LOMAS ON STAGS: Can Mansfield Town deliver an opening day blow at rivals Salford City?

After a Wembley final followed by a summer of record season ticket sales of around 4,500, rarely has a new season been so eagerly anticipated in Mansfield.

Tuesday, 26th July 2022, 3:13 pm

And if Nigel Clough’s men can deliver an opening day blow away to likely rivals Salford City in Saturday’s opener, that sense of expectation will quickly rise even further.

Coming so close last time around, Stags know this season could be even harder with wealthy Stockport County tipped by bookies to achieve a second successive promotion, and relegated sides like Doncaster Rovers, Gillingham, AFC Wimbledon and Crewe Alexandra expected to be in the mix as well as usual suspects like Northampton Town, Leyton Orient, Bradford City, and Swindon Town.

But Salford will be hoping after yet another manager change, five new players and the usual promotion war chest to finally stop under-achieving after a string of promotions that hurled them into the EFL saw them halt at this level.

Lucas Akins chases the ball as Mansfield Town win their fruendly at Oldham Athletic on Saturday. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

Stopping panic-sacking managers would help them immensely.

But they will see Saturday as a great chance to measure their chances against a Stags side that has strengthened superbly in the summer.

The idea of going with a back three has seen Mansfield concede only once in an unbeaten set of pre-season fixtures. And with players like Stephen McLaughlin and Kellan Gordon – not to mention possibly Elliott Hewitt, Jordan Bowery and Lucas Akins – having more licence to rampage forward as wing backs, it makes for an exciting prospect.

Fans have bought season tickets in numbers for a reason. Football is part of the entertainment industry and Stags entertained well last season.

Wing backs could see those entertainment levels rise even further.

Also, we have seen glimpses that Hiram Boateng could yet become the club’s best midfield player for a long time.

Can Rhys Oates hit the ground running and reach that magic 20-goal target this time? Four goals in the last three games suggests he can.

At this point in the summer every football fan has the same hopes and dreams of glory. But for once that dream feels a bit more realistic in Mansfield than it has for years.