Craig Priest looks ahead to tomorrow night’s TV encounter with second placed Wrexham...
Following our 3-1 victory of Hayes and Yeading United last weekend, our place in the play-offs as we all know is sealed meaning that for us, the final two fixtures against Wrexham and Kidderminster are fairly pointless apart from ensuring we head into the play-off lottery suspension and injury free.
We’ve beaten the clubs highest points tally with our current 83 beating the 81 set in the 1985-86 campaign, we’ve also notched up 10 away wins for the first time since the 1991-92 season and with one away trip remaining have a real shot at bagging 11 away victories for the first time since the 1976-77 season – what could possibly be better than this? How about cementing 3rd spot and sealing the all important home advantage in the second leg? Some say this doesn’t matter as it’s the two games of football that will define weather you get a shot at promotion rather than the venue, but in all honesty – out of the current crop of play-off sides (not including Wrexham who have already sealed second spot and the other home advantage) Stags have the best home record with 13 wins, 6 draws and only 3 defeats compared to York’s (4th) 10 wins 6 draws and 6 defeat and Kidderminster’s (5th) 10 wins, 7 draws and 5 defeats. Out of the current play-off sides, again not including tomorrow’s opponents Wrexham, the Stags are the highest home scorers with 48, only York have a better goals against tally, conceding 24 to our 25.
If stats aren’t enough to convince you we’d be better off at home in the second leg, how about this, the most important part of any football club: the support. There is no doubt that our support at Field Mill is outstanding, this season especially since the turn of the year we’ve really done ourselves proud, remaining loud and supportive even when things weren’t quite going in our favour – I’ll never forget the Fleetwood home game, nonstop noise, even when we conceded we rallied, we kept singing and in turn, we sent a message to our players – we are behind you, we believe in you – in the final minute we we’re reward, cheers Exodus! There have been so many games where I’ve had to attach a seat belt to my chair in the press box to stop the vibrations from around the ground launching me onto the pitch like a rocket! I genuinely feel, if we can get the usual singing crowd together in the play-offs, we can go on and win. I’ve never known support like ours, it’s beautiful – the love and passion we demonstrate is second to none, the togetherness we’ve so clearly been missing over the years is back and the bond is stronger than ever – as it says on the team picture from the start of the season ‘One team: one dream’ If I we’re an opposition manager, I’d be seriously worried if I had to bring my team to Field Mill for the second leg – coming to Field Mill and facing us with the crowd and our stance is difficult enough, I’d be even more worried if my team had to overturn a 2-0 score line in the second leg as well – I’m not going to paint pictures as looking too far ahead, you fail to see the lamppost your about to walk into, all I will say is that we are more than capable of going away and getting a decent lead.
Being at home in the second leg would be a massive psychological advantage – we only need a point to secure third, no matter what Luton or York do in their remaining games. I say let’s go out and do it, and as I said in my Chad column this week, we are more than capable of doing so with whatever side we put to the field.
Moving onto tomorrow night’s game, a 7.30pm kick off due to TV coverage (they’d better not put the camera gantry in front of my seat again!) it’s Wrexham who come to Field Mill for what actually could prove to be, a very dull reserve team like affair, as both sides will be wanting to rest legs and not give away any trade secrets ahead of the play-offs. Providing Stags finish 3rd or 4th, they will avoid the North Wales based side in the semi’s and but could, touch wood, potentially meet again at Wembley, to fight it out for a place in league two – rather ironic as the two sides we’re relegated together back in 2008, Wrexham finished bottom though with Stags above in 23rd.
Questions may well be raised to what Wrexham’s mindset will be like having missed out on clinching automatic promotion and indeed, the league title – the dragons’ 2-2 draw with Grimsby last weekend ensure Fleetwood the title after a nervy two games against Wrexham and Lincoln. No matter the questions of mentality, it’s been a great season for player-manager Andy Morrell’s side, securing new owners and like us, ridding themselves of nagging off field issues, they’ve been able to concentrate on the beautiful game. Former Coventry hit man Morrell is now on his second spell with the Dragons’ initially returning as a player the previous summer, before taking over initially as caretaker manager from Dean Saunders, when he jumped ship to Doncaster earlier this season. A good run of form saw Morrell loose just once in nine games before being handed the post on a permanent basis, the defeat incidentally was to our good selves.
Since taking the job on a permanent basis, Morrell who has netted over 60 times in just shy of 200 league appearances for Wrexham, the dragons kicked on and went on a 16 game unbeaten run, grabbing 13 wins and six draws, breaking a club record of consecutive clean sheets on the way, going seven matches without conceding with four victories and three goalless draws. Aside from the solid defence, the best in the league shipping only 0.70 goals per game, the front line has been fairly hot too, netting 1.84 goals per game former Stags striker Jake Speight has twenty to his name whilst boss Morrell is on 12, closely followed by French man Mathias Pogba whose on 11 – only the Stags, Kidderminster and champions Fleetwood have score more than the North Wales based side in the conference this season.
On the road, the Dragons have only been beaten three times, Barrow, Stockport and Forest Green in the game which ended that aforementioned unbeaten run – Morrell’s side have drawn five and won the other 13 of their away games, the second highest number of away wins in the division only to Fleetwood, netting 36 shipping fourteen.
It’ll be a close game with a result that won’t make or break either sides season as both are guaranteed a play-off spot, offer me a point now to secure 3rd and I’ll bite your hand off and we can watch BBC comedy rather than football and continue our play-off rest! Only kidding, football’s football – let’s play ball! We’ve a home record to protect, currently on 13 home wins for the season and without defeat on home soil since November 5th against Cambridge. Our highest tally of home wins in the conference is 14 with five draws and four defeats set in the 2008-09 season when we went on that impressive unbeaten home run under David Holdsworth – with a total home points tally of 47 set that season, a win tomorrow night would take this seasons home points tally to 48, setting a new highest points tally outside the football league and becoming the second highest since we last achieved promotion in 2001-02.
If you can’t get, be sure to log onto MM-LIVE and 106.9FM from 7pm for build up followed by regular updates with myself and Wayne Briggs – if you’re a premier sports subscriber and plan to watch it on the telly, press MUTE and get the best of both worlds!
Last Time We Met:
Earlier in the season we disrupted the dragons season by defeating the then league leaders 3-1. In a game that saw a red card for both with a lot of controversy surrounding the second of the two reds, it ended up being tighter than the score line suggests, Paul Connor’s goal in the 5th minute of added on time wrapped things up and sealed our first victory on North Welsh soil since 1986.
The two sides are no strangers to each other, with a history that spans 83 games and 243 goals – the Stags have the better goals total down the years with 124 to Wrexham’s 119. At Field Mill, or the One Call Stadium if you will be modern about things, the Stags have clocked up 19 victories to Wrexham’s eight, the other eight fixtures against the Dragons at Field Mill have ended all square – the Stags have netted 70 goals conceding 37 down the years at Field Mill.
Wrexham 1-3 Stags 27.09.12 Line Up: [4-4-1-1] Marriott, Naylor [So 2ndY], Futcher, Sutton, O'Neill, Dyer, Howell, Worthington (Bolland), Todd, Murray (C), Green [1p] (Connor ) SNU Redmond, Riley, Meikle.
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