Evans believes Stags are underdogs for big Stevenage clash

Mansfield Town's Manager Steve Evans - Photo by Chris Holloway
Mansfield Town's Manager Steve Evans - Photo by Chris Holloway

Mansfield Town manager Steve Evans believes the bookmakers are wrong and that his side are the underdogs in Saturday’s huge play-off showdown at rivals Stevenage.

The Stags are two points behind the play-off zone, in which Stevenage sit after some great results since the turn of the year.

But Evans is confident his side can keep their dream alive to the last two games at the weekend.

“I know the bookmakers make us slight favourites, but I think in reality if I was a neutral or a Sky TV pundit, as I’ve been many times, I’d say Stevenage are favourites,” he said.

“They are on a wonderful run of form, though they’ve had one or two wobbly results.

“If we are at our best we’ve got a right chance of getting a result. If we are below it we’ll get beat and Stevenage will go on towards the play-offs and we’ll go out.

“These boys have taken it to three to go. Let’s see if we can make it two to go.

“We are the surprise package in this play-off fight – no one else.”

Mansfield were held 1-1 at home by Luton on Monday after Friday’s sparkling 1-0 win at Wycombe and Evans said: “I was disappointed we didn’t take six from six.

“Our performances and how we controlled both games for large period, it should have been six. But you have to respect two quality opposition teams.

“We are going to have to get a return of points from these last three games anyway – that was clear before we went to Wycombe.

“But I don’t really want to look at Stevenage or up and down the table. I just want to look at us and make sure our sole focus is getting enough from individuals in the team collectively to get a positive result there.

“Obviously I’ve done my homework and I will continue to look at them.”

He added: “I spoke to the Stevenage chairman at the start of the season when I wasn’t in football.

“He is a good man with a good knowledge of players in the game, and he felt this was their best chance of getting promotion in a few years. You have to respect that as he knows his players and he knows his football. But we know what we need to do.”

Evans has tried to balance rest with training as the massive games come thick and fast.

He said: “We are not tired. We are fresh. We’ve made sure the training loads this week have allowed the players to turn up at 3pm this Saturday with lots of energy.

“They are a fit group with lots of energy anyway.

“We can go to Stevenage and affect the outcome of that game. We can play Portsmouth at home and affect that and then go down to Crawley.

“What I’ve always said is take it to the next game and make sure we’re still in the mix. Let’s come out of Stevenage and try, if anything, to close that gap to the play-off group with two games to go.

“We’ve seen again over Easter the results in many games were all over the place.

“We have total positivity. We believe we can go down to Stevenage and get a positive result. But at the same time we have real respect for the opposition and players – they have a good squad assembled there.”

Evans may tweak the formation and personnel at Broadhall Way.

“We have controlled games but I’d like to see us pass a bit slicker in the final third and take a chance with efforts in the box,” he said.

“We don’t score enough goals though we have some good balance in our defensive displays at the minute.

“We may change the shape a bit and go back to a rigid four with the strength that Stevenage have. We will look at it over the next couple of days.

“We might freshen it up in two or three positions in terms of personnel. The boys are all champing at the bit to play and that’s the great thing.”

He said the dressing room is full of enthusiasm and belief.

“The skipper had just told me they are all buzzing. The dressing room is bouncing,” smiled Evans.

“They are looking forward to these three challenges. These boys never thought they were going to be involved with three to go and fighting for promotion.

“They thought these would be dead end games. But they are very much involved.”