The final group game of this season’s checkatrade trophy campaign is upon us already – and having beaten Notts County with an excellent dosplay last Tuesday, the ball is now back in our court in terms of qualification as we welcome Everton Under 23s to the One Call Stadium tomorrow night.
It’s a game that will again feel like a reserve team fixture with Evans promising once more to make ‘wholesale changes’ – but as with a week ago, I hope those who come in step up and give the scot, who celebrates his birthday today, a selection headache ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Shaw Lane.
Above all else, tomorrow I want to see a clean sheet and Mansfield, continuing to play the fluid football that they have done in recent games, holding out from start to finish against a young, but pacey and physical side who are going strong in the Premier League Two Division One, sitting second in the table.
Under the caretaker stewardship of Francis Jeffers whilst usual youth boss David Unsworth flirts with become a premier league manager, the youngsters will be hungry and eager to show any potential eyes in the stand what they are made of – and after two defeats in the competition, will want to do put a win on the board – qualification for the Toffee’s youngsters still faintly possible, should they beat us and Lincoln beat Notts County.
This would put Lincoln on nine points and then all three clubs (us, Notts and Everton) on three points meaning second placed qualification would be down to goal difference.
Anyway, Martin Shaw has done all the working out on Stagsnet – click here to see the full permutations, but the upshot is, if Stags win by three clear goals – they are through regardless of the Lincoln V Notts County result (played next Tuesday at Sincil Bank). Anything less than a win by three clear goals, and it’ll be in the hands of County.
As I’ve said in various articles, the Stags are vastly improving and in truth have been since Barnet away – it’s only the niggling conceding of goals late in games that’s killing us really, but if Stags – regardless of the team they put out – can produce the same style of quick, fluid, hungry football – a win will not be a problem.
Evans constantly plays the competitions importance down and of course he is right to do so, however I think in January to boost our league ambitions, we have to make two big, if not three big, signings to fuel to fire, and whilst John Radford I’ve no doubt would back that with his own funds, we are already running the risk of over spending which could kill us two or three years down the line – so why not use a competition such as the checkatrade, as an extra earner?
The prize pot has been increased this year and without kicking a ball clubs get £20,000 and then per group stage win it’s £10,000 – so already the Stags have netted £30,000, which would become £40,000 if they see off Everton’s youngsters.
£40,000 isn’t a bad amount to chuck into the transfer pot really and could make a difference, and with another £20,000 up for grabs for winning at round two – well, it wouldn’t hurt would it. We’ve a big enough squad to achieve that end goal afterall.
With skipper Zander Diamond back in the fold tomorrow, I predict a full 11 changes – which of course is well within the rules as the names Evans is likely to name, will be “first team players” – I predict it’ll be Oljenik, White, Digby, Diamond, Hunt, Sterling-James, Butcher, Thomas/Potter, Atkinson, Spencer and Angol.
This is a big week for Mansfield Town, we are trying to find our way again and we really need to cut out this late goals thing. This is a big week for characters to show they want to be a Mansfield Town player – who wants to turn up in front of a sparse crowd on a cold October night to play Everton’s kids? Who wants to go to a non-league ground and ensure what will be very different facilities to what they’re used to? Who wants to be a winner?
I said it before Notts County and I’ll say it again – Football is a game, regardless of the competition, that is there to be won. Winning breads confidence and confidence breads success. Let’s stand up, be counted, be winners and above all else – be the Mansfield Town we know we can be.
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