LOMAS ON STAGS: It's coming home - to the One Call!
It's definitely coming home tonight.
Football at the One Call Stadium may not be England and the World Cup, but for Mansfield Town die-hards it has been almost 11 weeks starved of their live footy fix and tonight’s visit of Championship neighbours Derby County is a mouthwatering prospect at any time.
In the games at Bradford Park Avenue and Retford, the Stags have already shown they can score goals.
Now in the four home games against Championship opposition they need to show the defensive side of their game.
How good David Flitcroft’s new-look squad will be we won’t know until the big kick-off against Newport County two weeks on Saturday.
It is true that scoring goals against non-League sides proves as little as a defeat to a classy Championship side.
The truth will lie somewhere in the middle of the two extremes and become visible very quickly as the real action starts.
But goalscorers often thrive on confidence and, it doesn’t matter who you are playing, if you score goals those confidence levels go up.
There can also be fewer better feelings at this time of the year than shutting out a side of Championship quality at the other end.
Derby arrive tonight smarting at a second season of late heartbreak when their fans had once again believed they were on course for the promised land of the Premier League.
The Rams have this time taken a big chance on appointing a rookie manager in Frank Lampard, but he is a man who has charisma, respect and experience at the very top which is bound to be infectious to his new charges.
They will certainly provide the stiffest of tests to Mansfield Town tonight, having torn apart a very promising looking new Notts County squad on their own doorstep last weekend.
Stags boss David Flitcroft has been licking his own wounds over the summer, having failed to get the club over the play-offs line following his late appointment.
But that was very much a Steve Evans team and their formation and fitness levels will be very different this time around.
Flitcroft will this time around be fully in charge of the ship as they once again set out on the stormy waters of League Two and it should be fascinating to see how things change.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the bumbling, cumbersome competition that is the Checkatrade Trophy.
The fans asked for Premier League U21 clubs to be left out of it to regain some credibility after their controversial inclusion last time around.
But the U21s are back involved and the competition draw has been stretched out into two parts so Stags now know some of their group opposition already but await a further draw to see which U21 side will be in there with them – as if anyone is waiting with bated breath!
To make matters worse, the Police have also interfered and said draws must avoid pairing derby games between Southampton U21s and Portsmouth U21s as well as Newcastle U21s and Sunderland U21s.
For me that is a dangerous and unnecessary intervention and further devalues a competition that no one cares about until the latter stages,
At least when Stags won the Freight Rover Trophy version it was a bona fida easy-to-understand competition.
We’d all love a day out at Wembley and the money that goes with it were Mansfield to go all the way.
But in the meantime the EFL do themselves no favours pampering to the Premier League and a Police force worried about U21 Ultras!