With Notts County winless in eight in the league, and Mansfield unbeaten in 12, Saturday’s fixture would look to be a foregone conclusion.
But with Neal Ardley taking charge of a league match for the first time, in a Nottinghamshire derby, it may prove a little more tougher to predict than you might guess.
The Stags currently sit 6th in the division, only three points off of the automatic promotion places with a game in hand.
They’ve only lose once at Field Mill all season, that coming to the hands of Exeter in mid-September, the last time they lost in the league.
Both teams come into this game on the back of Checkatrade Trophy defeats with Mansfield losing to Bury and Notts going down to Sunderland on Tuesday night.
Not that that should damage Stags’ confidence too much – as if they needed any further incentive, Mansfield are unbeaten in their last 11 against the Magpies in the league; excluding the then JPT, Notts haven’t actually beaten Mansfield since 2005, and have lost all of their last four meetings at Field Mill, to an aggregate score of 13-2.
David Flitcroft has assembled a good side at Mansfield. Krystian Pearce, Hayden White and Neal Bishop have all lined up in the black and white of Notts County in the past, albeit to differing successes, and so will be familiar names to Notts fans.
Aside from them, on-loan Forest striker Tyler Walker has 11 goals in all competitions this season, and their other attacking options, such as Danny Rose, CJ Hamilton, Craig Davies and Otis Khan, should fancy their chances against a Notts defence that has let in 23 goals on the road alone this season already.
Notts will be without winger Enzio Boldewijn, who is unlikely to return to action until February with a knee injury, although should be able to welcome back striker Jon Stead from injury, after he got 30 minutes at Sunderland in the Checkatrade in the week. Kane Hemmings could be in with a chance of return too, which would see him up against the side he joined Notts from last season, after he spent last season on-loan at Mansfield from Oxford.
Notts have drawn four out of the last five in the league, having had the lead in three of those games, so may not be in as bad form as it feels. With a new manager in the dugout yet again, and a Nottinghamshire derby to liven the atmosphere, form may be somewhat irrelevant anyway, but Notts will need to be up for it and at it from first whistle to last if they are to get anything out of what is arguably their biggest game of the season so far.
Picture Credit: Notts County