Almost all of Mansfield Town’s first team squad will be used in the final half of the season to help us clinch a top-five finish, boss Paul Cox predicted today.
The manager, speaking at this morning’s pre-match press conference, indicated that the likes of Matt Rhead and Ben Hutchinson, who both scored twice in a 4-1 friendly win over Doncaster on Tuesday, will get their chance to shine before the season’s out.
The door of chance even appears to be ajar for midfielder Jamie Tolley, who has not tasted first team action since he was substituted during the 4-1 defeat at Gateshead on Tuesday 14 August.
“I have some very hungry players here. I would have thought at some point that one or two will get their chance again, like [Lee] Stevenson and [Luke] Jones did, and I hope they grab it by the scruff of the neck,” said Cox.
“The attitude that the lads are showing is tremendous at the minute. I want to embrace that and keep them fired up. There’ll be some players who lose form, have injuries, and I need to make sure the players that come in want to win and are hungry.
“There’s a little bit of pressure for the lads because we know what we want to achieve this season. I know there are a couple of players in the first team who are looking over their shoulders, and rightly so. We have some good players, on the bench and even in the stand – and that is a real positive for this football club.”
Despite expecting to use most of his squad from now until the end of the season, Cox has not ruled out making additional signings. Tuesday’s friendly game in South Yorkshire featured a young central midfielder on trial from a Premier League club – whom Cox is interested in taking on loan. The manager also revealed that a striker ‘in his late 20s who has amassed a number of league games’ is on trial with us.
“I have to be fair to the squad,” said Cox. “I have some hungry players at the minute. The squad need to understand that if they continue to show the hunger and appetite then I wont need to strengthen.”
On this weekend’s fixture at home to relegation-threatened Barrow, Cox said: “Barrow are a dangerous animal, who are fighting for their lives. It will be a very tough game and one which we must be fully focussed on to achieve a positive result.”
We have 20 games left, where there may be a number of games where we have to bite and scratch. I’ll take that at this stage of the season. Results come above performances. We have to be brave, we showed on Saturday that we can play some good stuff. When we win individual battles early in the game and earn the right to play, we’re not a bad side.“
Heading into this Saturday’s match at home to relegation-haunted Barrow, Cox has a fully fit squad to choose from apart from long-term absentee Ross Dyer, along with Jake Speight, who is recovering from knee problem.
Defenders Exodus Geohaghon and Ryan Tafazolli are battling for a place in the line-up after fully recovering from respective injuries.