_ Craig Priest looks ahead to tomorrow’s home tie with Lincoln City, after a historic week of action at Field Mill...
I don’t usually have a problem when it comes to writing a match preview, I usually start with the previous result, league table and general mood around the camp and work from there, this week it’s impossible – these past 48 hours as a Stags fan have been crazy, it’s actually quite easy to forget we have a game tomorrow, one vital to our play-off push and what which see’s the return of our former manager and at least two former players.
If you didn’t know already, Stags chairman John Radford has written his name into folk law this week by securing a lease on Field Mill, allowing us to gain promotion to the football league, as well as purchasing the free hold of the ground this morning – put simply, Mansfield Town Football Club now own Field Mill, the Haslam ties have been finally cut. After many years of protest against our former owner, chairman and now landlord, Stags fans are breathing a huge sigh of relief as the Haslam black cloud is lifted allowing the light to shine – no doubt tomorrow will be one hell of a party, I for one can’t wait to be there.
Thursday’s historic news obviously allows the club to start again but primarily it allows Paul Cox’s side to be promoted and compete in the play-offs should they finish there in 13 games time, something which the 40 year old boss faced last season with his former club Eastwood Town. After hours upon hours of celebrating, like I wrote for my Chad column this morning, it’s time to let the football do the talking – after all the negativity, all the disappointment and pain endured in recent years, the cloud has been lifted and now Mansfield game becomes beautiful again.
We already know that tomorrow’s game will have an electric atmosphere, the excellent ticket offer put in place by the club seems to have gone down well, by pre-purchasing a ticket for tomorrow’s game you get a ticket for our home clash with Fleetwood FREE, providing it’s done before noon tomorrow – why can I see floods of amber and blue packing Quarry Lane, such a beautiful sight. Adding to the spice of things is the return of a former Stags boss, David Holdsworth currently occupies the managers chair at Lincoln was. as we know, at the Field Mill helm from December 2008 to November 2010 with his first game as manager coming on Saturday 17th January 2009 following another big freeze!
Since his Field Mill departure in November 2010 following a 2-1 defeat at Forest Green Rovers, the former Sheffield United man has not really been seen in the best of lights by Stags fans, myself included, ‘famed’ for his revolving door-esc transfer system, player fall outs and inconsistent results. I’ve no doubt that tomorrow the reception towards him will not be a welcoming one, especially given a few of the comments he’s made in the imp’s local press this week! Reading a few of the articles has baffled me a little, they seem to imply that the former Ilkeston manager walked away with us in a good position rather than being sacked following a run which had potential to see us drop rather than climb, especially with some of the shifts we put in. One of his last actions as Stags boss was too strip Steve Foster of captaincy, also stating that Steve would never play for the club again, practically blaming the Mansfield born centre backs red card for the defeat, although as I remember it, we we’re already losing 2-0 when Fozzy was dismissed! I don’t really know why the former Sheffield United defender, who made footballing history whilst in charge, failed to deliver on so many of his promises, in the end I think he failed to get a settled squad together and never really took control of the dressing room, the players he brought in we’re 80% good names with a good history and good reputation, I don’t think the same could be said by the time they departed. An exception to the rule would be Jon Shaw, who whilst failing to deliver during his 14 game stay at Field Mill, has since flourished at new club Gateshead, especially this season with 23 goals so far. Jon’s stay was one of just under five months, many others failed to last as long, it almost seemed at times like there was a new squad every three months – I kept a log of Holdsworth’s signings but even given my epic maths skills, lost track – I think it was 62 in the end!
Anyway, I’m not going to look back over the Holdsworth reign he got off to a great start with that unbeaten home record in 2009 but by 2010 had finished on a bit of a whimper, with the kit man tired of printing new names! He’s gone, so have all but four of his players and we are in a much better position under Paul Cox, two points off the play-offs with a game in hand over play-off rivals Kidderminster and Southport, not dropping out of the top ten since the end of August. A look at tomorrow’s opponents will tell you they sit in 17th place, five points off the drop zone, which in fairness they’ve gradually climbed away from since Holdsworth’s arrival on October 24th, six days after the sides last meeting a 1-1 draw. The last couple of years haven’t been so great for the Imps, who suffered relegation to the conference last season after an almighty flump in their final ten games, drawing one losing the other nine. The previous season also saw the once regular play-off side in a relegation fight, eventually finishing a few places above the dreaded drop. This season adjustment to conference life hasn’t been easy and prior to our former managers arrival, pretty much continued where they’d left off drawing their opening game before two consecutive defeats was followed by victory, the first in the last 15 competitive league outings under Steve Tilson, who picked up a further two conference victory’s before his dismissal following a 4-0 defeat at Tamworth.
The Imps have lost 65% of their away games this season and come with the fourth worst away attack in the division, failing to score in 53% of their away games and only having an average of 0.88 goals per game when the ball does find the net. Their away defence however is considerably stronger only shipping 1.71 goals per game on average, a 1-0 defeat is the most common score line on the road, happening five times so far. Like when he arrived at Field Mill, Holdsworth has begun work strengthening the side, making according to my notes 18 signings thus far, with some of those signings having to return to parent clubs or, like the bye-gone days, departing by mutual consent. Former Stags Luke Medley, Tyrone Thompson (both part of the Holdsworth 62) have donned the red and white stripes with the former also departing following the expiry of his loan after six substitute appearances. Another former Stag is also now turning out in Lincoln colours; Nialle Rodney (signed by Paul Cox on loan from Bradford earlier this season) is on loan at Sincil Bank until the end of the season. Jefferson Louis, who spent time at Field Mill in 2008, is also plying his trade for Lincoln having been signed by Holdsworth back in January, he’s scored two goals in three games so far whilst his cousin Richard Pacquette, also a former Stag, has also played five games for tomorrow’s visitors with three goals to his name, also under our former manager who inherited Richard when taking over.
Over the last ten games Holdsworth’s men have picked up two victories (Forest Green away 17/12 – 2-0) (Southport home 24/01 – 2-0) lost four and drawn four, with three of those draws coming over the past three games, meaning the Imps enter tomorrow’s game with an unbeaten run of three whilst we ourselves can only boast an unbeaten run of two. However on the flip side, if you take out the defeat at Newport, our only defeat in 2012, you have to go back to December 17th for our last defeat, our 3-1 loss away to Southport meaning in our last ten games, we have lost just two, drawn three and won the other five. Our home form is fairly impressive too, having not lost at Field Mill since November – Cambridge United being the last team to take all three points away with a 2-1 win on the afternoon of bonfire night, this gives us an unbeaten run on home soil of seven matches, winning the last four home games on the bounce, something last achieved in 2008-09 when we got five home wins on the bounce during Billy McEwans tenure. Coincidentally the last time the Stags had an unbeaten run of 7 home games unbeaten was under the management of Mr Holdsworth, between September and December 2009, with four home wins and three draws – the home wins we’re NOT back to back. The longest sequence without defeat at home also came under the now Lincoln chief, an unbeaten of 15 at home spanned two seasons (the back end of 2008-09 and the start of 2009-10) before being ended by Stevenage Borough.
Away from all the stats tomorrow is a mammoth day, taking all things into consideration it will be a party for sure, let’s just make sure the atmosphere is a positive one and that there is no trace of hate – Field Mill is ours now, let’s fill it, let’s get it rocking at lets back Paul and the lads to do the rest, propelling us into the play-offs with 12 games (after tomorrow) to go! If you can’t get to the game, be sure to join myself and Wayne Briggs throughout the afternoon on 106.9FM ONLY as we’ve regular updates, with build up from 2pm. Get in touch as per via TEXTING 07982 865 624 FACEBOOK – TWITTER – EMAIL.
_Last Time We Met
Back in October on the back of a home defeat to Southport, Paul Cox’s side we’re forced to come from behind to take a point from then Grant Brown’s side, with Matt Green’s 86th minute strike preventing the caretaker Imps boss victory as the sides met for the first time outside of the football league. Mansfield V Lincoln fixtures have always provided some fizz, with the Imps more productive at Field Mill in recent years, a 3-1 win in August 2007 is matched with a 4-2 win in 2006. A goalless draw and a 2-2 draw takes us further back to a 2-1 Lincoln win in December 2003 – Mansfield’s last home win over the imps came via the same scoreline in September 2001 – Wayne Corden and Chris Greenacre bagged for the Stags.
Lincoln 1-1 Stags 18.10.11 Line Up: [4-4-2] Marriott, O'Neill, Riley, Sutton, Kendrick, Dyer (Briscoe), Bolland, Murray (C), Meikle (Todd), Connor, Green . SNU Redmond, Worthington, Day.
PODCAST: With commentary from Craig Priest and Scott Rogers
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