FA CUP PREVIEW
STAGS SET FOR STORTFORD CUP CLASH
STAGS boss Keith Curle will make sure his troops do not underestimate Ryman Premier League side Bishop's Stortford when they visit Field Mill on Saturday for their FA Cup first round adventure.
For the visitors, this is their FA Cup 'final' and a chance to cause an upset, though Stags successfully negotiated a similar potential first round 'banana skin' last season with a 4-2 success at Team Bath.
Curle said: "We will be taking the game very seriously indeed.
"I will be putting out a very strong side as I want to see us go on a Cup run.
"I know the League remains the priority, but a Cup run is our second priority and it would be great to reach the third round and earn a few bob.
"We have reports on Bishop's Stortford and we'll treat them like any League side we face. We will have our homework done on them and will be looking to impose our game on them."
Bishop's Stortford are expected to bring between 700 and 1,000 supporters for their big day out.
Managed by former Arsenal and Celtic star Martin Hayes, they are currently 15th in the Ryman Premier.
On Sunday they drew 2-2 at Slough Town in the FA Trophy which left them facing a replay at Woodside Park last night (Tuesday).
Stags have already run the rule over the Bishops when they played at Kingstonian last week.
Indeed, it was a long evening for assistant manager John Ganon for, after performing a citizen's arrest on a teenage mugger in Wimbledon that afternoon, he found the Stortford kick-off put back from 7.45pm to 9.10pm after their team bus broke down on the QEII Bridge!
Admission on Saturday will be £14 adults, £7 OAPS and £4 U16s.
The game gives Stags a week off from the pressures of Division Three and a chance to hit top form once more.
However, despite not quite hitting the heights in the last two weeks, they have still reeled off two excellent home wins, in-form Boston United the latest to be dispatced on Saturday with a 2-1 win.
There were reports of several scouts in the West Stand - including First Division Ipswich - who it seems were there to watch Liam Lawrence.
But Curle said: "It doesn't bother me. I am glad they came on Saturday as I thought Liam was disappointing which is good for me as I don't want to lose him."
With Junior Mendes hitting top form alongside Colin Larkin and teenager Chris Beardsley next in line, Curle left striker Iyseden Christie out of the 16 on Saturday.
"Iyseden's response was good in training on Monday," said Curle.
"He knows he has to be at the top of his game to get back in that 16 now like the rest of them. No one is treated differently here. If you're not firing 100 per cent you're not in the 16."
Further down the striking queue, Andy White has gone out to Third Division rivals Kidderminster Harriers for a two-month loan and impressed boss Jan Molby on Saturday as he set up a goal in their 2-2 draw with Cambridge.
But youngster Craig Mitchell has returned from his loan at Harrogate.
"I am pleased Andy did well on Saturday," said Curle. "He is better off down there gaining valuable experience than sitting on our bench.
"With Craig, he is returning here after having limited chances at Harrogate who suddenly had players coming back.
"But if another opportunity comes up to get him more experience elsewhere then we'll do it. He is a young man learning the game who wants to progress his career."
Promising young defender Alex John-Baptiste was left out the squad on Saturday with illness.
He was visiting a doctor this week over worries he may have glandular fever.
Curle has pencilled in three reserve friendlies, starting with a trip to Boston today (Wednesday).
Next week they will play Derby at the Rams' training ground before a clash with Lincoln on a local pitch the week after.
Latest | November 2003