Newly-promoted Championship side Milton Keynes Dons provide the opposition at the One Call Stadium tonight (7.45pm) as Stags fans get their first chance to see Adam Murray’s new-look Mansfield Town side on home soil in their busy pre-season programme.
This game and Saturday’s visit of Premier League Leicester City also offer Murray’s side their first chance to properly work on defending against two teams expected to put them under the cosh.
“These are two big games coming up now and are planned to allow us to be more defensive-orientated as we know we will come under a lot of pressure,” said Murray.
“We don’t expect to see much of the ball over the two games, but our work in training now for the next 7-10 days will be on defending.
“Defensive organisation is an issue as we have new players getting used to each other and playing as a unit. We know we will be under the cosh and they will be a good test for us.”
Murray may leave out three or four players with minor niggles tonight as a precaution and will mix things up on the night to increase players’ minutes before trying to give as many as possible a full 90 minutes against Leicester on Saturday.
Central defender Krystian Peace comes back into the squad tonight after returning to training following a jarred ankle in the draw at Tamworth.
But Adi Yussuf may be rested up until Saturday having just completed the Muslim Ramadan fast and not being up to full power yet.
Karl Robinson’s Dons side won promotion on the final day of last season and he and head of coaching and Stags legend Richie Barker yesterday had their contracts with the club extended.
The 34-year-old Robinson has been in charge of the club since May 2010 and is the third longest-serving manager in England’s top four divisions.
Barker has been part of Robinson’s backroom staff for just over a year. having initially helped in an advisory role towards the end of the 2013-14 season before his appointment as head of coaching in May 2014.
Among their summer signings, the Dons have brought in Peru international midfielder Cristian Benavente from Real Madrid Castilla on a two-year deal, ex-Bayern Munich and Tranmere winger Dale Jennings, 22, who was available after leaving League One Barnsley, having been on loan at the Dons in a previous spell, former Southampton goalkeeper Cody Cropper, 22, and Welsh international forward Simon Church, 26, from Charlton. Church has 29 international caps, the most recent against Cyprus last October.
Murray will meet up with the Dons for their pre-match meal earlier in the afternoon to ‘pick their brains’.
“We’ve arranged to go and have a chat with them as I think they do some really good things and I’d like to pick their brains, particularly on areas like sports science. They have much bigger resources than we do but I can still nick their ideas.”
Tickets for tonight are £7 across all categories and can be purchased either in advance, online at www.stagstickets.co.uk, by calling 01623 482482, or at the ticket office.
Supporters should note that the Quarry Lane End will be closed for both of Mansfield’s home pre-season games.