Craig Priest Previews tomorrow afternoon’s trip to Nene Park
In all my time as a Stags fan and indeed broadcaster, I have never seen us in a position where our actions could prove the final hammer blow for our opponents, win tomorrow and opponents Kettering are relegated.
There probably has been a situation like this in the last ten years but I’ve not come across it in my notes, but that said it’s not just the fate of one team that is affected tomorrow – a win for Stags would not only relegate Kettering, it would go a huge way to sealing out place in the end of season play-offs, anyone else feeling the pressure a bit? And has anyone else seen that truck load of monkeys driving round Nene Park throwing banana skin after banana skin onto the pitch?
For me, tomorrow’s game is a lot bigger than three points – call me negative, call me pessimistic etc but I’m really worried about the encounter at Nene Park tomorrow, the old saying about over confidence and under estimation is fast creeping into my mind. You look at our league position, our run of form, 2nd in the last eight form guide (6 wins 1 draw and 1 defeat) compared to Kettering, 22nd with the exact opposite (1 win 1 draw and 6 defeats) and already you get a picture of the game and how the result will go. Add into the mix the fact we’ve score 20 goals in our last eight and that Kettering have conceded 11, the vision gets broader, the confidence builds up. The cherry on top of the cake? The video highlights of the recent game between Ebbsfleet and Kettering.
I watched this video before we played Ebbsfleet last week and I’m going to hold my hands up now, I said straight away that if we came out even at half pace we would easily repeat the seven we scored against Barrow. From the start the poppies players looked beaten, they held a poor shape and allowed Ebbsfleet through countless times with extremely poor communication rather than outstanding football creating at least 12 clear cut chances on goal. Set pieces we’re flat and in open play, Kettering lacked flare, conviction, concentration and desire. I know by know your mouths drooling at the prospect at Louis Briscoe, Adam Smith and Lindon Meikle getting down the wings, Murray and Roberts pulling the strings in the middle with Green bagging them in for fun right? Admit it; I was the same – looking in the mirror reading this back I’ve never wanted to slap myself so much for the sheer arrogance.
Whilst there is a strong possibility this could be the case tomorrow, I think those money’s may have opportunity to chuckle – forgetting everything that’s dampened Kettering’s season, tomorrow’s game is make or break – you can’t begin to imagine how much of an inspiration that could prove to be for Kettering’s players. A team on the thinnest of thin ice, hanging on by the shortest, loosest of threads, can often pull together and fight like they’ve never fought before, especially at ‘home’. I am going to slap myself, once maybe twice, I should not be arrogant ahead of the fixture, after all it’s ultimately because of our relegation that our desire to win is so high – we’re closer than we’ve ever been to returning, we can’t let it go.
I sympathise with Kettering fans, knowing you’re about to be relegated with controversial off field issues also playing a part is horrible, we should know – that was us back in 2007/08 season remember.
Reading the Kettering forum, most fans seem to think they we’re relegated before even kicking a ball, anticipating a season of financial woe when they moved out of there Rocking Road house and into Nene Park, former home of local rivals Rushden and Diamonds who of course sadly folded at the end of last season. Results we’re woeful under the initial management of Morrell Maison, who lasted just seven games as manager. An opening day win at Nene Park over Newport was followed by two draws and four defeats, including the 3-0 loss at Field Mill before Maison quit. Mark Stimson then took the job on September 7th and improved form slightly lifting the club away from the drop zone but when financial constraint in November came out, former Gillingham boss Stimson was forced to let players move elsewhere after months of not being paid. This of course led to the arrival of Aman Verma and Marcus Kelly to Field Mill, initially on loan the duo were set for a January transfer but this somehow fell through and they returned to Kettering, featuring heavily for the stretched poppies since. Conceding 10 to no reply over the Christmas/ New Year games against Luton was the last straw for Stimson who then walked away, letting former Darlington boss Mark Cooper return for a second spell at Kettering. Cooper walked out after one game as several promises of money, wages etc made by the board turned out to be a road of rubbish. Former poppies defender Ashley Westwood then took caretaker charge, a role he will remain in until the end of the season when a new manager will be appointed, with former Cambridge owner George Rolls conducting the interviews as he now affectively owns Kettering – I know nothing about politics in football and as I’ve said before, have no desire too.
Westwood, who is also registered as a player, lost his first game in charge but then won twice to temporally lift Kettering from the drop zone, however with no funds and still a long list of unpaid players, the rookie manager has often been unable to fill the bench and has paid the consequences of inheriting a weak squad, loosing eight games from the last ten. Rumours of it being a case of whoever turns up on the day to play are defiantly believable. You have to feel sorry for Kettering but as I said before, remain wary of what they can do – ever heard about the scorned woman? It can be the same in football.
Paul Cox will no doubt be aware of that and despite having strong feelings for Kettering, who he turned out for over 100 times during his playing days, will have prepared his play-off chasing, points and goal hungry squad for what is to come. It’s horrible but you don’t lose 25 games for no reason, be as a club who want to be successful, must be ruthless, must exploit every mistake and look to inflict more misery, not purposely obviously, on the side that have conceded 85 goals all season – the worst goals against record from the premier league right down to the conference.
It’s a huge game at Nene Park tomorrow, if you can’t get then tune your radio’s to 106.9FM (2pm) and log onto our MM-LIVE page from 2.30pm as myself and Wayne Briggs, a late change to the commentary line up, have FULL MATCH COMMENTARY as usual.
Last Time We Met
Condemning Morrell Maison to his third defeat of the season as poppies boss, the Stags finally got off the mark in the wins column following three 1-1 draws and a 3-0 beating at Gateshead as we made a slow a sluggish start to what could now prove a successful campaign. Goals for Louis Briscoe, Matt Green and Ross Dyer brushed aside the poppies and banked our first clean sheet of the season. The victory sparked a winning run of five on the bounce; a mirror image would be beautiful!
Since Mansfield’s arrival in the conference, Kettering have failed to beat the Stags on home soil, with Stags clocking up two wins and a draw in the three times the sides have done battle away from Field Mill.
Stags 3-0 Kettering 27.8.11 Line Up: [4-4-2] Marriott, O'Neill, Futcher, Riley (Sutton), Kendrick, Briscoe , Murray (C) (Worthington*), Howell, Meikle, Green , Dyer  (Connor) SNU Redmond, Stevenson
PODCAST: Commentary comes from Craig Priest
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