Mansfield (H) – A Match Preview

Yesterday I was unfortunate enough to be confined to my house thanks to the freak snow we received preventing me from reaching work (actually my boss called me and told me not to bother as the office would be closed – it wasn’t – which made me look a bit of a tit when I spoke to my colleagues this morning who HAD battled their way in). I blame South West Trains and the dodgy wiring at Surbiton station… exactly how many times can they claim to have no information due to ‘power failure’ before the public realise they just flicked the light switch to the off position?

Fortunately, I spent my time constructively. I wrote an article for this here blog entitled ‘Bonus’, yet perhaps due to recent inactivity I somehow forgot to post it. Never mind. You didn’t miss much. Plus I’ll probably recycle most of it in this little preview – of a game that may or may not take place…

As many of you will notice, there was an appeal on the website requesting supporters arrive this morning to clear the pitch of snow, to allow the frozen surface underneath the best chance to recover. I have noticed a few people pondering why we don’t have a pitch cover when extreme weather is expected. I vaguely remember that these type of things cost tens of thousands of pounds, so I wonder whether it would be worthwhile making our own? All we would need are a few hundred old duvets and a load of Tesco Value binbags to line it… I’m sure we have a few thrifty supporters who wouldn’t mind devoting some time to knit it all together… then bingo! No more postponements!

For those of you wondering why Danny Webb’s old training kit couldn’t be used for this job, it’s currently on its way to Haiti to be erected as a tent and used as a field hospital…

I suppose clearing the pitch has become a bit of a race against time, with rain forecast for tomorrow and Saturday allowing the snow to melt and saturate the playing surface probably isn’t an option. Yet it must be a careful procedure… after all the pitch itself has cost a fortune to get into its present state, and the investment in playing staff on it means the last thing we need is Danny Kedwell turning his ankle on a pothole created by a well-meaning volunteer rushing to remove a pile of snow and ice…

Not that I’m slagging off those who rushed to the ground this morning – all I’m saying is Saturday will be a big, big game for us, and I don’t want any of them coming away thinking ‘I wish I hadn’t bothered now’… Some of the other ‘big’ ex-League clubs have looked ordinary so far… Hello, Cambridge and Wrexham by the way… and those who are the real deal are starting to rise to the top. Stevenage, Oxford, York, all unbeaten at home this season. And lying just below them, a point ahead of us and with a game in hand, are Mansfield. Luton may have three games in hand on us, and are only three games behind, but they actually have to win those games. At this stage of the season I would prefer to have the points in the bag.

Now I haven’t seen much of Mansfield this season, and its fair to say their away form has been indifferent, but they have picked up wins rather than splitting points – winning six and losing six of their road games this term. Last time out on the road they lost 0-3 to York (and we know all about York…) yet followed it up with a morale boosting win against Cambridge before the big freeze set in. The question is, does this form make any difference after a two-week break? Perhaps there is a Mansfield blogger sitting there now, drawing strength from our defeat at Hayes on New Years Day.

In reality our lacklustre performance was more down to the players that weren’t on the pitch than those who were. With two signings that could potentially start on Saturday (Blanchett and Poole), and another signing apparently on the way, it could be said Wimbledon are a team in transition at the moment. Not pre-season style transition – it won’t take weeks for the new boys to settle, and they could always click straight away. But perhaps enough of a reshuffle for Mansfield to catch us cold?

The flip side of the coin is that we now have the strength in depth that we have been crying out for. As I said last time out, genuine contenders are looking to strengthen now and not release players (Hello, once again, Luton Town…), so to see Terry so active in the market is encouraging. The lack of news about the striker we have been promised doesn’t seem so much of a problem knowing we have a fully fit Danny Kedwell and Jon Main, the most potent strike force in the division with 28 between them, and if anything service should be improved now we have the likes of Will Hendry and Glenn  Poole to add to the likes of Lewis Taylor and the much-missed Luke Moore. (The one thing I do wonder about is where this leaves Elliott Godfrey, such a hard-working but desperately unlucky player, once Moore returns from injury…).

So should we put more pressure on our young team by expecting a win on Saturday? Hmmm, I think some of us would just feel quite privileged to see a game of football again…

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