Mansfield Town boss Steve Evans said matchwinner CJ Hamilton and several other players had staked a genuine claim to play at the weekend after shining in tonight’s 2-1 Checkatrade Trophy group win at neighbours Notts County.
With both sides making 10 changes, Lee Angol’s first minute strike was wiped out by Alan Smith’s first goal for Notts on 34 minutes against the run of play.
But a scorching finish from Hamilton on 73 minutes kept Stags’ hopes of progress alive.
Evans said: “We were pleased to win it but I’ve not changed my mind from before the game – it (the competition) was not a priority. It became a priority at quarter to eight.
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“You saw me and Paul get warned by the referee because we want to win every game.
“I said to the players afterwards the credit they get in that they have given me real thoughts for Saturday. I thought there were some big performances.
“I said to players go and show me why you should be in the team. Too many players talk cheap in an office and don’t deliver on the pitch.
“But I thought we had a number of really good performances, though I do recognise Kevin Nolan made changes as well.”
He added: “From memory I think we’ve had 10 or 11 efforts on target and, dare I say it, we could have won here five or six couldn’t we?
“We were disappointed to be 1-1 at the interval. Jimmy Spencer got a punch in the nose in the box leading up to the goal. Minutes before that Jimmy Spencer got brought down by the goalkeeper which everyone thought was a penalty bar the referee.
“That was the big plus. I thought in the first half he was simply sensational.
“After scoring early we laid siege to their goal and attacked them at will really. We’ve had one we think is over the line from Rhys’ header.
“We’ve had Jimmy brought down for a penalty, we’ve had Jimmy hit the post, then their goal came totally against the run of play.
“It’s a set play but all I’d say to our 400-plus supporters tonight is have a look at that when you get back. If you did that on the street you’d get charged with assault. He just turned and smacked Jimmy across the face.
“That seems to be allowed in the modern day game.
“Second half we said let’s get the ball down, pass it and move it around and let’s create one-on-ones.”
Hamilton eventually won the day s he found the top corner from 15 yards and Evans smiled: “I have been saying for weeks he is a young man we should be trying to find a way to get him in the team.
“He has been a little bit up and down in training games and reserve games. But we love the kid.
“We gave him a lease of life when we walked in here and we had cash offers for him in the summer and said no.
“He has given him every chance of being involved on Saturday. Whether he’s given himself a chance of starting, I never pick a team myself without taking council from other people first.
“I thought Omari and CJ gave them real problems and my front two covered every blade of grass.
“We have won a game and kept the chance of going through. But we’re not worried about that.”