After a second fine display in five days against top class opposition, Mansfield Town boss Adam Murray admitted it was hard keeping a lid on the growing optimism over how well his new-look side can do this season.
After the midweek 1-1 draw with Milton Keynes Dons, Stags more than matched the might of Premier League Leicester City in today’s 1-1 home draw, Mansfield twice hitting the woodwork.
“There is still a lot of hard work to do,” said Murray. “We have two weeks to go and we will now put the foot down.
“Optimism is brilliant and no one is more optimistic than the players and the staff here as we know what we have got in that changing room.
“But we must have a balance between that and realism. We have to work hard to make sure the performances in pre-season carry on to 8th August when it really matters.
“It was always going to be a tough test for us today.
“We wanted to look at our defensive structure and organisation.
“I was disappointed with their goal as it should have been a foul. To be fair he put the ball in the only place in the net it could have gone. That’s Premier League for you.
“But for 60 minutes we more than competed with them and showed what a good team we can be.
“When you start making changes it always becomes disjointed.
“We showed we want to play and there were some strong performances out there and our work rate was terrific.
“We have put in a lot of work on keeping our shape and, while we are nowhere near where we need to be yet, we showed today we are on the right path. Once we get the process right, the results will come.”
He added: “We will look a bit more at our defensive shape but also I think we can get better in the final third where we are having a lot of ball at times and need to make that effective.”
One of Stags’ star performers on the day was summer signing Mitchell Rose, who was in the thick of the midfield action and won the penalty from which Matt Green equalised David Nugent’s early strike.
“Mitchell shows drive from midfield and great energy to get forward,” said Murray. “He has a little bit of everything.
“He is fit, strong and powerful and can play. His attitude is spot on and the key thing for me is that he is a great person and cares about the game of football.”
Mansfield now have two weeks to complete their preparations and Murray said: “It is a fine balance between the work and rest ratio now.
“We may still bring someone else in as we have still got a very small squad. But this squad is becoming something special, so it would have to be the right player to make it better.”
However, Murray said that after his run-out in Thursday’s friendly at Leicester, it was unlikely he would play again.
“It was my first run-out and my last,” he smiled. “It was nine months since I’d played a game, but I think I probably needed it to make up my own mind.
“That was made up when I got cramp at 3am when I was going to the toilet.
“You never know what’s round the corner so I may still register to give us a bit more cover if needed. But I think we have better players than me here now.”
The Leicester game was interrupted in the first half by a streaker from the Foxes end, though he kept his pants on to preserve his modesty.
“I thought the streaker looked like a spitting image of me – perhaps a bit slimmer,”said Murray.
“It was something different wasn’t it? And it got a few people off their seats.
“It was a great day overall. The big thing is we have to give the fans something to shout about and then they have to give us their support. Today that was superb.
“For us to be successful at this football club, they know how big a part they can play.”
Stags now move on to a friendly at Basford United on Tuesday with Murray still to decide whether he will sent a first team or youth side.
He said: “A few boys still need to top their minutes up so I will look at injuries and assess the situation and what environment we are going into over the weekend and then make a decision.”