LOMAS ON MANSFIELD TOWN: Make your mind up time for new boss John Dempster

Stags v Forest U23s action.
Stags v Forest U23s action.

Saturday's home friendly with Glasgow Rangers U23s represents new manager John Dempster's final chance to weigh up his starting XI and formation for the season opener against Newport County.

Whether or not any of this Saturday's opposition could also force their way into his reckoning is another fascinating side issue.

Rangers boss Steven Gerrad has already made it clear that he'd be prepared to loan out youngsters to Stags, as have Aston Villa.

And don't forget Mansfield also have a strong link with last night's opponents Nottingham Forest, who sent their U23s to showcase what they could do with some very impressive players on display.

Dempster has been looking at a few trialists, but with such a good squad right now and needing to keep everyone happy, bringing in hungry U23s may be the best way forward to secure extra cover ahead of the transfer window closing.

We know Dempster wants cover at right back and an attacking midfielder/possibly winger – and apparantly we can expect a young right-sided player to come in this week.

But, if Hayden White can shrug off his hamstring issue and play as he can, whether as an attacking right back or a right wing back, it's hard to see him losing his place this season.

He is a crucial cog down that side as seen in the club's inability to completely replace him after his broken ankle last season.

So it was a concern to see him limp off against Forest U23s though, after such a long time out, no great surprise and a relatively common setback, despite the club's attempt to wrap him in cotton wool.

The battle for midfield places is already immense with Jacob Mellis in imperious form last night. And that doesn't even factor in tough-tackling new boy Dion Donohue, who is only just gaining full fitness and has yet to stake his claim and show what he can do.

It would certainly appear Otis Khan is desperate to bag one of those midfield place, wherever it may be.

Stags paid Yeovil Town a reputed £120,000 for his services last summer and he started off in impressive form.

Injury then wrecked his season and, despite having shown what he could do when given a run in the team, was inexplicably then overlooked for much of the crucial run-in by the manager who bought him.

I believe that hurt he felt over that and his subsequent return to full fitness will now see him shine again.

Dempster has gone with a back three and a back four in his pre-season games.

With last season's back three proving to be the division's best defence it's very, very difficult to see him not sticking with that.

If he were to leave one of Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce and Ryan Sweeney out of the side and they started conceding goals, he would soon be under fire.

But Dempster is very much his own man and if he sees fit to surprise everyone and go with a four he will do that without question.

It was also good last night to see Nicky Maynard prove to be the fox in the box he has been billed as.

He worked hard but had little chance to score until one brief opening near the end – and he duly dispatched it with clinical accuracy.

It was interesting to see how some Mansfield fans reacted badly to the news that last night's game had changed from being Forest's first team to Forest's U23s - though it would seem few fans from either club took their money back in the end.

Blackburn Rovers fielded largely an U23 side while having an U23s from a club the size of Rangers has been seen as a bit of a coup this weekend, but there was no complaints about those.

It proved it's all a question of perception.

At Forest you can't blame a new manager, who has only just taken over, tweaking pre-season plans late on, as frustrating as it was.

Let's be honest, the sacking of Martin O'Neill and quick appointment of Sabri Lamouchi has probably set Forest back a little as players suddenly come and go and uncertainty hangs in the air.

That would possibly have given Mansfield slightly more of a chance of beating their Championship neighbours' first XI last night.

But, who cares? It's pre-season and results count for little.

For me, a good look at Forest's stars of the future and the chance to discuss maybe borrowing one for the forthcoming season may yet prove to have been a better option under current circumstances.

And, in the end, Stags fans got to see some of Forest's first team stars from last season anyway as those not in this season's plans were given the chance to go in the shop window.

I certainly don't understand some fans asking for their money back last night and not asking for it back the week before when Blackburn failed to play their top names.

Most fans are feeling football-starved, despite the sterling efforts of the England women's team to feed our habit over past summer weeks, and for me it's just great to be back at the One Call Stadium watching footy of any kind.

Warm summer sunshine and a great feeling of optimism are what this time of year is all about – let's hope that feeling lasts after this weekend as Stags aim to hit the ground running, with or without an additional face or two.