Two out long-term but Town focus on tonight

MICKY Mellon is resigned to the long-term loss of Jamie Milligan and Paul Linwood with knee injuries but he still expects his Fleetwood Town side to bounce back strongly at Mansfield Town tonight.

Left-back Junior Brown (ankle) is another likely absentee this evening but manager Mellon is confident of a positive response to Saturday's 1-0 defeat at struggling Forest Green.

Mellon said: "The lads came in bright and breezy on Monday and worked on the things we need to improve. It has only been a bit of finetuning and tweaking to make us a bit more aggressive and imaginative in the final third.

"We don't lose many and we always try to react positively to them with the spirit and character our players have in abundance. We will bounce back."

The injury concerns, which are also expected to keep winger Jamie Mullan out of the reckoning tonight, will again test the strength of Mellon's squad.

Among those looking to make the most of the opportunity is Jamie McGuire, who was restored to the midfield in Gloucestershire on Saturday with Milligan injured and Jon Worthington back at Oldham.

McGuire was disappointed he couldn't help Town to a third straight league win: "I thought we bossed the game and had half-chances," he said. "We kept the ball well but just didn't get it into box for the lads up front to score.

"It has been a big step up this season. Blue Square North was about a lot of long balls and battling, but in the Conference you can get the ball down and play.

"We have adapted well and now we have a big second half of the season to come."

That second half will be boosted by the arrival of record signing George Donnelly from Mansfield, who is set for his second appearance in Town colours tonight.

Mellon said: "George will get better and better, and he will certainly make us a better team. We worked on a few and pieces yesterday to make sure that comes to fruition. The lads will enjoy playing with him."

McGuire agreed, adding: "You can see in training that George is a good player and he will score goals."

Having lost their place in the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off zone to Wrexham on Saturday, Town aim to return there by completing a double over a Stags side who were Fleetwood's first scalp at this level.

The wildly inconsistent Stags followed a 5-1 hammering of Cambridge with a 7-2 slump against Grimsby on New Year's Day. But they were back to their best to win 3-1 at Eastbourne on Saturday and move within three points of Mellon's men.

And the Town boss is reading nothing into that 3-0 home win back in August: "We have played a lot of football since and Mansfield have had a change of manager (Duncan Russell replacing David Holdsworth in November). It's always be difficult going over to a big ex-Football League club, but that is something that excites us and doesn't daunt us."

Interviews: David Mitchell

*Danny Hurst played his first competitive game in over four months as Town Reserves hammered Formby 7-1 at Highbury last night, writes MICHAEL WOODS.

Keeper Hurst, who suffered a serious shoulder injury at Crawley in early September, suffered the worst of starts as Formby striker Joey Davies opened the scoring in the first minute.

But a strong Town side soon took control and led 4-1 at the interval.

Danny Rowe equalised from 25 years and then beat three to net the fourth, following goals by John Miles and Wayne Curtis. Town rang the changes in the second half as Connors netted the fifth and Nick Rogan added two in a minute right at the death.

Hurst said: "My first competitive game back went very well. I was a spectator for the first half really but had some saves to make in the second half. I've not suffered any reaction to the injury because I've been training well and I'm really pleased to be back."

Town: Hurst, Cavanagh, Sumner, Pond, Grand, Wynn, Miles, Connors, Curtis, Rogan, Rowe

*TOWN'S visit to York City, frozen off last week, has been rearranged for Tuesday, February 15.

It means Fleetwood start next month with four away games, with the York match following trips south to Histon, Wimbledon and Luton.