Mansfield Town boss Steve Evans has hailed the job Kevin Nolan is doing as manager of Notts County and admits their derby clash will be a “tough challenge”.
The two rivals lock horns at One Call Stadium on Saturday with the Stags hoping to put an end to table-topping Notts’ incredible winning run of six straight league games.
Notts have defied all expectation to rise to the League Two summit in what has been a stunning start to the campaign which has the black and white legion dreaming of glory.
And Evans says Nolan deserves credit for the work he is doing at Meadow Lane.
“First and foremost, congratulations to Kevin Nolan; what a job he’s done,” he said.
“He’s added very selectively to the group and he inherited a good squad, it has to be said.
“People forget that the squad that was put together the season before last was to be a promotion squad.
“This is a real tough challenge for us. They’re a squad that have been assembled for well over a season, we’re a squad that are two or three months old.
“I know people want to dismiss it, but those that dismiss it really don’t know what they’re talking about when putting a squad together and how long it takes.
“This is the real test, this is the real benchmark. This is the league leaders who have gone around the country turning win, after win, after win in the opening weeks, so it’s a big test for us.”
Mansfield were touted as one of the favourites to win the league, but a 3-0 defeat to Cheltenham on Tuesday night has left them eighth in the table.
But Evans is hoping to produce a positive response against Nolan’s in-form team.
“If we can bounce back into that play-off group by a good performance on Saturday, which we’ll need to give for three points, but if we can do that, we’ll be well ahead of schedule,” he said.
“It’s a long season but it will be good for us if we can get three points on Saturday. It absolutely mirrors to the point for the same number of games that I had for Rotherham, which would be 19 points returned in the same number of games.
“They’re top of the league. They’re doing fantastically well and this becomes almost like people looking at it as a promotion game.
“So early in the season, it’s ridiculous, but isn’t it fantastic for Mansfield Town that we’re talking about promotion?
“I remember when I came in here 10 or 11 months ago and we were talking about survival with the chairman.
“We’ve made a lot of progress and there’ll be a lot more progress to come. I’m looking for my players to show their disappointment in their performance on Saturday.”