Craig Priest previews tomorrow’s trip to Nuneaton....
Following Saturday’s frustrating draw with Slough in the FA Cup, Mansfield’s attention now turns to addressing what is another grey area – the frankly abysmal away form! It’s no doubt to me, as I’ve written in various places this week, that had we scored one against Slough we’d have won comfortably considering the way we pressed, defended and moved the ball – that final factor of actually scoring just didn’t click!
Tomorrow we face a side struggling to adapt to life in the blue square bet premier after promotion via the play-offs last term in the form of Nuneaton Town. I’ve watched a few of their highlights of recent matches and can get the impression that if we play like we did Saturday but just add that extra spice and oomph to our attack we can grab our first league away win since August 18th. Naturally Nuneaton will have pace and power in attack which Stags will need to be strong against, surely there has to be a point though when fortunes chance – maybe tomorrow is that point.
Our away record certainly doesn’t make for good reading, conceding 21 goals to only a reply of 9 is poor for a side that, at the end of last term were only beaten twice on the road between Boxing Day and the end of the season. Sitting 23rd in the away table with only one league victory this term it’s difficult for even the most optimistic of supporters, myself included, to be inspired to go to an away game at the minute, why waste all that money only to go home with the bitter taste of defeat? I wouldn’t say we’ve been unlucky in every game, we’ve been poor in the majority – but note there the tense I write in: PAST! Those games, those situations and those mistakes are gone, nothing will change the outcome of them and so you do your best to respond at the next given opportunity.
Nuneaton are a side that are statistically poor all around, sitting bottom of the table without a win in nine league outings having shipped 32 goals in 16 games. At home Kevin Wilkin’s men have managed the one win, a 3-1 over AFC Telford, however they’ve battled to hold Cambridge, Macclesfield, Wrexham, Hereford and Barrow to respective draws, suffering just two home defeats to Gateshead and Ebbsfleet, the latter a 5-4 thriller on the season’s opening day.
The notable draws against the tough teams will just be one part of their armoury tomorrow evening, Wilkin will have Borough well prepared with the help of a familiar face, Micky Moore who is now number two at the Liberty Way ground after departing the One Call Stadium in the close season. Much has been said about the ‘Moore affect’ in recent weeks, with many of our supporters believing Moore to be one of the key factors as to why we aren’t at the same standard as last term. I was privileged to chat to Micky on numerous occasions last season, the man talks a lot of sense about football and both he and Paul Cox we’re not just singing off the same hymn sheet, but singing in tune. I said numerous times in the summer that signing both he and Andy Todd was a must, I think that bad results and what have you has naturally led to a blame culture and Cox has taken stick for not re-signing now Nuneaton’s second in command. The fact is Moore was on a one year sabbatical from his tutoring job hence why he was in a position to accept the full time post with us last term, he was set to return in September and opted to do so, taking up a part-time role elsewhere to remain in football – Moore and his partner were expecting their first child when he left, you can’t blame him then for wanting a more stable job, the additional money and indeed the most valuable thing in the whole situation – TIME with his loved ones. Could we have offered Moore a part time role, maybe but it wouldn’t have worked really would it, be honest.
Moore will naturally know how Cox will set out his stall and will have Nuneaton working on defending Ex’s long throw, a trait used often during the duo’s time in the dugout together last season – Moore will also know how Cox’s mind works, another example of why they worked so well together, with this in mind Cox will have to be careful of the steps he takes.
He made seven changes for the FA Cup encounter but in my opinion shouldn’t tomorrow, I’d stick with the same line up and see if they can break the barrier, Jake Speight could return after suspension and I’m wary of the reaction as I say this but, for me, the man to be replaced should be Matt Green.
Scorer of thirty goals last term Green was certainly on fire but so far has failed to light any having netted only four, exactly half of Jake Speight’s total. Questions are naturally being asked as to whether he’s the same player without Ross Dyer, without whom he wouldn’t have reached that thirty goal target last season. Yes he’s looked sharp in areas and in spells but the fact remains he hasn’t done what’s been required of him, that’s putting the ball in the back of the net – roughly he’s gone without a goal for 630 minutes of football.
Ben Hutchinson and Nick Wright have both been scoring regularly in the reserves with the former also creating too, he and Speight linked up at Workington and personally I’d like to see that develop a little and not so much drop Matt Green, but give him a step backwards to revaluate, something which worked last year for Luke O’Neill who after starting every game and impressing at both left and right back was dropped to the bench for four matches, we he eventually returned he ensured his performances were of a constant high standard and as such, started every game from then until his departure in the summer. I think sometimes we come to expect too much from individuals and the pressure gets to them and in turn creates a knock on affect to the team – I think this is the best way to describe things at the minute, who knows “dropping” Green for a game could be beneficial for more than one person, it’s true that actions have consequences but it’s equally true that consequences can be positive as well as negative.
LAST TIME WE MET
For the third game running tomorrow’s encounter will be the first competitive meeting between the two sides as far as I can see going through the records of both Nuneaton Town and Nuneaton Borough/ AFC, until their liquidation in 2008. However unlike the previous two games, Dartford and Slough, the two sides have met before in numerous friendly’s – the most recent being last preseason.
Technically it was Paul Cox’s first game as Stags boss after he missed the trailist game at Rainworth for a family wedding; the hopefuls who failed to make the grade were managed by Micky Moore. Cox fielded a strong side which included new signings Lee Stevenson, Jon Worthington and Ross Dyer along with trialist left back Chris Carruthers. Mansfield grabbed a fifth minute lead when the latter crossed for Stevenson who nodded home, however an injury to Tom Naylor was the spark for a wobbly defence, the hosts levelled through Gary Hadland before Lee Smith put Borough ahead before the break.
The 2-1 win for Borough was something they built upon as, for the second season running; they achieved a play-off finish, although the play-off finish in the 2010-11 season was due to Cox’s Eastwood Town being unable to compete in the play-offs due to ground regulations. After being Guisley in the semi-finals, Wilkin’s Borough saw off Gainsborough Trinity by a solitary goal in a side which included Neil Collett who terminated his contracted with Stags to join Nuneaton and striker Danny Mitchley, on loan from the One Call Stadium, Andy Brown got the decisive goal early on.
Jake Speight’s suspension is now over and he could return, assistant manager/captain/ youth team head honcho Adam Murray could also return after missing the last three games through suspension and then injury – Ryan Tafazolli on the other hand is out along with the usual suspects of Hand, Tolley, Dyer and Marriott.
I’m not sure if Liam Mitchell will return in goal or not for Shane Redmond, his months loan has to be close to expiring if it hasn’t already, he was notably absent from Saturday’s warm-up too, Notts County’s website notes the expiry of his loan to be October 27th, the day after our defeat at Dartford however no news has been posted via the Stags website.
For Nuneaton there are three Ex Stags player wise, the aforementioned keeper Neil Collett, striker Kyle Perry and ex youth teamer Danny Sleath.
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