Ahead of Easter Monday's clash with Mansfield Town, Sam Moakes picks out three to look out for on the Stags side...
With players in the side possessing Premier League experience, it may be slightly surprising that Ollie Clarke is captain of Mansfield Town; at first glance anyway. But the midfielder is certainly worth the armband, having made a name for himself at Bristol Rovers.
A product of the Rovers youth academy, Clarke played in over 200 games for the Gas and proved his strong mindset by overcoming an ACL injury in training ahead of his first full season in professional football.
Two Player of the Season trophies also show his dedication. Clarke achieved back-to-back promotions with Rovers, from the Conference to League One, earning himself successive contracts in a career with the club spanning 11 years.
His leadership qualities were on full show last year as he was made Bristol Rovers’ club captain – a trait that was quickly realised by the Mansfield hierarchy. Clarke originally followed Graham Coughlan to Mansfield but will be hoping the campaign ends slightly better than it began for his former boss.
Getting over the initial winless run to begin the season, goals have been imperative to Mansfield’s ability to stitch together several runs of form. Thus, forward Jordan Bowery has been imperative to these results. The striker, who is also often found on the left flank, has scored ten and assisted five in his 32 League Two starts.
The experienced forward moved to Aston Villa for a fee in 2012, and after another cash move to Rotherham United, Mansfield is his fifth club since 2015. Bowery arrived at Mansfield in June of last year, with the Stags agreeing a transfer with League One MK Dons for the striker.
He is more used to playing in leagues above League Two, with this experience proving vital to his performances this season - including a brace to overcome automatic promotion hopefuls Cheltenham Town last month. A hat-trick also saw him take home the match ball in a 9.3 rated performance against Port Vale earlier in the season.
For Mansfield, a side that have found sustained form difficult to come by, a reliable midfielder is crucial in regaining some consistency. This is why George Maris is so important for Nigel Clough’s side. Despite wearing the number 10, Maris is often found on the left side of midfield or just in front of the centre-backs – that is if he is not in his usual central midfield position.
The midfielder’s heat map, with red spots covering the entirety of the pitch, will tell you enough about Maris’ work rate. You can also usually tell the quality of a player if he is the one taking corners. Coming through Barnsley’s youth academy, Maris found a more permanent home at Cambridge United, where he appeared 132 times in four seasons.
The midfielder scored 20 times in this period, marking a decent return of a goal every seven matches. Whilst he has only scored one goal this year, the 25-year-old is entering the prime of his career and is crucial to Mansfield.