Craig Priest speaks of how the Reserve Team could help solve the first team issues...
After an indifferent start for the first team Paul Cox will undoubtedly be mulling over changes ahead of Saturday’s match with Woking, but the thing is those who haven’t played and could be in the managers mind lack fitness and sharpness – step forward the reserve team, game one for the reserves could well be the most important game for the club as a whole so far this season.
Personally I don’t think it’s important for Cox in terms of watching and forming idea’s, I think the importance factor lies in the dressing room as those on show can go out and say to Cox and his backroom staff ‘Here I am, this is what I can do – play me!’
A lot of the talk recently has been about the size of the squad, is the fact its high a negative – I’ve been saying since day one ‘No’ as with the reserve team we’ve a platform to keep player’s happy, get them minutes and most importantly, prepare those waiting in the wings for first team football with regular competitive action which is to a similar standard to what the first team play – The reserve league is just that.
After the full time whistle yesterday questions were being asked over the selection, why have John Thompson, Lee Stevenson and Jamie Hand etc not been picked? Not for a second is it because there ‘Reserve Team’ players, but by playing in that side tomorrow night – they put themselves in the shop window and have competitive football under their belts – this time around with the second string side we won’t be filling it with trial players like the McEwan/ Holdsworth days of 2008-09 when we finished bottom of the Central League Central Division, we have an abundance of quality to pick from and in truth, the side we could potentially field tomorrow against Port Vale could be a tough play-off challenging side in the BSBP.
Before you all take out your Craig Priest voodoo dolls again, let me stress I am a huge fan of Alan Marriott, however after five games conceding 15 goals should the keeper take some of the questions like the four in front of him and would a change between the sticks be a help or hindrance to first team affairs. Shane Redmond is probably one of the forgotten names at the minute and whilst a lot don’t seem to rate him, I am of the opinion he is a very good shot stopper and should be given the chance to prove what he can do. Last season he played just the one game against Kidderminster and kept a clean sheet, despite the now infamous and rather legendary spider-crawl, all was solid and the promise of what could be was there. I’ve been privileged enough to watch the Irish Glovesman in various friendly’s and can say his shot stopping is to a fine standard, with his command of the box at a good standard too.
I don’t know if it’s the amount of competitive football he’s played over the past few seasons which devalues him in the minds of some supporters or if it’s the high regard we have for Marriott – whatever it is doesn’t hide the fact he’s a good keeper and, with minutes under his belt in the Reserves, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be battling for a start. Nobody’s place in the first eleven is safe, this should include Marriott and if Redmond has a strong game for Andy Todd’s reserves tomorrow I see no reason why he shouldn’t be considered to face Woking.
Moving onto the back four John Thompson and George Pilkington, our two marquee signings from the past two summers are likely to get a run out – however it’s the other too I express interest in, tomorrow could see a first look at new addition Ryan Tafazolli and another look at youngster Jake Green. The former comes with a good report, tall and strong – likes a tackle and is, if reports are true, a commanding player whilst the latter, brother of Matt, has bags of pace and can play in either full back role – attributes which we may have lacked in recent games.
With Gary Roberts suspended for Saturday’s home match with Woking they’ll be an extra midfield slot up for grabs, for me it’s a three horse race between Godfrey Poku and the two Jamie’s, Hand and Tolley, all three offer different options for Cox and will most probably be the midfield tomorrow night. What about Lee Stevenson I hear you bellow at your screen, I consider him more of an attacking option and agree with the comments that he should have been involved by now, what is the point of going all pre-season with him as the lynch pin of our attack in that dominant 4-2-3-1 formation only to switch it for the season? A good performance from him tomorrow night could remind Cox of the player who was so prolific in Eastwood’s good fortune two seasons ago and be the remedy he is looking for.
In attack there’s bound to be another run out for Ben Hutchinson, another forgotten, over looked and underrated member of our squad. I hear a lot of folk saying he should have been released in the summer, however in pre-season I think he looked sharp and was beginning to get that glint in his eye of a comfortable, confident, in form player – all he needs is games. Nick Wright too could get some minutes under his belt, a platform for him to show why Kidderminster were so desperate to keep hold of him in the summer.
No matter how you look at it, the Stags have so many strong options who haven’t featured regularly this term for the first team – I look forward to seeing what in pact tomorrow’s game will have going into Saturday’s home encounter with Woking and then Tuesday night’s match with Tamworth.
The Reserve league is a funny one this term to say the least with two leagues in one, with 17 scheduled fixtures in total – Nine will be played under the divisional tag, kicking off tomorrow night against Port Vale. We have now been confirmed as a Division 2 side, a selection of the sides from Division 1 are in our Regional Group, where there are eight fixtures starting with a trip to Rotherham United on October 31st. There will be two league tables, everyone plays each other the once with the venue determined on a luck of the draw basis. The winners from Division 1 and 2 play each other at the end of the season to determine the overall winner, the same happens in the ‘West’ section with the two winners (east and west) playing a final to determine an overall winner.
To further explain the divisional splitting in the East and West section, teams are put together by the respective clubs first team league placing the previous season – therefore ‘Division One’ comprises of Championship and League One teams, with ‘Division Two’ containing clubs from the League Two and the conference. The regional aspect of the entire thing is, as previously mentioned, aimed at reducing clubs travelling time and expense.
The set up is brand new and has scrapped the three division format of Central, East and West in an attempt to create a higher standard of football, reduce travelling time and costs as well as placing teams in the same league as those in their first teams division – in retrospect a good idea.
Our opponents tomorrow night are the second string of League Two Port Vale, who last term we’re a ‘Central Division’ side finishing in 4th place with four victories, three draws and five defeats – a tough test for Andy Todd’s boys. Kick off tomorrow night is 7pm, prices are £3 Adults and £1 for Concessions – those not going can join myself and hopefully Scott, for full and exclusive match commentary on StagsPlayer.
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Stags Fan Greg Taylor shares his views from the terraces....
Saturday was just a huge sigh of relief for me and all stags fans, as we finally got our first win of the season, it wasn't a sparkling performance but was still three points. Before the game, when I was in the bar at Kidderminster, I checked the starting eleven and me and the others were just in shock.
I was in complete disbelief with the selection of midfield, after Paul Cox hyping up all the players he'd signed, alot of them being midfielders, and not one of them were in the team. In my opinion the midfield we started with on Saturday was worse than last season’s best midfield, this is nothing against Andy Todd, he’s a good experienced player, but I feel there is much more quality in the squad. A point I must raise is, where is Stevo? He had a great pre season and we would benefit a great deal with having a type of player that can play behind the striker or if not Stevo, why not Chris Clements.
The first half for me was very poor, I didn’t enjoy watching it at all, the midfield seemed weak and powerless and the defence, just looked very poor as they struggled with balls into the area and struggled with Marvin Johnson running at them down the wing. We were lucky to have scored and be level at the break. At the start of the second half, I didn’t see much difference in our players or our system and this showed as we conceded to go behind once more.
The one player that had caught my eye from the beginning of the match was Lindon Meikle as he had not put a foot wrong all game and neither had Matt Green as we are used to. Lindon and Matt carried on to show why they are so feared by other teams in this league and put their link up play to effect as Green set up Meikle with a fine pass, matched by a well taken goal. This goal seemed to have changed the game and Kidderminster were on the back foot, but then a strange move from Paul Cox to take Matt Green off for Nick Wright puzzled all Stags fans and they turned on manager.
The game was still ours to be won and we piled on the pressure, Nick Wright was doing a great job since he had come on, which showed up his strike partner Matt Rhead, as Wright was proving to us all that whatever Rhead could do, he could do better.
Eventually a darting run from Lindon Meikle saw us grab what proved the winner as he skipped through the defence and around the keeper to slot home, this was just what we needed to build some confidence and get us back to our old ways.
The referee ended the game and I was just glad it was over. The performance itself wasn’t great, but it was three points. A clean sheet in the next game is what we need, because the performance at the back against Kiddy still hasn’t given me full confidence in us defensively.
On the whole though it was a good win, now it’s time to look towards Hyde and a great opportunity to give our fans the belief back on home turf – Come on you stags!
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Stags fan Greg Taylor reflects on the opening two games of the 2012-13 season...
Well where do I start... Two games gone, no points and eight goals conceded – not the start to the season the fans expected, myself included! Before the season started the expectation of Paul Cox’s newly formed squad was very high and I can speak for almost every stags fan when I say I thought we were going to start off the season flying and put down our marker to the rest of the clubs in our league.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out our problem in these two games and that is bad defending! This came as a huge shock to me when I saw how we defended against Newport, most fans thought that our defence would be our strong point and it would almost hold our side together, but that isn’t the case at all, our defence is costing us. I keep saying to my dad and friends, we can't defend like we have in these two games and expect to finish mid table , never mind the promotion challenge we expect!
A problem that I noticed was the inability of our defence to win balls in the air, which caused huge problems at the back, we looked like we would struggle any time a ball was put into the box, which shouldn’t happen for any team, never mind a so called ' top five side'.
I'm not going to hide how I feel at this moment in time, I’m very frustrated and angry, which is the most reoccurring feeling I’ve had in the last 10 years of watching the stags. Things need to be sorted out quickly or it could be too late. We expect to finish in the top five at least, as supporters may know when you finish in the top five, you don’t lose many all season and we have lost two games already! If we lose again Saturday, due to a similar performance to the first two matches, I feel that Cox will start to lose the backing of most of the fans and rightly so, because this isn’t acceptable and things must pick up. These two losses have changed the whole mood of the supporters; we need to spring some results together to regain the belief of the fans because if this carries on, I’m afraid Paul Cox will be looking at an early exit.
I am loyal supporter and I will be making the trip to Kidderminster on Saturday, hoping and praying for a change. The club needs our support and we need to stick with them, because I do believe we will still be up there at the end of season.
Come on the stags! I still believe in you.
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Stags supporter Greg Taylor looks ahead to the season about to dawn...
'This is our year' as a supporter I say these four words at the start of every season and so do fellow fans, but when supporters have said it in the past , have they really believed it deep down? I don’t think so. But this year does seem different, for the first time since I started supporting Mansfield Town Football Club I actually feel confident that we could win the league or win the play offs. It feels very different coming up to this season, I expect us to finish in the play offs, which is all new as a Stags fan for me, in the past I’ve hoped and believed it, now I expect it.
For those that don’t know I was born in Barnsley and have always lived in Yorkshire and supported the Stags, so some success is a long time coming if you ask me, after putting up with Barnsley fans for years and years, it’s about time I have some success to cheer. Obviously it’s not just me that deserves some success, it’s all of the fans for supporting the club through thick and thin and I think this season is the biggest chance we've had in 10 years.
As it comes closer to the ' big kick off ' I am getting more and more nervous and excited, questions just keep flying around my head; what system will he play? Who is he going to play? What if we crack under pressure with all the expectation? As a Stags fan you get used to asking yourself these questions after many years of wrong systems, awful signings and games where we’ve bottled it!
The system and players we should play- after looking at Paul Cox’s signings, I’ve always been thinking who will play where and who will play more importantly so here is the team and system I would play.
For me it would be a formation of 4-2-3-1 with a back four of Beevers, Pilkington, Dempster and Owens, which then will have a midfield two of.... well with these two positions I feel it could be rotated between four players, Tolley, Hand, Howell and Roberts and try and find which partnership is the best.
Moving onto the attacking midfield three, which would include two wingers, Meikle and Speight with Clements or Stevenson playing the role behind the striker, now it’s almost obvious who will be upfront, the man ... Matt Green, I don’t really need to say much about this decision after the impression he made on the supporters last season.
With this formation I feel it plays to our strengths as it gives us stability at the back, as we can defend in numbers, by turning the formation almost into 4-5-1 when defending and it would be very easy to hit teams on the counter attack as we have four players acting as forward players. I’m not saying this must be the formation we play, I’m just saying I would like to see how it suits us , because on paper I believe this is perfect.
It’s almost time people, it’s almost time for the drama to unfold and for those 11 players to put us through more than we can take. We have the players this year, we have the quality, we have fans. This is where it all begins our Journey up the football league ladder.
This is our year and I believe it is. Mansfield Town for promotion, bet on it!