MANSFIELD TOWN have turned to former goalkeeping star Kevin Pilkington as emergency cover for this Saturday’s massive game with big-spending Crawley Town at Field Mill.
With Alan Marriott recovering from a groin operation, Stags had brought in Sheffield United’s Estonian international keeper Mihkel Aksalu on loan as cover.
But he suffered a stomach injury in training last week, played in pain last weekend, and, following a scan, has now been ruled out for up to three weeks.
So manager David Holdsworth has once again moved quickly to fill the keeper’s jersey and brought Pilkington (36) back to Field Mill on loan from Luton Town on a three-month deal.
The former Manchester United youngster spent five seasons with the Stags, including a play-off final at Cardiff and made 167 appearances before moving on to neighbours Notts County where he also spent five years before joining the Hatters.
“It has been a long time and I am looking forward to it – I can’t wait,” said Pilkington.
“It came out of the blue yesterday though I had heard a whisper that Mansfield were looking for a keeper and was crossing my fingers.
“When the gaffer phoned me I had no hesitation in coming back.
“It has been frustrating at Luton. I want to play football – that is what I am paid for.
“I have always followed Mansfield since I left and was very pleased for the club when they were taken over recently.
“I had five great years here. Promotion was unbelievable and it was a great feeling beating Carlisle on the last game of that season. One of the best feelings I have had in football.
“And leading out the side as captain at the Millennium Stadium for the play-off was one of the highlights of my career. Unfortunately we didn’t get the result we wanted, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
“I am looking forward to running back out at Field Mill on Saturday and I hope the fans will give me a warm reception.”
“It is unfortunate what has happened with Mihkel but I have had to move quickly,” said boss Holdsworth.
“It was important I brought in an experienced keeper. There are few better young keepers then Neil Collett but he is still learning his trade.
“Kevin brings that experience and knowledge. He is a League keeper in my eyes and he is able and mature.”
High-flying Crawley will provide a massive test for the Stags on Saturday.
“Steve Evans has put together a strong quad and this is a game my players should relish,” said Holdsworth.
“I am certainly looking forward to it. We have to roll our sleeves up and show desire, passion and grit. We know what Steve (Crawley boss Evans) brings and we must be ready.”
Although Pilkington has come in as emergency loan keeper, the BSBP will still only allow sides to field five loanee players in total.
With new signing Peter Vincenti still waiting to play his first game, Holdsworth must either stick with the 11 who kept a clean sheet at FC Halifax Town in last week’s FA Cup win or bring in Vincenti and leave someone out.
Striker Keigan Parker rejoins the squad after a foot injury but has only trained a couple of times and is unlikely to make it any further than the substitute’s bench.