Craig Priest and Emily Sykes write…
With our champions trip to Malta over, the Stags head back to the UK and continue their preparations for League Two this week with trips to nearby Worksop and Ollerton respectively.
Whilst we don’t begrudge any of the Stags fans that travelled to Malta for Saturday’s match against Naxxar Lions, it’s fairly safe to say that we along with others that didn’t travel are certainly looking forward to seeing the Champions in action on UK soil.
At the time of writing it’s difficult to predict what strength sides will travel to each match, sense would say that a ‘first team’ would go to Worksop whilst a reverse/youth team would take on Ollerton – however being pre-season Paul Cox may well mix it up and play two sides per match at 45 minutes a-piece and subsequently select what he deems to be the “strongest” performers to take on Nottingham Forest on Saturday, the first match at the One Call Stadium since that infamous win over Wrexham.
In our opinion, we think Cox will opt to use the two matches to rotate his squad ahead of the forest match and rather than stick a full youth team out against Ollerton, incorporate players which haven’t had many minutes such as Ross Dyer (Tight Hamstring), Jake Speight (Didn’t travel for personal reasons) and Ritchie Sutton (Didn’t travel for personal reasons) with the young professionals who have signed professional forms such as Jack Thomas and Liam Marsden – the fact that the match with Buxton on Monday 15th has been cancelled perhaps allows more leeway for Cox to do just that.
On paper not many will see a test against Worksop or Ollerton due to their respective standings, we’re sure the friendly with Nottingham Forest will be more appealing, however we believe that, should Cox field two strong outfits, the friendlies will be worthwhile. Worksop are a good outfit that of course kicked off our FA Trophy campaign back in 2010-11, plying their trade in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, a step lower than the conference North & South, they’ll provide a physical test and get our side working in units.
Last term the tigers finished in a respectable 9th place last term, nine points shy of a play-off place and joint third top scorers in the division. Boss Mark Shaw has added to his squad during the close season with the likes of former Stag Conor Higginson and former Gainsborough Trinity man Shane Clarke, who adds higher division experience. No Doubt they’ll be trailists on show for Worksop, they too will be eager to cause an upset and earn a deal.
Following the Worksop match it’s a trip to Ollerton who a Stags side last faced in late 2011 for charity, the lane ground is open to the elements and has a slight slope which will see our players have to battle with both shape and momentum against another physical side. Dave Winters Squirrels finished 6th in the Central Midlands League North Division last term up against good opposition so would prove the perfect platform to give the younger members a stage to perform on, whilst learning from there more experienced team mates.
Whatever sides Cox chooses to put out, both will be entertaining matches on what looks to be nice evenings, if you’re eager for a football fix and to see the first glimpse of the new additions the matches are not to be missed.
Both friendlies will be covered in full via our MM-Live page with Craig – coverage on both begins at 7pm, get involved on twitter or by text – details above.
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