So the big match is upon us. Notts County against Mansfield Town.
And you know what, I’m sick of losing to these lot. It really is getting annoying.
It’s fair to say our record against Mansfield really isn’t the best. This century, in the league, we’ve played them 14 times, winning once, drawing five and losing eight times.
Notts haven’t beaten Mansfield in the league since September 2005, a 3-2 win at Field Mill with a late winner courtesy of Glynn Hurst.
However, after seven years apart in different divisions, both of these two returned to playing each other in 2015-16. It was not a good season for Notts. The first home game of the season saw us lose the Nottinghamshire derby 2-0. However, it’s the reverse fixture that makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons for Notts. A 5-0 defeat. A defeat, which summed up the Ray Trew era. A lack of fight, effort and passion.
Notts were 1-0 down at half time and in the second half went to 3-5-2 and went for it in hope of getting back into the game. Sadly, it didn’t work and once the second went in, Notts gave up.
A lot changed that summer. Players, manager, board members. Notts returned to Field Mill on October 8th and lost again. A 3-1 defeat in a game, which I summed up as being an absolute joke. John Sheridan said it how it was ‘we lost to two deflections and a penalty.’
A lot of things still annoy me about that game. We should have been 3-0 up at half time. Jonathan Forte missed a one-on-one chance, Jon Stead hit the post, and also had another good chance. Alex Rodman equalised in the 82nd minute but I knew something controversial was coming. You could just sense it.
It was. Mansfield were awarded a penalty in the 90th minute for what most would call ‘a 50-50’ but Matt Tootle took so long to clear the ball. They scored a 3rd in the 93rd minute as well.
In the reverse fixture on January 14th, Notts halted a run of 10 successive losses in Kevin Nolan’s first game in charge, with the game finishing 0-0. Mansfield were in good form coming into that game but Notts held firm. =
In fairness, nothing much really happened in that game. Ben Whiteman came close to scoring with a deflected effort, which was well saved by Adam Collin. Michael O’Connor came close for Notts in the second half. In the 90th minute, a shot by Mansfield was saved by Collin and cleared by Carl Dickinson in a moment where my heart skipped a beat.
The 3-1 defeat earlier this season again showed a lack of fight in which we crumbled under the pressure. Stead missed an easy chance from close range and Danny Rose starred as Mansfield ran out winners yet again.
Form coming into this game has never been important. The four games in which Notts have lost against them, they have had the better form coming into each one. The 0-0 draw in January was the only time in which Mansfield had the better form coming into the derby.
There is a slight theory behind this game too, as every time there has been a Tuesday night fixture preceding the derby, Mansfield have won.
2015/16 (0-2) Huddersfield 1-2 Notts, Sheff Wed 4-1 Mansfield – Notts lost the derby
2015/16 (5-0) Notts 1-0 Hartlepool - Notts lost the derby
2016/17 (3-1) Rochdale 2-1 Notts, Port Vale 0-1 Mansfield - Notts lost the derby
2017/18 (3-1) Exeter 0-3 Notts, Cheltenham 3-0 Mansfield - Notts lost the derby
Notts have looked brilliant recently and I have the feeling this could the game in which we end the derby curse. Richard Duffy has said about how the players had a talk during the rot they were going through on how to turn it around. He also said they are now doing what they were doing when they were doing at the start of the season.
I’ve also had friends who are Mansfield fans messaging me saying that the style of play since David Flitcroft came in has got worse. Danny Rose and Alex MacDonald have been two players who played well under Steve Evans but haven’t done so far under Flitcroft.
This game is also massive for the promotion race. A Notts win and promotion is in their own hands with 8 games to go. A Mansfield win and they are right back in it with a game in hand. A draw is no good for either team and only hands the advantage to Wycombe and a recently resurgent Coventry. Notts must win to retain their advantage in the promotion race and finally end our awful record in this fixture.
A last word to the fans. We cannot be outsung like last time. Players thrive off the support and it could make all the difference come Saturday. We cannot be outsung.