Craig Priest writes...
After the whimpering show against Kidderminster in certain area’s there’s only one thing which Stags need to do tomorrow night at Stockport snow permitting – WIN! Three points is the only boost the players can give supporters now as January ticks on, it’s time to stop saying ‘It wasn’t the result we wanted but the performance was good’ and time to start saying ‘that WAS the result we wanted and the performance certainly warranted three points’ – Never will I write Mansfield Town off but I say this with a stern heart, we have to start closing the gap.
Stockport’s the prime place to do it, a wide but good conditioned pitch surrounded by big, atmospheric stands will suit Mansfield against opponents who aren’t having the best of times this term – Jim Gannon’s side currently lurk one place and one point from the drop zone.
The question for me is more about desire than ability, we have a squad which oozes quality, the problem comes less in finding the formation to suit but more in the willingness to fight when we go behind – conceding first on nine occasions this term the Stags have only turned things around once to gain victory, drawing twice and losing the remaining six. For me this shows a lack of character, you can’t go into a match and let things hinge on who scores first you have to be prepared for every eventuality – do we have the personnel for this? Yes, can we fuse them together – that’s impossible to answer.
I will never claim to be a football manager, except for on my laptop when I’ve got a spare half hour anyway, so again feel free to take this with a pinch of salt – what do Stags need to get back to winning ways, in my opinion – reintroduce Ben Hutchinson.
For some reason Hutchinson found himself dropped from the starting line-up on New Year’s Day as we headed to Alfreton after several fine performances, fair enough we managed to win the game although the former Celtic man did make an appearance from the bench. Statistically Stags do well with Hutchinson in the side, with a total of 13 appearances which includes two from the bench, Stags have clocked up six wins and as many draws with just one defeat – this means with Hutchinson in the side Stags have an unbeaten percentage of 92.4%.
In honesty the 4-4-1-1 formation we use with Hutchinson in the side suits us well, personally I find that Green plays with a little bit more freedom and confidence when he has Hutchinson playing a deeper role behind him rather than having another player such as Rhead or Speight playing directly alongside him. Additionally the midfield will get a little bit more support with Hutchinson in the line-up, this gives the likes of Meikle and Briscoe a little more freedom to get wider and create more chances.
Once again I reiterate something I mentioned above in that I am not a football manager, but I did wonder about the captaincy - not for a second is this aimed at slating Murray who as many of you will know is one of my favourite Stags players, I was just looking at accommodating Hutchinson in that 4-4-1-1 formation and balancing the line-up in mid-field, for example do you purposely split Clements and Howell who in my opinion are a good partnership just for the sake of having Murray in the side. It’s no secret that in the past Mansfield have been unable to cope without Murray’s influence, however in John Dempster I feel we have a captain capable of commanding the best from the players as Murray did on numerous occasions last season. This year with Murray now Assistant Manager and joint Youth Team Boss does he have one responsibility too many, would it be beneficial to use Murray on and off as we have been doing but have Dempster as captain on a permanent basis?
Obviously statistics are irrelevant however for those interested Murray has skippered 15 games with a win percentage of 40% whilst Dempster has taken the armband on nine occasions and has a slightly higher win percentage of 44.4% - naturally this is just food for thought, let’s hope that whatever Paul Cox chooses to do tomorrow night at Stockport that we come out with all three points.
LAST TIME WE MET
Stags and Stockport have a long history together having first met in 1932; tomorrow’s meeting will be there 84th in all competitions. Last term Stags completed the double of the Hatters’, Luke O’Neill’s strike at Edgley Park in August 2011 gave Stags their first away win of the campaign.
The sides locked horns again in April 2012, a 2-1 victory with goals from Adam Smith and Louis Briscoe put Stags one point away from sealing a play-off space.
Mansfield have 32 wins to 31 defeats in total whilst at Edgley Park things aren’t so positive, Stags have grabbed just six wins, slipping to 22 defeats and playing out 10 draws.
As of yet there’s no news on whether or not Lee Beevers will be ok to play after being taken off injured on Saturday after being crocked by Sean Clancy, other than his availability Cox has again a full squad to choose from bar Ross Dyer. Gary Roberts may be nearby but NOT at Edgley Park, he’ll be at the airport as he currently awaits international clearance to go on loan to Floriana.
With no news of a pitch inspection as yet, I prepare to escape the Mansfield snow and bring you full match commentary. Join me on 106.9FM, the Tune-In Radio app and as usual, our MM-LIVE page from 7pm.
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