OPINION: It's raining good news at Mansfield Town
Mansfield Town's season on the pitch has started with two encouraging performances, even if the results have not been quite what they would have wanted.
But it will take time for the 13 new players to gel as a squad — although the draw at Crewe could easily have been a win, while a missed penalty in the midweek cup defeat to Rochdale was crucial.
More clinical finishing in front of goal would have produced two wins from the first two matches, but it is still early days for Steve Evans’ new-look squad.
Away from match results, however, the club is already reaping the rewards of sound summer investment at the One Call Stadium.
For most fans at Tuesday’s narrow 1-0 Carabao Cup exit to League One Rochdale were convinced the tie only reached 90 minutes — or even went ahead in the first place — for two reasons.
Firstly, in May the club revealed it was spending the most it ever had on pitch improvements. Secondly, groundsman Michael Merriman and his team have used that money wisely and, coupled with a lot of hard work, it has paid dividends.
There is no doubt that without those two factors the midweek cup tie would have fallen foul of Tuesday’s deluge, which saw heavy rain falling all day and beyond.
Yes, the non-stop downpours meant players slid into tackles, throwing up surface water at times. But it did not stop the entertainment or have a major effect on the end result.
Instead, the reported £100,000 spent on improvements meant the match went ahead, avoiding the financial costs of any potential postponement, abandonement or rearranging the tie.
It was a shrewd investment by the owners and one that justified Merriman’s bold claim when the work was first announced that it would lead to the best ever pitch at the ground.
In May, roots from the playing surface were removed before plastic drainage was installed and the pitch levelled.
The drainage clearly worked as gallons was diverted off the pitch and away from the ground throughout Tuesday. No doubt, when similar ‘monsoons’ strike this season — as they always seem to at some stage — the Stags can again avoid the costs of a postponement.
Merriman said in May his budget for the pitch was probably six or seven times more than he was used to... it was, as I said, money well spent.
The off-the-pitch investment has not stopped there, of course, with John and Carolyn Radford overseeing the progression of the new training facilities at Pleasley as well as revealing plans for a 100-room hotel with international brand Hilton on land close to the One Call Stadium.
Yes, talks may still be at an early stage in the project, but it is yet another sign of the club’s ambitions to grow not just on the pitch and up the Football League — boss Evans has been targeted with winning two promotions — but also as a force within the community.
Add to that the fact that the Radfords said the club was close to breaking even earlier this year, then you realise that Mansfield Town Football Club is a business on an upward curve.
At the annual awards evening John Radford said: “The club was here long before me and, with the foundations that are now in place, it should be here long after me.”
Those foundations are already paying off...