Mansfield Town kick off their Sky Bet League Two campaign tomorrow afternoon with a tough testing trip to Salford City as Nigel Clough’s men look to get off to a perfect start ahead of a promotion pushing season ahead.
The Stags have had a great pre-season and a good transfer window this summer, after losing out in the Playoff final in May to Port Vale, they are one of the favourites to be challenging for a top three spot this time around, although they’ll do so without three key players who they had on loan last season, Goalkeeper Nathan Bishop who returns to Manchester United, Matty Longstaff who after 16 games and 6 goals heads back to another Premier League side in parent club Newcastle, whilst Jamie Murphy following his short stint at the One Call, goes back to St Johnstone in Scotland.
Incoming players include young Nottingham Forest duet Riley Harbottle and Wil Swan who both have had experience for the Reds first team and both have looked decent for the Stags during the friendly matches they have played thus far.
Harbottle has slotted in at centre half nicely whilst fellow 21-year-old Swan, who has previously played for Truro City and Port Vale on loan, will compete for a place up front, the Stags have also acquired midfielder Hiram Boateng from MK Dons, the former Crystal Palace youngster has looked magnificent in the matches he’s played and will hope to be a solid and dependable replacement for Longstaff going forward.
Nigel Clough has also brought in two goalkeepers to replace the superb young Nathan Bishop who looks destined for a top career in the game after his breakout year on loan in League Two. In comes Christy Pym and Scott Flinders with the Peterborough United loanee Pym, given the clubs number one jersey when the squad numbers were announced earlier this week.
Ahead of the new campaign which starts uniquely early at the Peninsula Stadium, on Saturday 30th July, Mansfield Manager Nigel Clough stated “After last season’s exploits we’re excited and full of optimism.
“We fell at the final hurdle (in the Playoff final against Port Vale) but that doesn’t change the season that we had and the achievements within it.
“We can’t wait to get going. It’s been a short break and off-season but we’re here now – let’s get cracking.”
Against Salford, Mansfield will be without the injured Kieran Wallace whilst Oliver Hawkins is suspended following his sending off in the playoff final. James Perch, Jason Law, Stephen Quinn and George Lapslie will all be assessed ahead of kick off, last seasons televised affair in late May saw an entertaining 2-2 draw with two first-half goals from Stags skipper Stephen McLaughlin sandwiched by an early Jordan Turnbull strike and a Matty Lund leveller in the second half.
Centre back Turnbull has since left to join Tranmere Rovers but Lund is very much part of the midfield make-up under Manager Neil Wood. Salford this summer signing Callum Hendry from St Johnstone, Richard Nartey from Burnley, Ryan Leak from Burton and Elliot Ward from Bradford, the Ammies, still owned by the ex-Manchester United consortium that includes David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, like Mansfield, are considered as one of the favourites for promotion this season, with bookies having the side at 8/1 to win the league, the Stags slightly longer odds at 9/1 will be hoping that they can continue their momentum from pre-season into the campaign proper.
Having comprehensively beaten the likes of Sheffield United and Oldham Athletic, and having drawn with Rotherham United, the Stags unbeaten pre-season ended with back-to-back 3-0 wins with plenty of optimism that the side can push that through where it matters, club captain Stephen McLaughlin stating “Everybody is looking forward to Saturday now.”
He continued on his thoughts of the season ahead “This year is going to be a lot harder than last year with the teams that have come down.
“We have to stick to what we know and play well and hopefully that will see us through.
“We’ve been building for the last two years and hopefully if we put on the pitch what we’re doing on the training ground, then we’ll have a good season.”
*Main image @mansfieldtownfc Captain Stephen McLaughlin says ‘it’s good to be back’.