MANSFIELD Town boss Paul Cox is predicting one of the tightest and most competitive BSP seasons in years as his side prepares to launch their title challenge on Saturday.
Stags, who open up their season at home to Newport County, will be looking to go one stage better this campaign after falling in the play-offs to eventual winners York City last time out.
And with no money-bags side like the last two Blue Square Premier winners, Fleetwood or Crawley, to romp away with the league this season, Cox is expecting the title race to be a close run affair,
“It is going to be a very even league with fine lines between winning and losing,” he said.
“We have to go out there every week and earn the right to win football matches, we cannot take any team for granted.
“There are no stand out teams this season and there will be many managers this season who feel like they have a better chance of winning the league than they have in the last two seasons.
“We finished strongly last year and this is going to be a very important season for us. The players worked very hard last season and there was a lot of hurt with how things ended.
“At the time we felt like we had let ourselves and the fans down, but over time that hurt dies away.
“I want to see the hunger and desire from the players to be champions this season. It is going to be an emotional rollercoaster this season and it is important that we do not get too deflated if things are going wrong and too excited if things are going good. It is important that we have the right mindset and stay focused throughout.”
Stags, who are second favourites to land the league crown behind Luton Town, have strengthened significantly during pre-season as Cox looks to add extra quality and depth to the Field Mill squad.
Stand out singings include Jake Speight, Nick Wright, Godfrey Poku and George Pilkington from promotion rivals Wrexham and Luton Town.
And after an encouraging pre-season programme, which saw Stags defeated just once, expectations are naturally high that Mansfield Town could finally end their stint in the Conference Premier at the fifth attempt.
Said Cox: “There has been a lot of hype about us in pre-season, but we have to take that as a positive. We have talked about being one of the teams who will be up there. We have got hungry and experienced players who will be able to cope with those expectations.
“A lot of work has gone on over the last 12 months to change what people think about Mansfield Town and it is a pressure we can cope with. We are showing good form and can’t wait for the season to start.
“We have all learnt things from last season and we will learn from our mistakes. At times last season we did not attack games enough and I am looking for us to take games by the scruff of its neck this season.”
Stags face Sheffield FC away tonight in their final pre-season warm up game, with Jake Speight expected to get a run out as he continues his return to full fitness.