Craig Priest writes...
Well the day is almost upon us – FA Cup second replay against Lincoln City with the world watching on to see who gets the plum home tie with Liverpool in the third round, is anyone feeling the nerves yet.
I have to admit that cup matches in recent seasons have failed to ignite the slightest bit of interest for me; my focus has always been on getting back to where we belong – the football league. We all know the story and each season comes with a fact, we have never been good enough. Last season we came close and whilst we are only a quarter way through our current campaign, I feel tomorrow night’s game could be key to our league ambitions, a win would benefit us no end both finically and for me, most importantly, confidently. We’ve had a rough spell and I’m not getting the same vibe of confidence and unity from our squad this term but of late there have been a few games where I’ve felt a sprinkle, we just need something to light our fire, victory tomorrow night could do just that.
I’ve almost avoided talking about tomorrow if I’m being honest; there is immense pressure on Mansfield Town. I think this term we are like a delicate new born phoenix trying to rise from the ashes of previous heartbreak, there is so much willingness and expectation to succeed it puts a strain on us mentally and physically – if we win tomorrow then brilliant we’ll burst and soar the skies with pride but if we lose then I think we’ll break and the negative stream will become a full blown negative storm – we have to take steps to ensure that no matter what happens tomorrow we remain stable and together for the remainder of the season.
That statement may seem dismissive of the FA Cup game, trust me it’s not, I write the above cautiously and having whiteness the buzz since last Sunday’s third round draw, I want us to be prepared and focussed on every eventuality – one thing that’s been missing in all the talk about Liverpool is the fact we HAVE NOT got them yet, we have to beat LINCOLN first. I believe in Mansfield Town and would be a liar if I said I hadn’t dreamt of how things could play out, however there’s something haunting me – last season’s play-off semi-final second leg against York. At 1-1 it was set up to be a one off game like tomorrow’s game with the Imps, at the One Call Stadium we considered ourselves favourites and pretty much forgot there was another team in the tie, we lost our focus in favour of arrogance and expectation and in the end, we’re left watching on in floods of tears as our York City counterparts went on to grab victory and ultimately promotion. Tomorrow against Lincoln we HAVE to respect them and REMEMBER there are TWO teams wanting the SAME thing, arrogance and expectation need to take a back seat whilst pride, willingness and desire take over. When this happens at the One Call Stadium there is no beating us, how many times have we proven this in the last 12 months? We need to do this again tomorrow night, not for a one off game against Liverpool in Round Three, but for the future hopes, dreams and aspirations of Mansfield Town Football Club.
Lincoln City will want a third round home tie with Liverpool as much as Mansfield Town. David Holdsworth will want to get one over on his ex employers whilst Paul Cox will be eager to reclaim that stability and faith installed in him last term when Stags rode the waves to the play-offs. Gary Mills, Adam Smith and Colin Larkin will want to show their old fans what they’re missing, Alan Marriott and Lee Beevers likewise. Stags fans want to see Premier League giants Liverpool grace the soil of the One Call Stadium whilst Imps fans will desperately want to see some action with the giants at Sincil Bank. The TV Camera’s will expect a classic and will undoubtedly get in, it’ll be chilly if not close to freezing, it’ll be nervy and it’ll take more twists and turns than an Eastenders Christmas murder plot – the thing is, it can’t end a draw, it has to be settled one way or the other – it’s a showdown to end all showdowns and not to be missed. This, ladies and gentleman, is the magic of the FA Cup thriving on the hopes and dreams of two football clubs; it’s the greatest game on the planet and the biggest thrill in the entire universe: EMBRACE IT.
As mentioned we are strong when we are together, positive and loud – weather you’ve just come because of Liverpool and want a slice of the action or you’ve come like you do week in week out is irrelevant to me tomorrow so long as each and every supporter in the home stands backs Mansfield Town – this is our time, let’s go and prove it together. I genuinely believe that our dreams can come true if we remain focussed and treat the fixture with respect rather than arrogance – you are only as strong as each other, you can only achieve success by accepting, learning from and embracing negative experiences. Pack the stands, beat the drum, sing loud for Mansfield Town and most importantly BELIEVE!
LAST TIME WE MET
Ten days ago on a chilly Saturday lunch time Mansfield headed for Sincil Bank for a clash of the titans without any knowledge of the round three tie. An end to end ‘thriller’ played out as Mansfield led, threw it away and then clawed it back at the death, the final 3-3 score line only telling half the story.
Matt Green pounced before two goals either side of the break from Alan Power and then Jamie Taylor put Imps ahead. Louis Briscoe riffled in a deserved leveller before awful defending saw Power strike to put Lincoln back in the driving seat. Substitute Matt Rhead headed home with a minute to spare to set up a replay although John Thompsons last ditch goal line clearance prevented Lincoln from eliminating the Stags.
Earlier in the season the sides had met at the One Call Stadium where a goalless draw had played out, tomorrow though there has to be a winner, either in 90 minutes, extra time or, penalty’s. These two are form teams and both scored four on Saturday although Lincoln did concede twice in the second half at Dartford after racing to a 4-0 half time lead thanks to a Colin Larkin hat-trick! It could go all the way...
The two sides are no strangers to each other in a rivalry which began in August 1934, there have been 70 meetings between the pair in both the league and numerous cup competitions, Mansfield have 26 wins to 25 and lead a thrilling goal count of 213 108-105! There’s a history in the FA Cup too, including the recent meeting at Sincil Bank there have been four meetings which have all spookily come in round two! The Imps have only progressed past Stags the once, a 2-1 win on December 13th 1975 whilst Stags have dumped the Imps out twice, a 2-1 win in December 1937 and, more ‘recently’ a thrilling 4-3 in 1987 – let’s hope Mansfield dump the Imps out for a third time tomorrow evening to grab the £27,000 prize money along with that mouth-watering dream home tie with Liverpool.
For those interested in the finical rewards, Stags have so far collected £30,500 as have the Imps whilst with the tie being televised it’s another £34,100 to both sides – the third round tie will be shown on TV on the same channel which in turn adds another £135,850 to the pot.
Long term absentee Ross Dyer remains sidelines along with defender Ryan Tafazolli will also miss out – Adam Murray may also miss out through a virus.
If you can’t get to tomorrow night’s replay then for the best feel of the atmosphere be sure to join myself and Stephen Thrikill for regular updates throughout the night.
Build up begins at 7pm via our MM-LIVE Page and on Takeover Radio 106.9FM.
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