LOMAS ON STAGS: Frustration so far, but Stags will make signings

Mansfield Town v Cardiff FA Cup 3rd round replay'Manager, Steve Evans shows his appreciation for the fans.
Mansfield Town v Cardiff FA Cup 3rd round replay'Manager, Steve Evans shows his appreciation for the fans.

It has been a frustrating first half of the January transfer window for Mansfield Town supporters, despite the strides the team are making on the pitch.

Only one defeat in 20 games before last night’s FA Cup replay defeat by Cardiff suggests a team on the rise and a team that is finally fully gelling as we head towards a crucial part of the season.

But, although it is as high on quality as I can ever remember, this is still a small squad and there are 19 massive games to go for Mansfield to secure one of those top three automatic promotion spots.

Manager Steve Evans insists if none of his targets can be secured in the window, he’s happy to go with what he’s got.

He may be saying that publicly, but privately I’m sure he would be far from happy as he knows what he’s got in the building and what he needs to get the Stags over the line from his extensive past experience.

Judging by his activity in past windows, I can’t see Evans reaching February without three or four new players to back up and improve what he has.

It’s arguable whether Mansfield have been lucky with serious injuries so far or that their training plans and medical staff are so much better than they ever have been.

But the Stags have so far just had bits and bobs here and there with injury. You never know if that injury crisis is just round the corner with a small squad.

It was frustrating to see Lee Frecklington choose to join promotion rivals and neighbours Lincoln City last week instead of rejoining his former boss Evans as his experience would have been a key factor for Mansfield.

But as a lad who lives in Lincoln and started out with the Imps, it was no great surprise to see him head back to a club who are clearly on the up as well.

It was the first major disappointment of the window that we know of as Evans has kept much of it very close to his chest.

But he did insist last week that he was still chasing the names at the top of his wanted lists rather than getting turned down by them and having to lower his sights.

We all try to earn as good a living as we can and players will naturally try to hold on for the best deals they can get.

Also, you can bet all the players on Evans’ lists are also players that are wanted by their promotion rivals in League Two as well as clubs in the division above.

So many of their agents will probably tell them to hold out for another week to see what offers come in.

By the time Stags return to training on Thursday after resting up following the Cardiff replay, the build-up to Saturday’s visit of Cheltenham begins in earnest.

But, while all this is going on, chief executive Carolyn Radford has been negotiating for the names Evans has supplied her and, if no one is signed before the weekend, there is a full week with no midweek game to follow in which I am convinced we will see signings.

If Notts County can go the distance with Luton Town at the top, that third place is wide open with seven clubs equal or two points adrift of it.

Evans has promised us all along that it is January onwards when his side will really hit top gear.

With some extra quality added to the squad, it all points to a thrilling finish to Evans’ first full season in charge.

What was really heartening this week was the sight of queues snaking away from the ticket office on Quarry Lane.

It again dispelled any doubts that there are still many floating fans out there with affection for the Stags and the bigger games.

The FA Cup may have that ring of magic at this time of year.

But once we get into March and April and Stags are still in the hunt, suddenly some of those home League Two games will become far more important than the FA Cup as League One football becomes a real possibility.

Then those become very big games indeed.