Craig Priest looks ahead to tomorrow’s match with Luton Town...
Usually at this time on a Saturday I sit here at my desk reflecting on the events just to have unfolded, today however it’s different as we await the arrival of Luton Town to the One Call Stadium tomorrow.
Supposedly the holiest day of the week with people heading to church, I guess it’s quite apt that we have a Sunday home encounter – Football is our religion, Mansfield Town is our god and the One Call, well Field Mill to be fair, is out church – time to go and spread the gospel, that Mansfield Town CAN achieve something this season.
Refreshed after Tuesday’s drama at Slough, Paul Cox’s side return home to kick start a busy six days against Luton Town, a team who’s stature like ours suggests they should be playing at a higher level, like our good selves though there hear for a reason. Thing is, Luton come with a stigma: Arrogance – we all know where that get’s you. Expectations are raised every season at Luton, at some point they’ll crumble and the manager will take the fall. Tomorrow, for me at least, is another opportunity for us to show that sticking together is what takes you forward. Paul Buckle is an excellent manager and has had a fairly decent start with the Hatters this term, however with just one win in four, The former Torquay man’s side are beginning to buckle, it’s our job to ensure the shackles come completely loose so we can gain some of the ground we lost through our own poor form earlier on the season.
I know things haven’t been that great for us lately but I personally feel we are coming into a bit of form now, one loss in eight games isn’t too bad it’s just time to start putting a few more chances away and turn draws, three from the last four games, into wins. This comes from a consistent line up, of our last four games we’ve become settled in the 4-4-1-1 with solid partnerships being formed. Obviously tomorrow we’ll be forced into one change with John Dempster suspended after his sending off in extra time on Tuesday at Slough.
Now this is for me the most delicate of changes to make as we’ve stopped making costly mistakes with him and Geohaghon as a pair, would we be able to say the same about Exodus and Ryan Tafazolli, Exodus and Luke Jones, Exodus and George Pilkington? I’m not sure. Statistically Geohaghon and Jones are the strongest combination of those options with six points from a possible nine in the three matches they’ve been paired together, Tafazolli comes in second to Jones alongside Ex with four points from a possible nine however with Tafazolli still injured, it’s unlikely that partnership will recommence. Coming in as the worst statistical pairing with Geohaghon is former Luton captain, now supposedly Stags skipper, George Pilkington, from two games with big Ex, the Stags have picked up just a point. In terms of goals against, Jones and Tafazolli are joint strongest with only four being put past the respective pair in the respective games, whilst five have been leaked in the two games Geohaghon has been paired with Pilkington – Jones is the only other player to have kept a clean sheet alongside Ex other than Dempster.
So who should come in, should it be Pilkington due to his relationship to Luton, should it be Jones due to the statistical solidness or should Sutton move to centre half and allow John Thompson to come back in at right back. I’d personally like to see the latter, Thompson’s worked hard and performed well in the reserves and to be fair, was having an excellent run until his injury at Cambridge, get him back in the side along with the captains armband – let him use his experience to enhance our run, and maybe introduce Speight for Wright, although I don’t think Hutchinson and Wright as a partnership has done anything wrong to be split up.
Ever since our FA Trophy show down with the hatters there has been no fear of them unlike in previous seasons, I hope this legacy continues tomorrow and we can grab three points to set up a big week of football with a smile.
LAST TIME WE MET
Back in January a goalless draw was played out at Kenilworth Road, the Stags first trip back since the dramatic extra time penalty to send us through to Wembley. Then Luton skipper George Pilkington was the hatters hero as he cleared two goal bound efforts to keep things level in front of the TV cameras. Earlier in the season back at the One Call Stadium, Matt Green bagged his first of thirty Stags goals for the season with a sublime curling effort beyond Mark Tyler, Luton’s Will Antwi grabbed an undeserved point for the hatters 12 minutes from time.
We all remember the historic two-legged affair with Luton in the FA Trophy Semi-Final of 2011, may I remind you that the first leg, in which we won 1-0 thanks to Danny Mitchley and the excellence of David Grof, was on a Sunday! It’s an omen right?! A week or so later Luton returned for a league show-down that ended goalless as did the clubs first meeting on Stags soil outside the football league, on March 2nd 2010. Fact is, Luton have NEVER beaten the Stags at Field Mill/ The One Call Stadium in a league match, they do boast a 4-3 League Cup in 1989.
Including the FA Trophy show down there have been 26 meetings between the two, the Stags have 43 goals to Luton’s 44 with nine, technically ten because of aggregate scores, wins to seven.
Who said Luton are better than us, the stats don’t lie – I just hope we can say that tomorrow!
John Dempster, whose donned the captains armband in the last few games, will be absent through suspension whilst Ryan Tafazolli also looks set to miss out with the usual suspects, Dyer, Marriott and the disappeared Tolley.
John Thompson, Luke Jones and former Luton skipper George Pilkington will all battle it out for a start.
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