Stags’ boss Steve Evans says Saturday’s Sky Bet League Two clash against Cambridge United gives him the chance to gauge his side’s play-off credentials.
We travel to the Cambs Glass Stadium to face a U’s side who haven’t tasted defeat in Sky Bet League Two for eight games.
And the gaffer believes Cambridge will ultimately finish the season inside the play-offs and Saturday’s match will act as a reference point to judge how his side are progressing.
The manager said: “It’s a real benchmark for us; we get an opportunity to go and say ‘are we really contenders?’ or ‘are we kidding ourselves along and we should get ready in the summer?’
“It will tell us a lot about individuals. Football is always about an individual sport, people forget that. It’s a team that comes together, made up by individual performances. We need to go there and we need to be better than Cambridge on the day, and that’s going to be tough. I watched them at first hand and they gave a good Leeds United XI the run-around for 60 minutes.
“We need to go there, be on the front foot and make it a game. It’s not always about winning or losing or getting a point, [it's about] just how close are we to Cambridge? Because I believe Cambridge will be up there [in the top seven].”
Loanee Shaquile Coulthirst trained with his new team-mates for the first time this morning and the manager says his recruitment isn’t yet complete and is currently in talks with a club from the league above regarding the permanent addition of a player.
“Obviously we’re nearing the top end of our loans – we’ve probably got room for one more loan, which would make six.
“We’ve got Kyle Howkins who is probably a couple of weeks away. Probably for the period of that three weeks, all five could be available and then it’d be five from six but I’ve always done that, I’ve never had a problem with it.
“We’re hopeful now that we need to really focus and try and get over the line one or two permanent deals. We’re in conversations – I’ve had a long chat with a top end League One manager today about a permanent deal about one of his players.
“He’s been very positive and responsive and I’m now waiting on that young man’s representatives speaking to us. We can proceed on that fairly quickly if we can get the green light from the boy’s agents.”
The manager also reflected on Tuesday’s victory over Notts County in the Central League Cup and highlighted midfielder Jack Thomas as a stand-out performer.
“I think full praise must be given to young Jack Thomas – he’s suddenly looked like the player who we can remember watching last season when he got into the team and he was a real box-to-box dynamic midfield player.
“We’ve got him a little bit fitter, so Lee Taylor (fitness and rehabilitation coach) takes a lot of compliments. He’s got him a lot fitter and he’s been able to produce performances like that.
“I think there’s winners; Danny Rose and Paddy Hoban will always look a handful for any team, so I was pleased with that. The boy [James] Baxendale, he’s had a lot of minutes under me because I think he’s a real talent. I think like most others here, we just need to get him a little bit sharper.”
Supporters can view Steve Evans’ news conference, in full, on Stags PlayerHD.