WE are just a month or so into the new season and already the popular Snakes and Ladders board game can be used to describe our beloved Mansfield’s start to the 2011-12 campaign, writes Craig Priest.
After sailing high through pre-season with five consecutive victory’s it seemed like we was one throw away from being the complete article.
However, with the effects of Ilkeston-gate still looming over us and expectations having been raised higher than usual thanks to our free scoring run of 16 goals in five games, the dice landed on the wrong number and landed on the slippery snake, ending up with our worse start to the season since that unforgettable 2007-08 relegation campaign.
A 1-1 draw on home soil in front of a Wembley boosted crowd could not be improved on as we hit the road; a dull, dark and rainy Gateshead was the venue for our first loss of the season.
With Tom Naylor suspended and our defensive resources still stretched, Paul Cox received a helping hand from a Mansfield Town legend, Ritchie Barker, allowing towering defender Ben Futcher to join on a month’s loan.
I believe it’s this move which has been the key factor to kick starting our journey back up the board towards the promise land.
Not for one second am I suggesting that one player makes a team. Listeners to my commentary know all too well how I believe in team work and togetherness. What I am saying is that confidence is very much like a weighing scale, when something goes out of kilter you need someone in to make things level once more.
Having seen Ben Futcher play with two different defensive partners now, it’s clear his arrival has worked wonders. Even though we only managed a 1-1 draw against both Braintree and old adversaries Luton, the defence began to look a lot more solid
This was certainly proved by three clean sheets and three wins against Kettering, Stockport and Darlington.
Against Darlington you could argue that our defence road it’s luck and that a third consecutive clean sheet was somewhat fortunate.
Yet it’s a clean sheet all the same and if you zoom out and look at the bigger picture – those defensive displays have spread an intertwining confidence throughout the whole side, turning Mansfield from the side on loose wheels to a side that is using its potential to the required affect.
My Reflection of the Darlington victory could be somewhat blurred with the whole revenge factor in play. However after reading match reports from various places and listening back to the commentaries I feel this Mansfield Town side has so much more potential waiting in the wings, when it’s used people will watch on in astonishment.
At the other end of the pitch, Matt Green has also been in fine form. Hopefully he can continue this and we can make a permanent move for him in January.
His movement in and around the box has been a joy to watch and his two goals at Darlington proved he has several strings to his bow.
I know it’s one month in and there’s lots of twists and turns to come, but unlike previous seasons the belief within seems more genuine than ever before.
Last year it was hope followed by disappointment, mixed in with panic, then false hope. Paul Cox said success is built on strong foundations – the words backed up by what we have lying in wait.
Bring on Newport – let’s get our first TV win since being relegated into this horrid, yet remarkably beautiful league.