Mansfield Town swept aside leaders Notts County in today’s sparkling 3-1 home local derby win, but then manager Steve Evans tipped the Magpies to stay in the title hunt all season.
A Danny Rose brace and a Richard Duffy own goal inside 16 second half minutes did the trick as Stags halted County’s winning streak at six.
But Evans said: “They are a good side with good players and an outstanding young manager. My pre-match words don’t change from my post-match words – Notts County will be in the shake-up to be the champions.
“It was a hard-earned three points.
“They are a quality side – how many teams get six wins in succession? We can only respect and applaud the opposition.
“We’ve given the bragging rights to our supporters, but we know full well it was a good side we beat today.
“I thought the atmosphere from both sets of supporters was tremendous.”
Stags missed the best of the first half chances and Evans said: “It was a dominant Mansfield performance and we should have turned round two or three up at the interval.
“When you don’t do that you are looking for the characters in the dressing room to go back in to miss chances.
“You never score a chance unless you are prepared to miss them.
“It could have been a lot more in the end.
“But they were leaders for a reason and I have watched a lot of their footage this week and they have played some wonderful stuff.
“I did say pre-match that this will be the best individual group they’ve played in League Two this season when you break the players down. But, as much as you say that, you have to get performances out the players. They have delivered that today.
“We were well beaten at Cheltenham on Tuesday and we asked for a reaction. When you have good characters you get a reaction.”
Rose had scored match-winning goals the two previous weekends and was again the hero today.
Evans said: “We are working really hard to get Danny Rose up to real fitness levels.
“We said in the summer he can get 25 goals if we can get him into the team on a regular basis.
“He has to be able to be fresh and work as hard as he did today for that to happen. The minute that drops he is out.”