Craig Priest writes ahead of tomorrow afternoons all or nothing game as York City visit the One Call Stadium
It’s just gone noon Sunday, I’m sat at my desk shaking like a leaf, feeling sick to the pit of my stomach, unable to eat, barley able to drink – the nerves I feel ahead of tomorrow’s second leg are far worse than those I felt prior to Wednesday’s first leg. In my ten years following the Stags both in the terraces and with the press, I’ve never known a game as important as tomorrow – I daren’t think of what defeat would do to us having come so far, nor dare I think of what victory would do either, I just don’t know what to expect and that frightens me to the point of tears.
Whatever happens tomorrow afternoon, I will be proud of the boys and proud of us, the supports and the club as one – a year ago I was sat here penning my match report and blog on the heartbreaking FA Trophy, the pride I felt that day of our tired broken players giving it one last shot at glory, doesn’t even compare to the pride I feel reflecting on this season. The change of attitude towards fixtures and opponents, the change in personnel and structure, the passion and commitment is second to none – in fact I don’t think there’s a club in the world that are as together as we are right now – tomorrow we have to go and make this pay, it’s simple really – win tomorrow we have 90 more minutes to go, 90 minutes to reach the football league after a four season absence, lose tomorrow and it’s a fifth season away and 46 more games, roughly 4,140 minutes of football we’re we have to start from scratch and fight the others following their promotion dream.
It’s horrible in a way that there’s no middle ground, one team is a winner, the other a looser – a harshness for BOTH sides to face tomorrow after different yet positive seasons for the respective sides. I’m going to hold my hands up now and say this, I’d rather us lose in 90 minutes that extra time or worse, penalties – I don’t think I can take the pain again. I’m sorry that I’ve mentioned the L (loss) word, I didn’t want too but in this situation it’s 50:50 – the first leg counts for nothing now due to the final score, we must not dwell on it, we must not remain angry at Green’s dismissal, we must not reflect on the own goal and discuss who should have done what, we must not be aggrieved at decisions that didn’t go in our favour – all of that’s gone now, it’s all about the 90 minutes tomorrow afternoon – it’s about keeping our nerve, standing tall, fending off the opposing attacking and striking when we can – If we look back, we fail to see what’s in front of us, the same applies to if we look past tomorrow’s fixture – look to far ahead and you fail to see the trailing leg which trips you up prior to the finishing line.
The ball is firmly in our court, coming back home level is good and in my opinion is actually better than having a lead, I’m not crazy and I’d have loved a lead coming back to Field Mill, I just think that a lead sometimes takes your focus away and will lower your defences as the visitors go for it all guns blazes, before you know it they have one back, the focus has gone, the momentum is with them, they pull level, your shell shocked, they grab another and suddenly your doing the chasing, you’re on the back foot – don’t believe me? Ask the class of 03-04! Being level tomorrow means that we have to fight as much as York, we are on our own pitch, in front of our own, sold out, phenomenal crowd – the passion at Field Mill, the desire and belief from the fans mixed in with the players drive and ability is something the visitors won’t have on their side, it’s something we must hurt them with. Back at school (on the rare occasion I was in attendance) we had a lesson about peer pressure and loneliness once, the teacher made a square of four tables with a gap in the middle, I was made to sit on the floor in the middle looking up whilst ever class member stomped around the tables above, hurling abuse at my character, singing, chanting for their team against mine – there are what 1,500 York fans at one end at the stadium tomorrow to our 7,000+ spread around the ground, if we can vocally box York in, make them feel small and weak like my character felt that day, then we will have the upper hand and if we apply this in the correct manor we can really push on and seal our Wembley fate.
Selection wise the gaffer has a massive task on his hands tomorrow, with Matt Green suspended and Riley and Meikle with injury scares, he has to pick not only the players who have the ability, but those who have the mental strength to get us through. Also coming back home does the gaffer change formations from 4-3-3 (later a counter attacking 4-2-3-1) to a 4-4-2, if so which of the midfield trio miss out? Gary Roberts vision and range is unbelievable at this level, it’s sometime no other team has and something we need to stretch the game when the pressure is building. Anthony Howell has applied himself tremendously after arriving to many critics (myself included), his sharp tackling nature, ariel and positional strength shouldn’t be frowned upon. Adam Murray, our captain, has passion burning a lot deeper than we all think, the words he writes for his blog are not media jumble they come from the heart, he is so fired up for the challenge so ready for the fight that the love, belief, ability, skill and work ethic he leads us with is like having an extra player – games like tomorrow we’re the games Adam Murray was born to play in. He has his critics, every player does, I beg of you all tomorrow, especially those who haven’t been for a while (NOTE: This is not a dig either) there should be no criticism, no negativity, no hate – just love, support and most of all passion. Look back at our transformation, the caption on that squad photo of ‘One Team: One Dream’ is not just a caption, it’s a truth – time to honour it, with 90 minutes (more should it still be more – hope not!) of sheer noise, let’s make 7th may the date we remember for raising the roof, combining as one to reach the big final, rather than the date we lost in the dying seconds at Wembley in a cup final – those days are gone now.
There is a good possibility of extra-time and the dreaded penalty shootout, I don’t want to think about but for my notes for the commentary, I have to prepare for it – I’m not going to list who I think will take, one nor talk about stats, today stats can do one! What I am saying is, of it does head into extra time I want us all to be courageous, remain loud remain positive and keep singing – our noise is the players venom and driving force, the players venom and driving force is out noise – together we are one, together we can get through, together we are Mansfield Town Football Club, the club with a fresh spirit heading in one direction only.
I mentioned that stats count for nothing, we head into the game without a defeat at home since November and only three home defeats all season, netting 50 goals shipping exactly half. York have won 12 away games and lost just three – practically inseparable and as I said at the top of the piece it’s about keeping our nerve, standing tall, fending off the opposing attacking and striking when we can.
We are at OUR home, we have 90 minutes to keep OUR dream alive – let’s tomorrow OUR DAY! BELIEVE.
Sometimes the most ordinary things can be made extraordinary simply by doing them with the right people – tomorrow we have to do something ordinary: win a football match, let’s make it extraordinary by being vocal, proud, passionate and TOGETHER – our time has come, let’s go and bloody take it eh!
If you can’t get tomorrow, then I urge you to tune your radio’s into 106.9FM or log onto our MM-LIVE page from 12.30pm – they’ll be extended highlights of the first leg plus unrivalled build up and extended coverage of the match itself, Wayne Briggs and Scott Rogers will be joining me throughout. I think we’re going to be stationed at the back of the west lower (next to the PA Box), so keep an eye out for us and come say hello – we’ll also be outside the west stand watching the crowd filter in, again come say hello.
Last Time we met
Stats mean nothing but it wouldn’t be a match preview without including this little section, I want to do everything as normal as possible! The sides have met 38 times at Field Mill with the Stags clocking up 21 victories to York’s 10 – the other seven have ended level including the 1-1 draw on Boxing Day. In front of goal the Stags have netted 78 to York’s 39.
Just encase the P word crops up, there have been two penalty shootouts between the sides to my knowledge with one win a piece. Both have been at Bootham Crescent, the Stags winning in the Autoglass Trophy back in 1993 whilst the minster men knocked the Stags out of the Setanta Shield 4-2 on spot kicks a few seasons ago, Jon D’Layrea and Gavin Hurren netted for the stags from 12 yards against Michael Ingham who saved from Alex Jeannin and saw Mark Stallard clip the bar after the hosts had missed the first kick in front of the travelling Stagies, incidentally this the last penalty shootout a Stags senior side was involved in, with the Youth Team winning on penalties earlier in the season at MMU Newcastle. The last penalty shootout at Field Mill I recall is Stoke City in the carling cup many moons ago, The Stags winning 3-0 in front of the QLE – the drama is all well and good as a neutral but as a fan, as a commentator whose been close to a shootout twice? No thank you!
The Team Sheet: York 1-1 Stags (Play-Off Semi-final LEG ONE 2.5.12)
York City Mansfield Town
24. Michael Ingham 1. Alan Marriott Y
20. Jon Challinor 16. Luke O'Neill
23. Chris Doig 6. Martin Riley >> (29)
4. Chris Smith (C) Y 26. Exodus Geohaghon [1-1 -OWN GOAL]
16. Jamal Fyfield Y 17. Ritchie Sutton
26. Patrick McLaughlin << (18) 11. Adam Murray (C)
6. Daniel Parslow 21. Anthony Howell
3. James Meredith Y 35. Gary Roberts Y
17. Matty Blair 15. Ross Dyer  >> (9)
9. Jason Walker 10. Matt Green YY
10. Ashley Chambers 24.Lindon Meikle >> (7)
1. Paul Musselwhite 23. Shane Redmond
7. Jamie Reed 7. Louis Briscoe >> 24.Lindon Meikle
14. Michael Potts 8. Lee Stevenson
18. Adriano Moke >> 26. Patrick McLaughlin 9. Matt Rhead >> 15.Ross Dyer
19. Scott Brown 29. Danny Andrew Y >> 6. Martin Riley
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