As Stags midfielder Fergus Bell prepared to strap up his injured shoulder and go into battle once more, he admitted tomorrow’s visitors, Plymouth Argyle, will be a formidable test.
The Pilgrims are unbeaten in seven League games while Stags haven’t won in nine games and Bell said: “We saw them on TV on the coach last week and they look a real attacking threat with players all across the pitch.
“But I feel we can match them and we don’t concede too many goals. People will probably tip them for promotion with the run they are on, so it will be a good test for us.”
Bell is carrying a dislocated collarbone injury that needs an operation next summer, but is not the only one needing to be patched up by club physio Chris Bowman right now as the club’s injury crisis eases.
“I am playing with a lot of strapping, but it’s nice to be back out on the pitch and not worry about it,” said Bell.
“There are a few of us in this situation. But the ante in training has gone up a notch as there is now real competition for places and the manager has some pretty hard decisions to make.
“Just before kick-off Chris gets some of us out there just by taping us back together again. But you just get used to it and I think I am now back to my physical best and I hope people can see that.”
Although he had a decent game himself in Tuesday’s 1-1 FA Cup draw with Conference South Concord Rangers, Bell knows there was a lot of unrest in the stands with players and manager booed during and after the game.
He said: “Personally, and I think a lot of the other players are similar to me, I didn’t really hear what was going on in the stand. I was just following the ball and concentrating on what was going on in the game.
“You could sense a bit of atmosphere at half-time and afterwards. But fans are entitled to their views. We have had great support since I arrived here and I know this is a frustrating time.
“We are maybe not getting the rub of the green at the moment and a few things are going against us.
“It was a really hard game. If we’d got a couple of early goals, it would have been different, and we did have a lot of chances.
“They came and put in a very good performance. But I thought, in patches, we showed real glimpses of quality and on another day could have had four or five goals.
“It was a hard-fought draw that could have gone either way towards the end. But I think Tuesday’s replay will be a different game away from home. I think we have the quality and confidence to go there and do well.”
Stags led briefly only to be rocked by a 30-yard thunderbolt by Jordan Chiedozie.
“What a strike it was,” said Bell. “Probably, with hindsight, there might have been a bit more pressure on the ball. But 35 yards out, you don’t expect anyone to do that, so give the guy his due really.
“It’s not as if we were being cut open before that. They’d not had any clear cut chances.
“We did create chances but their keeper had a ‘worldy’
“I hope we can take that form into Saturday and get some points on the board.”