After a ‘positive’ run of results in October, Stags’ boss John Dempster says that focus must now switch to solidifying Mansfield’s home form.
The amber and blue picked up three wins, a draw and one defeat in October, with two of those victories coming away from home.
The boss says that despite the upturn in results, Stags’ home form has ‘not been good enough’ this term, which he hopes to put right this Saturday when Colchester United visit One Call Stadium.
“It’s definitely been a positive month. The most important thing now is that we can only control the future. We want to have a positive November.
“We have some interesting fixtures and we have an FA Cup game as well. But we won’t look too far forward now as we need to focus on Colchester.
“They are a team who have been together for a number of years and they’ve had a good start – although they’re only three points ahead of us now.
“They’re one of the better teams I’ve seen this season and have an experienced manager [John McGreal] who has had a number of years to put the team together and get them playing the way he wants to.
“A positive result on Saturday would be back-to-back wins and the team would be going into the FA Cup clash with Chorley in a very positive mindset.
“Our home form hasn’t been good enough. We’ve had some unfortunate results and other times we’ve underperformed.
“The support on Saturday [at Walsall] gave us another gear. I’ve seen a real shift in energy at home as well – the general shouts towards the players are a lot more positive than they were in the early parts of the season.
“I know that when the home crowd are with the team, it makes a real difference.”
Recent positive results have coincided with a switch to a 4-4-2 system. John Dempster says that the formation tweak allows his players cause problems in wide areas.
“I think what it [4-4-2] has given us is crosses higher up the pitch. When you play with a back-three, the wing-backs have performed well, but the crosses have been coming in deeper than the 18-yard box.
“When you have two wider players – as in a wide midfielder and a full-back – it gives you more numbers in wide areas, which allow you to work the ball a little bit better.
“You saw on Saturday and against Forest Green that Andy Cook thrives off crosses. So does Nicky Maynard, he’s had a couple of headers – one against Walsall, one against Salford, and he scored a brilliantly worked goal against Oldham.
“We want to get crosses in the box but it’s important how we get there – moving the ball through the thirds and maintain possession when it’s not on to go forward.
“I think the good thing with the 4-4-2 is that you can make subtle tweaks. There have been times when Otis Khan and Macca [Alex MacDonald] have come quite narrow, which can cause problems to the opposition.
“They can appear in pockets and cause confusion. They’ve called problems there, and when you have attacking full-backs like Mal [Benning] and Kellan [Gordon], it has suited the players.”
This evening, Stags’ young guns will host Doncaster Rovers under-18s at One Call Stadium, in the first round of the FA Youth Cup.
The Mansfield boss and former academy manager spoke of the ‘special’ competition, adding: “If you progress in the competition [FA Youth Cup], like previous years, we’ve pulled some Premier League and Championship opposition, which makes it extra special.
“There are bigger crowds and first team staff are in attendance to watch, so it’s extra special. It’s a competition that you want to go as far as you can in.
“It’s important to see how these players react under pressure. I look back at my experiences of the FA Youth Cup and I have wonderful memories.
“It will be great to see how the players perform tonight. We have some real talent in our under-18s – we’ve seen one of them on the pitch in Jimmy Knowles so it’s a big night for him.
“One thing for sure is that Doncaster have a very good academy. We’ve had some real battles with them over the last four or five seasons at under-18 level and it will be a fiercely-contested game.
“It [academy] has been taken to the next level. The structure is growing and we’re in the final stages of planning to go to Category 3 [status], which is a massive job.
“Richard Cooper [academy manager] has been very busy, along with his staff, planning and looking at tweaking the structure. It’s an exciting fixture and the academy is expanding – that will only help with recruitment in years to come.
“I think we’re close [to having a youth player consistently involved in the first team]. Alistair Smith has been ever-present on the bench and will probably be frustrated that he hasn’t had more game time.
“But then you look at our more senior pro’s and we’re blessed with some really quality players.
“Jimmy [Knowles] is in the history books already and Clarkey [James Clarke] has made his full debut. This season, we’ve had more success with the young players coming in and being around it than we have for a very long time.”
The boss also provided injury updates on Krystian Pearce, Hayden White, Danny Rose (below) and Jacob Mellis.
“I think he [Krystian Pearce] will be touch-and-go for this weekend. He’s got a low grade strain in his groin. He was keen to play on [at Walsall] on Saturday but we thought it was best to bring him off.
“We’re very fortunate to have the cover of Matt Preston, who I believe is one of the best centre-backs in League Two. It shows our strength in depth.
“We’ll see how Hayden [White] does this week. He’ll have a full week’s training and I’m not sure whether he will be available for selection at the weekend but he’s right on the brink of full fitness.
“Danny Rose is progressing very, very well. The assessment originally said four to six weeks, but it’s looking more like four now.
“That all depends on how he does in his rehab and how the ankle reacts to the treatment. But initially, he has reacted very well to treatment.
“Jacob [Mellis] will train all week – we were keen that he had a full week’s training before he is back in contention for Saturday and this week I expect him to do that.”
iFollow Stags subscribers can watch the gaffer’s interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.