Mansfield Town hoping to see loanee Will Forrester for first time at last
Mansfield Town supporters could get a first glimpse of Stoke City loan defender Will Forrester at last for Saturday's huge game with fellow strugglers Oldham Athletic.
There could also be a recall for striker Danny Johnson while several youngsters have staked a claim in the midweek Papa John's Trophy game.
Stags, without a win in 10 games have had an injury/suspension crisis with eight players unavailable and Forrester has been injured since he agreed to join Mansfield in the transfer window.
However, boss Nigel Clough said: “The only one we have some good news on is Will Forrester and we hope he will join up with us at the end of this week. If he does he will be on the bench on Saturday.
“He certainly won't be in a position to start. He's been out 10-12 weeks.
“He was building back up a few weeks ago and then had that setback. He will have done some contact work this week at Stoke, so the best he can hope for his the bench.
“But he will have to go on the bench as we have five centre backs missing. I think Oli Hawkins is our only fit centre half – and he's not even a centre half.
“We have a clear midweek next week, so we might arrange a friendly for Will to be involved in and some of the younger players who played against Sheffield Wednesday. If they get some more regular games, hopefully they won't be getting cramp like they did on Tuesday.
“Richard Nartey and Ryan Stirk are going to be a few weeks.”
Skipper Ollie Clarke is expected to play, despite needing his broken nose resetting this week.
“Ollie will be absolutely fine,” said Clough “He will probably wear some sort of protective covering.
“He played with it last Saturday against Barrow. He's not the best looking in the first place, so I don't think it will harm him too much!”
On the players who faced Sheffield Wednesday trying to stake their claims, Clough said: “I was pleased with Danny Johnson.
“I was pleased with his work-rate and his hold-up play was good. I though he won a couple of free kicks that he wasn't given. I was very encouraged by his performance more than anybody.
“Faz Rawson played well but he obviously can’t play on Saturday (suspended). The two young full-backs (James Clarke and Ryan Burke) battled away, though you could see it was a struggle at times for them against the quality of opposition.
“Keaton Ward played well and I think there’s still a lot more to come from him in an attacking way as well. We don’t want him just to be that defensive midfielder.
“It's his first game in midfield for a while, he's been playing at centre half for us, and he gives us an option in either position.
“But George Cooper is now the fifth centre-back not available for Saturday.
“He felt his groin early on and he was too sore to continue. It’s a shame because he was looking good and looking comfortable.
“He’ll probably be out for a few weeks. We’re counting weeks rather than days at the moment for the injured players.”
Oldham, managed by ex-Stags boss Keith Curle, are one of only two sides below Mansfield in the table and have only won once in seven games in all competitions.
But Stags are desperate for a win and Clough hopes some refereeing decisions will go their way soon.
“We are well below where we wanted to be points-wise certainly,” he said. “There are reasons for that which have been difficult to contend with over the last few weeks.
“It's a range of things, certainly some of them self-inflicted. Some of them are decisions that have gone against us.
“But we have to concentrate on ourselves and get a performance out on Saturday that doesn't hinge upon decisions. It's very difficult to say that.
“On Saturday we battled away in an even game and the defining decision went against us. We have to get a win somehow without depending on that.
“Despite being in the position they're in, Oldham do play football. They play in a certain way – we saw that at the end of last season and they have continued that this season.
“But they are vital games at the moment, It doesn't matter who we are playing. We are absolutely desperate for three points.
“We could do with the first goal on Saturday. The crowd were fantastic last week and we will need them again this week.”