Craig Priest looks ahead to tomorrow afternoons trip to league leaders Fleetwood...
Doctors and opticians around Mansfield this week have been over busy, after witnessing the Stags score 13 goals in two games, Stags have been flocking to the doctors to check there heart rate and state of mind, as well as getting their eyes tested!
Joking aside it’s been great to see the goals flying in and the points adding to our tally, however it wasn’t so great on Tuesday seeing us concede three in the manor which we did – three defensive mistakes which, if are repeated tomorrow at Fleetwood, will cause a lot more damage. Anyway, negatives aside what a time to be travelling to the league leaders, 7 against Barrow, 6 against Alfreton... who dares suggest 5 against Fleetwood!? Not me, that’s for certain.
Like in my match preview for the reverse fixture some nine days ago at Field Mill, I write with no fear ahead of our match with the league leaders. There’s no arrogance in my words, which I’m sure of, but on the flip side there’s no dark cloud of expectancy either. Despite our high goal supremacy over the last two fixtures and despite the well earned point in the reverse fixture, I know it will be tough, but if there was no toughness in football, then it would be pointless. I thrive on fixture’s where we have to scrap, have to fight, have to go hell for leather from start to finish – because these are all traits of winners, trust me when I say that nobody, get’s anywhere without having to be tough and ruthless.
I highly doubt it’ll be a goal glut, in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if it ended 0-0, I’d take that now by the way, I’m not saying this because I don’t believe we’re capable of scoring big a third game running – we can do anything if we truly wanted to, I’m saying this because looking at the two sides of late, virtually nothing can separate them.
Over the last eight games, the form table looks as follows: [1st] Fleetwood Town – W7 D1 GD +18 POINTS 22 / [2nd] Mansfield Town – W7 D1 GD +17 POINTS 22 – Just one goal separating the two sides at this stage of the season is phenomenal, and also huge credit to the job Paul Cox and his player have done. Our away form matches Fleetwood’s home form; both have four wins from their last five. In front of goal for the entire season, Fleetwood are the front runners with 92 goals, Stags are in second place with 73. I doubt even Mystic Meg could predict this one.
Some reports have suggested the reverse fixture to be all Fleetwood, others have suggested Mansfield, personally I remember it as a tight affair where one defensive lapse cost the Stags a goal, whilst dominant determination got them one back. Fleetwood had their chances, we had ours – ultimately the two sides cancelled each other out. I think they’ll do the same again tomorrow, however something Paul Cox mentioned about the reverse fixture has been going around in my mind. The Stags boss, who will not be leaving for Burton, said that whilst we were perhaps timid in our attacking play, there came a point when as a squad we realised that we could take the game if we started to be ourselves – thinking back there was a point when we did, just after brining Matt Rhead on we played with a bit more truth in our attacks, almost as if we’d said ‘forgot you being top, forget your on fire front line, we’re fighting for something too, and it’s not going to stop now’ If we do the same a little earlier tomorrow and remain tight at the back, then who knows what could happen. Sometimes looking at form guides, league tables and results can blur your vision; those who are successful look at what is within to achieve the best result.
If we are prepared, if we are solid and constant – then we can be the victors of the seemingly unbeatable.
Fleetwood’s home form is to be admired in fairness, as is their season on a whole. Only one team have left Highbury with all three points that was FA Trophy finalists Newport, who ran out 4-1 winners back in October. The 4-1 defeat was not only Mickey Melons’ sides last home defeat, it was also there last league defeat in total, going onto pick up twenty victories and four draws, propelling them to the top of the league standings five points clear of second placed Wrexham who have two games in hand and still have to travel to Highbury. In comparison our away form isn’t that far behind rivalling the cod army’s home form, picking up three defeats at Southport, Gateshead and Newport, it’s been draws that have prevented us from bettering our 42% away win rating.
Fleetwood are now unbeaten in 24 league games whilst we have picked up just one defeat in 15 fixtures, leading front man Matt Green is just four goals behind Fleetwood’s Jamie Vardy in the golden boot race, joint second with Liam Hearn chasing the aforementioned Vardy and former Stag Jon Shaw, whose unstoppable for Gateshead. Both sides are in form, both sides have strengths, both have weakness’ – both are as dangerous as each other and nobody, without the aid of doctor who’s tardis, can see whose going to win.
Whatever happens it will be a thrilling tale, would defeat de-rail us? Possibly, but every ones bound to lose sometime, including Fleetwood. Would defeat end our play-off hopes? Don’t be silly. Would we recover from defeat? Without a doubt. Will we be beaten? Personally I don’t think so and want to slap myself rather hard around the face for even mentioning the ‘D’ word – I’m not being arrogant, or over confident, I’m trying to be honest and true to what and who we are – we are unique, we are an energy, we are a puzzle that I’m no rush to solve!
That’s about it this time round, not much has changed since the last time we faced each other, will the 5-0 defeat from our last Highbury visit play on our minds? Again no. It’s not about the past, it’s not about the future either, it’s about the here and now – a 90 minute battle between two good teams, the beautiful games rollercoaster twisting and turning at full speed, the sea tide taking whatever path it chooses.
Seven more games, twenty-one more points on offer, four places in the lottery, one winner, three losers – numbers, irrelevant numbers, tomorrow it’s all about whoever stays on their feet rather than fall, and even if they do – they’ll still be plenty of track to run.
In team news, Skipper Adam Murray is the only doubt after picking up a knock at Alfreton on Tuesday, he's since been suffering with a sore ankle. Gary Roberts could be the man to replace him whilst John Thompson is fit, but with a lack of match action not match fit.
Let’s focus on tomorrow and continue to do whatever it is we have been! If you can’t get to take in the sea air, be sure to join myself and Scott Rogers for full match commentary on 106.9FM and MM-LIVE, build up gets underway on BOTH at 2.30pm.
Last Time We Met
As mentioned earlier in the piece, it was a week last Tuesday when the two in form sides hocked horns at Field Mill. A fast paced, ferocious, tight encounter was played out at a buzzing Field Mill, which erupted when Exodus Geohaghon headed home a 90th minute Luke O’Neill corner to cancel out an 81st minutes Jamie Vardy opener to take a well deserved point and keep our unbeaten run going.
Tomorrow’s trip will be our third to Fleetwood’s Highbury, having been beaten 3-0 last season and 5-0 this season in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round replay with a severely ill squad.
Stags 1-1 Fleetwood 13.3.12 line up: [4-5-1] Marriott, O'Neill, Riley, Geohaghon , Sutton, Dyer, Murray (C), Worthington (Rhead), Howell, Meikle (Briscoe), Green. SNU Redmond, Hutchinson, Andrews
Audio highlights: Commentary from Craig Priest and Wayne Briggs
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