Defender Krystian Pearce and captain Lee Collins are both stepping up their comebacks ahead of Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated home match at home to Exeter City in Sky Bet League Two.
Former Torquay United man Pearce missed last week’s victory over Morecambe with an ankle sprain, despite almost being deemed fit to play, whilst Collins has missed the last two games with a hamstring strain which he suffered against Colchester United just over two weeks ago.
But manager Steve Evans has revealed that both players have now returned to training, whilst centre-half George Taft is also pushing for a starting berth.
“He’s trained for a couple of days, so Krystian will be available. George Taft has played in a practice match on Monday and I thought he was outstanding, so from that point of view, we have good options," the Stags' chief said.
“Lee’s trained for a couple of days so we’re almost on a full house. Paddy Hoban will miss [the match]; he’s got a little bit of a strained knee, if I can use that expression, so he’ll be the one that’s out.
“I did say that when Kyle [Howkins] was back fit and when big Tafty was back fit, they’d be like two new signings and they are.
"George Taft is pressing to start. He’s been that good in the practice match and that good in training, but we’ll make an informed decision when we train today and tomorrow and as I always do, sit down with the staff and pick what we think we have to do against a decent Exeter side.”
On Saturday, we face an Exeter side who sit one point above the Stags and currently occupy the final play-off place.
“It’s going to be really tough for us; this is a team that way back when they beat us, I said they’ll end up in the play-offs or fighting for it, and I believed it. The manager’s got a big part to play with that and more importantly, his recruitment. His players have been excellent for him.
“The supporters are going to play a big part on Saturday, for me. We’re playing against a quality side [with] quality players. The game will be on a knife edge either way but there’s a big prize for both, which is to get into those play-offs.
“I know Exeter’s sitting on the cusp of them now, but they’re hanging in there as opposed to being really in them and we want to be really in them and I’m sure Paul Tisdale does as well.”
Speculation arose earlier in the week suggested the manager had been offered an opportunity to take up a lucrative role in Qatar, but our boss has completely dismissed the possibility of him accepting any offer and committed his future to the Stags.
"A week ago, or just under that, an opportunity came back again via the guys that look after me, and I said to them at that time, for the second time, it’s not for me
"I’m not going to go there and I’m only focussed on the job here in hand which has got seven games remaining to take a club into the play-offs that were thinking possibly more about wanting to stay up when we arrived.
“I’m not going anywhere near that opportunity. I’m very grateful for that opportunity and it’s perhaps a sign that I came out of Leeds and I took some time away and I’ve come back in and I think within the inside of football, people have recognised the job that’s been done [at Mansfield].
“It’s not for me, it’s not for my family and my only focus is Exeter City on Saturday. I had a good meeting with the chairman (John Radford) and chief executive (Carolyn Radford) yesterday and they were as pleased as I am to just keep the focus on Saturday.”
Supporters can view the gaffer’s full news conference by logging in to Stags PlayerHD.