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Boss challenges players to 'stake a claim' for starting spot

24 July 2017

Stags' boss Steve Evans has challenged his players to stake a claim for a starting berth away to Crewe Alexandra on the opening day of the season ahead of the final few pre-season friendlies.

Two separate squads will travel to Matlock Town and Gainsborough Trinity, respectively, tomorrow before Stags face Alfreton Town on Saturday and Rainworth Miners' Welfare next Tuesday. 

And the gaffer says he has told the squad that 'the gloves are off' as his players compete for a place in the starting XI when the Sky Bet League Two begins on Saturday 05 August. 

"I’ve said to the players yesterday after the little training session and the Open Day – ‘the gloves are off, the gloves are off for all of you,'" the Stags' chief said.

"That means it’s time now to earn your place. We’ve accepted that people are trying to get fit, we’ve accepted that people are perhaps trying things to impress, we’ve accepted that people are doing things that would be unusual but they know now from training and from the games how we like to play, the patterns of play that we like to introduce and it’s now an opportunity for the next two weeks to stake a claim.

The gaffer believes that tomorrow's double-header gives the Stags an opportunity to increase the amount of game-time for his squad.  

"Hopefully we can get 90 minutes into as many players as possible. It's two XI's that will represent the first team squad and each venue will have three or four of the under 21s backing the teams up," the Stags' chief said.

"If we need to make a change through injury – hopefully not – or through fatigue in the later stages, then the youngsters will be there to back it up. But primarily, we want it to be as many getting 90 minutes as possible."

Winger Alex MacDonald and defender David Mirfin both missed Saturday's pre-season friendly against Nottingham Forest and the boss has explained the reasons behind the pair's absence.

"[Alex MacDonald] had a little flicker of a cartilage breakaway in his knee, so he had a minor operation last week to remove that. I think the operation, the surgeon was telling the staff, I think it was seven minutes, so it shows you in reality how minor it was.

"Alex will be fighting now to be ready for Crewe, and I think that's more about game-time than anything else. We'll probably say he won't be ready for Crewe, but that's just based on game-time, he's injury-free now and he's working hard and he should be back with the group on Monday next week.

"[David Mirfin] was just not feeling well, as simple as that. He reported and he felt a little bit under the weather.

"He's missed this morning with the same little bug but he's feeling much better, our medical team have spoken to him in the last hour and he's feeling much better but sometimes you get that as a 24-48-hour bug and you have to protect it. David will be back in the morning."

The former Leeds United manager has also provided supporters with an update on the club's transfer negotiations, and revealed that midfielders Jack Thomas and Lewis Collins could both embark on loan spells.

"Young Jack Thomas and young Lewis Collins; we've had a number of requests come in from non-league clubs and we've spoken to both lads this morning and they're open to it.

"They want to play – they're working incredibly hard but the quality we've got within the group at the minute says they're probably not going to be able to force themselves in in the short term.

"They're both good kids, both still highly thought-of so that's a possibility and as everyone knows in the country, we're working so hard to add one or two to the group and we'll continue to try."

Supporters can login to iFollow Stags to view the manager's full news conference.


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