INJURY NEWS, COLCHESTER PREVIEWS
Boss reflects on ‘positive month’
mansfieldtown.net, Tuesday 29 October 2019
After a ‘positive’ run of results in October, Stags’ boss John Dempster says that focus must now switch to solidifying Mansfield’s home form.
The amber and blue picked up three wins, a draw and one defeat in October, with two of those victories coming away from home.
The boss says that despite the upturn in results, Stags’ home form has ‘not been good enough’ this term, which he hopes to put right this Saturday when Colchester United visit One Call Stadium.
“It’s definitely been a positive month. The most important thing now is that we can only control the future. We want to have a positive November.
“We have some interesting fixtures and we have an FA Cup game as well. But we won’t look too far forward now as we need to focus on Colchester.
“They are a team who have been together for a number of years and they’ve had a good start - although they’re only three points ahead of us now.
“They’re one of the better teams I’ve seen this season and have an experienced manager [John McGreal] who has had a number of years to put the team together and get them playing the way he wants to.
“A positive result on Saturday would be back-to-back wins and the team would be going into the FA Cup clash with Chorley in a very positive mindset.
“Our home form hasn’t been good enough. We’ve had some unfortunate results and other times we’ve underperformed.
“The support on Saturday [at Walsall] gave us another gear. I’ve seen a real shift in energy at home as well - the general shouts towards the players are a lot more positive than they were in the early parts of the season.
“I know that when the home crowd are with the team, it makes a real difference.”
Recent positive results have coincided with a switch to a 4-4-2 system. John Dempster says that the formation tweak allows his players cause problems in wide areas.
“I think what it [4-4-2] has given us is crosses higher up the pitch. When you play with a back-three, the wing-backs have performed well, but the crosses have been coming in deeper than the 18-yard box.
“When you have two wider players - as in a wide midfielder and a full-back - it gives you more numbers in wide areas, which allow you to work the ball a little bit better.
“You saw on Saturday and against Forest Green that Andy Cook thrives off crosses. So does Nicky Maynard, he’s had a couple of headers - one against Walsall, one against Salford, and he scored a brilliantly worked goal against Oldham.
“We want to get crosses in the box but it’s important how we get there - moving the ball through the thirds and maintain possession when it’s not on to go forward.
“I think the good thing with the 4-4-2 is that you can make subtle tweaks. There have been times when Otis Khan and Macca [Alex MacDonald] have come quite narrow, which can cause problems to the opposition.
“They can appear in pockets and cause confusion. They’ve called problems there, and when you have attacking full-backs like Mal [Benning] and Kellan [Gordon], it has suited the players.”
This evening, Stags’ young guns will host Doncaster Rovers under-18s at One Call Stadium, in the first round of the FA Youth Cup.
The Mansfield boss and former academy manager spoke of the ‘special’ competition, adding: “If you progress in the competition [FA Youth Cup], like previous years, we’ve pulled some Premier League and Championship opposition, which makes it extra special.
“There are bigger crowds and first team staff are in attendance to watch, so it’s extra special. It’s a competition that you want to go as far as you can in.
“It’s important to see how these players react under pressure. I look back at my experiences of the FA Youth Cup and I have wonderful memories.
“It will be great to see how the players perform tonight. We have some real talent in our under-18s - we’ve seen one of them on the pitch in Jimmy Knowles so it’s a big night for him.
“One thing for sure is that Doncaster have a very good academy. We’ve had some real battles with them over the last four or five seasons at under-18 level and it will be a fiercely-contested game.
“It [academy] has been taken to the next level. The structure is growing and we’re in the final stages of planning to go to Category 3 [status], which is a massive job.
“Richard Cooper [academy manager] has been very busy, along with his staff, planning and looking at tweaking the structure. It’s an exciting fixture and the academy is expanding - that will only help with recruitment in years to come.
“I think we’re close [to having a youth player consistently involved in the first team]. Alistair Smith has been ever-present on the bench and will probably be frustrated that he hasn’t had more game time.
“But then you look at our more senior pro’s and we’re blessed with some really quality players.
“Jimmy [Knowles] is in the history books already and Clarkey [James Clarke] has made his full debut. This season, we’ve had more success with the young players coming in and being around it than we have for a very long time.”
The boss also provided injury updates on Krystian Pearce, Hayden White, Danny Rose (below) and Jacob Mellis.
“I think he [Krystian Pearce] will be touch-and-go for this weekend. He’s got a low grade strain in his groin. He was keen to play on [at Walsall] on Saturday but we thought it was best to bring him off.
“We’re very fortunate to have the cover of Matt Preston, who I believe is one of the best centre-backs in League Two. It shows our strength in depth.
“We’ll see how Hayden [White] does this week. He’ll have a full week’s training and I’m not sure whether he will be available for selection at the weekend but he’s right on the brink of full fitness.
“Danny Rose is progressing very, very well. The assessment originally said four to six weeks, but it’s looking more like four now.
“That all depends on how he does in his rehab and how the ankle reacts to the treatment. But initially, he has reacted very well to treatment.
“Jacob [Mellis] will train all week - we were keen that he had a full week’s training before he is back in contention for Saturday and this week I expect him to do that.”
iFollow Stags subscribers can watch the gaffer’s interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.
Improving Mansfield Town aiming to build on best month so far
chad.co.uk, by JOHN LOMAS, Tuesday 29 October 2019
After his best month as a manager, rookie Mansfield Town boss John Dempster is now hoping Stags can build on that as they start a busy November with a home clash with Colchester United on Saturday.
A delighted Dempster saw his side climb into mid-table after their poor start to the campaign with three wins and a draw from their five EFL League Two in an excellent October.
“As a month I would probably give it a 7/10. It’s definitely been a positive month,” he beamed.
“We said six weeks ago we thought it was probably going that way - and it has.
“The most important thing now is we can only control the future. That month has been and gone and we now want to have a positive November.
“We’ve got some interesting fixtures and we’ve got an FA Cup bout as well, but we won’t look too far forward as we need to concentrate on Colchester.”
After Saturday’s 2-1 win at Walsall, Mansfield now have the division’s fourth best away record.
But Dempster knows they need to improve in front of the home faithful and praised those fans for their immense backing at Walsall last Saturday.
“Our home form has not been good enough,” he said. “We have had some unfortunate results and other times we have under-performed.
“But I think the support on Saturday gives us another gear. When they are singing the way they do and support the players like they did I think it drives you on and breeds confidence that spider webs throughout the team.
“At times I think we have been a little bit anxious at home because of the frustration that we’ve not had the results we’ve wanted. That can sometimes affect the players. But I have seen a real shift in energy at home as well.
“When the home crowd are with the team it makes a real difference.”
Dempster has seen enough of Colchester to know how big a threat they will pose on Saturday.
“They are one of the better teams I have seen this season,” he said.
“They have an experienced manager who has had a number of years to put the team together and get them playing the way he wants to.
“They are a team that’s been together for a number of years. They’ve had a good start, though they are only three points ahead of us now. That shows you we’re not a million miles off.
“I expect them to be right up there come the end of the season because they play some really attacking football, but they are well drilled.
“You can see they’ve been together for a while and they will pose us another real challenge.
“If we can get a positive result on Saturday then that would be back to back wins and the team would be going into the FA Cup tie with Chorley in a very positive mindset.”
Move to 4-4-2 formation has Mansfield Town ticking at last
chad.co.uk, by JOHN LOMAS
Mansfield Town’s recent improved form has come largely from boss John Dempster settling on a 4-4-2 formation.
Ahead of Colchester United’s visit tomorrow he said it wasn’t a conventional use of 4-4-2 but, with the current squad he had, it was getting the best out of everyone.
“What it’s given us is crosses higher up the pitch,” he said.
“When you’re playing a back three and wing backs, the wing backs performed well.
“But we analysed where the crosses were coming in from and they were deeper than the 18 yards box, which makes it very difficult to score from.
“When you’ve got two wider players, as in a wide midfielder and a full back, it gives you more numbers in wide areas which allows you to work the ball a little bit better and get higher up the pitch before you cross.
“You saw on Saturday and against Forest Green how Andy Cook thrives off crosses.
“So does Nicky Maynard and he’s had a couple of headers - one against Walsall and one against Salford he was unlucky with and one he scored against Oldham after winning an aerial duel.”
Dempster continued: “We want to get crosses in the box and it’s important how we get them there.
“Our goals for column is up there with the best in the league. It’s tightening up at the back that we need to concentrate on while we maintain our goalscoring record.
“If we can do that we will keep working our way up the Football League.”
Dempster explained how he makes his 4-4-2 vary and rattle the opposition.
“The good thing with 4-4-2 is you can make subtle tweaks,” he smiled.
“There’s been times when Otis Khan and Macca (Alex MacDonald) have been quite narrow which poses a problem for the opposition as they are appearing in pockets.
“It can cause confusion in terms of who is marking them. Does the full back come inside or does the centre half mark them. Do the opposition midfielders mark them?
“It causes problems and when you have attacking full backs like Mal (Benning) and Kellan (Gordon), who can get down the outside and provide width, it has suited the players and the personnel within that XI.
“We also have out and out wingers like Dapo (Afolayan) and CJ (Hamilton), who can come on and play more attacking. That’s the beauty of 4-4-2.
“It’s not a traditional 4-4-2 that you have probably seen in England more consistently than other countries. You can play different variations and who you play changes it.”
Defender Krystian Pearce a major doubt for Mansfield Town clash with Colchester United
chad.co.uk, by JOHN LOMAS, Tuesday 29 October 2019
Mansfield Town look set to be without injured skipper and centre half Krystian Pearce for the visit of Colchester United on Saturday.
But, with Matt Preston fit again, they have a ready-made replacement.
Dempster said: “I think it will be touch and go for Krystian this weekend. He’s got a low grade strain in his groin.
“He was keen to play on at Walsall but I think we made the right call with that one, having spoken to the medical team.
“We are very fortunate to have the cover of Matt Preston, who I believe is one of the best centre backs in League Two and could probably play higher.
“It shows our strength in depth and it is an opportunity for him to come into the team and perform like he did when he came off the bench at Walsall.
“But the sooner we can get KP back the better of course as he’s been colossal over the last few years for the football club and he is a big character in the dressing room.”
Fellow defender Hayden White has been resting up the leg he broke earlier this year which has been causing him pain, but is now close to a return.
“We will see how Hayden White is this week. He will have a full week’s training,” said Dempster.
“I am not sure if he will be available for selection for the weekend but he’s right on the brink of being back to full fitness and being pain-free, which is key.”
However, Stags should have midfielder Jacob Mellis available for the squad.
“Jacob Mellis will train all week,” said Dempster. “We were keen he had a full week’s training. He only did three or four days last week.
“I expect him to be in contention on Saturday.”
On striker Danny Rose, he said news continued to be promising.
“Danny is progressing very well,” said the manager. “The original assessment said four to six weeks, we are now hoping it will be a bit sooner. It’s certainly looking more like four now.
“It will just depend on how he does in his rehab and how his ankle reacts to the treatment.”
Shine under the floodlights tonight, Mansfield Town boss John Dempster urges U18s in FA Youth Cup clash with Doncaster Rovers
chad.co.uk, by JOHN LOMAS, Tuesday 29 October 2019
Mansfield Town boss John Dempster has urged the club’s U18s to make the most of their time in the spotlight as they take on Doncaster Rovers in the FA Youth Cup first round under the One Call Stadium floodlights tonight (7pm).
Dempster said: “From a player’s perspective, you’re under the lights, if you progress in the competition - like we have with our youth team in previous years - we’ve pulled some Premiership and Championship opposition, which makes it extra-special, plus there’s bigger crowds generally, and first team staff come and watch from both sides,
“So it’s a competition in which you want to progress as far as you can and it’s important to see how these players react under the additional pressure of being under the lights and bigger crowds.
“I look back at my experiences of being in the FA Youth Cup and I have wonderful memories.
“Most recently, when I was in the academy manager role, we had some great experiences home and away.”
Having only left his academy post in the summer, Dempster believes the club have some exceptional talent at this level, but knows Doncaster do too.
“We feel like we have some real talent in our U18s both in the first and second years,” he said.
“We’ve seen one of them on the pitch in the first team this season in Jimmy Knowles, so it’s a big night for Jimmy as well.
“One thing is for sure though - Doncaster have got a very good academy. We have had some right ding-dong battles with them over the last four or five seasons at U18 level and it will be a fiercely-contested game.”
Now in charge of the first team, Dempster does not plan to tread on any toes tonight.
“I won’t have any part in the preparation tonight - I don’t interfere but I will be there and I will drop into the dressing room to wish the players all the best,” he smiled.
“We have the right people in the right places and they’ve got a job to do tonight.”
I'm playing with confidence - midfielder
mansfieldtown.net, Tuesday 29 October 2019
Mansfield Town midfielder Otis Khan feels he is getting ‘better and better’ following Saturday’s man of the match performance at Walsall.
The 24-year-old registered his third assist in his last four appearances as he picked out Andy Cook with a pinpoint cross to set up the opener in Stags’ eventual 2-1 victory over the Saddlers.
Manager John Dempster referred to Khan as ‘unplayable at the moment’ following Saturday’s display. The ex-Sheffield United youngster attributes this to his ‘confident’ and ‘positive’ mindset he currently has when he steps onto the pitch.
“I’m enjoying myself, playing how I know I can play,” he began. “Ever since I was young I’ve always loved taking people on so I got into that mindset, played freely and helped my teammates out.
“I feel like I’m getting better and better, my confidence is rising higher and higher. I’m playing on the left which I enjoy. I’m happy to be in the team, doing the best for myself and the club, which is all I can do and I’m doing it right.
“I’ve had a really good month so far - except from the Salford game we’ve had some really good results. In the weeks commencing, if we can keep winning, everyone will be confident. When there’s that buzz around the place and everyone’s happy it makes you feel confident in yourself.
“There’s definitely still more to come [from me], I got the assist [on Saturday] for Cooky [Andy Cook] but I still need to get that all important goal,” he said.
After notching what was his fourth assist of the campaign, Khan is confident that there is more to come, saying: “I’m getting into good positions, I know where the strikers are going to be so it’s just about getting the ball into a good area because I know they’ll finish their chances.
“Obviously we’ve changed recently to the 4-4-2 formation, so we’ve been working on that more on the training ground. Cooky’s come in with his aerial presence and strength so I think the stuff we’ve been doing in training has definitely helped with our game.”
On creating what was Cook’s third goal in three games, he said: “I know what his strengths are, headers, winning the ball in the air. So if I beat my man and get the ball in he’s got a really good chance of scoring.”
Currently only three teams can better the Stags’ away record, however, only five sides can total lower points tallies than the amber and blue on home turf. Due to this, the offensively-versatile Khan is focused on making One Call Stadium a ‘fortress.’
“That’s one of the top priorities [improving home form]; you want to make your home ground your fortress. That’s where you get most of your fans. You want teams coming to your place knowing they’re in for a tough game.”
The Stags are back on home soil this Saturday against Colchester United as they look to earn their third win of the season at the One Call.
Looking ahead to the match, the in-form Khan said: “I’m expecting a tough game; we know we’re a good team, coming in off the back of a win so we have great confidence going into it. When we’re at our best we know we can beat any team in this league.”
iFollow Stags subscribers can watch Otis’ interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.
‘Unplayable’ Otis Khan back to his very best for flourishing Mansfield Town
chad.co.uk, by JOHN LOMAS
Otis Khan’s return to form has coincided with Mansfield Town’s best run of the season and boss John Dempster declared him ‘unplayable’ in his best showing so far in last Saturday’s fine 2-1 win at Walsall.
The left winger tormented the Saddlers all afternoon and his dribble and inch-perfect cross carved out the opener for Andy Cook.
“It was a massive compliment to hear the manager say I was unplayable,” said Khan.
“I feel like I am just getting better and better and obviously my confidence is going higher and higher.
“I’m having a good run of games and I am playing back on the left where I enjoy it. I am happy playing free, doing my best for myself and the team.”
Khan enjoyed every minute of the win at Walsall where he could feel his runs grinding down the home players.
“I was enjoying myself, playing how I know I can play. Ever since I was young I have enjoyed taking people on and I just got into that mindset and played free,” he said.
“I think you know you’ve got the better of opponents when they start giving up.
“At the start of the game everyone is buzzing with the intensity. They want to get close to you. But by the end people just let you have the ball pretty much, especially when we scored.
“I think they gave up a bit after what has happened with them this season. They’ve not really had the best of runs and we were controlling the game.
“I felt like we controlled the first half, even though they got a goal. We felt comfortable and were moving the ball well.
“To let them score was disappointing, but we put that right later in the game.”
Now Khan just wants to put the icing on his form with a goal or two.
“There is definitely still more to come,” he said.
“Obviously I got the assist for Cooky but I want to get that all-important first goal, which hasn’t come. I’ve had the chances. I will be happier when I do.
“I am getting assists. I know the strikers will be in there and I am just delivering the ball into a good area. We have good strikers and I know they can finish them.”
He added: “We have just had a good month with some really good results, and if we can keep that going confidence will stay high with everyone and we’ll have a real buzz about the place.
“We’ve not been doing much different. We believed it would eventually turn as we were working hard and doing all we could. The luck has gone in our favour as well and we are finishing off the chances that we maybe were not doing before.
“One of our top priorities now is our home form. You want to make your home ground your fortress. You get most of your fans there and you want to repay them.
“You’d much rather have a good home record than away record, even though the away one is a really good one to have.
“You want teams coming to your ground knowing it’s going to be a really difficult game. As soon as we can put that right and get home performances going along with the away ones, it will really add up.”
Colchester United boss John McGreal warns his players to focus on Mansfield Town trip amid excitement of drawing Manchester United in the cup
chad.co.uk, by JOHN LOMAS
Amid the excitement of drawing Manchester United away in the Carabao Cup, Colchester United boss John McGreal has warned his in-form side to focus and not get carried away with a tough trip to Mansfield Town ahead on Saturday.
The U’s have only lost three times in their last 18 games in all competitions and on Tuesday reached the Carabao Cup quarter-finals for only the second time in their history, then were handed a plum draw.
However, McGreal said: “We can’t take our eye off the Mansfield game.
“Now it’s back to the bread and butter of the league and it is a tough, tough game for us.
“We know it’s going to be a really tough game and over the last three or so years I’ve been here, they’ve been close and tight games against Mansfield.
“It’s down to us to try and put in a performance and try and win a game of football.”
On the Stags, he added: “They have some fantastic players.
“They just missed out in a play-off semi-final and they’ve been in and around it, similar to ourselves really.
“We know a little bit about each other but they’ve had a change of manager.
“They’ve got some really good experienced players but it’s again down to what we do.”
McGreal warned against a repeat of past mistakes.
“They may be feeling that it’s little bit of after the Lord Mayor’s Show for us and we’ve had that in the past when we’ve played the likes of Newport,” he said.
“We have to be on our mettle on Saturday because if we don’t, we’ll get turned over by a good Mansfield side.
“The boys have to bring themselves back down again and implement the work on the pitch and be professional.
“They’re the ones going out there and proving that.
“We’re a progressing team and we feel like each game is a different challenge - that’s the way we look at it.”
He added: “We feel like we’re in a bit of good form at the moment and we’ve recovered after what we felt was a poor performance against Morecambe.
“But we have to realise where we were prior to that - eight games before the Crawley game we were top of the form table.
“We weren’t doing that badly before the Morecambe game and there was a little bit of an over-reaction, which you get in football which we understand.
“We used the criticism in a positive way and we took four points out of six in the league and into the cup quarter-finals.”
Worry over top scorer Luke Norris for Mansfield Town trip amid Colchester United excitement over Old Trafford cup draw
chad.co.uk, by JOHN LOMAS
As they bask in the excitement of a fantastic Carabao Cup quarter-final draw away to Manchester United, Colchester United face a major worry over top scorer Luke Norris ahead of Saturday’s game at Mansfield Town.
After scoring their equaliser, Norris was forced off during the second half of Tuesday’s Carabao Cup triumph at Crawley Town with a groin injury on the hour mark.
Norris, who has scored six goals for Colchester so far this season in all competitions, could miss the Mansfield trip which would leave the U’s short of front men, with Theo Robinson currently serving a three-match suspension.
U’s boss John McGreal said: “It didn’t look too good to be honest but it’s one that we’ll have to assess.”
Otherwise, it’s very much all rosy in the Colchester garden and the vast majority of United fans recognise that McGreal continues to do a great job for the club.
He’s led them to the quarter-final of the League Cup for only the second time in the club’s history and the U’s sit only five points off the automatic promotion places.
McGreal has a difficult job in the sense that he has to always balance the need to get results with ensuring the club’s youngsters get the opportunity to play in the first team, but he appears to be managing the two aspects well.
Like every season, Colchester’s main objective is to challenge for promotion and they will be striving to achieve at the very least a play-off place, having gone so close last season.
After a slow start, they have picked up some form and momentum of late.
They have lost only three of their last 18 games in all competitions and have looked particularly solid at the back with eight clean sheets in total so far while at the other end, forwards Norris and Robinson have already hit nine goals between them.
There were plenty of arrivals and departures for Colchester, during the summer.
The U’s added several new attacking options.
Jevani Brown arrived from League Two rivals Cambridge United while Luke Gambin, Paris Cowan-Hall and Michael Fernandes also came in to bolster their offensive armoury.
Goalkeeper Dean Gerken returned to the club after nearly 10 years away following his release by Ipswich Town, while defenders Cohen Bramall and Omar Sowunmi have arrived from Arsenal and Yeovil Town respectively.
Colchester also lost a number of key players, with academy trio Sammie Szmodics, Frankie Kent and Kane Vincent-Young all departing.
The likes of Brennan Dickenson, Mikael Mandron and Rene Gilmartin also moved on.
Centre half Tom Eastman has been a key man and in magnificent form this season, shining in not only League Two but also in Colchester’s Carabao Cup ties.
Eastman also lends weight to the U’s attack with his diagonal passes and surging runs and if he plays well, it usually means the U’s do too.
Right winger Courtney Senior also has the ability to make things happen with his skill, pace and eye-catching attacking play and has bundles of talent.
The former Brentford youngster scored a fine goal in the U’s 3-1 win over Newport County last weekend and always has the potential to give opposition defences a very hard time.
Colchester could welcome back Paris Cowan-Hall on Saturday, who is nearing a return to fitness following a calf problem, and midfielder Harry Pell is also edging closer to a comeback, having not played since the opening day of the season due to an Achilles problem.