PREVIEWS AND TEAM NEWS
ONLY WAY IS UP FOR HAPPY BOSS
Joe O'Neill is in the squad to face Bristol Rovers tomorrow - and could be handed a place in the starting line-up.
The Preston striker signed a three-month loan deal yesterday and could get the nod ahead of Colin Larkin to play alongside Derek Asamoah.
Chris Tate is not fit enough for a place in the squad, but will play in a friendly at Clipstone Welfare tonight - and Marvin Robinson could also feature.
Manager Keith Curle, who has already decided on his starting XI for tomorrow but won't reveal what it is, looks likely to opt for a 4-4-2 formation - with Wayne Corden, Lee Williamson, Adam Murray and Alex Neill set for midfield spots.
Tom Curtis has been struggling with a stomach bug this week, while Adam Eaton has been having treatment to a minor injury but is expected to start at left-back.
Rhys Day will line up against Luke Dimech or Alex John-Baptiste at centre back, with Scott McNiven at right back.
Curle is pleased to have secured a loan deal for O'Neill in time for tomorrow's game - and he hopes to make the move permanent.
The Stags boss says he has signed O'Neill for his "movement, awareness, contribution as a team player" and goal-scoring.
"He's a talented young man who has given a good account of himself, and he suits the way we play."
Curle would not offer any clues as to whether or not O'Neill will start.
"He's in the squad for Saturday. I know what my starting line-up will be, but nobody else knows the team yet.
"The lad has potential. It's an opportunity for us to have a really good look at him - but I know he will score goals.
"If I'd been told I could have had him for six or nine months I would have taken that, but it might be that if he does well in the first three, four or five weeks we might sign him on a permanent deal then."
With the addition of Robinson still a possibility, Curle says he is happy with the squad he will start the season with.
"We're very strong right down the middle, but for us to improve on last season we need to get promoted.
"This is my team this year. I'm in an industry where I'm accountable for the football team and if I'm not successful this year I will have to take the stick."
Curle's main aim this season is to succeed where the team just failed last time around.
"We want promotion. There will be lots of twists and turns but when the last ball is kicked at the end of the season I want us to be in the higher division.
"I'm hopeful we can get off to a good start.
But it's a long season and we've got 46 games to be successful."
Stags: Pilkington, Eaton, Day, John-Baptiste, McNiven, Corden, Williamson, Murray, Neil, Asamoah, O'Neill, Larkin, Dimech, Curtis, MacKenzie, Artell. Possibles: T. Curle, Buxton.
STAGS SKIPPER CONFIDENT
STAGS skipper Kevin Pilkington will have plenty of new faces in front of him as the new season kicks-off against Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
With many long-serving players leaving Field Mill in the summer, it really is all-change for the Stags and Pilkington said: "Maybe the side needed a bit of fresh impetus and we've certainly got that now.
"The fans have already seen glimpses of what the new players have to offer and I we are all feeling very confident.
"We've brought in players like Adam Murray who is different class - he is such a good passer of the ball.
"Alex Neil, Scott McNiven and Chris Tate are all quality players as well.
"We are still trying to bring in another striker, but the pace of Derek Asamoah and Coplin Larkin would frighten any defence.
"It would be nice to get a big man in to give us options. But it won't be the end of the world if we can't as we are a passing side and not reliant on lumping the long ball up to a big man."
It's less than 10 weeks since that heart-breaking Play-off final defeat at Cardiff and Pilkington admitted; "It still hurts a bit, even now.
"But we must take the positives out of it. We gave everything on the day and had fantastic support. It was a very enjoyable day - apart from the result.
"It will stay in the back of our minds all season and I guess we would all love to go back there and actually win this time around.
"But we will try to do it the easier way and finish top three - there's no penalty shoot-out involved then!"
One thing that gives Pilkington great hope for the campaign is how little he has had to do in the pre-season friendlies.
"We have been looking very strong at the back and I have hardly had a save to make which is very encouraging.
"I asked if I could play at Alfreton on Monday night as I felt I needed more practice.
"All the back four are playing well. But Dave Artell has particularly impressed me
"He was unlucky to lose his place last season but Alex John-Baptiste came in and did brilliantly.
"Now Dave has come back looking really sharp and it will be interesting to see which two the gaffer goes for."
Pilkington will probably come up against long-time team mate Craig Disley on Saturday after the midfielder's move to Rovers.
"I was actually playing golf on the day the fixtures were announced after he had just signed for them," he said.
"I have spoken to Craig several times since then and I have wished him all the best - apart from Saturday, of course!"
PFA website, http://www.givemefootball.com:
Stags and Pirates go head-to-head - who will be left holding the bounty? Clarky reckons he knows as he puts his neck on the block
06-Aug-04 By Ian Clarkson
MANSFIELD V BRISTOL ROVERS
It looks like being a battle royal at Field Mill with Mansfield desperate to prove they haven't got a play-off hangover.
The Stags lost on penalties against Huddersfield at the Millennium Stadium and couldn't have a harder game to open the campaign with.
Ian Atkins has completely rebuilt Bristol Rovers since taking over in May and signed NINE new players - including former Stags star, Craig Disley.
The midfielder is sure to receive a hot reception back at Mansfield and their signing of Scott McNiven - who played under Atkins at Oxford - only adds more spice to what is sure to be a bruising encounter.
Jamie Forrester and Richard Walker are likely to start up front for the Pirates and with Junior Agogo and Lee Thorpe in the wings then Mansfield will have to work overtime to contain their firepower.
However, with Derek Asamoah and Joe O'Neill likely to be a potent strike force for attack-minded Mansfield then it promises to be red-hot encounter.
Ian Atkins is renowned for building promotion-winning teams but they often start slowly and I take Mansfield to nick all three points.
Bristol Evening Post:
ROVERS CHIEF WAITS ON ELLIOTT
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11:00 - 06 August 2004
Ian Atkins today acknowledged that his team selection for Bristol Rovers' League Two opener at Mansfield Town tomorrow hinges on Steve Elliott. The big central defender, who missed much of the pre-season build-up through injury and illness, played 45 minutes of last night's 2-1 friendly defeat at Clevedon Town.
Now Atkins says he will monitor Elliott's reaction to two outings in three days before deciding whether to include him for the trip to Field Mill.
"I know the side I want to put out, but a lot will depend on how Steve feels," Atkins said of the summer recruit from Blackpool.
"He trained hard yesterday for an hour-and-a-half, so with the game as well he had a good day.
"He is a big, strong lad anyway and his fitness should be okay, it's just a question of whether fatigue sets in after two games in three days. I don't think it will bother him though, and we hope to have him in the squad."
If Elliott is available, Rovers are expected to field three central defenders with Christian Edwards and John Anderson operating alongside him.
"We have versatile players who can switch positions anyway if we want to go from three at the back to four or vice-versa," added Atkins.
"I think it's a good game because losing in a play-off final can affect teams. But it will be hard because although Mansfield lost some players over the summer, they still have the majority of the squad that got them there."
But the Pirates look likely to be without midfielder Craig Disley who did not feature at the Hand Stadium and is still not fully recovered from an ankle problem.
"Craig is desperate to play because Mansfield is his old club, but we don't want to risk him being out for four weeks. His chances of being in the squad are no more than 50-50," Atkins said.
Rovers, once again fielding a side containing a number of trialists, went ahead after eight minutes when former Grimsby defender Richard Ford fired home from 20 yards.
However, Clevedon levelled soon afterwards when a spectacular 30-yarder from Lee Vickerman found the top corner.
Though the visitors then had plenty of chances to make the game safe, it was Clevedon striker Jack Pitcher who struck the winner five minutes from time.
Latest | August 2004