Saturday, March 15th 2014
We’ve reached the stage where one more win would bring us right to the brink of escaping the relegation zone. For weeks the Cobblers have been clawing back the gap, winning games but then discovering other results going against us and desperately hanging on but now it’s starting to become more and more in our own hands.
With Exeter not playing till Sunday this weekend, there’s a huge incentive for Town to strike huge fear into them by claiming all three points against a Mansfield Town side who are themselves still peering over their shoulder. Indeed, a Cobblers win would bring the Stags back to within two points and also drag a few other clubs properly into the mix so it’s another massive weekend.
After a decent enough start to life back in League Two, Mansfield’s slide began with five defeats in a row in November before another three games without a win in December. The run was ended with victory over Cheltenham Town in the final game of 2013 and since then it’s been a stabilising job for Paul Cox as he looks to avoid taking his club back to where they came from last May. They’ve been as unpredictable as any League Two side since the turn of the year and that makes them pretty dangerous to the Cobblers.
There’s new found hope at Sixfields these days, though, and Chris Wilder has clearly instilled something in his men to enable them to put a good enough run together to reach this pivotal moment in the season. Every game is huge from now on but after this one is through and we’re faced with just ten games to play we’ll have a much better idea on how things are going to pan out.
Nerves at the ready…
The Cobblers welcome back Ricky Ravenhill after the midfielder served his one match ban on Tuesday night at Exeter with Gary Deegan likely to be the man sacrificed. John Marquis was recalled by Millwall this week with the Championship side activating a 24 hour recall clause in his loan deal. He was swiftly replaced by new loanee Cristian Lopez who joins from Huddersfield Town until the end of the season. Lopez has spent a brief spell on loan at Shrewsbury Town earlier this season, scoring once in five outings before returning to his parent club. He goes straight into the squad for Saturday’s game. Joe Widdowson, meanwhile, remains a doubt with his ankle injury.
Mansfield full back Darryl Westlake could be included in the Stags’ squad after it was revealed that he didn’t tear his hamstring in the defeat to York City on Tuesday night as first feared. One man who will be missing, though, is Ritchie Sutton, who has a hamstring injury that looks set to keep him out for up to three weeks.
Previous Six Meetings…
21/09/13: Mansfield 3-0 Cobblers (League Two)
Earlier this season the Cobblers had one of those away days that we’d unfortunately become accustomed to as the Stags eased to a comfortable win. Ben Hutchinson put them in front on the half hour mark before Sam Clucas made it two just a few minutes later. An own goal on his debut by Mathias Doumbe sealed a miserable day for Town.
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!
The man in the middle…
The referee for this one is Andy Haines who last took charge of a Cobblers game in another crucial home game in March 2012 when we were again fighting relegation. On that day we saw off Aldershot Town 3-1 so hopefully we’ll have a similar outcome on Saturday!
This is the big chance to close the gap from three points to zero points and to really pile the pressure on Exeter who don’t play until Sunday. Mansfield need the points as well as they’re in the clutch of teams just above the drop zone but fingers crossed for our momentum to continue. 2-1.