Mansfield Town v Notts County Head to Head
The excitement in the press, in the camp and particularly it seems on the NCM Message board, ahead of this Saturday's derby clash, highlights the significance of the game.
With Nottingham Forest a division above at present, Mansfield Town have come to represent Notts' fiercest local rivals, and this is the third clash at Field Mill in three seasons. With one win apiece so at Mansfield in the past two seasons, all is to play for on Saturday.
The banter has started, Notts have sold out on their allocation of tickets, and everything is geared to another derby day cracker.
Two seasons ago Notts were hammered 3-1, with only a fantastic display from goalkeeper Saul Deeney denying Notts a real hammering under Gary Mills. Then, last season, Notts turned around a 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 with two goals in the last five minutes. That put Gudjon Thordarson's side top of the table. We all know how that one turned out.
This time, Mansfield come into the game on the back of a 4-0 hammering at league leaders Walsall, whilst Notts are sixth, just a point from second. Mansfield sit in seventeenth, just two points ahead of the drop zone.
Form though will go out of the window, and the game is surely to be down to the raw passion of the individuals on show. Here is NCM's take on how the performances could go:
(These line-ups are probable, not definite)
Pilkington returns to his old stomping ground, determined to win over the Mansfield boo boys who haunted him last season. He is in good form, and has six clean sheets to his name already this season. Youngster White is low on confidence after the concession of four at Walsall. However, he has shown promise to displace the experienced Carl Muggleton.
Dan Gleeson v Danny Sheehan
Gleeson has showed good potential so far this season, and has been an integral part of the back line that has kept six league clean sheets. Has good pace, good awareness and is strong. Sheehan is on loan at Mansfield from ‘Championship' outfit Leicester City. He is held in high regard at Leicester, with a good tactical awareness and sharp tackling.
Austin McCann v Gareth Jelleyman
McCann was recently voted NCM users ‘Best Thommo Signing', illustrating his importance and impact to the Notts team. The dependable left-back is also excellent going forward, and has yet to let the side down. Jelleyman has a big match mentality, and scored in the tie last season. He can also operate in midfield, and is a workhorse for the Stags.
Alan White v Alex-John Baptiste
Both are huge battlers and competitors. White's goals this season have added an extra part to Notts' play, whilst he has held firm on the whole defensively. Prone to the odd lapse though, as is Baptiste. The youngster has been a long target for higher league scouts, and has good pace and a solid stance. Can also score a goal or two.
Mike Edwards v Jake Buxton
Edwards has shown he could be the best defender in the division. Has yet to make a mistake, wins almost every header and tackle, and has a calm approach when on the ball. He scores vital goals too. Buxton is still a raw defender, and this has shown when strikers get up against him. However, he is a strong lad, and when confident can snuffle out opposing threats.
David Pipe v Matt Hamshaw
Pipe is a long standing fans favourite at Meadow Lane. His loyalty, determination and character have made him a fierce competitor who is sure to relish the derby day atmosphere. Not on the best of form however, and that can be said of Hamshaw too. After a good start to his Mansfield career when he scored a couple of goals and created a few more, Hamshaw needs to rediscover his own confidence.
Andy Parkinson v Michael Boulding
Parkinson has shown little of the form that made him such a threat when he first played for Notts. Then he was full of dribbling and scored many great goals. Now he is short on any confidence, but he still can change a game in an instant. Boulding, back at his first club, retired from football recently, but has come out to star for the Stags. A real, pacey threat, with an eye for goal. He is Mansfield's danger man.
Matt Somner v Jonathon D'Laryea
Somner has impressed with his tenacity and grit in midfield. He is sure to play a huge part if the derby boils down to a battle. His match up with the big, strong D'Laryea could determine where the game is won and lost.
Ross, on loan from Sheffield United, has demonstrated his class in fits and starts. If he were to become more consistent, there is no doubt that he can be one of the best playmakers in the division. His passing range his good, and is set-piece delivery vital to Notts' cause. Coke will pull the strings for the home side, and has had ‘Championship' scouts watching him. He is a box-to-box player with an eye for goal, and was man of the match at Meadow Lane last season.
Lawrie Dudfield v Ritchie Barker.
With Jason Lee suspended, last Saturday's goal hero Dudfield looks set to start and will be high on confidence. He will have to bear the brunt of Notts' physical threat. Barker is again amongst the leading scorer's in the division, though he has yet to hit the heights of last season. Strong, experienced and determined, Barker will be the focal point of Mansfield's attacking moves.
Junior Mendes v Danny Reet.
Mendes returns to his former club in good shape. His pace and skill will hurt the Mansfield defence, whilst he will be determined to improve on his two goals so far. Will not be wound up by the home support, and will relish the atmosphere. Reet is in competition with Chris Beardsley, Nathan Arnold and Callum Lloyd for a start, but if he gets the nod will add directness and good finishing to the ranks.
Overall: Notts 5, Mansfield 3, Draw 3.
Let the battle commence.