Craig Priest looks ahead to tomorrow’s night’s match as an old foe returns...
Football is often a game of many blessing and many annoyances, Saturday’s trip to Cambridge was certainly one of the latter as Paul Cox’s side slumped to yet another 4-1 defeat with an uninspiring display.
If there’s one thing I hate more than most after a defeat it’s the wait for the next game, days seem miserable and long with a reminder at every turn to how poor your team were – tomorrow then comes as a footballing blessing as we return home, welcoming old foe and several old faces as Lincoln City arrive at the One Call Stadium.
Again there are no excuses to make following Saturday, Adam Murray certainly pulled no punches in his blog this morning but did make one thing very clear – we can only go forward together. Tomorrow is a derby match of sorts, there always has been an atmosphere between the two sides and an extra bite to the games, tomorrow will be no different as the pressure from the terraces mounts on Paul Cox and his players to overturn the sluggish start – maybe we should think about cutting down that ‘Cox Out’ banner though and replacing it with one that represents togetherness, otherwise we haven’t really moved on since now Imps boss Holdsworth’s welcomed departure in November 2010.
Holdsworth had just under two years at the helm at Stags and failed to deliver on many a promise, not meeting expectation, panic buying players and crumbling from pressure on more than one occasion. John Radford had just purchased the club and despite initially backing the former Sheffield United centre half with money for loan signings, namely Adam Murray & Rhys Day, sacked the ex Ilkeston boss mid November after just one win in eight games. We all know the story that followed and last season saw a transformation off the pitch with a happier medium developing, fair enough the results on the road haven’t been encouraging and the football nothing to write home about, but at home we’re steady and secure – Holdsworth type history won’t repeat itself, hence why we should make lots of noise and back the players of NOW rather than show the players of THEN (Holdsworth with a handful of ex-staggies in his squad) that nothing’s changed.
I want ex-players to come back tomorrow night and go ‘wow, this place has a totally different feel to it’ as they’ll know a few early goals for the Imps could irate us and play into their hands, we become predictable to opposition. A major part of our success last term was the fact both on AND OFF the pitch teams couldn’t get their own way in terms of supporters anger or style of play – all we need is a game to kick that off again, take for example Newport or Fleetwood at either end of the season. We are on our own patch, opposition should NOT have the right to dictate what happens, that’s our job – put it this way would you let one of your work rivals come into your house, re-arrange the sitting room and take control of your Sky+ box?
Brush aside the defeat to Cambridge and focus on the next game, the next goal, the next set of three points – tomorrow won’t be easy despite Lincolns under-performance so far this term. Holdsworth’s Imps sit in 21st with only three wins so far this term all of them at home with an unsettled side again the route of the problem, since his appointment last October the former Stags boss has made 46 signings, including loans and non contract players – his joint total from Stags and Lincoln stands at 104.
After narrowly avoiding the drop last term, Holdsworth made 18 additions in the close season including his former Stags players Rob Duffy, Adam Smith and captain Gary Mills. An opening day win over Kidderminster was followed by a seven game winless run, scampered wins over Hyde and Nuneaton have also been followed with two defeats of late, rumours are the Imps are already tired of the revolving door.
Naturally Holdsworth will be itching to get victory over his old employers and will step up efforts tomorrow evening, with the Stags heading into the game after a beating at Cambridge you’d hope for a reaction. In my view obviously there have to be changes, 4-3-3 must vanish into the abyss never to be seen again whilst 4-4-2 should make a return. John Dempster looks a certainty to return to the line up after a month at Tamworth with Thompson definitely out and Geohaghon & Tafazolli majorly doubtful. Andy Todd should also be another addition to the starting line up, we need someone to control and marshal play, his influence shouldn’t be over looked – maybe slotting in at right back moving Dempster & Sutton to centre half and a straight choice of Daniel or Owens at left back. Dempster & Sutton are no strangers to each other at the heart of the Stags back line having played the majority of Dempsters loan last term there together, if we’re looking for partnerships, there’s one right there ready to be continued. Ben Hutchinson is another player I’ve harped on about in recent weeks, a player who drops deep to collect things and a player creates things – again something we need. Get support up to Green, play with a spring in our step and without anxiety and who know, on Wednesday we could be smiling again.
LAST TIME WE MET
Last season was the first time the two sides had met outside of the Football League, a rivalry first starting in 1934. In total there have been 68 meetings between the two clubs including ten cup encounters. Looking at purely league stats, 58 matches, things are close between the two; Stags’ 2-1 win at the One Call on a historic day for the club last term their 23rd over the imps who have 19 victories to their name.
As I mentioned above, last season’s match at the One Call was one the Stags were never going to lose, an afternoon of celebrating John Radford’s purchase of the Ground saw smiles and strikes from Ross Dyer and Gary Roberts. At Sincil Bank, Matt Green was on target to rescue a late draw, the 16th draw between the sides down the years.
There certainly hasn’t been a shortage of goals in all competitions, the Stags leading 105-102! In league competition 179 strikes have been netted, Stags leading 92-87. Narrowing things down to the One Call Stadium, tomorrow’s game will be the 30th meeting, Mansfield have been held to eight draws, defeated eight times but have been victorious on thirteen occasions.
The Stags look set to be without John Thompson, however the injury stricken defenders problems aren’t as bad as first feared as a suspected broken leg appears to be heavy bruising, that kids is why you should wear shin pads! Exodus Geohaghon also looks set to join Thompson, Dyer, Hand etc on the sidelines whilst Ryan Tafazolli, who felt his hamstring tweak at the end of the Cambridge game could be ok.
Stags will welcome back John Dempster after a successful loan spell at Tamworth playing six games scoring once helping Tamworth push forwards to a comfortable 7th place. Other than that there are no fresh injury concerns for Cox and his side – skipper Adam Murray looks set for his 400th career appearance too.
Anthony Howell and Chris Clements are both OUT of tomorrow's game after a clash of heads in training - Howell needed seven stitches whilst Clements revived a deep cut to the nose.
If you can’t make it to the One Call Stadium tomorrow evening, then join me for regular updates throughout the hotly contested evening. Build up starts at 7pm on 106.9FM and via our MM-LIVE Page.
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