Following on from their good away performance at Gillingham on Saturday afternoon, Nigel Adkins’ Tranmere Rovers play host to league leaders Mansfield Town on Tuesday night. 

The Whites netted early in Kent, before going on to draw one-all, with a great strike from midfielder Regan Hendry. 

Midfielder Chris Merrie has come back to the starting eleven recently and he started the move for the goal. There have been some questions around his future at the club but with recent performances, the 25-year-old seems to still be highly thought of by fans. 

It will be interesting to see if he starts from the off tonight against Nigel Clough’s Mansfield Town who beat Swindon Town 3-2 on Saturday afternoon.

It will be a tough test but it wasn’t too long ago that Rovers beat league leaders Stockport County 4-0 at Prenton Park. So, could the same happen again? 

If it does, it’d certainly provide a good boost ahead of the game at fierce rivals Wrexham this weekend. 

I spoke to Mansfield Musings’ Sam Binch. 

Hi Mansfield Musings, when did you start following MTFC and what was that first experience like?

My first game was in 1997 at the age of 5, Mansfield 1-0 Hartlepool, Ben Sedgemore scored the winning goal with a screamer!

What have been some of the best and worst moments in your time as a fan of The Stags? Mansfield won their last trophy in 2013 as they were crowned Champions of the fifth tier. 

The best moment was winning promotion from the Football League Third Division in 2001/02 when we finished in third place. The worst was relegation from the Football League in 2008. 

Could you tell us a little bit about who you are, when the page started and what you have been up to recently?

I’m Sam Binch, 32 years old. I can’t remember exactly when the page started in all honesty, I think it was around 2015 when I started writing a weekly blog, which also found its way into the local newspaper, The Chad. Since then I’ve stopped and started the blog a few times, but I’ve always continued posting on Twitter with match updates and opinions. This year I’ve started a weekly newsletter which looks back on the previous week.

Mansfield are Owned by John Radford, he purchased the club in 2010 and is the founder of One Call Insurance who the stadium is named after. What are the current projects and what are the fans’ feelings on him? 

He’s very well liked by supporters, mainly because he continues to pour his own money into the club year after year despite us continually falling short of his expectations of promotion. We’ve been getting closer and closer, and hopefully this season we can crack it and he can finally achieve his aim.

Nigel Clough is the manager of The Stags as he took over from Graham Coughlan in November 2020. The 57-year-old, formerly of Burton Albion, Sheffield United and Derby County, has won 44% of his 184 games. How highly is he held in the eyes of fans? 

Again, he’s very popular. There has been a gradual improvement during his time here, with a slight step backwards last term. He can be stubborn at times, but he’s finally sorted the defence this season and it’s paying dividends. The football played throughout his time here is some of the best we’ve seen, and attendances have continued to increase throughout his tenure.

How would you describe his playing style? The recent formation has been 4-3-1-2.

He likes to play attacking football, first and foremost. We’ve played various formations during his time here, but the one that has always worked best is the diamond or 4-3-1-2 as you have called it. He likes his side to work the ball into the box, with a lot of combination play in wide areas.

The club finished 8th last season, there was some drama on the final day! How special has this season been as you’re now positioned at the top? Are you certain that The Stags will go on to achieve promotion having claimed 69 points from 36 games? 

I think we will do it, yes, I’ve said it from quite early in the season that I think we’re the best team in the league on our day. Whilst it would be nice to finish top, anywhere in the top 3 will do me, I can’t be doing with the play-offs again! It’s been a brilliant season, we remained unbeaten in the league till late November.

Mansfield have won three of their last four games, including a 3-2 win at home to Swindon Town on Saturday afternoon. Will Swann has bagged six in his last eight, netting the winning goal on the weekend. Could you talk to us about him?

We had Will on loan from Forest last season and he did very well, mostly as an impact sub. We signed him permanently in the Summer, he went through a lean spell early in the season but has been like a new signing since January. He’s got a bit of pace and clever movement. He’s a poacher, but can also create chances for others. He will go higher than L2 in time.

Mansfield’s sole piece of winter transfer work came to fruition when the club signed Gillingham striker Tom Nichols on an undisclosed fee. How has been getting on?

He’s done pretty well, scoring a couple of goals and being involved in plenty more. I don’t think we’ve seen him at the top of his game just yet, but he’s a clever player who adds something we didn’t have.

Former Rovers striker Lucas Akins has bagged 13 goals in 38 games this campaign but it is 26-year-old Davis Keillor-Dunn that is the club’s top goalscorer, netting 18 goals whilst also picking up eight assists. Could you talk about those two forwards as well? It’s an exciting and greatly efficient frontline!  

Lucas Akins in the link man, he wrestles defenders all afternoon, chases lost causes, works hard for the team. He can be frustrating at times as his touch is hit and miss, but when he’s on form defenders find it difficult to handle him. Davis Keillor-Dunn is an excellent player. He can beat a man, and often scores brilliant goals from all sorts of angles. He has a free role behind the strikers, which has really suited him this season. He’s one of the best players in L2.

The last meeting between Tranmere and Mansfield resulted in a two-all scoreline in late November. Robbie Apter and Charlie Jolley netted for Rovers as defender Jordan Turnbull was sent off. Can you remember what your thoughts were of that game?

Yes, it was a time where we were struggling for rhythm in games, playing with too slow a tempo. Tranmere hit us on the break with pace and we struggled to cope. I think we’ll be a different proposition this time around.

Will Mansfield claim all three points at PP? What is your score prediction? 

I think we might nick it 2-1, despite Tranmere being a good side at home.

Finally, what are your thoughts on Nigel Adkins’ Tranmere team? Rovers have picked up four points in their last two games, putting in a good performance at Gillingham on Saturday.

He’s done a good job since he came in, at a time where Rovers were in a tricky spot. They have a very dangerous player in the form of Rob Apter, who I can see doing well when he returns to Blackpool next season.

Mansfield Town claimed all three points when they visited The Wirral in mid-February 2023. However, the last time Tranmere faced the leaders of League Two was when they demolished Stockport County 4-0. 

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