Craig Priest Writes....
Being honest I can only write this half heartedly as, outside my window the rain continues to lash down and I’m fully expecting yet another postponement – this time though I really don’t want this one to be off as I feel we need a game before our showdown with Liverpool next Sunday as the world watches on.
Our previous game against Alfreton as we know was a poor and pathetic showing which, in my opinion, partly came from rustiness and a lack of football – I’d hate this to happen again ahead of the Liverpool match. I’ve always stressed that the league is more important than the FA Cup and I still firmly believe we can do something this season, the post Christmas set of fixtures has always been, by his own admission, the time when Paul Cox side performs best – something we saw first hand last term and something we’re hoping for a repeat of.
Statistically we are not far off we’re we were at this stage of the season last term, sitting tenth on 32 points puts us four points behind last term as we sat in 9th on 38 points post Boxing Day. That said we have played four games LESS than this time last year, a draw in all of those games would take us dead level with last term whilst victory’s would put us significantly ahead – the fact these games will now fall into our post Christmas bracket can only be a positive now.
They say where you finish at Christmas is pretty much where you’ll finish at the end of the season, I think it’s complete rubbish – football for me is all about momentum and the points you collect, honestly who would have predicted a finish as strongly as we did last term at this stage last season? I think that proves that this season isn’t over, performance comes second in my book to results, if we start putting in good results in January then once more momentum can take us through to where we want to be.
Alfreton is always a tough place to go and the pitch is far from the greatest in the world but I think it’s the perfect place to kick start 2013, a place where you need to battle for every point is the perfect spring board to the year we’ll again need to battle to achieve our dreams. The good thing about the Grimsby game being off is extra time for preparation, should tomorrow go ahead the players will have Boxing Day on their minds and want revenge – any players that have Liverpool on their minds and don’t commit themselves 100% to Alfreton can, for me, pack their bags and be sold / transferred the following day as the transfer window opens as we all sing Old Langsyne tonight!
As 2012 comes to an end let’s remember the one thing that saw us come good in the first half of the year – take baby steps, focusing on one game at a time.
LAST TIME WE MET
The sides last lock horns on Wednesday as Alfreton grabbed their first ever competitive victory over a lacklustre Stags, John Dempster prodded Stags ahead but goals from Paul Clayton and Ben Tomlinson were enough to consign Stags to defeat.
Last season’s encounters were nothing short of spectacular, at Field Mill as was the Reds arrived for their first ever league meeting with us and did more than match us – grabbing a 2-0 half time lead as Anton Brown and Paul Clayton capitalised on poor defending. The second half was somewhat crazy as Alfreton saw Anthony Wilson and Greg Young sent off. Matt Green tucked home a penalty on 75 minutes before Lindon Meikle netted an absolute belter with four minutes later to snatch an undeserved point, Andy Todd then made sure it was all three points in the dying seconds of the match as he squirmed home Green’s driven effort.
The reverse fixture earlier this calendar year was even more unbelievable, on the back of a 7-0 hammering of Barrow, Stags were in rampant form and netted six in the first league meeting at the Impact Arena – however don’t let that fool you as it was one hell of a battle.
Alfreton led on six minutes through Jake Moult in a crazy end to end opening before former Red Anthony Howell smashed in to level on 16 minutes. The hosts led again on 20 minutes through Nathan Jarman; however Stags fought back and swung things around to led 4-2 through Martin Riley, Matt Green and a rocket from the on fire Anthony Howell.
Things were looking good going into the break but on the stroke of half time Alfreton grabbed another to make it 4-3 through Anton Brown. The second half was close and things remained close until three minutes from full time, Exodus Geohaghon thumped home a header before minutes later Matt Green made it 6-3 as the Reds defence went to sleep.
Prior to last season the sides had only met in the FA Trophy competitive action wise, those games too were incident fuelled and now meetings with the Reds hold so much more fire and x-factor than the numerous pre-season friendly’s from bygone years.
One man hoping the game goes ahead is Ritchie Sutton who is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season on Boxing Day, should the Alfreton match not go ahead he’ll be suspended for the Liverpool encounter which will be a massive shame as for me, Sutton’s been Mansfield’s most consistent performer so far this season.
Other than Sutton’s suspension Paul Cox has pretty much a full squad to choose from with only Ross Dyer still on the sidelines – with the transfer window open at midnight it remains to be seen if anyone will leave before the match or indeed, if anyone will arrive like Gary Roberts ahead of 2012’s opening game at York.
If you can’t get to the Impact Arena tomorrow then be sure to join me for full match commentary on 106.9FM and via our MM-LIVE page, kick off is 1pm and build up will start at 12.30pm.
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