New appearance record as Bennett remains Stags’ Mr Consistent

Mansfield Town's Rhys Bennett  - Pic by Chris Holloway
Mansfield Town's Rhys Bennett - Pic by Chris Holloway

Mr Consistent Rhys Bennett broke his own personal record at Morecambe last weekend with his 47th appearance of the season – the only Mansfield Town player to play every minute of every game this season.

But, far from jaded, he admits he is fighting fit and excited about the prospect of tomorrow’s visit of play-off rivals Exeter City.

On his new appearance record, he said: “I hadn’t even thought about it too much.

“Obviously it’s been nice to be selected, but I am just here to help the team. I don’t really think about personal accolades.

Click HERE to read our Big Match Preview – all you need to know about Stags v Exeter

“My previous highest appearances was 46 so I’ve actually beaten that now. Hopefully as a team now we can get promotion and I can think I played a decent part.

“I have been physically fit. I had a good pre-season and managed to maintain a decent level of fitness.

“And obviously you can’t play unless the gaffer picks you, so it’s testament to both gaffers.

“Football is a team game and I am really privileged to play with some of these players on this team.”

Bennett’s only disappointment is how many chances he has missed from set pieces.

“I should really be in double figures,” he admitted. “I have managed three now and it would be nice to get a couple more before the end of the season. But it’s a team game and I just want to help the team get to their end goal.

“It’s good to play games and get game time. But it’s coming to the crunch time now. I feel we are coming into that period in good form with good physical fitness.”

On the visit of Exeter, Bennett said: “It’s one of those games of football where you wake up on Saturday morning and think – yeah, I am excited to play in this game.

“It should be a good game. This is what you want as a football player – these kind of games and it’s testament to the gaffer as he has delivered these type of games at this stage of the season. Fair play to him and fair play to the boys for getting us into this position.”

The game is being billed as one of the club’s biggest in a long time, and Bennett said: “It is a big game, but I think they are all big games from now until the end of the season.

“Obviously Morecambe last Saturday was the biggest game of the season, and now obviously Exeter this Saturday is the biggest game of the season.

“It is important to leave it all on the football pitch, that’s all we can really do.

“Games like Morecambe are always banana skins. I think the gaffer highlighted the fact they’ve beaten a lot of the top teams at home this season. So that was a really important game for us to win.”

Bennett recalls the 2-0 defeat at Exeter in December and said: “I actually think we should have won that game. We created a lot of chances, especially in the second half.

“We don’t fear Exeter and we should be going into the game to win.

“If we manage their good players and our good players come to the fore then I think we’ll win the game.

“It’s exciting to be involved. We are only one point outside the play-offs, so if we carry on our good form and our good performances I have no doubt we’ll finish inside the play-offs.”

It’s a far cry from when Evans arrived and all the talk was on survival.

“We were 19th in the league but me, personally, I don’t think my mindset has ever been on relegation,” he said.

“Even then we were six points outside the play-offs and that’s all I was thinking.

“It is historically a really tight league. If you can put a string of results together you can go from bottom to play-offs as Stevenage have shown this year.

“If you lose a couple you tend to go the other way. It’s good for teams that go forward with momentum – and that’s basically what we’ve done since November.”

Boss Steve Evans said: “Rhys a fantastic character.

“He’s played every minute under me as he deserves to play every minute and I am sure that was the same with Adam Murray prior to me.

“He’s the right type. He’s a player that enthused coming into training. He wants to improve and I can’t give him any more compliments than to say we’ve kept him on the pitch for every minute of every game since we arrived.

“His objective must be to start Saturday and makes sure he completes all the minutes in that game.”

Bennett also found himself wearing the captain’s armband last week, underlining the impact he has made.

“It was thoroughly deserved,” said Evans. “Obviously we were missing our skipper Lee Collins, and Krystian Pearce, who has been deputy for him since I’ve arrived.

“So the next one we were looking for to follow was first and foremost a permanent Mansfield Town player and secondly someone whose characteristics are what leads us onto the pitch. Benno has been excellent so it was an easy decision.”