Oli Hawkins enjoyed role switch as Mansfield Town clinch clean sheet at last
Striker Oli Hawkins was delighted to help Mansfield Town to their first clean sheet of the season as a makeshift centre half at Leyton Orient last weekend.
With so many defenders missing, the towering frontman partnered Farrend Rawson and admits he enjoyed the unexpected role.
“Everyone knows I have played there before, but I wasn't expecting to play there for Mansfield this early on,” he said.
“But I always look forward to the challenge of playing there and we got our first clean sheet of the season. It was a solid performance at the back.
“I really like the position and think I will probably end my career there, though I will play up front as long as I can.
“I am very excited and happy we were able to get the clean sheet, a good point away and, for myself, just put a good performance in.”
He added: “I played there a few times in non-league. Then professionally I played there a few times when I was with Dagenham & Redbridge.
“Then at Portsmouth I probably had over 20 games at centre half with, at one stage maybe, a 10 game run.
“I personally think, and I think others could tell you, I did a good job. So I guess that's why it's stuck that I am able to play there.”
As much as he enjoys defending, Hawkins emphasised his number one love is up front.
“I do enjoy it, it is exciting to play back there and I have grown to like it,” he said.
“Don't get me wrong – number one option is playing at centre forward and scoring goals.
“But I would never hide away if asked to play centre half.
“I think the older I have got and matured in myself, I have thought centre half might be a position I might end my career on in terms of your physicality and speed.
“I might not be able to cope up front as much.
“But I want to play up front as long as I can until I physically can't do it any more, then I would maybe look to be a centre half towards the end of my career.”
Hawkins said his knowledge of playing up front was a help when defending against other strikers.
“I think being a striker helps in certain things when I play centre half in terms of positioning and anticipation,” he said.
“But if you are not a natural centre half there are things I need to work on. But I can read the game because of my position playing up front. You have to be more mentally switched on there.
“It helps having Faz next to me as he is a great talker and a great leader.
“I didn't have much to do. I just had to do a job next to Faz and not look out of place and I don't think I did.”
Manager Nigel Clough said: “Oli has done centre half before and because of the size of their centre forward last weekend we thought he'd be the best suited to back go back there - and he did exceptionally well, as all the back four and goalkeeper did.
“We could have put him there a week or so ago. We have discussed it – it's been on our minds. We just though this was the right time to do it.
“Whether we continue to do it on Saturday at home is a different matter.”