In those gripping TV Drama’s, the fighting villain always swears revenge on their enemy by uttering those fait-fuelled words “we’ll meet again” – On Monday 7th May 2012, the rain began to pour as Stags players crashed to their knees, dejected after York City sealed their place at Wembley in the play-off final.
Hurt, angry and over emotional, after throwing my headset to the floor, I muttered the words “we’ll meet again” as York’s celebrating players hopped, skipped and jumped back to the dressing room.
Here we are, over a year later preparing to face each other again – do you know what, I don’t feel bitter towards York City any more – defeat in the play-offs was fate, we weren’t ready for league two then and after a few more kicks up the rear the following season, ala Liverpool, Kidderminster etc, we are ready and we are establishing ourselves well – sitting mid-table on a five game unbeaten run, heading to face a York side whose early form suggests another relegation fight.
For some of those players remaining from our play-off season, Sutton, Marriott, Dyer and Riley to name a few, tomorrow perhaps is an opportunity to kill some old haunting memories – however for the majority it’s a chance to keep the positive form going and take another three points following last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Newport County.
In a way it’s strange at this stage of the season to be writing about an unbeaten run, Cox’s first season at the helm (the one which ended with the York defeat) saw a run of similar results at this stage, which included five consecutive wins in an eight game unbeaten run whilst at this stage last term, we looked far from title challenges, picking up the points at home but struggling on the road, in some cases, taking a thumping.
In some-ways I wonder if we’re half expecting a sticky patch sooner rather than later, however for Cox, his management team and his players, the focus is on maintaining the level of performance which has led to the positive start and then building on it. York on the other hand will be desperate not to slip to a fourth straight defeat and hit rock bottom of the table, on paper Stags should win as their defence, ranked second in the division, comes up against an attack which has managed only four goals so far this term and is ranked 22nd. Statistical facts such as this however do not win football matches, Cox’s players will be aware of York’s lack of goals and must stay strong to keep out City’s fight, tomorrow is the first real test of mind set and togetherness – a trait event last weekend at Newport following the dismissal of Matt Rhead and injury to Martin Riley, the later carrying on despite reportedly feeling dizzy.
I’ve often criticised the three, or five, at the back depending on what role you view the wing backs! Cox won’t want to change a formula which has led to five games unbeaten, however a few early goals will have York rattled and low on confidence, the best way to achieve this would be in a flat four and feeding the front man from the wings. For the reserves midweek, who played in a flat four, I felt Meikle looked lively and Briscoe, when he got the service, looked sharp – add into the mixing bowl Clucas and the excellent of Hutchinson when he’s been asked to play in a wide role and I think you’ve enough reason and options to make a flat four work and get a positive result.
There’s been a lot of talk about players on the fringe this week, the reserves maintained their 100% record in the week with Calvin Andrew netting in the final minute to defeat Rotherham United, whilst a mix of youth and experience breezed past Shepshed on Wednesday night 7-2 in a behind closed doors friendly, showing Cox that he options in attack to replace the suspended Rhead.
Tomorrow’s trip will bring back mixed memories, once again sing loud and hopefully the boys will do the business!
LAST TIME WE MET
As mentioned, the previous meeting between these two sides came in the end of season play-offs at the end of Cox’s first season at the helm 2011-12. Cox’s men had finished above the minstermen after a fine post-Christmas run and despite resting key players ahead of the first leg, had still managed to kill of sixth placed Kidderminster 3-0.
York had a more dramatic finish to the regular season beating Forest Green by a solitary goal to finish fourth. Earlier in the season the sides had played out two draws over the Christmas and New Year period, 1-1 at the One Call and 2-2 at Bootham Crescent – even statistically there was very little between the sides.
Stags fans packed into the away end and saw their side enjoy the better of the first half, getting off to a great start when Ross Dyer scored a fine header flicking a bullet Exodus Geohaghon throw over the outstretched Michael Ingham. Stags’ lead was cut on the stroke of half time however as Geohaghon turned a cross into his own goal as Mansfield struggled to cope with a defensive re-shuffle after Martin Riley had to be withdrawn through injury.
Things got worse in the second half as thirty goal striker Matt Green was stupidly dismissed for hand-ball whilst challenging Ingham, Green had been booked earlier for a high boot on the York keeper, who thwarted Mansfield’s attack throughout. The sending off proved to be a big wake-up call in the long run, Stags needed support for Green as without his goals, they offered very little. Despite having ten men, the sides went back to the One Call Stadium level at 1-1 after the first leg.
The second leg took place a year after the Stags defeat at Wembley Stadium in the FA Trophy final, the One Call Stadium was a sell out and over 7,000 supporters watched as neither side could find a goal in 90 minutes. Mansfield became predictable and in the absence of Green went with just one striker, using the long throw at every opportunity – Michael Ingham laughed as he plucked every single throw from the air. The match moved into extra time and a tired Stags were clinging on, the first 15 minutes passed and as the sides switched ends, there was a strong feeling the match could well need a penalty shootout. However York’s Matty Blair had other ideas and popped up to nod home the game’s opening goal on 110 minutes – from there it was over as moments later Ritchie Sutton was sent off for a second bookable offence whilst Marriott heroically kept it to just the one goal cushion, with no Green there was never any chance of a comeback.
York progressed to the final, scooping a Wembley double as they not only won the FA Trophy final against Newport before beating Luton Town in the play-off final.
The two sides have locked horns a total of 91 times which does include the FA Cup fourth qualifying round and Setanta Sheild third round tie during the 2008-09 season. There have been 282 goals between the pair with York trailing 139 to Stags 143, York have won 41 meetings to Stags’ 32.
At Bootham Crescent Stags have only achieved seven wins the last of which came in February 2004 thanks to goals from Liam Lawrence and Richard Pacquette.
Paul Cox is without striker Matt Rhead who was dismissed in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Newport, keeper Ian Deakin was back on the bench for the reserves midweek so he could be back in contention for a place on the first team bench whilst Keiran Murtagh completed 90 minutes for Cooper’s reserves and looked injury free – the former Macclesfield man of course is still waiting to make his Stags debut.
Written by Craig Priest
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