Stags skipper Collins relishing new midfield role

Mansfield Town v Cambridge
Stags' captain, Lee Collins, puts the last cross of the first half into the Cambridge box.
Mansfield Town v Cambridge Stags' captain, Lee Collins, puts the last cross of the first half into the Cambridge box.

Mansfield Town skipper Lee Collins said is relishing his new midfield role as he prepared to lead the injury-hit Stags out at Hartlepool United on Saturday.

Collins played most of last season at centre half or full back, but his conversion into a defensive midfielder has seen him enjoying his football more than ever.

“My preference is midfield at the moment,” he said.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do all my career but I’ve never really had the chance to do it.

“I feel I am doing well in there, I am enjoying it and I’m getting more of the ball.

“You do actually enjoy your football a bit more in there because you’re more involved.

“You’re not constantly thinking I’ve got to defend in a minute. You are involved in the attacking play a lot more.”

Stags are looking to bounce back this weekend from a 1-0 home defeat by Barnet, despite dominating the game, and Collins said: “It’s a bit frustrating because we did play well.

“I know the result wasn’t good and doesn’t look good for the paying fans, but there was some good stuff, some really good patterns of play and we got into their final third a lot.

“We just need to be more clinical, finish off the chances we create, and keep the ball out of our own net – don’t get sucker-punched like we did.”

Defender George Taft limped off with a hamstring injury in the Barnet game to join the ever-growing procession of early season injuries.

“We have coped remarkably well (with the injuries),” said Collins.

“It just shows the strength in depth we’ve got with the signings that we’ve made.

“We’ve picked up a lot, six or seven men down, and at the moment it looks like we’re going to be a couple more down for the weekend.

“So we have had to work on a new shape which we’ve done quite a lot of work on already this week as you need it cemented in for Saturday.

“It’s looking good. We have the personnel that can adapt to things like that so we are looking forward to it.”

Mansfield head to Hartlepool in 10th but missed out on the chance of going top over the last two home games.

“I’d say we’ve had a very good start,” he continued.

“It’s also been a bit frustrating as we could be right near the top at the moment with the games we’ve lost and the games we haven’t really capitalised on.

“No team has really beat us up as such yet. We’ve held our own really well and I think there is more to come. I think we are a very good footballing side and we just need to express it a little bit more.

“The spirit here is fantastic. There are a lot of senior pros here who the young lads bounce off and look to.

“There is a lot of guidance and there are a lot of ‘men’ in our changing room. That is refreshing because we will inevitably hit a rocky patch in the season.

“That’s when the men need to stand up and be counted and there are a lot of them in this changing room to do it.”

He added: “Without being disrespectful to anybody, as everyone was a good player here last season, I just think we’ve improved the quality a bit. We have recruited well.

“The new lads have slotted in very quickly. Normally it takes a few months but straight from Brooksby (college pre-season residential camp), they’ve settled in really well and they are all good characters.”

After a draw and a defeat at home, Stags now play three of their next four games away, but with wins at Newport and Leyton Orient already under their belts this season, will fear no one.

“Three out of four away should be a bad thing as you should rely on your home performances quite a lot,” said Collins.

“But we’ve got this strange habit of having an incredible away record and not so good at home.

“It’s an easy fix as long as we start pulling the right strings and show what we are about as I don’t think we’re quite expressing ourselves at home.

“We are getting there in small steps, but there’s more to come.

“I know the fans are understandably frustrated with the results, but it will come.”

On Hartlepool, he added: “It will be another tough one.

“I know they are doing okay. They’ve obviously got our old mate Nathan (Thomas) doing well. But we’ll go up there, put in a good shift and won’t do anything silly.”