He’s already reached one target since he’s been here, but now Ben Whiteman has a much bigger prize to chase...
First published in 'The Stag', the club's official match programme, versus Exeter City on 01 April 2017.
When joining on loan from Sheffield United just before the turn of the year, the young midfielder told himself he wanted to find the net five times before the end of the season.
In the final match in March, at Morecambe, he surpassed that tally with a coolly taken strike which was his sixth in 16 games since moving from the Blades – and helped the Stags secure a 3-1 victory and back-to-back wins following their 2-0 home success over Carlisle.
Of course, the 20-year-old wants to keep up his excellent scoring record for Mansfield in the final six games of the season.
But it’s a first senior promotion on his CV that now interests Whiteman the most as the Stags bid to gatecrash the play-offs and then win a place in League One with victory at Wembley.
“I’m really pleased with how it’s gone in terms of the goals, although it took me a while to get back on the scoresheet after such a great start in my first few games,”he explains.
“I set the benchmark high in those first few weeks and I’ve had a couple of chances since then that I wish I could have stuck away.
“It’s not nice to miss chances and you can feel the pressure, but hopefully there are a couple more goals to come and if I could get to 10 – double figures – then that would be brilliant and mean that we would most likely be doing well as a team.
“That’s the main focus now; to get into those play-offs and then, hopefully, win them. The last two games [prior to Exeter] have been massive for us to get the wins on the board. We were playing well but not getting the results.
“We have quite a few of the top sides left to play, but I think that’s a good thing. If you want to win promotion, then you have to beat the best teams.
“I wouldn’t like to say for sure how many wins we will need from the seven games to get into the play-offs – it depends what the other teams do – but I think if we won five of them, then that would be enough.”
Exeter come to One Call Stadium one point and two places above the Stags, having fought back to gain a remarkable point with a 3-3 draw with Yeovil last time out when trailing 3-0 going into the dying stages.
The Grecians also make the long trip up from Devon boasting an excellent record in north Nottinghamshire, having not lost in their last seven outings. In fact, the amber and blues last earned victory over Exeter in 1997-98, when two Tony Ford goals helped secure a 3-2 triumph.
Another fascinating sub-plot to the game is the likely appearance in opposition to the Stags of 14-goal striker OIlie Watkins, a player Steve Evans reportedly attempted to sign in the January transfer window.
But Whiteman says the players will be paying little attention to the statistics ahead of what he believes is the biggest game of the season so far. Mansfield would leapfrog their opponents if they did prevail and, with Luton hosting Blackpool, would most likely move into the top seven too.
Whiteman, born near Rochdale and an ardent Manchester United fan growing up, signed for the Old Trafford club at the age of seven having been scouted when playing for his local side Bridge
He stayed with the Red Devils until the age of 16, when he was released, but he soon moved across the Pennines to Sheffield United after impressing in a trial game.
“I’ve always been hugely into Man United, and I still go to games now whenever I can. Paul Scholes was my favourite of all the players, but I’ve also loved watching the likes of David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.
“If I can score anywhere near the number of goals that Paul Scholes has, then I will be happy, but I’m also keen to contribute to the team, and hopefully I’ve done that since I have been here.”
A virtual ever-present since his arrival, Whiteman has greatly valued playing regular first-team football and learning from the more experienced players around him.
As for his long-term future, he says it will have to wait until the end of the season when all parties will know where they stand.
Whiteman adds: “I look up to people like the skipper (Lee Collins), Joel (Byrom), Macca (Alex MacDonald) and Danny (Rose), as well as Greenie (Matt Green), who has played in the Championship for Birmingham.
“The whole squad has a lot of experience – I think I am the youngest in the team at the minute – which means there’s lots I am trying to pick up from the rest of the lads.
“With it being my first loan, I won’t mind admitting that I was very nervous before the first game, but once I got that out of the way, everyone at the club has been great, from the chairman and gaffer to the players and the ladies in the canteen.
“At the start, I only ever envisaged it being a loan and I don’t know what’s going to happen further down the line, as Sheffield United is still my parent club.
“What I can say is that I have really enjoyed my time here, and it’s a really good club to be at."