Omari Sterling-James is hoping to finally come of age as a Mansfield Town first team regular after a hugely frustrating couple of years.
Sterling-James was man of the match in last night’s Leasings.com Trophy clash with Everton U21s and, with Stags’ current injury crisis, is hoping manager John Dempster will keep faith with him at leaders Exeter City on Saturday and finally let him show fans what he can do with a run in the side.
“Any minutes that I get I want to do the best I can whether I’m in the starting 11 or not,” he said.
“That’s the gaffer’s decision but I’m here and I want to help.
The 25-year-old was brought in on a free transfer from Solihull Moors in June 2017 by former boss Steve Evans, but has managed only two League Two starts and 13 sub appearances.
Soon after David Flitcroft replaced Evans in March 2018 he sent Sterling-James back to Solihull on loan.
After only three outings in the first half of last season, Sterling-James once again went out on loan, this time to Brackley Town until the end of the season.
But under new boss John Dempster the St Kitts and Nevis international has begun to flourish and he said: “I am more eager to get into the starting XI than you could realise.
“It’s been a long time without a league start.
“When I first came to the club I was coming off the bench and starting every now and then.
“Last season I wasn’t really involved at all, so I’m just here to prove myself to the manager, the fans and everyone else why I got brought into the club and then actually try to kick on.
“It’s all about consistency and I guess if I keep on playing like that (last night) I would keep myself in his thoughts.
“Goals and assists are what you’re marked on in your performances – every time I step out there I’m going to try and keep doing the same.”
His night’s work against Everton U21s, which saw him score the equaliser in the 1-1 draw, hit a post with a free kick and force a good save from the keeper, was spoiled by him missing a spot kick in a penalty shoot-out defeat.
“I’m pleased with my work but I have to be putting that penalty away,” he said.
“I was going left, but as I was going to take it I’ve seen the keeper go early and it’s done me a bit. But I have to do better there.
“Scoring a penalty there probably tops off what I’ve done in the game – missing it kind of dulls the performance, I guess.”
He added: “I was happy to score because we had a lot of chances. “We had a few half-chances that I thought could have gone in, I was just happy to get the shot off and see it hit the back of the net.”
“As I hit it the free kick I thought it was in to be fair. I pulled away thinking it was in and it hit the post.
“I’ve played limited games but I’ve just got to take my chances as much as I can, and when I’m on the pitch try to help the team and do what I can.”
It has been a tough start to the season overall with injuries and too many draws for the Stags. But Sterling-James believes they will come good.
“It’s been a bit frustrating,” he said. “But in the past few performances we’re getting chances, we’re playing good football it’s just getting over the line with the three points.
“We need three points and we go into the weekend looking for that.”