Mansfield Town boss delighted with strength in depth ahead of title tilt
WHEN it comes to a performance that sums up whether Mansfield Town are capable of winning promotion, it is not a first-team affair manager Paul Cox looks at.
Instead, it was a cold, wet day at the ground of his former club Eastwood Town that told him he has a side that is hungry and has the desire to go up.
At Coronation Park, on a muddy, horrible pitch, his 'second-string' this week served up a reminder of what they have to offer.
Matt Rhead scored twice, while Ben Hutchinson and Chris Clements also found the net in a 4-0 win against Grimsby.
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And the strength in depth at Cox's disposal was also clear as Ritchie Sutton, Exodus Geohaghon, Ryan Tafazolli, George Pilkington, Anthony Howell, Jamie Tolley, Shane Redmond and Andy Todd all starred.
With the club on a run of 13 wins from their last 14 games, opportunities have not been opening up to break into the starting line-up.
But Cox saw enough on Wednesday to know his squad is more than capable of coming out top of the pile.
On Tuesday, they suffered the frustration of their top-of-the-table clash at Wrexham being called off while they were near Stoke on the A50, due to a waterlogged pitch.
Kidderminster beat Newport to go top, with the Stags second only on goal difference with two games in hand.
Mathematically, it is now Mansfield's title to lose, as they prepare to entertain Macclesfield at the One Call Stadium tomorrow.
Wrexham is a game that will have to be played on a Thursday night while, if the expected snow causes tomorrow's match to bite the dust, there will be two weeks where the Stags play two midweek games.
Given that scenario, Cox knows the whole squad will come into play and that is why the reserve showing has really put a smile on his face.
He said: "I was not interested in the result, it was the performance and work ethic that was excellent. They proved they wanted to be part of not just this season but next.
"I got the positive response I was after and it is also like a carbon copy of the starting 11 in the last first-team game. That is what I want.
"It was an horrible pitch, awful weather and it would have been easy to go through the motions.
"But it was quite the opposite and it has given me plenty of food for thought.
"I know they are all good players, we have that all the way through the squad but being a good player is not enough.
"I want a player who applies himself right and that is what I got from them all. I will take that any day of the week.
"Look at Lee Stevenson and Luke Jones. They were out of it but came in and are doing an excellent job.
"The spirit inside that dressing room is immense and that is what got us through to victory in the last 15 minutes against Forest Green.
"Sometimes it is about that will and desire to just get through it and I don't want to affect that spirit, I want to harness it."
Cox, who has no fresh injury concerns ahead of tomorrow's game, is still disappointed in the late nature of the postponement at Wrexham, which came at 3pm on the day of the game.
But he said he would give them the benefit of the doubt, as all attention turns to tomorrow's game.
"We can't get ahead of ourselves," he said. "Some results went for us the other night but we know there will be some massive twists.
"We have to take it one game at a time and all I am looking at is the next one."