On Saturday I took a break from the usual emotional heartache of watching Nottingham Forest and opted to have a look at a Nottinghamshire side that are moving swiftly in the right direction.
When a mate of mine asked me if I fancied taking on a spare ticket to Mansfield Town’s home encounter with Hartlepool United I was only too happy to oblige. The thought of a Saturday afternoon without some form of live football often leaves me in cold sweat at the best of times, so a trip to the One Call Stadium it was.
As I tucked into a pre-match three course meal and a pint courtesy of the fantastic 1861 Suite, I could sense a real buzz around the stadium, with the feel-good factor clearly evident in North Nottinghamshire right now.
Owner John Radford and Manager Steve Evans clearly have the people of Mansfield proud to support their club once more and on Saturday’s showing the Stags are a team to be feared in the League Two promotion shake-up.
Hartlepool were no match for a rampant Mansfield and the only positive that Pools’ boss Dave Jones could remotely take from the 4-0 drubbing was that the Stags only managed to score four. It could have been a cricket score!
Evans has got the Stags playing some quality football and even in Saturday’s treacherous conditions they tried to get the ball wide and stick to the principals that have seen Mansfield concede just once since the turn of the year.
Ben Whiteman looks an astute signing by Evans and the Stags really do have an ace in their pack when it comes to the on-loan Sheffield United youngster, who looks a class above at League Two level.
The 20-year-old has netted five goals in seven games since arriving from Bramall Lane, including two goals at the weekend on an afternoon when I had backed him to notch first. Cheers Ben!
Following the game the central midfielder announced that the Stags’ players were targeting the top three and automatic promotion rather than the play-offs, indicating a real sign of the improvements at the club during the three months that boss Evans has been at the club.
You see Evans is a manager who won’t accept second best. He won’t accept a play-off place now that the Stags have entered the top seven with 16 games still to play this season. Evans has his sights set on the top three and why shouldn’t he?
The attendances are slowly creeping back up at the One Call and if the current run of form continues then it will only entice more people into going along to watch a side that is clearly moving in the right direction.
The ticket incentives that have been offered to supporters by the club have been fantastic and other clubs in the Football League could learn a thing or two from the Stags in that department.
As a Mansfield resident it would be great for the town to have a football club in the third tier once again and under the guidance of Steve Evans there is real reason to believe that the club will be promoted this season.
As long as the Stags remain fully focused and keep playing the way that they are at present then their fate really is in their own hands.