Assistant boss Joe Dunne has revealed that the Stags may almost have a full roster of players to select from for this weekend’s upcoming fixture away at Northampton Town.
Two recent absentees – midfielder Alex MacDonald and defender Matt Preston – are expected to return to training this week following hamstring injuries, leaving wing-back Kellan Gordon as the only current injured first team player.
Dunne says that the increased numbers in Stags’ training sessions due to returning players increases competition and intensity within the Mansfield ranks.
“We expect him [Alex MacDonald] to be back on the grass this week, so that’s a real positive for us,” he told iFollow Stags. “[Matt Preston] again, is back on the grass this week, so another positive.
“The key thing with both of those players being added to it [squad] is that it keeps up competition.
“With Kellan [Gordon], unfortunately, the process is a little bit slower with him. It’s important that we give him the best time possible to be able to showcase his talent.
“Unfortunately, he is a player we haven’t really had a chance to see anything of. But the positive is that we’re starting to clear out the treatment room now.
“The more we have to train with, the better. What we’ve seen is a real enthusiasm to learn and we’re seeing good improvements in our younger players as well.”
Dunne also discussed the ‘improvements’ he has seen from the players since the management team’s first game against Northampton in December – with the Stags set to take on the Cobblers once again this weekend.
“There are always areas for improvement – anyone will tell you that, even if you’re doing well and doing a lot of good things,” he explained.
“We’ve tried to eradicate as many individual errors as we can – we’ve worked very hard to try and improve that.
“But it’s been really pleasing to see the effort the players are showing to get to the level the gaffer [Graham Coughlan] wants.
“There are one or two individuals showing that – young and old. The players we brought in [in January] are now starting to flourish.
“We’re starting to see improvements in individuals. The strikers are getting chances and we’re working very hard at our game.
“There are a lot of positive things we can maintain moving forward towards the end of the season and into next season.
“We’ve been here long enough now to say: ‘these are the improvements that we’re making’ and ‘these are the improvements we can add.’
“The gaffer is quite astute with that and you start to get a skeleton of the team you want to go forward with – it’s just a case of adding bits and pieces to it.”
Looking ahead to the weekend’s Sky Bet League Two fixture, Dunne says that the Stags ‘have enough’ to cause Northampton problems, but the amber and blue will have to be wary of the Cobblers’ threats.
“Northampton have been pretty consistent in their performances,” he said. “They’re in a position to challenge for promotion and have good strengths.
“But we just want to keep playing at the moment as we feel we’re getting close to where we need to be.
“It’s a big challenge for us, of course, but one that we’ll embrace and go into with a positive attitude.
“They [Northampton] are in the business end of the season where they need to pick up results and home wins – but we feel like that in our position we can go there and carry a threat.
“We can now see that in every game as we’re creating chances and feel we’re getting stronger as a unit and defensively. We have enough about us to cause Northampton one or two problems.
“But of course, we need to be ready for the strengths of Northampton.”
Saturday’s fixture will signal two weeks since Mansfield’s last outing, a 1-0 defeat away at Cheltenham Town which was followed by the weekend’s postponed fixture against league leaders Swindon Town.
Dunne says the decision to postpone Saturday’s game was the correct one, and that the Stags utilised their time with an extra training session.
“It was the correct decision [to call the Swindon game off] and it was an easy decision. The condition of the pitch, unfortunately, was saturated. No chance football could have been played on it.
“As the day progressed, it didn’t get any better, so I think the right decision was made at the right time.
“We trained on Saturday. We managed to get on a pitch which had more of a raised level and managed to get a good session into the players on Saturday.
“We used Saturday afternoon to go and watch games and players. I went to watch Cambridge play Carlisle as it’s down in my neck of the woods.
“I think we’d rather have played on Saturday because of all the preparation we’d done going into it. You have to get yourself motivated for the game, so sometimes training can have a negative effect, but the players were excellent on Saturday morning.
“We did the work we needed to do and we go into this week doing exactly the same.”
iFollow Stags subscribers can watch Joe’s interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.