Craig Priest writes...
Ah nearly football day again, after last weekend’s 5-0 thumping of Dartford I’m guessing that we can’t wait for tomorrow’s match against struggling Barrow, a team we hit for seven around this time last season.
I hope I’m wrong about what I’m about to write, but I really hope we don’t expect a repeat of last season’s score line – despite three consecutive victories we are still a fragile unit and raising the bar of expectancy would be like walking on breaking ice again. For me there’s no doubt that we are a rapidly improving side which others are starting to take notice of and that can’t be taken away from the players, however results don’t the full story and once again the last match could have had an entirely different outcome had it not been for alert individuals during the early stages.
My point is if we approach the game thinking “we’ll score seven again today”, then we’ll probably end up conceding seven, we don’t play well when we subconsciously adopt an arrogant approach. I’m not trying to bring us down here either, I’m just stressing that in football, regardless of stature or standing, anyone can beat anyone – the last thing I’d want to see is Stags dropping back into the acid like negative support, it’s been brilliant lately.
I was pondering earlier why things are going so well, I still can’t put my finger on it but what I have concluded is that, success and momentum is like a tree – it doesn’t just show on the surface, it has roots. Why does a tree still keep standing during the fiercest of winds? Simply because of its roots – sure a few branches and leaves may blow away but the spine and roots remain standing after the fact, I think that’s certainly what’s happening at Stags at the minute.
Right from the bottom at youth level Stags are progressing and playing football the senior team way, Adam Murray and Richard Coopers youngsters currently hold an eight point lead at the top of the Football Conference Youth Alliance North division and are scoring for fun, having netted 12 goals in their last four outings, this accompanying their unbeaten run of six matches. It’s not just results which are boding well for Stags’ Under 19s, the players on the books are not being confined to the youth leagues, they are developing away from the club in senior divisions with the likes of troubled Hucknall Town and struggling Eastwood. Some continue their development at the club but are also gaining a more senior experience with Andy Todd’s Reserve team, defender Liam Marsden has clocked up four appearances benefiting from the experience of George Pilkington and John Thompson.
Sticking with the Reserves, there are yet more positives for Stags as a club, just two defeats in ten games is a positive stat for sure but it’s also a platform for players such as Ben Hutchinson and Matt Rhead to keep ticking over, the duo both netting a brace a piece in a recent friendly with Doncaster Rovers. Reserve team football may not have an attractive tag with it provides that edge of competitiveness which keeps players sharp, the man proving this in the first team at the moment – Lee Stevenson.
Things are certainly bubbling over nicely for Stags football wise at the moment, long may that continue! Tomorrow they face a side that are struggling in the drop zone currently but a side that are showing signs of encouragement with two back to back league victories against Luton and Newport. Dave Bayliss’ side were going strong in the FA Trophy too and will be eager to merge the two competitions form into one as they aim to escape the drop from the BSBP, however taking the FA Trophy crown once more having tasted success for a second time in 2010 is now unachievable after defeat on Tuesday in the Quarter Finals at Gainsborough Trinity – they have numerous players still at the club from last season’s meeting with us and will undoubtedly add that fuel to the fire tomorrow!
LAST TIME WE MET
As we all know the Bluebirds last encounter with the Stags was a memorable one, especially for us Staggies as we demolished Barrow by seven goals to nil. Louis Briscoe netted a pearling hat-trick which including that stunning hat-trick sealing volley, Matt Green did miss a penalty but did manage to net along with Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle and Matt Rhead.
The Stags completed the double over Barrow last term too, a 3-2 win in the reverse fixture at Holker Street earlier in the season was another classic encounter.
The two sides are no stranger to each other down the years with tomorrow’s match marking the 55th meeting between the pair, eleven draws have been played out whilst Stags narrowly edge the wins with 22-21!
At The One Call Stadium Stags are considerably better and have 15 wins to Barrows 7 – four draws have also been played out. In terms of goals Matt Rhead’s seventh in the last meeting was Mansfield’s 101st against Barrow down the years, the Blue birds have netted 95 in return in total, at the One Call Stadium Stags have 64 goals to 41.
Paul Cox has no fresh injuries ahead of tomorrow’s clash, with only Ross Dyer and Jake Speight definitely ruled out, defenders Ryan Tafazolli and Exodus Geohaghon are both available for selection.
Barrow boss Bayliss may look to shake things up following Tuesday’s FA Trophy exit, he’ll wait on the fitness of Danny O’Donnell who picked up a shoulder injury last Saturday at home to Luton.
If you can’t get tomorrow then join me for regular updates throughout the afternoon on Takeover Radio 106.9FM and via our MM-LIVE page from 2pm.
During the show I’ll be discussing your thoughts following the statement by Paul Cox this week as the Stags boss predicts all of his squad will be used between now and the season’s end.
We’ve been asking which player that’s not currently involved you’d like to see play and why. Tweet us @mtfcmatters or text the show on 07804 15 66 37.
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