LOMAS ON STAGS: Excitement builds as fixtures day approaches

Mansfield Town FC
Mansfield Town FC

One of the most exciting days on the football calendar is fast-approaching.

For tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 9am Mansfield Town and other EFL fans across the country will learn their side’s fixtures for the 2017/18 season - full details on this web site as they are announced.

Suddenly fans can map out their next year’s movements and start to book accommodation and plan trips.

At this point every fan can sit and dream about what might be. Glory is within everyone’s grasp until the matches kick in.

But Stags fans this time around have far more than wishful dreaming to base their hopes upon.

Boss Steve Evans has, on paper, conjured up 12 excellent signings already with a possible one or two still in the pipeline, and bookies are already seeing the Stags as League One candidates.

As soon as the fixtures are out at 9am on Wednesday, Stags fans will be quickly scanning down them for the dates of the local derbies with Chesterfield and Notts County.

Although the Notts fixtures remain a great attraction and provide two big crowds home and away, the real spice is the clashes with old enemy Chesterfield and they will be the first ones in fans’ diaries.

Stags fans thoroughly enjoyed watching Chesterfield bow out of League One with little more than a whimper last season and will feel they are better equipped to end up in the higher division in 12 months time.

Not far behind Chesterfield and Notts games are the ‘derbies’ with Lincoln City, newly-promoted from the National League, which always see big crowds and ‘derby passion’.

And there will be more memories reignited from the Stags’ time in the Conference when fans get the chance to travel back down to ultra-green Forest Green Rovers, also promoted with Lincoln after winning the Wembley play-off final.

With everything their owner has thrown at it and the near misses they have had, persistent Rovers do deserve their first crack at League Football.

Carnivorous Stags fans travelling back to the sleepy Gloucestershire village ground will remember to make sure they pack their meat sandwiches and pies in advance to take to what is the world’s first vegan football club!

Of the clubs relegated from League One besides the Spireites, Stags fans will have a first ever chance to watch their side at Coventry City’s Ricoh Arena – the last time Mansfield played City away was at their old Highfield Road ground back in January 1965 in the League Cup and a year before in League action.

There will also be a first game at Swindon Town’s County ground since April 2007 and a first away League game at Port Vale’s Vale Park since November 2002, though Stags did win a Checkatrade Trophy clash there last season.

Though not a derby game as such, dates for the home and away clashes with Grimsby Town will also generate much interest as they always see big away followings at both ends.

Stags were left with a tough run-in at the end of last season and ultimately just missed out on the play-offs so will be hoping for a kinder April this time around.

But boss Steve Evans’ points per game record after taking over in November was promotion form and he will stress to his new-look squad that squandered points in August can come back to bite you on the backside by April and demand a flying start.

With trips to Exeter, Yeovil, Carlisle, Morecambe, Newport and Crawley to undertake, Mansfield fans will be hoping the fixtures are kind to them and not too many of the long hauls are in midweek.

At least with Portsmouth and Plymouth Argyle promoted fans will actually travel 910 miles fewer than last season, with the trip to St James Park to face Exeter now the longest trip of the campaign at 448 miles for a round-trip.

Whether Stags kick off home or away on the Saturday, fans know they will be at home in midweek after drawing League One Rochdale at home in what will be a tough Carabao Cup first round tester.

That draw will fire up new keeper Conrad Logan even more to be the early holder of the number one shirt, having been an integral point of Rochdale’s play-off chase last season.