EVENING POST PREVIEW
THIS IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT
Evening Post, 23 August 2002
"OH, look at this," said someone on the sports desk last week as they flicked through the national papers.
"Boston are playing Lincoln this week. There's a derby for you."
I encouraged them in no uncertain terms to wash their mouth out with soap and water, reminding them that the big one this week was at Field Mill.
Some people scoff at the idea of anyone apart from Celtic and Rangers, Liverpool and Everton, Arsenal and Spurs or the two Manchesters enjoying a local derby.
But hating your immediate neighbours is as much part and parcel of being a football fan as burning your lips on a steak-and-kidney pie and rushing through the rain to the car to hear the first reading of the results on radio.
Rivalry in football is not something reserved for those with Far-East merchandising and pay-per-view deals.
Beating your local rivals is special and when the fixtures came out, Stags fans wanted to know when Chesterfield were coming to town.
My first experience of the game was the season before last when Field Mill was three-quarters-full of blue and white and the Spirerites secured a 1-0 win.
That was February 2001 and it is interesting that it was then Chesterfield storming towards promotion and Stags facing another season of mid-table mediocrity.
Now, Stags are still riding along on the crest of their promotion wave, have just signed their sixth player of the season and crowds are up 90% on last year.
Meanwhile, Chesterfield have fallen on hard times, have a crumbling stadium and have lost some of the players who helped them into Division Two in the first place.
For Stags, there is a sense that they will have no better chance to get one over their neighbours and the stigma of going eight years without a win over them bites hard.
Stags boss Stuart Watkiss said: "Since we played them last time, my boys have grown up a lot and they are looking forward to it.
"Like any derby, it will be tense, there will be lots of tackles flying in and we will have to match them in every department.
"I just hope all the fans come with the intention of watching a good local derby and concentrate on the football."
Spirerites boss Dave Rushbury said: "The team who keep their composure and shape will be the ones who come out on top.
"No-one will want to give an inch."
At the final whistle tomorrow, the managers and players will shake hands and three points will be won and lost.
But for the fans, they face months of ridicule and all that remains to be seen is who will have the last laugh.
IF THEY'D REACHED THE CUP FINAL, I'D HAVE GIVEN UP GOING TO FOOTIE...
Evening Post, 23 August 2002
By Steve Hartshorn, the editor of Mansfield fanzine Follow The Yellow Brick Road
I have to say with no exaggeration that the game against Chesterfield means absolutely everything to me.
One of the main things about gaining promotion was that we would have the opportunity of playing them again - and now that chance has arrived.
It's hard to describe what it means to the uninitiated but, it doesn't matter who you support, a local derby is a local derby.
I'm sure everyone who follows the Stags knows Chesterfield fans and works with them and, put that together with the history there is between the two clubs, and the match is something to really look forward to.
It's something to savour - until the game kicks off and then it is just unbearable.
The tension takes all the enjoyment out of the game. You just daren't comtemplate losing.
If you win, it seems like the answer to all your problems. Everything in life has a rosy glint. It's fantastic.
It's that feeling that makes some people say that they don't really care how Stags get on during the season, as long as they beat Chesterfield.
I wouldn't go that far, but it is important.
To lose would be so disheartening, embarrassing and shameful, especially if the team just rolls over like the last time we went to Saltergate and lost 4-0.
But, then again, there was no better feeling than when Keith Cassells scored a last-minute winner in 1987.
For me, like most Stags fans, though, it is the play-offs of 1995 that most stick in the mind.
We were 2-1 up in extra-time and were laughing that they wouldn't be going to Wembley.
Then, within minutes, we had two sent off and had lost 5-2.
It was desperate.
I remember that they played Bury in the final - and I just didn't want to know.
I shut myself away and decided to take my dad to a garden centre in Matlock.
Chesterfield were at Wembley and I just didn't want to know.
We were walking around, along the rows of plants and, suddenly, there was a big cheer from around one of the corners.
Four of the shop's staff were cheering around a radio at a Spirerites goal.
I just had to go and sit in the car. I couldn't believe my bad luck.
All I can say is God bless David Elleray.
When the Spirerites got to the FA Cup semi-finals, he disallowed a goal that was clearly over the line.
Now, I'm the first to moan at referees but, if Chesterfield had got to the FA Cup Final, I think I would have stopped going to football.
That's what this rivalry means to me.
We used to beat them a lot - we haven't for a while.
It is time for the pendulum to swing back in our favour again.
We are no longer the underdogs and things seem to be going our way.
I'm very confident that tomorrow we are going to win by a mile.
I just pray we do...
Chesterfield manager Dave Rushbury is keeping his fingers crossed that David Reeves and Chris Brandon will recover from injury in time.
Rushbury said: "David has a heavy knock on his calf and Chris a problem with his hamstring, so we are leaving it until the last minute."
Andy Rushbury, the manager's son, pulled his groin in the reserve game against Doncaster so he also remains a doubt.
But other than long-term injury casualties Steve Blatherwick (hamstring) and Marcus Ebdon (back), Rushbury has no further concerns as he looks forward to what will be an intense local derby.
He added: "The game will be a supporters' day out. If we win, the fans will be talking about it until the next time we meet.
"We caught them cold last time we met at Saltergate but it was far tougher when we played them at their place so I'm expecting much of the same again."
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