Craig Priest looks back on the past calendar year
As the clock ticks down on the year’s final day, I can’t help but reflect on the past year which has been, in my opinion, one of the best 12 months to be both a Stags supporter and broadcaster. Writing about the past year is always strange as your midway through a season but personally I always reflect on a personal 12 months and can’t help but do so in regards to Stags – it’s been of tremendous highs mixed in with some testing lows, but still I think we can look back we can be proud of the last 12 months of football.
January began like every other January in fairness, a month we’re we expected very little actually delivered a strong footballing month. Gary Roberts debuted on New Year’s Day as Matt Green and Aman Verma struck in the 2-2 at York City, victory’s over Forest Green Rovers and Hayes and Yeading at home we’re followed by a respectable draw at Luton in front of the TV Camera’s, the month ended on a high as dominant Stags eased past Ebbsfleet – the total change in feel in terms of mood and expectation was uplifting and we headed into February hopeful of what could be.
Postponements due to weather saw a frustrating start to February as, when football was at last allowed to take place, it was a total opposite in terms of performance as Stags ended a run of 6 games unbeaten, slipping to a 1-0 defeat at Newport County. Mansfield though proved it was a mere blip as they won their next two games in February, struggling Darlington were thrashed 5-2 before Tamworth were brushed past 2-1.
March is arguably the month we’ll always remember, John Radford’s purchase of the One Call Stadium finally cut all ties with the dark lord Mr Haslam, the celebrations on the pitch prior to the Lincoln game was a joy to behold in a game Stags were never going to lose – Stags running out 2-1 winners as Sammy The Stag led a QLE based conga. Victory’s away at Cambridge and Tamworth for followed by the three craziest games of the year – the awesome atmosphere against league leaders Fleetwood saw the on loan Exodus Geohaghon thunder home a roof lifting last minute header to earn a share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw before Stags went on a scoring spree hammering Barrow 7-0 at the One Call Stadium before Stags overcame Alfreton 6-3 days later at the Impact Arena. Another blip to the sheet was added at Fleetwood as the hosts ran out 2-0 winners; however victory over Ebbsfleet ended the month on a high.
April was another month of highs as the newly formed Reserves thrashed Quorn 7-2 in a friendly before the first team continued to close in on a play-off place as they hammered and subsequently relegated Kettering before narrowly beating Stockport curtsy of yet another Briscoe Belter. A point was then needed to seal a play-off space as Stags headed to Hayes and Yeading – a scorching day saw the team’s level at half time before Ross Dyer and Matt Green found the target to seal a 3-1 win and Mansfield’s place in the play-offs with two games to go. Third place was then sealed as Stags beat second placed Wrexham as the Welsh side crumbled in front of the TV Camera’s – a game no doubt remembered for Alan Marriott’s freak yet brilliant 90 yard strike. On the final day with everything already sealed ahead of the play-off’s Paul Cox made numerous changes as Stags headed to Kidderminster, the ‘Reserve’ team ran out 3-0 winners with substitute Matt Green coming from the bench to grab his 30th goal of the season.
May again proved the month to forget as Stags failed to go on and grab promotion, Ross Dyer’s headed goal put Stags into a 1-0 lead before Exodus Geohaghon scored an own goal on the stroke of half time. Matt Green’s second half dismissal for handball put Stags in lumber and without a front man for the second leg at the One Call Stadium were the Stags were unbeaten since November – the game went all the way to extra time before Matty Blair broke Stags hearts as he headed home what proved to be the winner in extra time, Ritchie Sutton also was dismissed as Stags epic run on games in 2012 came to a teary end.
Paul Cox got on with making signings in June and by the time July arrived pre-season was set to be a busy one, two sides played 45 minutes a piece at Leamington and then Hednesford as Stags grabbed two pre-season wins. A draw at Blue Square North favourites Gainsborough was then followed by four back to back victories over Hucknall Town, Derby County, Nottingham Forest (Behind Closed Doors) and Eastwood.
August saw pre-season continue, two victories over Boston and Sheffield FC were sandwiched either side of a 3-2 defeat at home to Rotherham, Newport County then ran out 4-3 winners at the One Call Stadium before Gateshead thrashed Stags 4-1 at Gateshead as the 2012-13 season kick off in poor fashion. Mansfield then got back to winning ways as Lindon Meikle netted twice as Stags came from 2-1 behind to win 3-2. Matt Green’s 5th minute strike was enough to beat Hyde however August ended in frustrating style as Grimsby hammered pathetic Stags 4-1 at Blundell Park.
September was too indifferent with just the one defeat away at Ebbsfleet; victories over Woking, Tamworth and Braintree were matched with draws against AFC Telford and Hereford, games which highlighted Mansfield’s inconsistent performances.
The same can be said for October too as a pathetic display at Cambridge saw Stags beaten 4-1, a goalless draw with Lincoln and a narrow victory over Forest Green thanks to Matt Rhead’s late header set Mansfield up for the FA Cup break. The long trip to Blue Square North outfit Workington awaited and Stags somehow made it through, Jake Speight netting twice in a 2-1 win, the FA Cup win not enough to give Stags confidence as they headed to Dartford, two goals in as many minutes on the stroke of half time saw the hosts run out 2-0 winners in front of the TV Cameras.
November was statically the poorest month in 2011 but this year the Stags actually managed to stay unbeaten, well nearly! Minnowers Slough Town held Stags to a goalless draw in the FA Cup first round, a 1-1 draw at Nuneaton & a 1-0 win over Southport squeezed in before the replay with Slough, a game which went all the way to penalty’s – Shane Redmond one of the heroes as he saved a spot kick and Stags triumphed 4-1 to progress through to round two. November continued with a 2-2 draw with Luton, Matt Green netting a late leveller before a thunderous Stags show was enough to beat Macclesfield 3-0 at Moss Rose, Mansfield’s first away league win since August 18th. Ending the month was an FA Trophy showdown with Matlock, Adam Murray’s goal at the One Call Stadium wasn’t enough and neither was Junior Daniel’s strike in the replay, Matlock ripping apart awful Mansfield to win 2-1 and end November again in a frustrating mood.
December, the month of Christmas songs and wrapping paper saw Stags improve until their last game against Alfreton, which as we all know ended in disappointment. However the start of December was more encouraging, a thrilling fight back to draw 3-3 with Lincoln at Sincil Bank set up a tasty FA Cup replay at the chance to play Liverpool at home, Ebbsfleet then felt the wrath of confident Stags as Mansfield hit them for four. Louis Briscoe’s second half strike then proved the winning goal of a 2-1 match before rain saw games against Hyde and Grimsby called off either side of that aforementioned 2-1 defeat at home to Alfreton on Boxing Day.
The year has thrown up some excellent memories, ones which we’ll cherish for a long while yet. Yes performances have been somewhat indifferent of late but still we are chugging along and who knows, in 2013 we could go one better than we did in 2012.
On a final note I’d just like to thank you all for your support of Mansfield Matters this calendar year, have a great time in however you choose to see in the new year, see you in 2013!
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