Craig Priest writes...
As Paul Cox sits on his sofa tonight and ponders his team selection, I’m sure he’ll be trying to forget the week just gone, a week which has been testing to say the least. On Monday frustration still lingered after the 2-2 draw against ten men Telford last Saturday, however with football the following night all seemed well – that’s what we thought anyway.
As rain poured down over the UK, we only half heartedly thought the game at Macclesfield Tuesday evening would go ahead, even after the ‘It’s defiantly on’ statement from the other MTFC. Fast forward to roughly 5pm, the players are tucking into their pre-match meals at the hotel whilst the majority of supporters we’re a stone’s throw from the ground itself – and then disaster! Well rain, the pitch was soaked and the game off – leaving a high number of annoyed Staggies.
The following day in training, the focus moved onto tomorrow’s game with Hereford when disaster struck again, Alan Marriott dislocated his shoulder, later revealed to be a grade 3 tear – a three month lay-off, and reserve keeper Shane Redmond banged his elbow – the double blow leaving Cox without a keeper. Fortunately now the burden is gone slightly as Notts County keeper Liam Mitchell has signed on a month’s loan – I guess another saving grace is that tomorrow’s game against tough opposition in mid table Hereford, is on home soil rather than on the road. Our home form is the 4th best in the division yet our away form contrasts like a damp leaf in a puddle, we’re ranked 20th.
Hereford have endured a sluggish start to their first season back in the conference since 2005-06 following their relegation from the football league last term. The Bulls sit a place below us in 11th with a similar sequence of results away from home, one win, one draw and three defeats, the latter all consecutive on the road – something ex York boss Martin Foyle will be keen to address tomorrow at the One Call Stadium. With 14 new faces in the summer, the Edger Street outfit have taken time to gel and a restricted budget has already seen one of the summer arrivals depart, Defender Byron Anthony had his contract terminated yesterday.
The Bulls defence is not a happy one at the moment, ranked 21st in total after 11 games so far, Martin Foyle will have been eager to attract fresh faces to accompany former Stag Luke Graham at the heart of his back line, with gate money down on what was expected and Anthony suspended following a straight red card against Cambridge last weekend, he was the one to go to free funds. As yet no signing has been made by Foyle as the Bulls prepare for tomorrow’s trip, I’m getting the feeling that it could be a test of two faltering sides who have failed to deliver what was expected so far – a test of character for both.
For Stags it’s back home after a week’s rest whilst Hereford were beaten by Forest Green midweek, the absence of the influential Marriott, who was at his best at Telford, will come as a bitter pill to swallow but in testing times, those who stick together get results – being at home can only spur us on.
As I mentioned Marriott’s injury is a bitter blow, the fact he’s the clubs current joint longest serving player speaks volumes, last year he remained injury free after a 2010-11 campaign plagued with setbacks. Shane Redmond must also be feeling glum now; a reported bang to the elbow could hamper his chances of a start tomorrow after waiting so long for a chance to shine. If anyone deserves it Shane does, a season at the enemy saw nothing but splinters and reserve team outings before just one senior match at Kidderminster followed last term for us. This time around he’s been absent from the bench after an excellent pre-season but has turned out twice for our second string – his attitude towards keeping fit and in shape has been brilliant whilst his determination to prove himself has been there too, it’s such a cruel twist of fate that, when his chance does come, he gets injured too. The fact Liam Mitchell, the Notts loan man, has only signed for a month suggests a move for cover with Redmond to get a chance – I certainly hope this is the case, it’ll be great for a young league one keeper to come and get some experience but at the same time, it’ll be good to show we have faith in our supposed back up players too.
LAST TIME WE MET
Tomorrow will see the first meeting of the Stags and the Bulls outside of the football league; however as fans will no these two are no strangers to each other as the two sides have met 31 times since the first meeting back in the 70s. Taking the 1-0 win for Hereford in the LDV Vans back in 2005, the two have matched up 30 times in league action, the Stags on top with 13wins to ten, the other seven being draws.
At the One Call Stadium of the 15 meetings so far, five have ended level with the Stags enjoying the most success ranking up seven wins and suffering only three defeats, the last of which was again part of the Stags relegation nail as the Bulls ran out 1-0 victors at Field Mill as was in March 2008.
There have been plenty of goals down the years too, again discounting the cup match mentioned; Hereford and Mansfield have shared 86 goals over the course of 30 games, the Stags netting 50 to Hereford’s 36, At The One Call, the Stags again lead on goals scored, netting 33 to Hereford’s 15.
With Alan Marriott and Shane Redmond joining Ross Dyer, Gary Roberts, Jamie Tolley and Jamie Hand on the treatment table this week, numbers again are short for tomorrow’ match, however Paul Cox will be boosted by the returns of Andy Owens, Ben Hutchinson, Nick Wright and player-coach Andy Todd who were all back in training this week.
With Macclesfield off midweek, striker Matt Green still has one game remaining of his ban whilst loanee keeper Liam Mitchell looks 99% certain to start between the sticks.
If you can’t get to the One Call Stadium tomorrow then be sure to join me for regular updates throughout the afternoon. Not only will I bring you as close to the action as possible, but I’ll also continue to run the competition to win Stephen Thirkills new Stags book.
Build up starts at 2pm, broadcasting on Takeover Radio 106.9FM and as always, via our popular MM-live page.
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