Stags’ defender Riley Harbottle says he’s enjoying a ‘brilliant’ start to life on loan at Mansfield Town and is ‘loving it’ as he continues to further his development at One Call Stadium.
The 22-year-old has been an integral part of the Mansfield squad that currently sits fourth in Sky Bet League Two, scoring three times since joining on loan from Nottingham Forest in the summer.
Regularly operating on the left side of a three-man central defence, the Nottingham-born youngster has helped the amber and blue stretch to a run of seven league matches without defeat.
Harbottle was voted as the club’s Player of the Month for August 2022.
Speaking at a news conference at RH Academy yesterday morning, Riley said:“I’m loving it.
“I think everyone has made it easy for me to come in here and just showcase what I can do.
“It’s been brilliant so far and I just want to keep it going.”
This season is Riley’s first taste of Sky Bet League Two action. When asked how he’s finding senior EFL football, he said: “I always expected it to be tough.
“The physical side of it and not knowing a lot about the players you’re coming up against [is a challenge].
“On a weekend, there's different types of strikers that you’re coming up against.
“[There are] The bigger ones and then a few younger lads who are on loan who I’ve played against in academy football but it’s a different challenge.”
The youngster has formed part of a solid defensive structure at the Stags. The more experienced Oli Hawkins and Elliott Hewitt have complemented Riley’s skillset as Mansfield have kept three clean sheets in the previous six league matches.
“It’s good when you have a settled backline,” said Stags’ number six.
“I think with the squad we have, anyone can go in there and play in any position.
“You look at Hawks [Oli Hawkins] for example who’s not normally a defender but he's been brilliant so far.
“Ell [Elliott Hewitt] has been outstanding.
“I think I've done really well myself – bearing in mind that I’ve never played on the left side of a back three, or even the left side before I came here.
“It’s something I’ve got to get used to and keep learning.
“I’m pleased that the gaffer has put faith in me to play on that side and I’m enjoying it.”
Stags were drawn away to Barrow in the Emirates FA Cup first round, having beaten the Bluebirds 1-0 two matches previously in the league.
“It’s an interesting one [against] Barrow away,” Riley said.
“[We’ve] Just been there, so [it’s] not really one we want to go back to but we’re happy with anyone that we get.
“The travelling you have to do especially [with] the away tie [isn't great].
“At home would’ve been [a] better [tie] but we’ll take it and we’re ready to play anyone really.
“It was a gritty win [when we faced them last].
“Every game in this league is not going to be [getting the ball down and] playing but we grinded the result out.
“We were pleased with that.”
Mansfield face a trip to Crawley this Saturday aiming to build on the club’s superb run of four away league wins from four matches. When asked what he puts the excellent form on the road down to, Riley said: “The togetherness in the group.
“I think when you’re winning games and picking up points it doesn't matter where you’re going.
“You are feeling confident enough to go and pick up the three points.”