."

New signing Jon Olav Hjelde will now make his debut either tonight or on Saturday.

The Norwegian former Nottingham Forest central defender arrived at Field Mill last week and Palmer said: "With talking to other clubs last week Jon was only able to train for one day with us and has missed a lot of the hard work he needs.

"We didn't want to extend him too soon so he will play some part tonight or on Saturday."

Stephen Dawson missed out on Saturday as a precaution with a sore thigh, but was back in full training on Monday and expected to play tonight.

Stags' teenage skipper Alex John-Baptiste has been put on standby for the England U20s squad for the trip to Moscow to face Russia in a friendly on 16th August.