Mansfield Town Season Preview

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The Football Lab interviewed Mansfield Town fan Kieran Cooke, ahead of the new season. You can follow him on Twitter @CookeKieran. Here, he discusses whether keeper Alan Marriott should have been offered a new contract, the arrival of new forward options, and how a long ball approach restricts his side’s creativity.After an 11th place finish, it’s been an encouraging first season back in League Two for Mansfield. Would you agree?

Yes, we finished higher than I thought we were going to last season. An iffy start didn’t help matters and struggling to gel a solid team was a tough ask. Plenty of changes week in, week out upset the balance of the squad most definitely. A strong finish to the end of the season was always encouraging.

Veteran goalkeeper Alan Marriott leaves. Having kept 15 clean sheets last season, do you think he should have stayed on?

I think so, maybe a short term contract would have been the fairest solution. Over the last 6 years, he’s been the most consistent keeper in the league. Coming into last season, he was hit and miss for us and under performing to standard the Mansfield fans expect. Age is obviously a main factor.

Amari’i Bell joins on a six month loan from Birmingham. With James Jennings leaving for Forest Green, was a left-back needed?

Most definitely. With Jennings departure, which I still think was a wrong decision, we needed to fill that gap. Not seen much of Bell but he’s a consistent loanee so he’s had experience. I hope he proves to be a good move.

You looked a threat from set pieces last season. Would you say that’s the side’s main strength?

I’d say so. Corners are especially our strong point. With Rhead up top, we can bring midfield into play very easily with his big, physical presence.

Midfielder Anthony Howell has played 112 times for the club, since joining in 2011. Are you disappointed the club’s contract talks with him broke down?

I’m yes and no on the Howells situation. He’s been a good player for the years he’s been at the Stags. Consistency was always Anthony’s problem having a blinder one week then being very poor the next.

Only four sides scored fewer goals than Mansfield. Was this due to a lack of creativity, or goalscoring instinct?

I think we lacked a clinical goalscorer. We were depending on Palmer mostly towards the end & he didn’t live up to the expectation. Hoof football was another problem, which affected our creativity for sure.

Alex Fisher joins from A.C. Monza, an Italian fourth tier club who had Alessandro Costacurta, Christian Abbiati and Patrice Evra before they came good. Another star in the making!

I hope so. He looked promising in the one game I’ve watched him this season. He got on the scoresheet, which is always good to see. I think him & Hearn may be fighting to partner Rhead upfront, which will be hard, considering Hearn’s pre-season and goal scoring abilities

With most bookmakers, Mansfield are at around 7/1 for promotion. Where will you finish?

I think we will finish 9th this season, optimistically a play off place.

TFL Verdict

Mansfield seem to have enhanced the quality in their squad. They’ll be competing for an outside play-off spot. 10th

(Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mansfield_Town_F.C.)