Graham Coughlan is looking forward to seeing how his side will evolve and grow in the forthcoming matches, the Stags’ boss said at a news conference today.
The Mansfield manager, though furious after seeing the Stags let slip a two goal advantage at Leyton Orient last Saturday, re-emphasised the qualities of his new-look squad in a virtual interview ahead of this Saturday’s home match against Exeter City.
Stags’ charges head into this weekend’s game following the return of a complete set of negative tests for COVID-19.
Tests were conducted earlier this week after last weekend’s hosts, Leyton Orient, confirmed ‘a number of its players had tested positive for COVID-19’, earlier this week.
Stags’ training was disrupted when the news was received, the manager revealed.
“It was a worrying period for us,” said the Stags’ chief.
“If the truth be known, we had to call a halt to training [when we received the news]. We trained for about 45-50 minutes. Our heads were elsewhere.
“As soon as the tests came back (negative) we could reset and re-focus and get going from there.”
Stags continue to adhere strictly to COVID-19 measures, with the manager reserving special praise for head physiotherapist Thomas Whittamore who is leading the club’s protection procedure.
“We’re still following protocols, with two-metre distancing. Everything that we need to do, we’re doing.
“I must take my hat off to the club and the staff and in particular Tom Whittamore, our head physio, who has led the COVID-19 protocol, liaising with the EFL through the whole process. He’s handled it expertly and deserves a pat on the back from me and from the players. He has kept us out of harms’ way and has structured the training ground to be as safe as possible.”
Highlighting his players’ qualities ahead of this weekend’s clash at home to Exeter City, Graham said: “I was still angry on Monday [after the Orient 2-2 draw] but I came into work and this group of lads don’t half pick you up. They don’t half make you feel to trust and believe in them.
“The way they work from Monday to Friday and the performances they’ve given us over the last two games gives me great hope and faith in this group.
“They’ve been absolutely brilliant. I can’t overemphasise how enjoyable it is working with them, how honest and hard-working they are.
“But, and I’ll always have ‘a but’, we want to win football matches. They were down in the dumps and angry, but that’s football. Live and learn with it. Deal with it and let’s move on.
“The way they reacted and trained today was different class. They know what we want and what we’re looking for.
“We’re in a good place. The Town is vibrant as well and we aim to keep inflating that balloon.
“I’m quite looking forward to the next couple of weeks to see us evolve, grow and build on what we’ve done.”
Stags face an Exeter outfit this weekend who have drawn one and lost one from their opening two fixtures.
“Exeter are a very good technical team,” said the manager.
“They have some good and dangerous players. They have been League Two play-off contenders for most of their League Two status.
“They’re a very high calibre opposition. They will be good, they will create and take chances. They give little up at the other end; albeit they got beat last week 2-0 [against Port Vale], which is a rarity for them.
“They’ll come here angry, hurt and will be a dangerous animal. But I’m very confident in our group, our tactics and the way we work.
“It’ll be a stern test, a really tough one for us, but we’re here to play against the best. Exeter will probably be up there again at the end of the season, that’ll come as no surprise. It’ll be a good early test for us.”
Meanwhile, striker Danny Rose has returned to training this week.
“His first day out was on Monday. We got an extra session into him on Monday so he had a ‘double hit’. Training wasn’t great for us on Tuesday, given the circumstances. He trained with us today (Thursday) so that’s a couple of training sessions under his belt.
“Touch wood, hopefully he’ll have come through his third session today okay and there’s no reaction this evening and we’ll see him in in the morning. We’ll get some more training time into him tomorrow.”
On iFollow Stags, the manager ended his news conference stating that he and the players are missing the presence of our supporters inside football stadia.
“It ain’t the same. I don’t care what anyone says.
“It ain’t the same walking out on a home or away game without the fans. I hope they’re following us on the iPlayer [iFollow Stags].
“I hope they’re enjoying what they’re seeing, apart from the eight minutes of madness at Orient last Saturday.
“I hope they feel as buoyant as me and I hope the new players are making an impression on them.
“We are missing them. Who knows, but I said it after Tranmere, could they have ‘forced’ the ball into the net and could they have ‘kept the ball out of the net’? It’s that extra one, two percent that the fans give you; they push you and drive you on.
“We’re not the only one missing the fans, every club will be. But they make a difference, let nobody tell you any different.”
iFollow Stags subscribers can watch the boss’ interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow now.
iFollow Stags match passes are now available for Saturday’s match at home to Exeter. To purchase yours for just £10, click here.