As we begin the second month of the season, I’m looking forward to the outcome of tomorrow’s match as we’ll hopefully get an indication as to how far we’ve come since our promotion from the conference, as we lock horns with the side promoted along side us, Newport County.
Justin Edinburgh’s men fought their way through the play-offs at the end of last season, defeating Grimsby in the play-off semi-final before late goals against Wrexham at Wembley in the final, saw them join us in league two. Life in league two so far has been fairly positive, as County defeated Accrington Stanley on opening day to top the division, steady results since see the welsh club sat one place above us in eight.
As per for Stags, the negative start has passed and we now find ourselves on a mini-unbeaten run of four games with two draws and two victories, the latest of which coming last weekend against Dagenham and Redbridge at the One Call Stadium.
Since Edinburgh’s appointment at Newport, Mansfield (under Paul Cox) have failed to beat tomorrow’s opponents, being beaten 1-0, 4-3 and 2-0 in the three meetings with Edinburgh at County’s helm. Will Tomorrow be the day Cox’s conference Champions put an end to this sequence and continue their upturn in form? Only time will tell, however playing the side who were promoted alongside us, Cox should get an indication as to how much work there is left to do if we want to compete at a much higher level.
The transfer window slammed shut midweek and again there was no movement from the One Call Stadium. The loan window of course remains open to bring players in or ship them out, however I personally think we have enough strength now to go on and compete for a top 10 place – providing Cox gets the system right.
Newport are always tight at the back, a trait which helped them to promotion last term finishing with the 6th best defence in the division and the 2nd best attack – our defence was ranked 5th and our attack first. In order for Stags to break the Newport curse, they’ll need to play the ball on the floor and get play wide – playing Sam Clucas through the middle would be a waste tomorrow, get his creative spark wide and push a more instinctive finishing forward, step forward Calvin Andrew and Ollie Palmer – tomorrow could be the type of game we’re the duo could shine.
Waiting in the wings is Lee Stevenson, he scored a hat-trick against Notts County’s development side in a behind closed doors game during the week. 4-4-1-1 was our benchmark last term and again could be the key to undoing Newport, perhaps Stevenson behind Palmer/Andrew is the way forward tomorrow – I know they say never change a winning side but something’s have to be done for the greater good.
Whilst loosely on the subject of players not playing first team football and the transfer window, I wonder if Jake Speight will be loaned out in the next week or so after Cox said he could leave. Another already out on loan is George Pilkington at Forest Green Rovers, so far he’s played three times for Dave Hockaday’s men and has a month remaining with the Nailsworth based club, will his loan be extended during the window as realistically now, there’s no place for him in Cox’s league two side with Sutton, Riley and Dempster impressing and Tafazolli and McCombe in reserve.
Back to tomorrow’s game, it’ll be a stern test of team work and focus – fingers crossed for another three points ahead of a tough few weeks which accumulates in a tasty local derby!
LAST TIME WE MET
Promoted alongside each other last term, Stags and Newport have been frequent opponents in recent years, last term Justin Edinburgh’s men took maximum points from Paul Cox’s champions.
The first meeting came on opening day of last season at the One Call Stadium, a game full of entertainment, goals and sadly, defensive lapses. Ishmail Yakubu gave County a ninth minute lead with a header before Tony James doubled Newport’s lead a mere two minutes later with a stunning volley. After the break Jake Speight, who’d came from the bench to replace the injured Ross Dyer during the first half, tapped in to reduce the deficit, Matt Green then lobbed the visiting keeper to pull the match level on 50 minutes – as Stags fine start to the second half continued.
The hard work was soon undone five minutes later as Aaron O’Connor nodded Newport back in front, another former Stag in Jefferson Louis then made it 4-2 in Newport’s favour on 65 minutes. Jake Speight grabbed his second of the game as he headed home with two minute remaining setting up a tense finish but ultimately, Newport clung on.
The reserve fixture took place in early February amidst Mansfield’s first run of wins and good fortunate. Stags headed into the match seemingly unbeatable and with a killer formation, however Newport’s bog-like pitch made it impossible for Cox’s men to play their natural game, something County naturally capitalized on as second half goals from Andy Sandell (penalty) and Christian Jolley saw the South Wales outfit do the double on Mansfield.
In total there have been six meetings between the two sides, not counting the FA Trophy match in 2011 or the pre-season friendly the previous season. Newport have four victories, three under Justin Edinburgh against Paul Cox, whilst Stags have only beaten Newport the once – Cox’s men thrashed County 5-0 at the One Call Stadium in 2011 as County endured a poor start under former Tottenham Coach Anthony Hudson. There has been just the one draw, 3-3 at the One Call Stadium – the goals count stand at 11 apiece.
Paul Cox will have a big choice to make tomorrow, not only in terms of formation but whether or not to risk left back James Jennings and striker Ollie Palmer – both of course picked up knocks during the 3-0 victory over Dagenham. Left back Jennings was forced off injured after taking a knock to the ankle whilst Palmer was substituted with concussion – neither have trained since.
Elsewhere Ian Deakin remains side-lined but Keiran Murtagh could be available following his recent injury.
Written by Craig Priest
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