Craig Priest looks ahead to tomorrow’s home encounter with Braintree...
A week can often be a long time in football, something we’ve said time and time again and a phrase which is often over used. Despite a game each, and a win each, for both the reserves and the youth team, we’re all still a little anxious to get to the One Call Stadium tomorrow afternoon and return to winning ways properly after last week’s burning at Ebbsfleet.
My attention this week has wondered away from Stags and into the wider world of football, however as tomorrow’s match with Braintree approaches I refocus and look what we face tomorrow – another tough challenge from a team who, like Ebbsfleet, are capable of a surprise or two. Braintree sit one place below us in 12th, their second season in the top flight of non-league football is progressing steadily with three wins, three defeats and a draw so far this term.
We’ll go back to Braintree soon but firstly, for me out of everything tomorrow’s game against Braintree will answer a few questions and will be about one thing more than most – Character. Weather marksman Matt Green’s dismissal last Saturday was right or wrong is not the question we need to ask now as we’ve not appealed the card – two questions spring to mind on the back of this, the first is do we have the character to move on and not dwell on an aggravating afternoon’s events – the second, do we have the character, professionalism and strength in the ranks to cope without Green, something which was our downfall last term.
Dealing with those points separately, I believe things are sent to test you in football, only those with the believe and desire from within can jump the hurdles and go onto be a success, those who wallow and are defeatist in their attitude will fail – so the question is, which category do we fall into, I guess we’ll know the answer at full time tomorrow as the simple, and rather harsh truth is, Saturday’s now gone there’s nothing we can do to change the outcome – it’s time to move on and focus on getting the next three points on board.
My second point and the one which interests me the most is as mentioned about how we deal with the absence of Matt Green as last time he was suspended, the play-off semi final second leg, we didn’t really. Now we’ve added Jake Speight and Nick Wright to the ranks in the close season Paul Cox has more options in attack to go along with Matt Rhead and Ben Hutchinson, the latter reportedly looking sharp against Wrexham midweek in the Reserve team match. The obvious choice would be a like for like swap, bringing in Jake Speight who is second top scorer with three from the bench so far – however can he play with Rhead or will Cox need to switch Rhead for Wright who, in my opinion, began to form a good partnership with Speight as pre-season drew to a close. The big thing is, are we a one man show e.g are we driven forward by Green’s goals or are we a unit with quality oozing at the seam? Nick Wright netted 16 last term for Kidderminster, Speight netted 20+ for Wrexham last season yet neither have been given a lengthy opportunity to replicate this form in a Stags shirt yet – now could be the time.
Moving back from the forward line into the midfield, the news that Gary Roberts would be sidelined for at least a month was certainly a blow for Paul Cox and indeed the side, losing a Player with Roberts quality is like losing two, maybe three players. In the summer the Stags boss brought in the likes of Jamie Hand, Jamie Tolley and Chris Clements who, like Speight and Wright, are yet to get a solid run – an injury to Murray or Howell and the trio, along with Lee Stevenson are in with a shout, I think these next few games will really show us why we made so many signings in the summer – we are at a time where we are beginning to buckle with injuries, the summer additions will demonstrate that we are strong despite our core being disrupted, be honest now – If we had last year’s squad and lost Ross Dyer, Matt Green and Gary Roberts, could we cope, really?
With Gary Roberts joining Ross Dyer on the injury table and Matt Green suspended Paul Cox has food for thought as I mentioned above for places – in terms of his own suspension, I’m still not clear as to whether he’ll be allowed in the dugout or not following his sending off, however I’m sure in his latest interview he said the FA had decided not to take it any further.
LAST TIME WE MET
Our last encounter with Braintree came in December of last year during our indifferent spell; goals from John Dempster and Lindon Meikle were added too by a brace from Matt Green as a dominant Stags ran out 4-1 winners at Field Mill as was.
Prior to that it was our third game of last term when we met in the Reverse fixture, Louis Briscoe’s strike wasn’t enough for Stags as the hosts grabbed a 1-1 draw.
If you can’t get to the One Call Stadium tomorrow afternoon, join myself for regular updates throughout – build up kicks off at 2pm on 106.9FM and on our popular MM-LIVE page.
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