Another January passes and yet another transfer window slams shut, writes Craig Priest.
Yesterday was football fans’ Eastenders – the gripping drama, the anticipation, the disappointment, the rumours, the football merry-go-round, or money-go-round, in full swing.
Whilst most we’re gripped to their TV screens, I spent my day trashing the F5 key on my laptop – waiting to see who Paul Cox would bring in to my beloved club.
Despite the captures of Gary Roberts, Ben Hutchinson and the permanent addition of hit man Matt Green being announced in December, the deals we’re completed once the new year rolled in.
All three have excelled since, none more so than Gary Roberts.
I’m sure people by now will be sick of reading his name in my every article, however Roberts has been one fantastic addition and, as results have shown, has helped us move back within touching distance of the play-offs.
Questions may have been asked upon his arrival after his past, but in football, as in life, you should never judge people by their past as every day, every game, is a blank canvas awaiting a beautiful piece of art.
The former Port Vale man has arrived at Field Mill and has settled in very well, forming a good partnership with Adam Murray which will continue to grow as the season draws on.
In every game he’s played he’s ran his socks off and earned man-of-the-match plaudits. In fact two more awards and we might as well just rename man-of-the-match the ‘Gary Roberts weekly accolade’ (fair does, it needs work).
His determination and work rate has given us that extra dimension to our play both on the attack and at the back, his vision and range of passing is far too good for conference level and, as for his striking power?, We’ll let’s just say I hope should the need occur for any defensive clearances, that they steer well clear of the press box!
Moving onto Ben Hutchinson, his start may have been slow with only a few minutes as a substitute against Forest Green, but clearly he’s applied himself in training and has since reaped the rewards.
Credit to Matt Green for giving Hutchinson the opportunity to open his goal scoring account. The pair seem to have struck a good understanding and will threaten teams – imagine a Roberts splitting through ball with just one defender at the back and both Hutchinson and Green racing forward?!
Whilst he’s yet to score from open play, like Roberts in his first few starts, he’s getting closer – Ebbsfleet was a prime example.
From the starting whistle his movement nearly got us an opener with less than 30 seconds gone, a few more minutes under his belt he’ll become sharper and soon get on the goal trail from open play.
His current strike partner Matt Green as we all know has been massive for us all season, now we have him under our ownership it gives both parties some space to relax.
Whilst our leading marksman was on loan from Oxford there was always doubt that he would either get recalled or denied the opportunity to rejoin, especially considering the form he was in.
During his time with the U’s he’d been shipped from pillar to post and had he returned, no doubt all the improvements he’d made would have swiftly gone down the pan – now he’s a full-time Stag, we as fans don’t have to worry about his departure whilst he doesn’t have to worry about an uncertain future.
The arrival of Paul Edwards gives us another strong option at the back, whilst he may have to wait on the bench following two consecutive clean sheets with the same back four, when he does debut, no doubt he’ll further add to our quality.
No doubt the arrival of Sam Craven will see some question why Edwards was signed, I see it as cover as international clearance for Craven seemed to drag – now they’re both here, there’s no doubt they can both be used with the former Notts County youngster able to play on the left of midfield too.
Finally the arrival of Corby front man Matt Rhead again raises questions, I write with a tin hat on here but again I think this signing will be vital and in Paul Cox’s top three captures.
The former Eastwood man bagged 12 goals in 14 appearances last season under Cox and will come in to provide a bullishness nature to our forward play.
His physical presence will relieve the pressure on Ross Dyer’s shoulders and help Dyer become a better player in turn.
When the former Hednesford front man has the ball at his feet he can be a danger and does possess pace and a venomous strike, maybe now we will see more of it in what will be another key month.
Matt Rhead – who is he? People asked the same question back in august about Matt Green.
The one transfer we all wanted to see completed yesterday was that of John Dempster. Parent club Crawley didn’t seem to budge in terms of a permanent deal which is extremely frustrating. John has been another key element and losing him would be a very bitter pill to swallow.
However I remain confident that Paul Cox will get his man albeit on loan, until the end of the season. John’s initial three month loan runs out on 22nd February and there’s no reason this can’t be extended until the end of the season.
If the clubs can’t agree a deal, well we still have time to find a replacement – personally I’m not thinking about this, I remain faithful that the Stags boss will get Dempster’s signature once more and in doing so, we will continue to progress up the league table.
Give the new lads a chance and continue the fantastic support which has helped with the unbeaten run. There’s 15 points up for grabs this months, let’s go and get them.