As Mansfield Town prepare to welcome League One Rochdale to the One Call Stadium in the Carabao Cup First Round, there’s just one question on everyone’s lips – how much will Steve Evans rotate the squad following Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Crewe.
Paul Raynor’s comment of the Stags “will field a very strong side” goes no way to solving the conundrum as the Stags have strength from top to bottom, you’d expect a few tweaks but other than the traditional cup game goalkeeper switch, it’s anyone’s guess really!
Speaking this morning, Raynor said "We've always put cup ties right up there – we don't play weakened teams, as such,"
"We don't believe that any team we put out there is weak anyway. We'll put a team out there that will be very strong; there might be one or two changes and we might tweak it a little bit because people might deserve to play as well.”
"It's the next game; we want to win just like any other game. Obviously, the league is the top priority throughout the season but when these cup games come around we certainly want to put a team out to try and progress.”
"It's a great competition. Every game for us is important – we'd like to get that first win under our belt so why not let it be in the League Cup against Rochdale?"
And that’s the point I want to focus on really – Rochdale are a class side that narrowly missed out on reaching the play-offs – losing steam towards the end, they’re a stable club with a good fan base – basically the club we would like to be, no longer looked at as a League Two outfit and as a decent league one side with an ambitious – long standing and committed manager.
A win tomorrow night is not about progressing to secure a lifetime supply of what’s basically a cross between power-aid and red-bull – it’s about sending a message to the other clubs in our division to show we can compete with and beat sides in a higher division than ourselves – and that we are not just backed to go up because of Steve Evans CV.
Reflecting again on Saturday I wouldn’t be surprised to see a slight change to the back line, Rhys Bennett would have started Saturday had he been fit so it’d be no surprise to see him face his former club, either at right back [although White barley put a foot wrong] or centre back, potentially partnering Pearce [replacing Diamond and Murfin] and thus seeing the back line which did so well last season – if it isn’t broken etc….
In midfield with the way Rochdale would shape up, the more defensive minded Digby would be a better choice than Mellis as they’ll be periods where the Stags are having to work hard off the ball – there’s absolutely no way Byrom being dropped would be acceptable after his excellent display on Saturday.
Either way which ever Steve Evans and Paul Raynor choose to go, Rochdale are a tough side to play but we have the quality to win it all – hopefully in 90 minutes, although there’s a sadistic side to me that wouldn’t mid to see us compete in a shootout, especially the new ABBA style where apparently, the winner really does take it all, so long as the penalty takers take a chance… OK I’ll stop!
So there are no bags of coal to collect this time around, but a welcome distraction all the same – and it’s true what they say, a champion has more than one dimension to his game, would a nice little cup run suffice?
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