Craig Priest’s Stags Blog: The run-in - nine games for Stags to seal the title

NMAC12-1280-1''STags Fan Craig Priest
NMAC12-1280-1''STags Fan Craig Priest

At this point last term, Fleetwood had all but sealed the Blue Square Bet Premier as had Crawley the previous season.

This time around the engraver still has no idea whose name to etch onto the trophy.

For us Stags fans, we’re desperately hoping that it’s our name on the trophy and we can finally say farewell to the Conference and return to the Football League.

It wouldn’t surprise me if it went down to the last game of the season in Manchester City type fashion.

Whilst it’s good for the neutral, I’m not sure we could take that sort of heartache. Just imagining being in pole position only to be denied by a late goal elsewhere makes my heart wrench inside.

As we approach the end of our fifth season in the Conference we look stronger than I can ever remember us to be, both on and off the pitch which can only bode well for our future – promotion as Champions would be the cherry on top of the cake.

It’s certainly an achievable feat for our beloved side who sit second on goal difference to Kidderminster. Our postponement on Tuesday allowed them the opportunity to go top which they took in the dying embers of their match at Newport.

I hated maths at school. My teacher was a Grimsby supporter and never took kindly to my strong affection for Stags.

I think he was slightly jealous of my numerous ‘dentist appointments’ on a Tuesday afternoon which coincided with Stags playing away from home – I guess bragging about a Stags triumph over the Mariners never helped my case much either!

Anyway, the point is I missed A LOT of maths lessons and as such, find myself struggling to add up all the possibilities for the season’s run-in and title race.

However. I thought I’d have a look at the teams who are fighting for the crown and the fixtures they face – my maths teacher (Mr Brammer) would be proud. Oh by the way sir – ‘two-nil, two-nil, two-nil, two nilllll....’ and on behalf of the reserve team, thanks very much for the points ‘four-nil, four-nil, four-nil, four-nilllllllllll!

If only I was back at school, I’d have such fun.

In my opinion, there are three teams in with a realistic shot at the title - ourselves, Wrexham and current leaders Kidderminster.

Whilst Newport have games in hand, I believe the short amount of time they have to complete those fixtures will prove their downfall, even with the return of Aaron O’Connor.

Let’s start with Kidderminster.

Steve Burr’s men have seven games remaining and are the ones in my opinion who will put up the biggest fight.

Second in the form guide to our good selves, the Harriers are looking to end a eight season stay in the Conference and improve on the past three seasons where they have either faltered in the play-offs or narrowly miss out on them.

Despite 10 wins from their last 11 and momentum going their way, Burr’s men will be looking over their shoulder all the time as we have a vital two games in hand on the Aggborough-based side, these matches being our trip to Hereford on 16th April and of course our trip to Wrexham which, at the time of writing, is yet to be re-arranged.

Our other main rivals are,, of course FA Trophy finalists Wrexham, who currently sit in third place.

Andy Morrell’s Dragons will naturally have their eyes away from the league this weekend as the entertain Grimsby at Wembley in the FA Trophy final.

Their fine form to reach the final has perhaps dented their league form of late as, compared to ourselves and Kidderminster at least, their form doesn’t look impressive with four draws, one critical defeat and six wins from their last 11 league games.

Wrexham, who we were relegated alongside us, will in my opinion need some serious luck to fight for the title as we have a game in hand on them plus them to play twice as well. The game in hand actually comes this weekend against Macclesfield with Wrexham not in action because of the FA Trophy final.

However, Morrell’s trophy finalists also do NOT play on Tuesday when we host Nuneaton so in fact, by next Wednesday, they will be the ones with the game in hand.

But if we beat both the other MTFC and relegation-threatened Nuneaton, who beat Grimsby midweek, we shall move eight points clear of Wrexham with them to play twice which realistically gives them a mountain to climb to catch us.

Newport have too many games in quick succession to have the staying pace to catch us, despite it being mathematically possible.

Their postponement with Gateshead in York tonight does them no favours and leaves them with 11 games to play before the season’s end on 20th April 20th.

Looking at their fixtures and those of the teams they need to fit in, Justin Edinburgh’s men will most probably face a two week period of Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and possibly Sunday games!

Grimsby are out of it now for my money, 10 points behind us on the same amount of games. And, with form slumping, it will take a lot of luck for Paul Hurst and Rob Scott’s boys to be crowded champions.

Technically it’s not impossible for Forest Green to win it. However, they’ve played two games more than ourselves and the same as leaders Kidderminster and, trailing by 13 points, the gap after the weekend will be too big – the same can be said for Macclesfield.

So Kidderminster, Wrexham and ourselves will fight it out for the title.

It’s going to be a story which will take plenty more twists and turns between now and that final, full time whistle – please let it be our name etched onto the trophy and us crowned Champions.

I have five seasons worth of Blue Square memories, the time is right now for me to pen two final words ‘The End’!