A final hat-trick!

As you may be aware, this is my last blog. Don’t get all disappointed and teary-eyed on me, as a reward for your loyalty & devoted support- I’m writing 3-in-1. You can also call this your Christmas present – after all, times are hard! So without further ado . . .

(Part 1) Negative Dominance & Craig’s Half Term Report!

Following Tuesday’s emphatic midweek win away at Gateshead, spirits where high in the Stags’ dressing room. David Holdsworth could welcome back more fire power to his squad with Rob Duffy returning from suspension – would he have to settle for a place on the bench with Kyle Perry and Lee Morris impressing at Gateshead? Who would fill the gap at centre half with Scott Garner suspended? My money was on Craig Armstrong. Would Ollie Hotchkiss get a place in the starting 11 after his thunderous free kick?

These questions were answered — but with some surprises. Michael Brough started at centre back; Paul Heckingbottom came back in at left back – meaning I lost my £5 bet with a friend about Armstrong starting! Ollie Hotchkiss replaced Matt Somner in midfield to partner John Challinor, while Rob Duffy came straight back into the side to partner Kyle Perry.

As everybody will know by now, Stags dominated 90% of the game and should have ran up a cricket score against a shoddy Grays side – the first side to my knowledge to travel to the fixture via two mini-buses and a car: perhaps players and supporters travelled together, it was the lowest away attendance I’ve ever known – eight fans! Fair play to them! It was obvious to everybody in the ground that Grays’ keeper was the weak link, dropping everything! 0-0 at half time and Stags came out fighting and when they earned a penalty everyone thought the outcome was a foregone conclusion – Rob Duffy would bury it and get the scoring mêlée underway! But he missed, and then spooned the follow-up which was a simple tap-in. This is where Grays won a point for me – penalties are a psychological battle between keeper and taker – the keeper won and grew in confidence while Duffy hit a wall and failed to produce – eventually getting substituted for Lee Morris.  No matter who we threw on or what we threw at the keeper – he somehow, much to everyone’s amazement, kept the Stags at bay. Final score 0-0, everybody went home, pleased at how we played but frustrated at how we failed to run up a cricket score – we had enough chances, it just wasn’t our day!

Luke Jones (Pic Dan Westwell)

This game now takes us to half way through our season, and I think that despite some suspect results, we’re not doing too badly. We’re in the play-offs and will probably have to settle for that come the end of the season. I think that with all the tinkering Holdsworth has made he needs to settle on a side that will play together constantly – our best form of attack seems to be when we play the ball on the floor, our centre back pairing of Jones and Garner is good enough to bring the ball down and pass into the playmakers. Matt Somner/ Kyle Nix/ Ollie Hotchkiss/ Gary Mills all have potential to change a game and I think if they can get the ball wide early (especially at home) to Williams/ Burgess/ Briscoe we are a real force going forward. I’d like to see Daryl Clare back – now he’s got a few games and goals under his belt he could be a key asset to our side. If we’re to push on, we need to switch on and be aware of counter attacks, turn these draws into wins and make the most of our chances.

My player of the season tip is Luke Jones, closely followed by Marriott and Silk!

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a fan, just a writer! This concludes Part One.

(Part 2) Answering Questions!

I’m just going to answer a few questions I’ve been asked since announcing I’d step aside to let someone else have a go at this blog. Where better to start than ‘Why are you stepping aside?’

Well, since climbing over that fence in Barrow to join Mansfield 103.2, I’ve really started to enjoy sports broadcasting and after many conversations I feel I have a real chance of making it, but only if I take off my ‘Stags Fan’ glasses. The only thing stopping me doing that is writing this blog, and as much as I love it, it becomes difficult for me to write when I have to look at the game from a different perspective.

‘What next for you?’

Although I’m not going to walk straight into a career, I have to take a gamble and am currently looking to study sports journalism. I think I will continue to join Mansfield 103.2 on a match day, if not I’ll go back in the stands and just become a normal fan – meaning my gamble will not have paid off, but I’m focused on working hard enough to make it work.

‘Is this the end of your writing career?’

Fear not! It is not the end. I’m hopeful to return to the Chad on occasion should they give me the opportunity to write a few one-off pieces about Stags. Long term I’m also working on a book about following the Stags and how it differs being in the BSP from the league, called “Into the Unknown”. I just need to get the green light from a few people, so you’ll have to keep your eyes open!

‘Will the blog end now your leaving?’

Definitely not! The Chad are looking for a new blogger, and I would urge anyone to send who’s interested to send in an example blog entry to them: it’s thanks to this blog that I’ve been recognised and have the chance at a career. Although nothing is guaranteed, if you work hard enough you might get a chance like I have. There is no pay, but it only takes about 20 minutes on a Sunday- and they’re boring anyway, so it helps pass the time.

Give it a go, whether you’re young or old this could potentially get you recognised- and it’s really enjoyable too.

‘Which has been your favourite blog entry?’

Although I enjoy writing them all, I like most the ones where I share the stories of what happens on away trips – that always brings a huge smile to my face. I’m also proud of the ‘Meet the Manager’ one, which got published in the paper, – this got me recognised and I still get great feedback from it. I wasn’t asked to do it, I just did it so it’s little things like that which can make the difference.

(Part 3) Thank you and goodbye.

I’d just like to say a HUGE Thanks to the following people who have made this blog possible and made it so enjoyable. Tom Pegg – who gave me the opportunity to start writing it. Tim Morriss/ John Lomas and everybody at the Chad office who gave me advice about writing. Mark Stevenson at the club, who has been a regular reader and has helped me to get a few players reading! Dan Westwell for supplying some fantastic photos. Gary Mills for taking the time to comment on a few entries and chat with me. Craig Armstrong / Luke Jones – great people to interview and talk to – they’re defo on my Christmas card list!  David Groom/ Chris Priest/ Matt Gibbons/ Stacey Webb/ Bekii Watson/ Nigel Kemp & EVERYONE on the SSA Bus who provided some great days out and resulted in the funny stories being shared via this blog. Anyone I’ve missed off – there are so many- you’re all great!

Last but not at all least – YOU, for reading without fail every week, coming up to me and being generally brilliant! None of this could have happened without your support – please do the same for next blogger and if you’re thinking about being the blogger, get your entries sent in, you won’t regret it.

This concludes my blog. Thanks as always; until we meet again; COME ON YOU STAGS – Get behind the squad and get us back to the league.

Craig ‘Blogger001’ Priest.

“Mansfield Town FC; The greatest club”


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