Stags in TV limelight
THE eyes of the TV world fall on Field Mill tonight (Wednesday) as Stags take on beleaguered giants Sunderland in a mouthwatering Carling Cup first round clash.
And Stags player-manager Keith Curle warned Mick McCarthy's men: "You will have to earn the right to play your football and, if you don't match our workrate and pace, you might just come unstuck."
Both sides lost their opening games of the season on Saturday, Stags 2-1 at Kidderminster and Sunderland 2-0 at Forest.
But both clubs created more than enough chances to have won several football matches.
It is well publicised that Sunderland are on the verge of a new all-time losing league streak following their relegation from the Premiership last season.
After Saturday's setback at the City Ground they have now lost 16 league games on the trot and are just two defeats away from the record of 18 set by non-League Darwin in 1888/89.
But it is a statistic that leaves Curle unimpressed. "People keep talking about this losing streak but all the games have been against Premiership opposition plus Nottingham Forest.
"It means nothing to us. If we want to match them football ability-wise, chances are, with the quality players they have, we will come unstuck.
"But they will have to earn the right to play their football. We intend to play the game at a high tempo and I know that physically and mentally we will match them.
"If they don't match the work we put in and match the pace we will play at then they could come unstuck.
"The most important thing is the result and after that it will be the peformance though we do want to try to win playing football in the right way.
"Sunderland's game on Saturday sounded not too dissimilar to our's. They certainly didn't roll over at Forest. They were not turned over. If we had scored four or five goals at Kidderminster on Saturday no one would have complained and, similarly, Sunderland could have scored two or three at Forest."
Curle said his players would not be distracted by the Sky TV cameras, adding: "It will probably mean they will all pay more attention to their hair before they go out, but it won't affect them football-wise!
"I know they will get on with it and put on a show."
Stags right back Bobby Hassell has been suffering a tight hamstring since Saturday's game but was back in training yesterday and should be passed fit in what will probably be an unchanged team.
Striker Colin Larkin should also be fine to play after being substituted on Saturday after an hour with a tight hamstring and heat exhaustion, much to the Stags fans' disgust.
But Curle said: "The fans see Colin on a Saturday but I see him every day and I know his durability at the minute and his fatigue level.
"I hope they would rather see a fit Colin Larkin for an hour, gradually building him up to a full 90 minutes, rather than playing him for 90 minutes now and then losing him for six weeks.
Sunderland are expected to make make wholesale changes tonight.
Skipper Jason McAteer and defender Joachim Bjorklund both have tight hamstrings and will not be risked.
One or two other big names could also be rested. But Norwegian international striker Tore Andre Flo is a possible starter while definitely in will be Republic of Ireland U21 international Sean Thornton and fellow midfielder Jeff Whitley, McCarthy's first signing, after both were dropped on Saturday for missing a training session earlier in the day.
The pair room together and slept in after a power cut meant their alarm did not go off!
Sunderland's last League win came back on 15th December 2002 and their last outright win was in beating Bolton in the FA Cup thrid round on 14th January.
They also got through the fourth round but needed penalties after a draw with Blackburn.
They were relegated from the Premiership with a record low number of points and goals scored and, since McCarthy took over, they have lost all 10 and only scored twice.
So the pressure is on tonight in a game the world will still expect them to win.
"I will be making changes tonight though that's not because I am not taking Mansfield's threat seriously," said McCarthy.
"It's because I have a big squad and I want to make use of that squad and give players the opportunity to show what they can do and put pressure on the players who are currently in the first team.
"We have had a dreadful run. But the fact remains we are still a very, very big club and I should think this will be a bit of a 'cup final' for Mansfield.
"They will know that we have had a terrible run of things and they will be desperate to keep that going and thinking that now is a perfect time to play us.
"It is a cup game - a one-off - so anything could happen. But I am expecting a good performance from my players."
He added: "We desperately need a win - any win - and, after the Forest defeat, this gives us the chance to pick ourselves up straight away."
Tonight's game is being sponsored by Phoenix Group, who are also the new sponsors of Field Mill's North Stand.
The game is not all-ticket.
The law of averages states that, if Stags can create chances like they did at Kidderminster on Saturday, then some will fly into the net tonight.
Latest | August 2003