Craig Priest writes...
It’s rather tough to know where to start this afternoon as yet another game approaches as I can’t figure out the mood in the camp. Naturally on paper a draw against the leagues bottom side away from home doesn’t look good but again I think it’s a perspective issue.
For instance, do you take in the fact that prior to the match despite being bottom Nuneaton had actually only lost two home games picking up some impressive draw against the likes of Wrexham and Macclesfield. Add in the way we actually played, rather well in my opinion, and just maybe a 1-1 draw can be justified – are we about to turn a corner in our form?
Tomorrow we return to the One Call Stadium, where we have an eight game unbeaten run, to face a team extremely similar to ourselves in Southport. Last term Southport were very much the surprise package in terms of expectation, nobody gave them a prayer after finishing in the drop-zone the previous term only to be reprieved. In contrast Southport’s reprieve from relegation acted as motivation as they achieved an eventual 7th placed finish but were very much in the hunt for a play-off space until the final game of the season – like ourselves though they’ve not re-created last season’s form and currently sit two places below ourselves in 16th.
Including the FA Cup, both sides are without a win in three games and on a bit of a rut form wise, whilst Stags have began to lift confidence with unlucky draws, Southport have been unable to battle on, clawing back a two goal deficit against Hereford before taking a hammering from Wrexham in midweek, a match in which former Stag Simon Grand netted an own goal and current Stags loanee Godfrey Poku was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
Maybe it’s from hearing far too many upbeat Christmas songs in shops today but, I’m of the belief that if we can re-create the football we played on Tuesday at Nuneaton and indeed last Saturday against Slough as well as creating a positive vibe in the stand, then we’ll be ok. There are no need for selection changes, Nick Wright came in and did a fine job with Hutchinson, Green and Speight will just have to be patient and wait for their chance to come again – the eleven we put out was close to clicking so a good start is, naturally, imperative.
If the Stags needed more positive news this week, Captain/Assistant-Manager/Joint Youth Team boss Adam Murray has signed yet another contract extension keeping him at Stags until 2014. Murray eat, sleeps and breaths Mansfield Town, its value having someone with that passion and energy on board.
Southport are always a tough side to beat with some good players in their ranks, however for me their stats suggest they thrive on confidence, if we can frustrate them in the first half and keep digging away in our attacks, statistically they will concede in the second half without summoning up response, conceding 14 in the final twenty minutes to a reply of six so far this season.
LAST TIME WE MET:
Last term encounters with Southport were ones to forget as the sandgrounders ran out 3-1 winners both at Field Mill as was and Haig Avenue. In October of last year two own goals from Andy Todd and Luke O’Neill gifted Southport a 2-0 lead at half time before Tony Gray made it 3-0 three minutes into the second half, the Stags getting a late consolation as Steve Akrigg converted past his own keeper although some reports suggested Paul Connor netted rather than the Southport man.
In mid-December the sides met again during Stags’ barren run of one win in nine games, however away from home Stags were unbeaten in 10. A tame a timid first half ended goalless before John Dempster headed home O’Neill’s corner. The lead last two minutes though as Chris Lever netted a beautiful effort before Ritchie Sutton was harshly sent off – the Stags hung on until the last minute when substitute Marcus Kelly brought down Shaun Whally in the box seconds after replacing Kieron Freeman who hobbled off injured. Lever converted the resulting penalty and pretty much from the restart, Mansfield fell apart, allowing substitute Brown to wrap up the game.
The previous season Stags had no luck either as a 2-2 draw at Field Mill was proceeded by a 2-1 win for Southport at Haig Avenue in the side’s first meeting since 1975.
In total the sides have met 54 times with twenty wins a piece, despite Mansfield being the considerable high scorer against Southport with 109-89, they have to go back as far as August 1974 for their last win against them.
At the One Call Stadium, or Field Mill as was as the two sides played each other prior to the name change last term, Mansfield have 14 wins to six defeats scoring 69 goals to a reply of 34.
Adam Murray and Jake Speight are both available however Paul Cox will be hard pushed to find either a place in the side after two good performances. The same can be said for Ryan Tafazolli after a missing the last couple of games through injury.
Two players definitely not involved are Jamie Hand and Jobe Shaw who have been loaned out for a month this morning, Hand joins Blue Square South Eastleigh as he recovers from a knee injury whilst Shaw goes lower down the league ladder to Sheffield FC. Ross Dyer, Jamie Tolley, Alan Marriott and co all remain sidelined.
If you can’t get tomorrow then join me for regular updates on 106.9FM and our MM-LIVE Page, build up starts at 2pm.
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