Mansfield Town forward James Gale has said that he enjoyed ‘every moment’ of his first league start as the Stags drew to promotion rivals Sutton United on Saturday.
The 21-year-old made his full league debut in the 0-0 draw to Sutton United at One Call Stadium.
The Nottingham born frontman had previously made nine substitute appearances for the club in the league since joining from United Counties League Premier Division North side Long Eaton United in September 2021.
Speaking at a news conference at RH Academy – the club’s training ground – about his first league start, Gale said: “I enjoyed every moment of it. It was a good opportunity to showcase what I can do to help the team out.
“I couldn’t really believe it [the start]. I haven’t had a lot of play time this year, but I have been working towards it and it felt like an opportunity [that] I was there, ready to take.”
The Stags had to work hard for a point at One Call Stadium on Saturday in a challenging contest where clear-cut chances were at a premium for both teams.
“I think you won’t come up against anyone like that [Sutton] in the league again,” said Gale. “I think that they are a very physical side and they knew what they were doing.
“They made over like 20 fouls so they were definitely coming with a game plan of just hurting us and try [to] stop us from playing.
“It was very hard work for us and not every game is going to be so physically demanding so we were just on it defensively, so I think we did well.”
Evaluating his performance against Sutton, he said: “I thought that attackingly, there was more I could have done but I feel like I am going to feel like that after most games.
“I thought defensively, the help that I got from the boys and the help that I tried to provide, I felt good about it, and I felt happy with my performance.”
Gale started his career in the Derby youth ranks but was released in the under 14s.
He went on to join Long Eaton United under 16s before breaking into the senior team and then joining Mansfield.
When asked about the change in levels from the reserves, under 23s and Long Eaton United, James said: “I think it’s more that everyone is more physically fit and everybody is strong. Nobody is slow in this league either, compared to Long Eaton or under 23s, where you may be able to find the odd person [that] you can take on a bit easier.
“Everybody is good, everybody is here for a reason at a good level, so you’ve got to just try [and] match them.”