Craig Priest writes...
As the snow continues to gently fall onto the streets of England, I sit here with a cup of tea and a slice of Birthday Cake hopeful that tomorrow’s game will escape the evilness of Mother Nature and go ahead – why? Well simply because I believe we are in good form on the road at the minute and that after Tuesday night’s victory at Stockport, we are ready as a squad to kick on now.
It’s amazing to think that up until mid-November Stags couldn’t buy an away win in the league, having beaten only Kidderminster on August 18th excluding cup wins at Workington and Slough, the latter on penalties, the Stags were poor away from home and in honesty I began to find myself dreading away games – games at Cambridge, Gateshead and Grimsby leaving me with nightmares. However the solid 3-0 victory at Macclesfield on November 22nd seems to have given Stags refreshed confidence on the road as, since that night at Moss Rose, Stags have a perfect record providing you exclude the two cup matches – grabbing a 3-0 win at Alfreton and of course, the 3-1 win midweek victory at Stockport.
Fair play two games don’t shape a season but I believe our U-turn in away fortunes can provide Paul Cox’s men with a platform to build upon, I think the performance in those last three league victories shows we can climb the table and warrant success, even if we do include those two cup games, a draw at Lincoln plus that pathetic defeat at Matlock, Stags are still in good form – netting 13 goals conceding six.
This is a huge improvement on our first eight league away games, a run where we picked up just one victory and had a defeat percentage of 62.5% - during those eight games and numerous hammerings we conceded a mammoth 22 goals to a return of nine, things are certainly turning a corner with three back to back away league wins, nine goals, two clean sheets and just one goal against. My point is during that baron run Stags looked at the away record and were automatically in a negative frame of mind, now they can do the exact opposite and play with the confident spark which we know, can ignite Mansfield to great things.
Confidence is certainly a factor Stags will need as, thanks to the now lashing down of snow, games will be coming thick and fast – Stags have some tough fixtures coming up both on home snow and away snow, all the points will be vital if only to keep our momentum going – again the best way to move forwards is to take each game as it comes.
Southport tomorrow, should it pass an 8.30am pitch inspection and survive this covering of snow, will be a tough one. The fact the Sandergrounders have key players missing will be a boost for Paul Cox’s side but as always, Liam Watson’s men will be up for the challenge and eager to take all the points for themselves – they’ve been on some good form themselves of late with just one defeat in eight games in all competitions.
I’m sure Paul Cox will stick with what worked at Stockport, although Southport will have a few more experienced heads than Stockport whose side against Stags was a relatively young one, Lee Stevenson has a real chance to establish himself and hit the form which saw him become one of the hottest properties in non-league football two seasons or so ago.
LAST TIME WE MET
Stags and Southport last locked horns back in November, Ben Hutchinson netted an early strike which proved the eventual winner, tomorrow’s meeting at Haig Avenue will be the 56th meeting between the pair who first met in 1932.
Last term Southport did the double over Stags with two 3-1 victories, Paul Connor netted Stags only goal at the One Call Stadium whilst John Dempster netted at Haig Avenue. An interesting note ahead of tomorrow’s match will be the first goal, who ever scores it will have netted the 200th goal between the sides down the years, Stags hold a significant 110-89 lead on Southport.
Interesting too that if it’s Southport who net first, the player to score will have netted Southport’s 50th goal over Stags on Southport soil, a place which kind of haunts Stags a little having collected just six wins from 26 visits, slipping to 12 defeats and playing out eight draws – Stags last victory at Southport coming in September 2010 curtsey of Lee Gregory and Stevie Istead in what was the sides first meeting in the conference and for 35 years.
Stags will be without striker Jake Speight and defender Exodus Geohaghon, the former looks set to be out for the remainder of the season with a Cartilage tear. Gary Roberts is also unavailable following the competition of his loan move to Malta based outfit Floriana whilst Paul Cox may give a surprise call to Jamie Tolley who looks to have been given another chance to shine following his prolonged spell in the Quarry Club! (Explanation of Quarry Club via Tolley’s twitter)
Southport will be without Stags duo Andy Owens and Godfrey Poku, both players who signed from Southport in the summer and will remain at their previous employees for the remainder of the season. So far Poku, who has another season left to run at Stags, has featured 19 times for Watsons men whilst Owens has made six appearances in his second spell at Haig Avenue, netting three goals playing as a centre forward!
Southport also look set to be without a number of key players who have picked up niggles.
Once more should the game go ahead I’ll be braving the freezing conditions, brining you full match commentary with build up from 2pm via our MM-LIVE page and of course, 106.9FM
During the build up we’ll have highlights from Tuesday’s midweek win at Stockport plus your thoughts on Steve McNulty – would he be a welcome addition to the clubs defence following the news that Paul Cox has declared interest in the Fleetwood centre-half. Tweet your thoughts to @mtfcmatters or email firstname.lastname@example.org (before 2pm!) – Our text line WILL be back in the next week.
PLEASE NOTE: Although Southport say there pitch is fine, there will be a 8.30am pitch inspection
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