Mansfield Town blog: All to play for in the second-leg

Ross Dyer nets the opener
Ross Dyer nets the opener

Well what a night that was, a 1-1 draw at Bootham Crescent against York City in last night’s first leg sets up Monday’s match to be a really tough encounter, writes Craig Priest.

With the two teams level after the first 90 minutes, we’re still none the wiser to seeing who’ll get a shot at promotion on the biggest stage around.

Before I go on I should mention that I’ve just got home from York, its 1am and once more I can’t sleep – I’m kept awake by the events of the game I’ve just witnessed along with the first sprinkling of excitement ahead of the second leg.

At the moment I’m unsure how to feel, after six consecutive wins I half expected us to be heading into the second leg with a couple of goals lead, maybe it’s tiredness maybe it’s through amber tinted spectacles but I forgot to take into consideration that this battle consisted of two teams rather than one, that was wrong of me.

York City have a had a great season in reaching the FA Trophy final and finishing in the play-offs, in their eighth season in the top tier of non-league football they will undoubtedly be more desperate for a return to the football league than us, especially having twice lost out in the play-off lottery.

When I last wrote on Monday I said that stats we’re irrelevant and the winner would be the team that wanted it more than the other, from the starting whistle last night that was clear to see.

On reflection I’m delighted with a 1-1 draw, because we are not out of the tie, nor are we ahead which may have altered our mindset like it did back in 2003-04.

I know different players and what have you but, my point is that on Monday, it’s the same for both sides, all to play for however it’s us with the psychological edge, in front of our own crowd, at a ground becoming renowned for its electric atmosphere and where we haven’t been defeated since November. York will also have one eye on the FA Trophy final which takes place five days later so we may be able to take advantage of the thing we’ve been trying to protect against since the turn of the year – looking too far ahead, they may say that won’t and that there entirely focused on the second leg, but we all know that’s about as true as Chesterfield playing in league one next season!

Onto last night’s game, if I was to pick one criticism it wouldn’t be the questionable officiating, it would be that for the first time in a long time I don’t think we started the game true to ourselves. To reach the play-offs since the turn of the year we’ve played football our way and not let others dictate or formation, early on York to their credit came at us and rather than stand firm and calf an opportunity to play our way, we switched from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 and took too long to adapt which in turn invited the hosts on. That said, and I must make this clear – losing Martin Riley early on didn’t help matters.

It’s because of this that my niggling late night negative turns into a positive because the picture says that we did end up true to ourselves eventually, we lost a key player and we’re forced into a substitution seeing a new balance on the left and a centre back pairing that’s never played together before.

We adapted quickly and despite a few wobbles became composed and comfortable, getting our reward through Ross Dyer – the leveller was unfortunate and just a case of miscommunication which happens, but again we dealt with it and kicked on.

Matt Green’s dismissal was a silly one, I’m yet to see a TV replay and won’t comment further until I have, my point that is with 10 men we kept a hungry York side at bay and got a creditably draw.

The travelling support was phenomenal and understandably the emotions we’re running high, again this passion defines us as a club and to think we could have four thousand, maybe more than that behind us on Monday is just wonderful. When we are loud in the terraces, we are ferocious on the pitch – I think this works both ways and being at home next, potentially 90 minutes away from a shot at promotion at Wembley, gives us one hell of a boost.

If you haven’t got a ticket yet go and pick one up, as the clock ticks closer to the early morning hours I’m going to sign off now, however there is one thing I will say before I go – things seem quite calm now which is great to reflect on things, but believe me there’s a storm coming, if we match our performance from last night and raise the bar once again, then who knows what could happen.

Let’s keep dreaming, let’s keep believing and let’s keeping signing, like we’ve never sung before – this is our time, let’s be true to ourselves and achieve our dream, roll on Monday COME ON YOU STAGS.