‘Play the game and not the occasion’, says Notts County boss Kevin Nolan ahead of Mansfield derby


Given their start to the season, which has so far defied all expectation, Notts County are hoping their extraordinary momentum can finally settle an old score.

Mansfield Town have proven difficult opposition in recent seasons, so much so that you have to go back to 2005 for the Magpies’ last league win against their arch-rivals.

But on an unbeaten run of 10 games, and a streak of six successive wins, means they can finally make the short trip to the One Call Stadium with hope rather than trepidation.

Top of the table and in menacing form, there has never been a better time for Notts to finally end a recent sequence of results that reads like a Stephen King novel.

It is undoubtedly the biggest game of the season as far as the fans are concerned and it can be easy to get lost in the hyperbole which surrounds such a fixture.

The task for the Notts manager Kevin Nolan is ensuring the players do not get caught up in the occasion and forget what has brought them so much success so far this term.

“I think it’s temperament more than anything,” he said when asked about the key ingredients to winning such a game.

“You can’t get carried away with what is going on around you.

“For me as a player it was always about concentrating on what happens on the pitch, not what happens off it.

“If you get carried away with the occasion then you start to make mistakes and do things that aren’t natural to you.”

Given the way his side ruthlessly dismantled second-placed Exeter on Tuesday night, there were no signs that complacency is about to infect his dressing room.

Even in a performance that Nolan hailed as one of the most complete of the season, striker Jon Stead revealed Meadow Lane’s commander-in-chief still had plenty to nitpick over.

Stags boss Steve Evans will be hoping to mastermind a win over Notts County.

It is this incredible attention to detail that is keeping his players grounded as the plaudits keep on coming for a team that is not only well organised but starting to show its clinical edge.

While it would be tempting to start shouting from the rooftops about what Notts have achieved in their last two games, Nolan knows Mansfield will be determined to pull the rug from under their feet.

“When you win two games like that, you are always delighted but the manner in which we have done it has been fantastic,” he said.

“We made changes to the team against Exeter on Tuesday and the lads who came in were brilliant.

“They took on the responsibility of keeping the performance level high and we are going to need that again on Saturday against a Mansfield side who had a tough result at Cheltenham in midweek.

“They will be wanting to respond and there is no better way to do that in a derby.

“To be honest though, I am just concentrating on us although I do expect them to be up there given the acquisitions they made in the summer and the money they’ve spent.

“But I hope we can go there with the confidence we have been playing with allied with the attitude and application that is needed for a derby with the aim of getting those three points.

“Just because it’s a derby doesn’t mean we change anything.

“We will try to counter their strengths and hit them where we feel their weaknesses are then we give ourselves a great chance of putting some points on the board.”

Nolan does have some tough selection problems given the players who came into the side on Tuesday staked a good claim as to why they should retain their shirt.

But it has underlined the impressive strength in depth of the squad with two players competing for every position.

“I am sure Steve (Evans) will have had us watched just like we’ve sent somebody to watch them over the last few weeks,” he said.

“I don’t think he will be worrying too much about us. He will be hoping to get his team back to where he believes they should be.

“It’s just about me trying to get the best out of this squad and I feel I can make five changes and it not weaken the team.

“It’s given me a headache, but it’s one I am delighted with.”



…continue on post

LEAVE A REPLY