Mansfield manager Steve Evans has ‘six or seven’ players now pencilled in for starting spots as his side takes shape for the first game of the EFL season at Crewe Alexandra on 5th August.
Evans was speaking after both halves of his squad pulled off impressive 4-0 away wins at non-League opposition last night.
Evans had told his players they were all still in contention ahead of the friendlies as he tried different combinations at Matlock Town, where he and assistant Paul Raynor were in attendance, and at Gainsborough Trinity, where the team were taken by Mike Whitlow and Richard Cooper, who look after the U21s.
“I’ve got six or seven in the team already for Crewe and some of them are at Gainsborough,” he said.
“I’ve come to Matlock tonight. David Mirfin has been out with a bad virus and lost nearly four kilos of weight and I came to make sure he was OK, and I’ve come to look at one or two things that I wanted to look at.
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“There were certain players across the midfield that I wanted to look at first hand.
“If you look at the people at Gainsborough, I pretty much know inside out what most of them can do with the exception of course being (Omari) Sterling-James.
“But I’ve told our supporters many times that he’s going to be a huge player for this club. I’ve been told by Richard Cooper that he’s been absolutely sensational tonight, along with Alfie Potter.
“We’ve had the debrief from Gainsborough and there’s been some very good individual performances, which is great because, as I said before the game, there’ll be a mix of the two teams that line-up at Crewe.”
Eventually, a Lee Angol brace along with strikes from Will Atkinson and Jacob Mellis won a game in which ex-Stag Callum Lloyd was sent-off after the break for a rash tackle on Mellis.
“I think it probably flattered us a little bit – it probably took us about an hour for us to realise that we were playing for places at Crewe,” added Evans.
“Like with Forest the other week, we got the second goal and the game opened up and then it could have perhaps been any score; we hit the bar and missed a couple of good chances.
“But it’s 90 minutes – hopefully everyone wakes up tomorrow injury free.”
“There’s big pluses for us all over tonight, in terms of we’ve scored eight goals and not conceded.
“We’ll probably play a 60 and a 30 at Alfreton on Saturday, and the same at Rainworth in midweek because we’ve got to be respectful to them as well. But after Alfreton we’ll pretty much know where we’re at.”
Over at Gainsborough, coach Cooper was delighted with the side’s togetherness and application.
“I think the boys worked really hard. That was the message when we left the ground this afternoon,” he said.
“First and foremost, it’s a pre-season game that we’re getting minutes out of it, invaluable minutes, in the bank.
“For me and Whits (Mike Whitlow) to see the team tonight, I think they’ve been a credit with the way they’ve worked, the way they’ve applied themselves and the way they’ve gone about the game.
“I think there’s a togetherness in the camp, which was evident from the moment we walked in the ground this afternoon.
“I think both sets of players going to the two fixtures, there was definitely a buzz about them and they’ve took that not only into the warm-up, they’ve also carried it out in the game in the first and second half.”
He added: “It’s hard to single anyone out because I think it was a good team performance.
“Alfie’s (Potter) set presses off all night with his work-rate, his commitment and his energy, which is very infectious. The defence has been solid and obviously Omari’s (Sterling-James) got two goals and two really, really good finishes.”
“There’s obviously competition for places, which is a good thing. League Two’s a tough campaign and you will need your players; it’s not just about 11 players or anything like that, it’s definitely a squad game.
“I can certainly see, in terms of camaraderie and togetherness, that this seems a really good bunch in the camp.
“We challenge the younger players in the academy – this is what you’ve got to aspire to.
“I think it’s like any player in the world, they all want to get 90 minutes under their belts to test their own fitness levels and that’s probably why the gaffer’s chosen the two fixtures tonight to get the two XIs out there.
“I think those 75 minutes marks, when you’re a player you want to try and get through them.”