Mansfield Town defender Mal Benning says he’s enjoying playing in the left-wing back role – following a change of shape implemented by boss David Flitcroft.
Benning, the clubs joint longest serving player, has moved from left-back to left wing-back as part of the change of system, with boss Flitcroft switching from 4-4-2 to 3-4-1-2/3-5-2 since pre-season.
“Wing-back is a role that I like. I’ve been enjoying it out there. Everyone knows that I like attacking from left-back and you do get that freedom. You’re further up the pitch and have to adapt your game.” Said the 24 year old.
“It’s one of those where if I am caught up the pitch I have Pearce or Sweeney on the left down there to back me up.
“Since the gaffer has come in with his fitness regime, I feel much fitter this year. I’m feeling much fitter and sharper. At left wing-back you do need to put a shift in and I’m putting much more of a shift in now.
“It [increased fitness] is very important at wing-back. You have to be attacking and defending, so you have to put a shift in out there.”
Benning has started every game so far this season with CJ Hamilton on the opposite side – a system which has seen the Stags become difficult to break down and beat – with a two wins and three draws in all competitions thus far
He added ““We’ll take that [unbeaten start] from pre-season as well. We played against some decent teams and we’re unbeaten against them as well so it’s a good stat to have and we want to keep it up.
“We’re all frustrated not to have picked up two wins in the last two games, but we’re unbeaten and that’s a great stat to have.
“We’re in a decent stage in the table so it’s one of those where if you get a couple more points we’re right up there.”
Mansfield Town boss David Flitcroft, along with shot stopper Conrad Logan and defender Matt Preston say they’re ready for the new League Two season to get underway, when the Stags play host to Newport County on Saturday, 3pm.
Keeper Logan is now entering his second season for the Stags and after establishing himself as the first choice shot stopper, is keen to keep a regular starting place going into the new campaign
Speaking to iFollow, he said “You’re like a kid at Christmas again, it’s excitement, it’s back to work and back to getting three points. I want to improve on last year personally and as a team if I’m being honest – I had a pretty decent season, I think personally, but I can always get better I’m under no illusions about that.
“The boys have worked a lot of fitness we [the goalkeepers, Logan and Bobby Oljenik] will do different things we’ll do some bits with the team and some bits with the goalkeeping coaches which is different types of fitness – everyone’s embraced it [the fitness] this year, it’s been tough, but fair - there’s been a structure to it and the lads are reaping the rewards to that”
The Stags were beaten just once in pre-season, in their opening friendly during the Portugal training camp, as boss David Flitcroft has implemented a new system playing with three central defenders.
They include Matt Preston who joined from Flitcroft’s previous club Swindon – the 23 year old said the side aren’t getting carried away, despite beating three championship sides on home soil
“There’s a different competitiveness [between pre-season and the league] there’s a different mind-set to it because the League is where it matters. Pre-season is a friendly even though we’ve tried to make it as realistic as we can, you can’t replicate what pressures come with the league – we’ll find out at the weekend if we can take what we’ve been doing in pre-season into the league.
“I feel like we are a very, very strong team, I feel like we are an ambitious team and we want to do the best that we can. Everyone here believes that we can do well – it’s just a matter of showing everyone.”
For boss David Flitcroft it’s been a busy summer with the arrival of five new signings, however apart from the addition of Preston, the Stags boss is still short of a central defender after the trial of Nathan Cameron was ended due to an injury problem for the former Bury captain.
Flitcroft said “We moved on a couple of players, the difficulty is at the start of the pre-season window because a lot of the younger players are going [to train] with the Premiership and Championship squads and then with a week or so to go, it really loosens off – they start looking at the squad size and that’s probably the opportunity that presents itself now to get someone in on loan”
“We’ve had a look at a couple of permanent options but they’ve just not been right in terms of finance, so we’ll look to dip into the loan market on that one”
The Stags kick-off their League Two season at home to Newport County on Saturday, at 3pm
Mansfield Town defender David Mirfin is hoping to re-join his team mates on the pitch, should he successfully come through the Stags training camp without any recurring issues.
The former Huddersfield Town centre-back joined the Stags last summer but has not played since last December when he pulled up injured in the Checkatrade Trophy match at Blackpool.
Since December Mirfin has been under the knife and spent eight weeks on crutches to allow the injury operation to heal, meaning he’s missed nearly eight months of action
Speaking to iFollow “It’s been frustrating, I think it’s probably the worst time any footballer to be injured especially for this length of time.
“I’ve had such a great team around me in terms of the medical staff [at the club] – the lads have been brilliant as well – it’s been good, especially this week [out in Portugal] to be around them full time again”
Speaking about a return to action, the 33 year old who scored on the opening day of last season at Crewe, added “The older you get the more how important and how much you kind of lucky you are to play football for a living, it does want to make you get back even more”
Mirfin has joined the Stags training camp out in Portugal but is unlikely to feature in the friendly with Dundee United on Saturday, front man Danny Rose has been keeping Mirfin company in the medical tent, although Roses’ injury is far less serious as he completes the final phase of recovery following a toe injury, picked up towards the tail end of last season – he hopes to re-join the main group training full time today.
A video of the Stags first team squad training in Portugal can be viewed below, with several more behind the scenes videos on the clubs excellent YouTube and iFollow platforms
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