LOMAS ON MANSFIELD TOWN: Forget a miserable August, time for the Stags to shine in September

John Dempster speaks to Stags fans at Exeter last weekend.
John Dempster speaks to Stags fans at Exeter last weekend.

Months of rumour and sometimes wild speculation are over and Mansfield Town now know the squad they have to get them through the first half of this campaign.

Conor Shaughnessy was the last of eight summer additions to arrive at the One Call Stadium before the window slammed shut on Monday.

It had been a traumatic first month for new boss John Dempster who was losing players quicker than he could bring any in as early injuries and suspensions piled up.

With up to 10 players out at once, not surprisingly that made picking a settled side impossible and the month ended with a single win from the opening eight games.

It was far from the perfect start he would have wanted to his nascent managerial career. But, if he can get the season kickstarted, it is a month that can only make him stronger in the long run.

At the same time Stags can be grateful no bigger clubs came in to take stars like CJ Hamilton, Krystian Pearce, Mal Benning or Jacob Mellis as all have a crucial role in what lies ahead.

Once Dempster can get his defence back to their rock solid form of last year, having Hayden White back from injury and signing 6ft 4ins Shaughnessy should make that department hugely stronger.

The midfield has certainly failed to take a grip of games for long enough periods so far.

But that should improve once Neal Bishop is fully fit and Jacob Mellis regains his form after the recent disciplinary shenanigans which saw fellow midfielder Dion Donohue shown the door this week after just 45 minutes of football for the club.

That was sad to see as Donohue’s previous clubs speak very highly of his attributes and I was keen to see more of him.

But discipline is crucial both on and off the pitch and he is now history.

However, new boy Shaughnessy has played much of his career in midfield and is a powerful-looking unit to have to tangle with so could yet fill the hole left by Donohue.

The Leeds United man, an Irish U21 international, was the last summer signing to come in but he could yet prove to be the most crucial given he can use both feet and play several positions.

Stags came so close to promotion last season, despite Tyler Walker often ploughing a lone furrow in the goalscoring charts.

However, Danny Rose and Nicky Maynard have already started finding the net and once Andy Cook is fit and new West Ham loanee Dapo Afolayan gets acclimatised, there would appear to be more than enough to replace Walker’s goals and more besides.

Let’s not forget Craig Davies should score goals comfortably at this level - and we have yet to see him in a run of games fully fit - while Omari Sterling-James is starting to find the best form he has mustered since joining Mansfield and could become their super sub or more.

To be fair, few clubs in this division would have done much better than Mansfield with the number of players missing in that opening month.

But Dempster does now needs to settle on his best XI and formation and start to get some consistency of selection.

Although Conrad Logan has done little wrong, despite a growing band of critics, most fans would like to see Bobby Olejnik back in goal once fit this month.

If Dempster goes with a back three then I am sure last season’s settled trio of Ryan Sweeney, Krystian Pearce and Matt Preston would be first choice with Hayden White and Mal Benning as wing backs.

Centrally Neal Bishop and Jacob Mellis would be my choices with Otis Khan ahead of them and Maynard and Rose up front.

Alternatively, a back four for me would see White, Sweeney, Pearce and Benning with Alex MacDonald, Mellis, Bishop and CJ Hamilton in midfield, offering width, and Rose or Maynard alongside the aerial threat of Cook up front, with Hamilton and MacDonald sending in the crosses for him.

Either of this week’s two new loan signings could blow my possible line-ups out of the water if they can hit the ground running and show their pedigree, coming from such high quality clubs as Leeds and West Ham.

The current table does not make pretty viewing with Stags in 19th place. But, with only six games played, it means very little as long as Dempster’s men start to piece together a win or two.

A stuttering August is now done and gone and largely best forgotten, the transfer window is closed and players are coming back from injury.

Dempster and his squad will now have a proper chance to show what they can do and their futures and that of the club will rise or fall on results produced.

If they can stick with the pack through to January you can bet the ambitious Radfords would further financially back Dempster to further bolster the squad for the second half to try to make it third time lucky over the finishing line.