Craig Priest & Emily Sykes write...
When you’re on a good run of form you can’t wait for football day to come round, tomorrow is no different as Stags head for Luton, in what will prove to be another pivotal match – with a few teams above not in league action and with Luton’s Managerial turmoil you sense that opportunity knocks for Paul Cox’s side.
Despite their FA Cup heroics Luton haven’t quite matched up their league form and for the first time we can remember in a long while are placed below us in the table. It’s a strange one as many of the Hatter’s fans are already starting to write their season off, with some labelling tomorrow’s game do or die.
We can’t quite decide if this is an advantage to Stags or not, in recent years everybody has expected Stags to gain little from a trip to Luton, however this term the boots on the other foot as Stags, the best away side in the division, are expected to take all three points against a side with just three wins in 13 league outings.
Paul Buckle’s mutual departure prior to Tuesday’s trip to Macclesfield clearly rocked the players as they failed to see off a team with ten men and an outfielder in goal – just down the road in Hyde Paul Cox’s Stags were battering Hyde, it’s these two factors which highlight Mansfield as favourite tomorrow.
Providing Stags can play the way they did on Tuesday we are confident that three points can be coming home with Mansfield, however Luton caretaker boss Adam Neilson is no stranger to looking after things with two previous caretaker spells to his name in recent seasons. He will know exactly how Mansfield play and will have his players fired up accordingly – sometimes it’s difficult to play a side with no manager as each player wants to keep their shirt and impress whoever takes over. Stags must ensure they focus on putting three points on the board and not let complacency or arrogance creep in.
What Mansfield must not do either is let their attention wonder, there has been recent talk about a title charge which in fairness is sensible talk, however if they are to mount a title charge they’ll need to keep their focus. Tomorrow is a real chance to gain ground as leaders Wrexham and second place Grimsby are both in FA Trophy Semi-Final action, both realistically should progress against Gainsborough and Dartford respectively – the buzz of reaching Wembley can often have an adverse effect to your league form as we well know. Three points for us at Luton plus a Wembley distraction for the current top two can only stand Stags in good stead for the remainder of the season.
The Hatters despite their eggshell like situation will still pose a tough test so fingers crossed Stags can rise to the challenge and bring home the points.
LAST TIME WE MET
The two sides last locked horns in mid November as Luton looked to end their hoodoo of never winning at The One Call Stadium in the league. Ben Hutchinson fired Mansfield ahead early on before Andre Gray levelled on 25 minutes, the Hatters then turned the game on its head on 66 minutes as Gray struck again. On the verge of defeat Stags got a late lifeline as Matt Green came from the bench to nod home the equaliser late on.
Down the years the sides have met 27 times which includes the memorable FA Trophy Semi-Final two seasons ago. As mentioned above Luton have never beaten Mansfield in a league encounter on Mansfield soil, however at the strange Kenilworth Road they have more success with five wins to two. Louis Briscoe’s dramatic late penalty in the FA Trophy sealed a 1-1 draw after extra time, this the fifth draw between the two at Kenilworth Road.
Stags last won at Luton in 2002 as they brought home a 3-2 victory, in terms of goals there have been 91 with the Hatters narrowly on top with 46-45 in total whilst at Kenilworth road Luton lead 25-17.
Paul Cox will probably surprise everyone if he makes a change tomorrow, once more only Ross Dyer and Jake Speight are those out.
Luton caretaker boss Alan Neilson will be boosted by the news that defender Wayne Thomas is now internationally cleared to play – Luton also boast a clean bill of health.
If you can’t make the trip to Kenilworth Road tomorrow then be sure to join Craig on Takeover 106.9FM and via our MM-LIVE page from 2pm.
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