Craig Priest writes...
It seems like an eternity since I last wrote anything regarding a game, this adverse weather certainly takes it toll and for once, it’s not just Stags who will be itching for action either, tomorrow night’s hosts Hereford last in action on January 12th when they drew 3-3 with Alfreton.
Both sides will naturally be itching to get back out and play some competitive football with postponements, other teams cup commitments and the adverse weather taking its toll on not only the fixture calendar but the two sides training schedules. For me it will be about who shows the most hunger tomorrow night as both sides will have different approaches, Hereford for instance may feel the anguish of a long lay-off and be eager to get back to winning ways having drawn there last three, whilst Stags as we know will be eager to keep their improving form up having collected two back to back away wins in there last two outings, victories which add to a total of four consecutive away wins in the Blue Square Premier.
Both sides have had behind closed doors practise games to attempt to keep the players fresh, Stags on top against Notts County on Thursday, however practise games are no substitute for proper competitive action and as such, I hope Stags remain sharp and focussed as they kick off a busy period of fixtures as they have Dartford, Barrow, Newport, Cambridge, Hyde, Luton and Lincoln to face in the next 30 days.
February could prove to be a real key month for Stags ambitions and whilst I wish to look no further than tomorrow night’s game at Hereford, I can’t help but wonder what a positive February would do to our season, the years shortest month has an influx of games and if we can go into with another victory, momentum can take us forwards.
It seems like an eternity since we had a home game, perhaps the postponement of the Nuneaton game, which now takes place in March, will be of benefit. Yes it meant that with the Wrexham game also being off due to their FA Trophy exploits we’ve had extra rest and extra time without a game, but it also means we’re on the road again – a place that we’re seemingly at home with and are taking in our stride – what was once the poorest away form in the division has sprung to a top ten standing – tomorrow it comes up against a side that aren’t enjoying the home comforts, Hereford’s last home victory coming in November when they beat (according to the over reaction on twitter “the greatest conference side ever”) Luton 1-0.
Hopefully tomorrow will see Stags focussed on the task in hand at a ground last visited by a Stags side in 2008, the line up for me should remain the same despite the encouraging performances of individuals in that Notts County run out last Thursday – consistency is key, focus also – Stags must start from the very first whistle as in truth, despite getting two victories, they have started poorly against Stockport, who missed two golden early efforts including a penalty, and Southport, who grabbed a 7th minute lead.
LAST TIME WE MET
The Stags and The Bulls last locked horns on September 29th, Martin Foyles side putting an end to four consecutive home wins for Stags as the Bulls took home a point as Marlon Jackson’s early finish was cancelled out by Exodus Geohaghon prior to the break in what was the sides first ever meeting outside of the Football League following Hereford’s relegation the previous season.
Stags and Hereford have done battle numerous times over the years though, tomorrow’s meeting the 33rd meeting in all competitions – a partnership which first began in 1972 – Stags on top with 13 wins to 11, eight draws have also been played out.
Whoever nets the first goal between the pair tomorrow will have scored the 90th goal between the pair who have played out only two goalless draws, Stags again lead the charts having netted 51 to Hereford’s 38.
Mansfield have had less luck at Edgar Street though and it’s actually Hereford who lead the charts with seven wins to six defeats, Mansfield’s last victory at Edgar Street coming in January 2007 as Stags began life without Ritchie Barker with his replacements Martin Gritton and Barry Conlon both netting either side of a Micky Boulding effort in a 3-1 win – this the Stags last victory over the Bulls.
Stags could welcome back defender Exodus Geohaghon tomorrow night following his hamstring injury, however his fellow defender Ryan Tafazolli is unlikely to feature as he’s only just returned to training following a prolonged injury. Ross Dyer will also miss out along with Jake Speight, the former though is making another step towards recovery as he’s set to start running this week.
Jamie Tolley could also be in contention although by my reckoning his ‘mini pre-season’ is only a week old, he tweeted he’s to complete two weeks before playing some reserve football to win his shirt – fellow midfielder Jamie Hand remains at former club Hayes & Yeading Utd who have extended his loan by a further month.
Hereford boss Martin Foyle will be without influential midfielder Harry Pell whose clocked up 30 appearances this term as he looks likely to be joining AFC Wimbledon in the coming days, the Bulls boss however could hand debuts to young defender Rod McDonald who makes the move from Nathwich and Port Vale loan man Kingsley James.
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