Evans wary of Barnet revival under Westley

Graham Westley
Graham Westley

Mansfield Town manager Steve Evans is wary of the Graham Westley revival of bottom club Barnet as the Bees head for One Call Stadium on Saturday.

Stags are sitting pretty in the chase for the top three and a glance at the League Two table will leave most fans expecting them to see off the bottom side, who are five points from safety and without a win in seven.

But new head coach Graham Westley has inspired the Bees to successive 1-1 draws to stop the rot and raised hopes, especially against high-flying Lincoln City.

“They showed it against Lincoln and should have beaten them,” said Evans.

“Granted Lincoln could have won it late on. But in the first half Lincoln were fortunate to still be in the game at half-time – and Lincoln are a wonderful side – big, strong, physical and excellent players all over the pitch.

“Graham has gone in and changed it around a little bit from where Mark (previous manager McGee) was heading it.

“You only have to look at some of the Barnet fans’ reactions, saying for them for 60 minutes it was their best performance of the season.”

Evans warned: “Barnet have good players. John Akinde up front with Shaq Coulthirst? That’s as good as anything in the league.”

Westley is best known for his two promotions with Stevenage, but Evans said: “Graham Westley gets no credit for the revival at Newport - I saw mixed words about him.

“But Graham has played a part in that. He put a strategy in place.

“He will come here wanting to put a bit of a needle in the side of our skins on Saturday.”

With just one loss in 16 League games, Stags will be firm favourites on Saturday, but Evans said: “Some fans thought it would be easy against Cheltenham last home game – but they played some super football.

“They had two men sent off and their manager off yet we were still fighting to the 85th minute.

“Go online on YouTube and watch the highlights of Barnet against Lincoln City. If we were playing Lincoln here on Saturday we’d be saying it was a big game, but Barnet should have beaten Lincoln.

“In this league top beats bottom and bottom beats top.

“You only have to look at the results most weeks in this league to know the first thing you have to do is respect and be ready for your opponents.”

Despite their current predicament, Evans believes Barnet will survive the drop.

He said: “I think they will stay up now. Mark came in and I don’t think he knew League Two, though he is a fantastic coach and a fantastic man, but Graham going in there will bring a steely determination to fight.

“He will bring a work ethic to that side that they’ve not had before. He will bring organisation and a never-say-die attitude.

“He’s done that through his career – at Stevenage, where he worked wonders, and at Preston. So from that point of view we won’t kid ourselves.

“But it’s not about Steve Evans and Graham Westley on Saturday – it’s 11 from Mansfield Town against 11 from Barnet.

“We went there at the end of the season and got a draw, but at the back end of that game we were fortunate to take a point.”

The Bees made three deadline day signings with the arrival of keeper George Legg, on loan from Reading, attacking midfielder Jordan Nicholson from Peterborough, and defender Tin Plavotic, on loan from Bristol City.

Evans said: “I think Barnet will now win games – we just have to make sure it doesn’t happen on Saturday.

“Our supporters won’t like what I am going to say but Chesterfield were bottom when they came here and they gave us a lesson in the second half.

“We were fortunate to scrape a draw. They should have beaten us four or five.

“Barnet have a new manager and three new signings yesterday that, for me, improve them.”