Craig Priest & Emily Sykes write...
Having twice squandered the chance to tighten their grasp on top spot it’s very easy to become disheartened and stop believing this is our year. We have the safety net of the playoffs but after last season’s heartbreak, it’s a path we desperately don’t want to take. In some respects tomorrow is all or nothing, do or die, now or never – win and we’re back in the driving seat, draw and we’re clinging on and lose, well in our opinion it’s all over.
Should we go into the final game of the season having been beaten by Hereford, we would then need Stockport County to win or at least draw with Kidderminster, a situation which would see us relying on goal difference or even goals scored. The idea of our fate being in Stockport’s hands fills us with complete and utter dread, think back if you will to the 29th April 2008. Play off hopefuls Stockport looked nailed on to beat our relegation rivals Chester City and subsequently put our destiny back in our own hands – Stockport tried but ultimately failed as the game ended goalless, ensuring Chester’s safety for another season and relegating us to the Blue Square Bet Premier.
We remember attempting the great escape and having our destiny in our hands ahead of the home game with Rotherham, the defeat to the Millers took it away from us and put our fate in the hands of others. Saturday’s defeat at Braintree was spookily a similar situation, we somehow let our hold on top spot slip and once again we find ourselves chasing in second – the difference this time around is the fact that we have ONE LAST CHANCE to control our own fate, you can talk about four points being enough but realistically it’s not we have to win tomorrow night at Hereford or our mindset and confidence will be shattered, for us anything other than a win at Hereford places our fate elsewhere, more accurately and ironically in the hands of Stockport County – look where that got us last time!
For five seasons we have travelled to some weird and wonderful places, we have stood on cracked open to the element terraces, we have sat in paint crumbling wooden stands and felt the creeks of decaying and rusting stadiums – throughout all of this we have kept singing and supporting the boys riding the roughest of waves. We have become frustrated with our situation yet unlike some sides we could mention have accepted and embraced it, always letting that burning desire to return to the promise land simmer inside and keep us going.
In truth we weren’t ready for it last year, it seems like this year we have learnt our lesson and on our day do look like an established league 2 side – performances sometimes have not been eye catching but we have got results, that’s what Champions do.
Before travelling tomorrow night think back to every journey you have been on during our time in the Conference so far. Whether it is a moment on the coach, in the car or at the pub, everyone of us has a memory from every single game. Close your eyes and picture those perfect memories forming in front of you and just embrace the warm feeling of reflection for a moment or two. Tomorrow night is another trip, another chance for memories – forget losing at Braintree, forget losing our grip again and for goodness sake throw your calculators and your permutations/predictions into a huge dustbin, make as much noise as humanly possible and show those players that we still believe.
What makes us special is spirit, for some reason we’ve had it in abundance during our recent successors and we don’t believe Kidderminster have that. With them not in action tomorrow you can bet your bottom dollar a few Harriers fans will go along to cheer on their neighbours, if we keep singing and show our support is there from start to finish then the boys will do the business.
This is our time!
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 boast nearly a full quota of players ahead of this one, Paul Cox may consider shaking the pack a little following defeat at Braintree and can choose from everyone bar Ryan Tafazolli, Ross Dyer, James Jennings and Jake Speight.
If you’re not making the all ticket trip to Edger Street then join Craig for full match commentary from 7pm on 106.9FM and via our MM-LIVE Page, will Stags top the league again at the most critical of stages?
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