BIG MATCH PREVIEW
Mansfield Town boss Adam Murray always said this season’s play-off chase would go down to the wire, and his Stags side still have an outside chance with just three games to go.
Realistically, it is asking a lot of seventh-placed AFC Wimbledon to blow up now with them having a game in hand and already six points in front.
Wycombe, Cambridge, Leyton Orient and Exeter City are all ahead of Stags in the table too.
All Mansfield can do is try to win their last three games and leave the rest to fate.
But it really does like like that ‘March of Doom’ did for the Stags as they went through a seven games without a win period.
However, with three wins in a row under their belts, scoring 10 times, they seem to have hit top form again.
The win at Carlisle two weeks ago was followed by a 5-0 thrashing of neighbours Notts County last weekend and a fine 3-2 road win at play-off rivals Exeter City in midweek.
Visitors Barnet are also in fine form, losing only once in their last six.
In that six are home wins over Luton Town, Leyton Orient and Notts County plus fine away draws at Wycombe and Exeter.
Martin ‘Mad Dog’ Allen’s men are 15th, just four points adrift of Mansfield, have only lost three in 13 outings and enjoying a fine first season back in the Football League after last season’s Conference title success.
Stags fans will have bad memories of Barnet’s last visit to the One Call Stadium way back in April 2008 when the Bees clawed back Stags’ 2-0 lead to grab a crucial 2-2 draw that helped send Mansfield spinning down to the Conference three weeks later.
To make matters worse one of the Barnet goals came from sub and former Stag Adam Birchall.
It was a black day and one that strongly hinted Mansfield were in real trouble.
Thankfully this season Stags have been competing at the right end of the table, but whatever Saturday’s result at the OCS, they do now have to rely on rivals tripping up.
After Barnet, Stags have a very tough trip to come at Leyton Orient next weekend before ending the regular season with the visit of Cambridge United, also in the play-offs fight.
Click HERE to see Chad sports editor John Lomas’ weekly Stags video blog
This is how it looks now with the last three weeks of fixtures left to play
7th AFC Wimbledon Pl 42 - Pts 68
8th Wycombe Wanderers Pl 43 - Pts 64
9th Cambridge United Pl 43 - Pts 63
10th Exeter City Pl 43 - Pts 63
11th Leyton Orient Pl 43 - Pts 63
12th Mansfield Town Pl 43 - Pts 62
DONS GAMES LEFT
Sat 23 April - Leyton Orient (11th) H
Tues 26 April - Portsmouth (6th) H
Sat 30 April - Stevenage (21st) A
Sat 7 May - Newport (22nd) H
WYCOMBE GAMES LEFT
Sat 23 April - Portsmouth (6th) A
Sat 30 April - Accrington (2nd) H
Sat 7 May - Oxford (3rd) A
CAMBRIDGE GAMES LEFT
Sat 23 April - Notts County (17th) A
Sat 30 April - Plymouth (4th) H
Sat 7 May - Mansfield (12th) A
EXETER GAMES LEFT
Sat 23 April - Bristol Rovers (5th) A
Sat 30 April - Morecambe (20th) H
Sat 7 May – Luton (13th) A
ORIENT GAMES LEFT
Sat 23 April - Wimbledon (7th) A
Sat 30 April - Mansfield (12th) H
Sat 7 May - Yeovil (19th) A
STAGS GAMES LEFT
Sat 23 April - Barnet (15th) H
Sat 30 April - Leyton Orient (11th) A
Sat 7 May - Cambridge (9th) H
Click HERE to see video highlights of Exeter v Stags in midweek
Click HERE to read Chad’s Exeter v Stags report
Click HERE to see video highlights of Barnet v Notts County
STAGS TEAM NEWS
Stags welcome back centre half Krystian Pearce after completing a three game suspension.
That will release Lee Collins to play right back should Swansea loanee Dan Alfei fail to recover from the hamstring injury that kept him out of midweek win at Exeter.
There was no word from the Stags camp on his progress this week and he must remain a doubt.
Definitely missing is midfield ace Chris Clements, whose hamstring injury will sideline him for the rest of the season.
POSSIBLE STAGS STARTING XI (4-1-3-2): Shearer; Collins, Pearce, Tafazolli, Benning; Chapman; Lambe, Thomas, Blair; Dieseruvwe, Green.
BARNET TEAM NEWS
With promotion and relegation not issues, it is impossible to predict what side Martin Allen will select on Saturday.
After an excellent 1-1 at play-off chasing Wycombe last weekend, Allen surprised everyone with eight changes and an experimental team against Notts County in midweek, doubtless with one eye on next season
Only Elliott Johnson, Andy Yiadom and John Akinde retained their places but the Bees still stormed to a 3-1 victory.
POSSIBLE BARNET STARTING XI
Stephens, Yiadom, Sesay, N’Gala, Johnson, Nwogu, Randall, Champion, Gambin, Shomotun, Akinde.
KEY BATTLE: RYAN TAFAZOLLI v MICHAEL GASH
While Stags are trying to keep top scorer John Akinde quiet, they shouldn’t forget that his striker partner Michael Gash already has nine goals, eight in the League, to his name and is equally as dangerous
The much-travelled 29-year-old has always scored goals at non-League level but is now showing he can do it in his first Football League season, winning the League Two player of the month award in September.
Click HERE to see a recent video interview with Michael Gash
BARNET ONE TO WATCH: JOHN AKINDE
The big striker really seems to have finally hit the goalscoring grove with the Bees.
The physical 26-year-old, who stands 6ft 2ins, had drifted around a number of clubs before banging in 18 goals in 42 games for Alfreton Town in 2013/14.
From there he moved on to Barnet where his 31 goals helped them to win the Conference title last season.
This season, in a mid-table side, he has already netted 19 times and bagged the Bees’ reply against the Stags in November from the penalty spot.
Click HERE to see a video of a John Akinde interview when he joined Barnet
OPPOSITION MANAGER: MARTIN ALLEN
Back for his fourth spell with the Bees, Martin ‘Mad Dog’ Martin Allen returned in March 2014 to help them over the line to the Conference title and has them in a highly respectable mid-table position in this first season back in the Football League.
Allen is well known for his often unconventional management methodology.
As a midfielder, he played more than 100 games for each Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United before finishing his playing career with Portsmouth and Southend United.
Five years later, he took his first managerial post at then non-league Barnet, moving on for spells at Brentford, Milton Keynes Dons, Leicester City, Cheltenham Town, Barnet and Notts County.
After a short third spell back at Barnet, in July 2012 he became manager of Gillingham and steered the team to the League Two title, earning Allen his first promotion as a manager and Gillingham’s first divisional title in 49 years. However, a poor start the following season saw him sacked by October.
Click HERE to see a video of a Martin Allen interview last weekend
Click HERE to hear audio of Martin Allen’s thoughts on the midweek win over Notts County.
BARNET SEASON SO FAR
Barnet can be very pleased with a season of consolidation back in the Football League as Conference champions.
A yo-yo club for many years, the Bees first joined the League as Conference champions in 1991, crashing back into non-League in 2001.
They were back up in 2005 but struggled every year, three times in a row securing safety on the final day of the season.
Barnet’s luck ran out in 2013 but they were back up within two seasons.
This season they have one of the top three home records in the division with 13 wins and three draws from 22 games which has seen them take a foothold well clear of the relegation battle.
Only one League win from five in August, albeit a home success against eventual champions Northampton, did not augur well.
Three out of five League games were also lost in September.
But by October the bees were buzzing better with three wins and a draw from six.
Despite an indifferent November, when Stags won down there, Barnet have continued to pick points up on a regular basis with big striker John Akinde catching the eye with his goals.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28th 2015: BARNET 1, MANSFIELD TOWN 3
After questioning his side’s desire after a poor midweek home showing against Exeter City, Adam Murray’s men answered emphatically with a 3-1 win at Barnet in a game in which both sides ended up with 10 men.
After Reggie Lambe had put Mansfield ahead, Josh Clarke’s second yellow had Barnet down to 10 men before the break.
Matt Green then doubled Stags’ advantage on the hour and the game looked won.
However, John Akinde pulled one back from the spot and Stags were then also down to 10 men with a second yellow for Chris Clements before a late own goal settled Stags’ nerves.
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