Craig Priest looks ahead to tomorrow’s trip to AFC Telford United....
They say in football league tables begin to take their shape after ten games, as we approach our tenth game of the season I still can’t decide if I believe in this or not as I’ve always been under the influence of ‘it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish’.
It’s been a long week for me and as such I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and think about how our season’ unfolded so far, at home I’m confident we can beat pretty much anyone yet away I worry that a draw maybe a big ask – I’ve come to the conclusion that after the next two games, both away trips, I’ll be happy so long as that worry has been erased as I think, if we can get two back to back away wins our season will finally have the spark it’s perhaps lacked so far.
I’ll move onto the away form later but first I want to go back to my point about the number of points collected after the first ten games, providing we beat AFC Telford we’ll have 18points on the board, looking back at the past four blue square champions and there points tally after ten games shows me that 18 is a good figure to have. Last year’s Champions Fleetwood collected 20points from their first ten games, the same number of points Crawley had at the same stage the previous season. Stevenage Borough who were champions in 2009-10 collected 19 points from their first ten outings whilst 2008-09 champions Burton Albion only managed 15points from a possible 30 from the opening ten fixtures, the exact number we have now after nine games. The champion teams then surged in their next ten or so games to gather momentum and set them ahead of the rest, I think if we can aim for 21points from a possible 30 from the next ten games (Macclesfield – Stockport) then we’ll be up there and in a solid place to then re-evaluate and look at what we may need to strengthen moving into the back end of December and the new calendar year. Is it too early to be looking that far ahead, maybe – personally the maths and accumulated points can take a back seat whilst the priority of matching our home form with our away form takes prescience.
Last term our away form was the 5th best in the division and something which, especially in the latter stage of the season, helped us push onto the play-offs. Looking back to season’s previous stats will tell you that our home and away form has been distant, for example during the 2010-11 campaign we finished in the top ten for teams away from home but only reached the dizzy heights of 15th for our home form. The season before things we’re more closely balanced but by no means affective, mediocre is probably the best way of describing a 10th placed home finish and a 9th place standing away from home. Our debut season in non-league also a vast contrast between home and away, an impressive 6th at home with a disheartening 19th on our travels – home and away may sound like different entities but winning teams, successful teams put there form in with the football boots and match day kit, it’s part of the furniture – if we are to progress, then we need to travel somewhere and stamp our authority, now is the prime time to do so with three of our next four fixtures spent on the road.
AFC Telford, Macclesfield and Cambridge are all tough places to go and with a home game with Hereford sandwiched in too, this kind of ties in with my ‘let’s get some momentum’ comment. We have to show we’ve settled and that those early creases have been ironed out, Lindon Meikle has said in the week about there still being more to come – I believe that soon something will click and the true Stags will show.
Tomorrow’s opponents AFC Telford have exceeded expectation so far this term, sitting just two points and as many places below us in 10th – however could AFC Telford’s bright start been due to good health in the squad? Like us now they’ve been dealt some injury blows and have seven players ruled out of tomorrow’s clash for various reasons, will their strength in depth be able to match ours, one look at our reserve team says no – let’s hope this is the answer come 5pm tomorrow.
LAST TIME WE MET
It’s funny that a year and one day on we meet for the first time in the season, our first meeting with Telford last term being on September 20th, a 1-1 draw at Field Mill as was – Matt Green the scorer for the Stags. The reverse fixture was too a draw, John Thompson debuting after a lengthy lay-off to partner John Dempster it the heart of defence, Thompson’s influence helping keep our first clean sheet in some 12 matches, the game ended 0-0.
Whilst Matt Green serves the second of his three game ban, Paul Cox has had added problems this week as fresh faces have joined Ross Dyer and Gary Roberts in the physio’s room. Player Coach Andy Todd has a hamstring injury whilst Jamie Hand and Nick Wright both have knee injuries. With Green suspended and Wright joining Dyer on the treatment table, Cox looking rather thin on the ground for strikers, Matt Rhead and Jake Speight’s only competition is Ben Hutchinson, who played 15 minutes at Rainworth on Monday and surprisingly Andy Owens who has played the last two reserve team games as an out and out front man.
If you can’t get to AFC Telford’s New Bucks Head tomorrow, then you can join myself for full match commentary – build up begins at 2pm on 106.9FM and via our MM-LIVE page.
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