Craig Priest previews tomorrow’s home game with Ebbsfleet United.
Another beautiful day over Mansfield and again I find myself sat on the roof writing for a third consecutive day, if truth be told I keep losing concentration sat at my desk in my room – I’m nervous, I’m excited and as I wrote in my column for the Chad this week – I don’t want this season to come to end.
Tomorrow’s arrival of Ebbsfleet to Field Mill is the first of our final six games of the 2011/12 season – the start of six HUGE games which could shape our history for years to come. I think it quite poignant that our first ever game in the conference was against Ebbsfleet, now as we’re in the strongest position we’ve ever been in to actually get out of this horrible yet beautiful league, we face Ebbsfleet once more, looking to bounce back from a defeat at Fleetwood which saw an unbeaten run of eight games come to an end.
With Luton again taking on York tonight in one of the pairs two game in hands over ourselves, the ball remains in our court, regardless of the outcome we will still remain in 3rd a point clear of whoever is victorious – a draw would be even better! Some have labelled us lucky, saying that we’ve hit form at the right time and have estimated that eventually we will inevitably fall from grace – we must show those people that the defeat at Fleetwood isn’t the first trip of the fall, but merely a stumbling block to our climb – we must respond with a victory and go about our business in the way we have been doing. Be ruthless, be ugly, whatever – just be winners.
Again I’m not going to look beyond tomorrow’s game nor paint a picture of what could be, there are a lot of permutations, a lot of football to be played – a month or so Paul Cox was forever saying we had to keep on the ground and just let footballing nature take its course – I think the need to do this is more vital now than it ever will be. Sitting here in the afternoon sunshine I think back to our last few games, Fleetwood included, you the supporters have been phenomenal – it’s beautiful to stand in the press box and look around to see you all singing, dancing and enjoying our season – it’s dam hard too because sometimes I wish I could throw down my head set, grab a stags shirt and join in! As I say though, I get to stand and watch and my heart beats like a bullet train when that roar starts, that’s a blessing – I pray that this continues until the season has run its course, we are so focused on our game, giving our support, we are not letting other results affect us. It’s all about us and that’s the way it has to stay – it’s going to get harder as the finishing line approaches but I know deep down that we can do it. It’s all about us, our songs, creating our noise, spurring on our boys, getting the right result for our team – achieving our dream.
I’m going to hold my hands up now, I’m usually a great judge of character, I’ve a knack of predicting what will happen – I’ve said that I WON’T predict or paint pictures, not because I don’t want to tempt fate – but because I’m scared. I honestly am frightened of us, as a team, as a football club – we are something special, I’m not being arrogant when I say that either, I sense something extraordinary about us we’ve got this burning desire, this ability, this collectiveness and in a sense – this LOVE about us. Waking up every match day morning I’m far more nervous then I ever have been before, I can’t wait to get into the ground, to sample the atmosphere to watch what unfolds. It’s a horrible comparison and involves my greatest fear but I compare us to a solitary candle, burning slowly, calmly and peacefully but over a box full of lighter fluid, firelighters and fireworks – in every game we play we burn with that added bit of energy, we burn with that extra adrenaline which uncontrollably comes from nowhere – we are a ticking time bomb, our hot wax is starting to drip and soon we are going to explode, sending the flames high into the sky spreading a message to the wider world. I have no idea what that message is, when it will happen and indeed how we will react, but that anticipation, that anxiety to whiteness first hand the final outcome is driving me crazy – all this pent up emotion is brilliant – I love it, I really do – tomorrow can’t come quick enough!
Our opponents tomorrow Ebbsfleet are currently sat mid-table and in a few games time will pretty much have nothing left to play for with the play-offs out of reach and relegation only possible with one hell of a slump – although in this league anything is possible! Against the current top five Liam Daish’s men, who were promoted via the blue square south play-offs last season, have failed to pick up anything – being beaten by Fleetwood, Wrexham, Southport, York and ourselves – conceding 25 in games against the current top five the fleet have replied with just seven goals of their own. It’s Ebbsfleet’s inconstancy which has perhaps halted their ambitions of a better season, prior to writing this I watched the highlights of their recent 1-0 victory against troubled Kettering, the amount of chances they created was unreal and yet they only scored once – maybe a little fire power to go alongside the 17 goals from former Fulham youngster Calum Willock and the 10 from Liam Enver-Marum and Ebbsfleet could be placed a little higher. At the back it’s pretty much a similar case, they have good individuals but fail to come together as a unit, giving them the 5th worst defensive record in the division. On the road Daish’s men are a sharper unit than the one we faced at Stonebridge Road, with an away record ranked tenth the story of unbalanced attack and defence shines through, having scored and conceded 14 goals on their last six travels. Put simply, the way I see it, if Ebbsfleet turn up you’ll have a difficult game on your hands – as Paul Cox says we must prepare for every eventuality, Ebbsfleet for me are a team that can spring a surprise or two, sometimes it’s those who you don’t suspect who will cause the most damage. Going back to what I said earlier – tomorrow’s game is one will must win and approach in the same way we have been doing.
In the week I was pleased to see that John Thompson completed a full 90 minutes in a reserve team friendly, drawing 2-2 at Field Mill with Notts County. It’s reported that he came through the game fine and no occurrence of the injuries that have restricted him to just seven appearances. Will he straight into the side tomorrow, I doubt it but on the grand scale of things, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name appearing on the team sheet sooner rather than later, players like John will be key to our run in. I’d certainly expect us to go back to a 4-4-2 tomorrow and whilst I’d be disappointed to see him miss out, I think it will be Anthony Howell the man replaced for Louis Briscoe, depending on how Skipper Adam Murray’s ankle is holding up.
That’s pretty much it from out here, it’s getting fairly breezy and I’m starting to get some funny looks off the neighbours! If you can’t get to Field Mill tomorrow, join me for regular updates on 106.9FM only with build up from 2pm.
Last Time We Met
Back at the end of January our good form of five unbeaten from Boxing Day continued with a 3-0 victory. A brace from creative midfielder Gary Roberts plus another goal from leading front man Matt Green was enough to take the points in a game which Mansfield showed there grit and determination, digging deep from start to finish.
Liam Daish’s men, the first side we ever faced outside the football league, and the Stags have met only twice at Field Mill, both times it has been the Stags who claimed victory. A 2-0 in April 2009 was followed by a 3-0 victory in august the same year as we moved to the top of the league table, looking to escape the conference at the second attempt. Ebbsfleet have been victorious over us, winning the reverse fixture of that season 2-1.
Ebbsfleet 0-3 Stags 28.1.12 Line Up: [4-4-2] Marriott, Sutton, Dempster, Riley, O'Neill, Dyer, Murray (C), Roberts , Smith (Meikle), Hutchinson (Howell), Green  (Briscoe). SNU Redmond, Edwards
Podcast: Commentary comes from Craig Priest
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