LOMAS ON MANSFIELD TOWN: Fixtures release has fans dreaming of glory again

Mansfield's Ryan Sweeney battles with Newport's Padraig Amond in the play-off semi-final finale.
Mansfield's Ryan Sweeney battles with Newport's Padraig Amond in the play-off semi-final finale.

Mansfield Town and other clubs’ supporters will today be furiously scribbling in their diaries – or clicking on their mobile phone calendars – after the release of the 2019/20 fixtures.

Non-football fans simply don’t understand the excitement of today as glory-hungry supporters see nine months of their lives mapped out for them at a single swoop.

When the Stags fixtures arrived early today it was both crazy and almost predictable that the opening day would pit Stags against Newport County once again.

It’s the third time in four seasons they have met on the opening day.

SEE MANSFIELD TOWN’S FULL 2019/20 FIXTURE LIST

Last season saw Stags start and end the campaign at home to Newport as the Welsh side won the play-off semi-final on penalties at the One Call Stadium.

So revenge will be in the mind of Mansfield players still in the side from that game.

Stags won 3-2 at Newport last time they kicked the season off there in 2016/17 and beat them 3-0 at home in last season’s opener.

It’s a good time to go to Rodney Parade before the notorious pitch starts to deteriorate, it gives Mansfield a chance to play football, and it gets a long journey out of the way early doors while the weather is good.

The same goes for playing Carlisle United and Exeter City away on August Saturdays.

They are both lovely places to visit when the sun is shining but the journeys seem twice as long in the depths of winter as the January trip to Plymouth Argyle will probably feel.

After two scans down the fixtures it starts to sink in that there are no local derbies to look forward to.

As amused as many fans are to see Chesterfield and Notts County in the National League next season, it’s hard not to miss the buzz of derby day, instead having hollow bragging rights without kicking a ball against each other.

The visit of Grimsby Town on Saturday, 4th January will probably be the nearest we get to the ‘derby’ atmosphere, though hopefully that game may end up being postponed as it’s FA Cup third round weekend and hopefully Stags will have progressed and then picked up a plum Premier League tie.

This is definitely the right time of year for fans to dream.

Supporters trying to be part of the 92 Club will be keen to visit Football League new boys Salford City on Tuesday, 17th March, with the Ammies making their first ever trip to Mansfield on Tuesday, 2nd October.

The fixtures computer has been relatively kind to Stags fans on midweek away games.

No one will need any time off work in the first half of the season with only the long haul to East London to face National League champions Leyton Orient on Tuesday, 11th February looking a major haul.

The only other two away midweekers, aside of any cup ties of course, are at Oldham and Salford, both in the second half of the campaign.

If Stags can make a good start at Newport, a first home game against Morecambe will be tough and physical but does offer a good possibility of points ahead of a trip to Carlisle.

Thankfully Stags are highly unlikely to face another winner-takes-all automatic promotion last game of the season with Crawley the visitors to the One Call Stadium.

Mansfield remain fourth favourites for the title with the bookies behind relegated trio Plymouth, Scunthorpe and Bradford and just ahead of free-spending Salford City.

There is more excitement tonight at 7pm when the Carabao Cup first round draw is made with Stags in a Northern draw that includes the powerful likes of Forest, Huddersfield, Bolton, Blackburn, Burton, Hull, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Stoke, Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday.

Given what happened between the sides in last summer’s pre-season friendly brawl – what price Stags to land the Owls tonight?