Craig Priest looks ahead to tomorrow night’s televised trip to Dartford...
After all the international hype this week following last night’s England match focus now turns back to league and club matters as Paul Cox’s Stags board the bus and head for Dartford. On the back of an FA Cup away win at Workington the Stags boss will be hoping his side have regained their focus and have put their away day woes behind them, especially considering Dartford’s Princes Park is one of the toughest places to visit.
Tony Burman’s Darts pride themselves on a solid home record, achieving promotion via the play-offs last term from the Blue Square South with only two home defeats to their name. Burman, now in his third spell at the helm of the Darts having been appointed a third time in January 2005, has overseen the clubs progression back to the top flight of non-league football winning the Ryman One North in 2007-08 and then the Ryman Premier in 2009-10 – each and every success built on strong foundations on home soil.
Paul Cox’s Stags as we know have won just the one away league fixture this term at Kidderminster, with the Workington win under their belt in the cup they’ll be hoping to build on that and punish Dartford further as midweek, they crashed to a 4-1 home defeat in an FA Cup replay with Forest Green Rovers. Mansfield will undoubtedly have to improve performance wise as e all know that on any other day we would have been held to a replay, a 4-4-2 formation with the introduction of Ben Hutchinson and the return of Adam Murray from suspension should do the trick.
First of all let me stress that football’s about results and that’s what Mansfield got last weekend and, regardless of the performance, is what I’ll be contempt with tomorrow – that said I feel with this squad there is more to come, it honestly is like that Rubik’s Cube analysis – when we click we show our colour. I mentioned Hutchinson, I’ve harped on about him for a while now and he proved why he deserves a chance when he was introduced last weekend, setting two chances in as many minutes since entering play, the second of which saw Speight score. Not many will agree with me now but Matt Green is nowhere near close to the standard he was last term, whether it’s because he doesn’t have Ross Dyer to bounce off or for another reason I don’t know, but with the spark going out of his eye and lighting up in Hutchinson’s maybe it’s time for the pair to switch? Against a team like Dartford, who as mentioned are notoriously difficult to beat at home, do you play a player whose looking sharp and hungry or do you carry on hoping for a dying fire to start burning again? I think you have to feed the hunger and in turn, help the other re-evaluate his form – nothing against Green here at all. Moving onto Murray, again it was clear for me at least; at Workington we missed his influence. The midfield often became over run and there was just nobody there to take hold of the reigns and manipulate play.
‘Manipulate’ is such a horrid term in general but I feel it’s what good teams do to succeed, last season for instance we manipulated teams into playing our game, giving Green space to thrive upon, into backing off our wide men and being scared to try and play round us. I’m not saying it all comes from Murray but it certainly stems from him, making tackles others are afraid to do, covering areas others don’t recognise and motivation the unit – doing what a captain does, with him back in the midfield tomorrow we can only be pushed on.
On a pleasing note at Workington we became more brave in our defensive play, yes there were a few shakes and stutters but people began to make challenges and fight for the prize – if we can just tweak that back three into a back four again and build on that, then I’m sure we can develop as we enter into a tough November, the only month last term we failed to win a game. Aside an FA Cup first round tie with Slough Town, one of the lowest ranked teams remaining in the competition, we face away trips to Nuneaton and Macclesfield with two tough home games with Southport and Luton sandwiched in the middle – these fixtures are ones we need to be winning if we’re serious about gaining success, manipulation could be the key.
LAST TIME WE MET
Tomorrow night’s game, screen live on Premier Sports, will be the first time the two sides have ever locked horns, with Dartford having spent their entire lives in the non-league circle. With this I think we have an advantage, not knowing what to expect we have nothing we can look at to say ‘we’re awful here’ or ‘we tend to concede at least two every time we play these’ – something I think dents us at times. What we do have is opportunity to manipulate and to dictate, this is how we’re going to play and this is the outcome.
We must not fall into the arrogance trap, we are in the same division for a reason, we have fallen whilst the darts have hit the bulls eye (SORRY!). At the moment they sit above us in 6th with a five point advantage, however we should note that despite good form of late, eight wins from their last 12 league games, they have only picked up seven points (two wins and a draw) from a possible 18 when playing against teams from the top ten.
Captain/Player- Assistant boss Adam Murray has completed his one game ban and is now available for selection once more. Paul Cox also has Ryan Tafazolli and John Thompson fit again after returning to training again this week – however lacking match practise next Saturday’s cup tie could be more realistic for the defensive duo with a Reserve team trip to Rotherham on Wednesday the perfect spring board for fitness.
Exodus Geohaghon was due for a fitness test this morning the results of which are unknown at the time of writing. Alan Marriott, Ross Dyer etc all still remain sidelined although Jamie Hand is now back in Mansfield ready to resume light training.
Forget the telly, log onto our MM-LIVE page from 7pm tomorrow night for build up followed by full match commentary of the Darts and the Stags’ first ever meeting. Maybe you don’t want to forget the telly, well press the mute button and have our commentary over the top!
Coverage is also broadcast on 106.9FM and if you have an iPhone or android market (Google-play) phone, you can download the ‘TuneIn Radio’ app free and search for ‘Takeover Radio 106.9’
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