Mansfield Town strikers battle it out for a place at York

The celebrations begin as Ollie Palmer (centre) and his teammates celebrate after Palmer nets the winning goal.
The celebrations begin as Ollie Palmer (centre) and his teammates celebrate after Palmer nets the winning goal.

Stags boss Paul Cox is delighted to see a queue of strikers staking their claim to replace suspended Matt Rhead for Saturday’s League Two trip to York City, for which over 800 tickets have already been snapped up by Mansfield Town fans.

Rhead misses the game after being shown two yellow cards in last weekend’s fine 1-1 draw at Newport County.

Cox has had two midweek games in which to put his reserve players through their paces this week, with a superb 2-1 league win over a very strong Rotherham side on Tuesday night followed by a 7-2 behind-closed-doors success by a different XI at Shepshed yesterday.

Strike pair Calvin Andrew and Jake Speight both notched against Rotherham while Ollie Palmer was also on target at Shepshed where another strike option, Ross Dyer, bagged a brace, as did Lee Stevenson.

“I put Andrew and Speight together for a reason against Rotherham and last night I played Matt Rhead, Ross Dyer and Ollie Palmer as a front three – and all of them have given me food for thought for Saturday,” said Cox.

“That was an excellent performance and excellent win against a strong Rotherham and keeps the reserves’ 100 per cent record, thought I am not too worried about results. I just wanted to watch the players and was very pleased with their work ethic and desire to push for a first team place.

“People might dismiss the win at Shepshed. But you have to earn the right to win any football match and the pleasing part was we had five youngsters in there.”

Cox must now pick a striker to partner Sam Clucas, who has bagged two in two games, but admits it is a major task to keep happy those not selected up front or anywhere this weekend.

“I probably tend to focus more on the players not in the side than those in it as I don’t want them to feel they are forgotten,” he said.

“They need to know that something will give at some stage – injuries, suspensions or loss of form. It will happen – then they must come in and take their chance.

“I don’t want a player that sits and smiles when they are not in my side. I want them banging my door down and asking me why they are not playing.”

York have only won one of their first six games and Mansfield, now five unbeaten, will hope to gain some revenge for their controversial Conference play-off semi-final defeat at Bootham Crescent two seasons ago.

“Supporters will be looking forward to this one and hope we can redeem ourselves a bit after what happened a couple of seasons ago. We don’t want to be over-confident, but the boys are on a high at the minute, said Cox. “We are really looking forward to it.”