Colchester v Mansfield: expect goals

Rose in red-hot form –

Following news that Mansfield boss Steve Evans has dismissed speculation linking him with Gillingham, attention turns to on-field matters.

In this Saturday’s trip to Colchester United, the Stags have the chance to pick up a second away win of the season that could take them into the top seven. Their confidence should be lifted by a commanding performance in last week’s Nottinghamshire Derby, which resulted in a 3-1 win over Notts County.

Evans ditched the diamond system that hadn’t been working so well and wide men Omari Sterling-James and Alex MacDonald carried the ball forward effectively. The team that played with more drive and intent than we saw four days earlier at Cheltenham.

Colchester had a similarly positive outing last week at Yeovil. They won 1-0 and impressed manager John McGreal with not only their composure in possession, but also their defensive shape. The U’s, who still have the joint-worst defensive record in the division with 18 goals conceded, will be grateful for their first clean sheet of the season.

In other matches they have struggled against powerful front-lines. That potential frailty might offer encouragement for either Kane Hemmings or Lee Angol, who are competing to partner in-form Danny Rose. The latter is more mobile than Hemmings or Angol, evidenced by the impressive way he hassled the opposing defence for his goal on Saturday. The ex-Barnsley striker makes the most of his ally’s flick-ons and averages a goal every 94 minutes, which gives him the second-best minutes per goal ratio in the division.

Colchester’s most talented striker is arguably Kurtis Guthrie, who is returning from injury. The ex-Forest Green man, who netted 12 league goals last term, made a cameo appearance at Yeovil last week, then played 45 minutes in the EFL Trophy in midweek.

If deemed fit he could be handed his first league start since September. The 24-year-old’s movement and technical quality might compliment the pace of Brandon Hanlan, who himself has netted twice since joining on loan from Charlton last month.

The goal threat posed by John McGreal’s side is boosted further by the presence of Kyel Reid, who netted twice at Grimsby in his first start since his injury earlier last month. The ex-Bradford winger offers trickery and a willingness to run with the ball down the left, which could see him test auxiliary right-back Paul Anderson.

With Colchester often embroiled in high-scoring games and Mansfield’s last three encounters seeing 10 goals, this could be an action-packed afternoon.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 2-3