Friends cross swords as leaders come to town

Mansfield Town's Manager Steve Evans - Pic Chris Holloway
Mansfield Town's Manager Steve Evans - Pic Chris Holloway

Saturday’s visit of League Two leaders Doncaster Rovers will see two good friends cross swords in opposing dug-outs as new Stags boss Steve Evans tries to put one over on Darren Ferguson and his in-form side.

Stags, without a goal in three games or a win in four League outings, will certainly have their work cut out against a Rovers team that have won six and drawn one of their last eight matches.

“They are a quality side with a good manager,” said Evans. “He is a friend of mine.

Click HERE to read about Stags’ three new signings

“They have had a fantastic start. A lot of people were calling for Darren to go in the summer when they were relegated from League One.

“But I was at some of the games. I remember watching them against Blackpool at home and I could not believe they didn’t win the game. It was incredible.

“I think they only needed a point or two from the last nine games to be safe - it’s a statistic that is frightening.

“But I think whatever Darren had done, it was written in the stars they were going to go down.

“Sometimes as a manager, or a set of players or supporters, that happens to you.

“He went about his business in the summer, regrouped, took the criticism, and I am pleased for him that he built what looks a top class League Two side. So we need to be ready and deal with that.”

Evans continued: “He is an expert in Leagues Two and One as a rule. He gets promotion.

“He is someone akin to myself. He is one of those managers. If you want promotion you phone Fergie. If you want promotion you phone Evans.

“Darren has signed top players. He knows what he is doing. He is a wily, young fox and son of a wily, old fox.”

Any notion of friendship will disappear for 90 minutes on Saturday and Evans said: “We will both want to win, that’s for sure.

“Looking at the league table, he will be coming here looking at Mansfield as a banker three points. You have that confident strut about you when you are top of the table and beating all before you.

“It has to be said the performances have been most emphatic, the way they won at Notts County last week, the way they went 3-0 up down at Stevenage the other week, they have got good players.

“I have always believed as a manager that what wins you games is good players.

“I was talking to Chris Wilder a few weeks ago when we played a closed-doors game and he said the reason he is doing really well this season is because he has been able to sign some good players.

“For what it’s worth I think they will be champions of the league above.”

Left back Mal Benning comes back into the squad after suspension, but the Stags have no new knocks from the 1-0 home defeat by Morecambe on Monday.

Evans said: “I don’t think we did enough to get injured on Boxing Day did we?”

“I can’t fault the commitment and there were one or two players I felt for on Saturday.

“Some players were making intelligent runs , but the ball was never coming, or coming sharp enough or quick enough.

“So maybe with three new faces in the building, and maybe one more tomorrow ahead of the weekend, although we can’t involve them, I think it focuses people to perform.

“If a manager is under pressure it should motivate you even more if you look up in the stand and the vultures there, the other managers needing a job, are sat behind you.

“I have never had that as I have never needed a job, but you think that by looking up there it would drive you even more to winning.”

He added: “The one thing we have got is we keep it on a level here.

“I think the players thought prior to me coming in here, if you didn’t win it was all about running up and down hills and stuff like that.

“But it was never going to be about that. You have to keep it on a level keel – keep the highs nice and level and the lows really level.

“The management team can go home, of course, and be as depressed as we need to be or as high as we need to be, but I have always maintained that players win games.”

On Monday’s defeat, Evans added: “I have been trying to look out the curtains for two days since! It was never a good one.

“Did we dominate the ball? Yes. Did we work incredibly hard as individuals and as a team? Yes. Did we do enough with the ball? The answer is clearly no.

“We had lots of possession around the box but never did anything constructive enough with it to score a goal. We have to be much better.

“We are working on that and hope we get the benefits of it on New Year’s Eve.”

Almost a local derby, a great atmosphere is guaranteed with Doncaster having already sold out of their 1,600 ticket allocation.