Saturday, September 21st 2013
Just the mention of Field Mill is enough to send the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The ground where the Cobblers blasted their way into the playoffs in 2004 on the final day of the season was emotional enough after Colin Calderwood and John Deehan had masterminded an incredible rise back up the table.
But what happened a week or so later is now stuff of folklore and whenever we make the short journey there it never fails to bring back those memories of Town stunning the Stags, who were 2-0 up from the first leg of the playoff semi-final at Sixfields, by coming back to lead 3-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate. The shenanigans involving one Tom Curtis and the ensuing period of extra time along with Derek Asamoah’s clear penalty being turned down made the eventual penalty shoot-out defeat all that more difficult to take.
Since then Mansfield have been on a journey backwards into non-league before returning, after a five year absence, in April following a 1-0 win over Wrexham that secured the Conference title. Former Kettering Town defender Paul Cox, taking charge of his 100th league game at the club tomorrow, masterminded the rise back to the league and his side sit eighth after a positive start in League Two that’s seen them lose just once in the opening seven games. That defeat was on the opening day at Scunthorpe and the Stags have since drawn three and won three and are on terrific form as they prepare to host the struggling Cobblers.
Town are down on four points and with away form showing no sign of letting up it’s looking like a tough, tough game tomorrow. Overturning the form book is crucial. It need not be anything like the drama of 2004…anything, like a deflected own goal or Clive Platt bundling one in off his stomach will do at this point as long as we come away with something!
Mansfield are without Chris Clements with the midfielder damaging knee ligaments during his side’s win over York City last weekend. Martin Riley is another to miss out through a suspension after being sent off in the same game. But Matt Rhead is available again after completing his own one match ban.
Ahead of Saturday the Cobblers have signed up defender Mathias Kuou-Doumbe on a contract until the end of the season. Aidy Boothroyd has been touting an experienced defender as the next signing and the deal has been done in time for the former Hibs, Plymouth and MK Dons defender to be a part of the squad for the trip to Field Mill. Elsewhere, Ian Morris is the favourite to come in for suspended midfielder Gary Deegan with Matty Harriott another to be pushing for a start.
Previous Six Meetings…
18/03/06: Mansfield 1-0 Cobblers (League Two)
Richard Barker scored the only goal of the game the last time the sides met in 2006 at Field Mill but the Cobblers would still go on to win promotion a couple of months later.
26/12/05: Cobblers 1-0 Mansfield (League Two)
David Hunt’s goal was enough to give the Cobblers a narrow win on Boxing Day 2005.
01/01/05: Cobblers 2-1 Mansfield (League Two)
Former Cobblers striker Derek Asamoah was sent off two minutes before half time for Mansfield for diving but the away side took the lead as Paul Warne’s corner was met by David Rowson who nodded into his own net. But the Cobblers hit back in the second half when Trevor Benjamin made the most of a couple of deflections to fire us level and Martin Smith headed in for the winner with fifteen minutes to play.
05/09/04: Mansfield 4-1 Cobblers (League Two)
The first meeting since the playoff semi-final a few months earlier saw Mansfield hammer the Cobblers. Derek Asamoah, who had swapped Sixfields for Field Mill in the summer, headed his new side in front before Eric Sabin levelled briefly. Before the break Wayne Corden made it 2-1 and the home side never looked back. Second half goals from future Cobbler Colin Larkin and (a second from) Corden confirmed a big home win.
20/05/04: Mansfield 1-3 Cobblers – Mansfield win 5-4 on penalties (League Two Playoff Semi-Final, Second Leg)
An extraordinary second leg of the playoffs saw the Cobblers come from two goals down on aggregate with three goals either side of half time. Marc Richards got the ball rolling before Chris Hargreaves levelled the tie just before the break. In our first attack of the second half, Martin Smith curled in for 3-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate to send the thousands of Town fans into a state of delirium but there were more twists to come. Tom Curtis appeared to foul Eric Sabin on the half way line but incredibly the decision went the other way with Curtis popping up to lash in just seconds after he could easily have been sent off! Derek Asamoah was brought down late on but there was nothing giving from referee Phil Crossley and Mansfield went on to win the penalty shoot out with Sabin missing the crucial kick for Town. The most emotional game of football that I have ever seen and one that may not be matched for a long time!
16/05/04: Cobblers 0-2 Mansfield (League Two Playoff Semi-Final, First Leg)
In the first leg, Rhys Day had put Mansfield in control before Junior Mendes followed up from a Tom Curtis shot to put the Stags two goals to the good. Ashley Westwood was sent off late on for the Cobblers.
The man in the middle…
Steve Rushton is the man handed responsibility for this one. He’s only refereed three games so far this season but showed two red cards in his last match; Crawley’s 3-2 win over Gillingham in League One. We don’t have good memories from his last Cobblers game after Rushton sent off Town’s Danny East in last season’s defeat at Fleetwood Town.
The Cobblers could do with some luck but must take chances after wasting plenty of them during last week’s defeat to Exeter. A lot will depend on what happens in midfield with Gary Deegan suspended but it’s a chance for someone else to stake a claim. I’m going out on a limb here but this could be the one. 1-0 Cobblers.