Craig Priest looks ahead to the arrival of the bluebirds....
The eve of another game and I can honestly say that the fact your reading this is a miracle, things at Mansfield Matters HQ aren’t great as the electricity got cut off, fortunately I know some people who were able to channel this energy from a local football grounds stands and pump it into my house – Cheers Stags fans! Obviously I’m only joking about the bill thing but in all seriousness how alive was Field Mill on Tuesday – wow! Imagine if this can be replicated for the rest of the season!
I’m still chatting to various people now on Friday afternoon and everyone still seems buzzing after that 1-1 draw with League Leaders Fleetwood, obviously you should never look back in football going into the next game but if Paul Cox’s side can somehow mix that energy, drive and enthusiasm into these final nine games and keep it going on a constant level, then what a force we will be, It would take something really special to stop us.
Now this is the part of the piece where I perhaps have to give myself a little slap on the wrist as the above paragraph perhaps came across as a little arrogant – those who know me will know that it’s not, I’m the first person to admit my hatred for arrogance in football. What I am saying is, if we keep going about our business in the right manor, there’s no reason our dreams can’t be achieved so long as we keep our eyes focussed solely on ourselves, keep the right mindset and the right balance between confidence an arrogance – the latter a trait which Paul Cox says he will not stand for.
At this stage of the season with nine games left to play, it’s refreshing to hear a manager say that – how many managers at this stage of the season would come out with statements like ‘we’re already there’ or ‘nobody can touch us now’? I can certainly think of a few, what we have in Cox is a manager whose been in the same position before, a man who goes about his business in a calm business, refusing to get wrapped up in previous results, a man who not only sees the afternoon sun, but the evening sky.
The Stags boss understands how quickly football can change and understands that tomorrow’s test against Barrow will probably be even tougher than the test midweek against high flying Fleetwood. The bluebirds have exceeded expectation this term and are holding their own in mid table, mathematically the Holker Street outfit still have hopes themselves of reaching the play-offs, a reason why Barrow will scrap for everything, something they have done all season long.
Now under the sole manager-ship of David Bayliss following the departure of Darren Sheridan last month, bluebirds fans have began to discuss whether or not they are a ‘dirty and niggley’ side following several gritty performances to sustain their mid table position. The majority of fans enjoy Barrow’s gritty determination, a trait which, in their view, shows ex-football league sides they will not role over and have their bellies tickled. It’s this “sly” side of the game which has seen Boss Bayliss praised by Norwich City striker Grant Holt, the former Barrow man who scored 39 goals in 73 appearances between 2001 & 2003, paid compliment to the Holker Street outfit during their recent 1-0 defeat at Cambridge, when the lively front man was commentating for local radio.
Looking at the twice FA Trophy champions record against former Football League sides, the niggley approach has seen them get seven wins and two draws against former league sides, the most success has come on home soil, in fact out of all the ex-league clubs (to my knowledge) only the Stags have left Holker Street with all the points.
As with the games against ex-league sides, Barrow’s place of success has been at home – Bayliss’ side are the fourth best side in the league at home, beaten only thrice over there 19 games so far – ourselves, Gateshead and Bath or the only team to get back on the team coach with all the points in the bag. York, Grimsby, Forest Green, Ebbsfleet and Tamworth have taken a point home whilst Fleetwood, Wrexham, Luton, Kidderminster, AFC Telford, Stockport, Alfreton, Lincoln, Hayes & Yeading, Darlington and Kettering have all been condemned to defeat by Barrow. Away form is poor in comparison; the bluebirds have picked up just five wins on their travels sitting in 14th place in the away league tables and have an away defeat percentage of 63% conceding an average of two goals per game, shipping 11 during their last six games on the road – only one of Barrow’s five away wins has come against a current top ten side – 2-1 at Kidderminster.
Hopes of reaching the play-offs are as mentioned still mathematically possible, however with three consecutive defeats the bluebirds may well just focus now on a top ten finish, with new signing and familiar face to both, Paul Edwards’ recent arrival being one to help get Barrow across the line. Despite Edwards’ departure to the sound of money in the summer, he has been welcomed back by the majority – after penning an emergency loan deal from Fleetwood a mere week or so since his Field Mill departure after a three game spell, also on loan from Fleetwood.
With York and Luton facing each other in FA Trophy action again tomorrow, it’s another golden opportunity for us to leap above Luton into third, victory would put us 2 points ahead of the hatters, plus putting four points between ourselves and York – the duo will have two games in hand over us though. In other fixtures tomorrow, Southport, two points below us in 6th, travel to Stockport whilst the ever ground making Grimsby, seven points behind us in 7th with a game in hand, play host to Tamworth. Again I break my own rule by looking at these fixtures as you should concentrate on your own job before anyone else’s – once again we must go out and earn the right to our league position and indeed, victory.
In team news Adam smith could be back in contention following three games on the sidelines with injury, Gary Roberts sits out with suspension. Matt Bell has joined Leek Town for the remainder of the season on loan, whilst Sam Craven has signed on a duel registration with Hednesford Town in order to gain fitness. John Thompson will no doubt be itching to be involved, I saw him on Thursday running up and down the West Lower steps in a bid to get fit and ready for the run in – he had the look of determination and the look of a man who’s hungry for action. I expect a change or two from Paul Cox following the midweek change of system, who misses out though to go to 4-4-2 will be interesting, Jon Worthington had a fine game in the middle alongside Howell and skipper Murray. Whatever side is put out, as ever they’ll dig deep to get a result, I hope that Field Mill is once again bouncing, in all seriousness never have in that press box fearful that the vibrations from the noise would propel me out of my seat and onto the pitch – amazing stuff!
If you can’t get to Field Mill tomorrow, then turn your radio dial to 106.9FM and join myself and Wayne Briggs for regular updates, build up starts at 2pm.
Last Time We Met
The Stags and the bluebirds, also known as the ziggers prior to the 70’s, go back a long way – having first locked horns on September 3rd 1932, when Barrow edged Mansfield by a single goal in a 1-0 win in Division Three North. The sides have since taken each other on in the old division four and three, before recent matches in the conference. Only the one goal from the first ever meeting of the two proud sides is the difference, Barrow have scored 95 to Mansfield’s 94! The scorer of tomorrow’s first goal will have netted the 190th goal between the two sides, netted over a 53 game period in all competitions, incidentally since the sides fixtures in the conference, the Stags haven’t been beaten by Barrow at Field Mill, recording one win and two draws.
Back in September, Lindon Meikle’s second half strike in a 3-2 win, gave Mansfield their first taste of victory at Holker Street since 1969 – levelling the scores on the doors to 21 wins a piece, with 11 draws making up the rest of the 53 games.
The Stags went into the game at Holker Street with four clean sheets to their name, Louis Almonds 25th minute leveller ended a fine Stags run of 397 minutes without conceding.
Barrow 2-3 Stags 17.09.11 Line Up: [4-4-2] Marriott, O'Neill, Futcher , Sutton, Kendrick, Briscoe (Worthington), Murray (C), Howell, Meikle  (Bolland), Dyer (Connor), Green  SNU Redmond, Naylor
Podcast – Commentary from Craig Priest and Scott Rogers.
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