Craig Priest previews tomorrow’s trip to Stonebridge Road
As I wrote earlier in the week, after defeat on Bank Holiday Monday at Grimsby we needed some home comforts to get back to who we are – we’ve certainly done that with two consecutive victories on home turf to make the information and stat sheets look more appealing than before, now we must spread our wings and go and get the results on the road too.
Tomorrow we make the 332 round trip from the One Call Stadium to Ebbsfleet, who in my opinion are one of the toughest teams to visit. Regardless of their league position or recent form, they have a settled set up with a successful long serving manager and a settled core squad of talented players – they are a side who get the basics of the game spot on and a side that can threaten from set plays and look to win the latter in any given situation. Tomorrow for me will give us an indication as to if we have stopped giving those silly set pieces away or not, if we do give them away then we’ll be nailing our own coffin as Liam Daish’s men will exploit us. Of course the Stonebridge Road outfit have clear weakness, something which again will show us if we have progressed – winning sides against Ebbsfleet at Stonebridge Road don’t need to play well, they just need to show the character to punish mistakes and penetrate weakness, it comes as no surprise then that the only teams to take all three points home from Ebbsfleet finished in the top ten – the exception being Darlington.
I’m no scout nor am I a football manager (expect for when I’ve a spar half hour and get FM12 loaded up!) but I’ve watched enough football now to know how to spot strength and weakness – I always tend to watch opposing clubs match highlights to get a feel for how they line up and what styles of play to expect to be commentating on, this morning I watched recent highlights of Fleet’s games against Wrexham and Luton – I know again I may get slated for this but I believe tomorrow we should ease off on the Big Ex’s throws. In the opponents half Ex has had 17 throws against both Woking and Tamworth, they are a crowd pleaser for sure and are affective, especially if we are sharp during the second phase of play, take Matt Rhead’s striker against Woking and Luke Jones’ effort midweek for example – however Ebbsfleet have a very narrow run off, reducing the effectiveness of the throw and, most importantly, are a weak side defensively when opponents attack with pace. When we get a throw we allow Ex time to jog over, dry the ball and prepare the bullet – something which for arguments sake takes just under a minute, this amounts to 17 minutes per match.
In the minute we allow for Big Ex to go across and deploy the weapon, we allow opponents time to regroup, refocus, reshape and recompose – qualities which I believe make Ebbsfleet strong and difficult to break down, I’m not saying let’s not use Geohaghon’s throw to affect, I’m saying that maybe during key stages of the game, when we’ve kept the ball for a prolonged spell and had Ebbsfleet chasing the game or when the hosts are beginning to look tired, let’s take a quick one and release Briscoe and Meikle down each flank, get drilled crosses into the box and let Green, Rhead maybe Speight and Wright too, play to their strengths – scoring goals. Ebbsfleet are strong in the air at the back and have battling players, this could make it difficult to make the second phase of play from a Geohaghon throw pay off for us – fleet are also strong and quick of the break, 80% of their 10 goals so far this term have been from counter attacking moves judging by their highlights. Again I’m not being negative and saying I don’t want us using the Geohaghon throw, I’m just saying that we have an added ace up our sleeve just encase we struggle to win with the hand we’ve already got.
Going back to the form tables, Liam Diash may be a tiny bit concerned that his side have only picked up one win so far this term, an epic open day 5-4 over newly promoted Nuneaton – his side come into the game against Stags with two draws and three defeats from their last five games whilst Stags have four wins and one defeat. Again form tables mean nothing it’s all about who performs best on the day; however we’re at that teetering stage where we either kick on and climb, or continue going in and endless spinning circle from win to defeat. I guess in a way it’s like when you learn to ride a bike, do you start at the top of a hill and let momentum guide you along or do you start at the bottom and pedal hard and fast with the desire to get to the top? One is lazy and teaches nothing, the other is tough and demanding but teaches so many values.
I know that the boys are heading down for the game as I type, what I don’t wish to do is spark the debate about overnight stays. Some people say that whenever Mansfield stay overnight they lose and therefore shouldn’t, other say it helps in the preparation, fresh legs, fresh minds and all that – personally I’m not fussed so long as the bys put in the performance and come away with the result we all want – a win.
LAST TIME WE MET
Last tem Paul Cox’s Stags took maximum points from Fleet; Matt Green opened the scoring at Stonebridge Road back in January of this calendar year before Gary Roberts grabbed a further two in a solid 3-0 victory. At the One Call Stadium it was again Green who was on target netting the game’s only goal in March of this calendar year.
I think it’s fair to say every Stags fan remembers our first meeting with Ebbsfleet, our debut game outside the football league on August 9th 2008, a match in which we trailed 2-0 at half time – the events of that day still haunt me, an eye opener to say the least.
Since and including that ‘historic’ day, I use the term loosely! The Stags and Fleet have met six times, Ebbsfleet recording only one victory, winning 2-1 at Stonebridge Road in November of 2009. There have been 16 goals between the pair, Mansfield have scored 12 of them.
Once again the Stags have no fresh injury worries, Ross Dyer the only one who remains out of action. Defensive pair Ryan Tafazolli and Andy Owens returned to training earlier in the week and whilst the may not been 100% match fit, they have still trained and could travel. The Reserve team trip to Wrexham next Wednesday afternoon could be a more viable option though.
In other team news, young winger Joel Holland has joined Shepshed Dynamo on a month’s loan deal, he links up with Jobe Shaw whose already clocked up two starts for Shepshed during his loan spell with them.
*UPDATE 2pm* John Dempster won't be available for the Stags either, having joined Tamworth on a months loan deal
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