It has been an enlightening, entertaining and encouraging week in the life of a Stags fan.
The team passed their biggest two tests of pre-season with flying colours, holding both MK Dons and Leicester to 1-1 draws at the One Call Stadium.
Before both games, Adam Murray painstakingly pointed out that the fixtures were arranged to focus on the team’s shape and defensive organisation, whereas the prior fixtures were aimed at building confidence on the ball and reviewing attacking options.
In both encounters, the team were organised in an easily recognisable 4-1-4-1 formation when out of possession, with Adam Chapman entrusted with sitting between defence and midfield, barking orders at the line of four in front of him.
MK Dons were a patient, passing side, prepared to wait for gaps to appear.
To combat this, the Stags let the Dons defence have the ball, but pressed midfielders when in possession within 35 yards of goal.
Leicester had more quality and looked to stretch the Stags central defenders by running in behind, successfully on a few occasions in the first half.
The shakiness of previous pre-season games was not evident as Mansfield defended admirably against high class opposition. Krystian Pearce in particular caught the eye with two powerful displays.
Despite not anticipating many opportunities to attack, Mansfield’s newly found calmness on the ball created numerous goalscoring chances across both games.
Matt Green looked back to his best, causing problems for both sets of defenders, especially those of MK Dons.
Nathan Thomas scored another fantastic long range goal and was only denied a second by the Premier League quality of Kasper Schmeichel.
Adam Chapman was instrumental in switching play to either side of the pitch to Mal Benning and Nicky Hunt. The Stags full backs are the starting point for nearly every attacking move, as they manoeuvre passes up the line to their winger or inside to an available midfielder.
The surprise of the summer has been the performances of Mitchell Rose, whose name had perhaps been lost amongst the more recognisable acquisitions made.
Having initially toyed with using Rose as a winger, where he did not look entirely comfortable but still performed adequately, the young starlet was moved to a central midfield role part way through the Worksop friendly by Adam Murray.
Since making the switch, Rose’s surging runs through the centre of the park, primarily without the ball, have been a key feature of the Stags attacks.
Too often last season, the Stags’ lone striker was left isolated by a static midfield, but now as soon as a full back picks up the ball, Rose breaks from midfield and runs into the channels to support Green.
Rose was the catalyst that provided the Stags with their first penalty ‘since Adam was a lad’ against Leicester City.
Apart from a few doubts over the performances of Scott Shearer, Murray could not have anticipated pre-season turning out much better than it has, having integrated 13 new faces and an entirely new philosophy in less than a month.
Hats off to the manager for what we have seen so far.
Of course, the true test of both his and his players’ mettle will come in less than a fortnight, but it would take the most pessimistic of fans to deny that they are excited about what they have seen so far.