Two games in, two defeats – I seem to remember a similar story last term and we all know how that finished! Tomorrow see’s us back on home turf for the first competitive match since our triumph 1-0 win over Wrexham to take the conference title and our first competitive home match in the football league since that ill-fated game with Rotherham United in 2008 – boy is it good to be back.
Our opponents Exeter are in a sense a bench mark to what we are aiming for, having been promoted from the conference in the same season we dropped through the trap-door via the play-offs, the Grecians achieved back to back promotions to league one as they finished in second place in their league two campaign. Exeter held firm in league one and came close to achieving a play-off finish during the 2010-11 campaign before being relegated the following season. Last term the Grecians finished a stable tenth and with all things going to plan, will perhaps mount a promotion challenge this term as they aim to re-establish themselves as a league one side.
Exeter shook off the stigma of fighting relegation after promotion from the conference and helped set the bench mark for clubs to achieve consecutive promotions, that ethos will certainly be something Paul Cox and Chairman John Radford will be aiming for.
After a poor start for Stags with a lack of fire power, yesterday the signing of Calvin Andrew was completed and I have to say, what a welcome relief that is. Andrew really impressed me during pre-season and comes across in his interview as a confident player determined to deliver the goods at the One Call Stadium. His signature allows Cox to tweak the side a little, perhaps slotting Clucas out wide left and playing Andrew central off the shoulder of Stevenson or Hutchinson, the latter situation played out well during the second half with Gainsborough.
It takes time to gel and adapt to a higher standard of football, essentially the last two fixtures have been against league one sides, Scunthorpe on opening day of course have kept the nucleus of their league one side whilst Tranmere, who we faced in the cup midweek, are a strong league one outfit, so don’t let the results bug you to much.
Tomorrow’s a great opportunity to get back at the One Call Stadium and make some noise, those little home comforts should never be overlooked. If things don’t start well simply bite your tongue and stick with it, we’re only a week into the season there’s a long way to go.
LAST TIME WE MET
Stags and Exeter of course went opposite ways back in 2008 so you have to go all the way back to 2002 to find the sides last meeting which was in Division Three, league two as we know it now.
The two fixtures took place over the December and January months and the first saw Stags fall to a narrow 1-0 defeat at Field Mill in late December, Exeter took the points curtsey of a 52nd spot kick converted by McConnell. The reverse fixture at Exeter in January saw Stags take the points, Liam Lawrence netted the only goal of the game with a ninth minute header.
The Stags last victory over the Grecians at Field Mill or the One Call Stadium as it’s known now, came in March 1998 – the two sides have met in total 53 times (52 in the league and one league cup fixture in 1961 which the Stags won at Field Mill 5-2), Stags have 18 wins to Exeter’s 19, the Grecians also narrowly lead the goal tally 69-68.
On home soil, Stags have ten wins to Exeter’s seven with nine other encounters ending level.
Calvin Andrew would be poised for a debut after completing his deal to sign on the dotted line yesterday following a successful trial, with no goals yet scored this season Cox will be even more tempted to start with the former Crystal Palace man following three fine goals netted during Andrew’s pre-season trial.
John McCombe could also miss out after being substituted at half time at Tranmere, Ritchie Sutton would be first in line for me to stop Mansfield conceding silly goals however Martin Riley and Ryan Tafazolli will also be awaiting the nod for their league two debut – a few of the Stags players that haven’t featured so far may well be in action tonight, as an eleven travels to Mickleover Sports for a friendly, which kicks off at 7.45pm at Mickleover’s Raygar Stadium, Station Road DE3 9FE
Grecians heroic boss Paul Tisdale knows that Mansfield will pose a tough test for his side and could be tempted to change the Exeter side after stating his players didn’t do themselves justice following the midweek defeat to QPR in the capital one cup.
Written by Craig Priest
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