MARRIOTT HOPES TO BE BACK BY END OF DEC
'Forgotten man' Marriott out to rival Pilkington before year is out
Evening Post, 3 Dec 2010
SEVERAL members of the Mansfield Town team have been rendered housebound by this week's snow – but that feeling is nothing new to goalkeeper Alan Marriott.
Laid up by a frustrating injury that experts have struggled to diagnose, Marriott has spent lengthy amounts of time sat on the settee at his Lincoln home, twiddling his thumbs.
And while he has enjoyed spending time with his family, he yearns to be back where he feels he belongs – between the posts for Mansfield.
Early in his career, spent with Lincoln City, Marriott was seldom injured and clocked up more than 350 Football League appearances at Sincil Bank from 1998.
It is only since he has moved on to Rushden and Diamonds and now Mansfield that he has encountered any kind of serious problems.
Marriott has already spent eight weeks out since having an operation on October 11 for what was first thought to be a hernia problem.
The former Tottenham trainee had played on through pain in his groin and inside of his leg during pre-season, but eventually had to come off in the 5-2 home defeat to AFC Wimbledon, a week before going under the surgeon's knife.
"There are only so many custard creams you can eat before you want to get out there and burn it off," said Marriott.
"It might seem great being sat in front of the fire on a Saturday afternoon when you could be on a long trip somewhere.
"But that soon wears off and you want to get back out there and do what you do best.
"I suppose at least this week I had some snow to shovel off my yard so we could drive to the club!
"It does feel a little bit like you are the forgotten man because you aren't involved day-to-day and your face soon gets forgotten.
"What makes it worse is that I'm just not used to it. I went about seven seasons at Lincoln hardly missing a game and playing through it if I did have a knock.
"It just seems like I have taken two steps forward and three back in the time I've been out."
Marriott had originally hoped to return within a month.
But when he was still getting pain after a week's rest and then rehabilitation at Lilleshall, it quickly became clearer he would be out much longer.
The 32-year-old has since seen a specialist, who believes his troubles relates to his inflammation of the pubic bone.
Marriott is hoping that a cortizone steroid injection, which he hopes will be given the go-ahead next week, will help do the trick and allow him to get back in training before the end of the year.
He said: "The injection has to be pinpoint accurate and it is not 100 per cent guaranteed to be successful.
"But if all goes well I hope to be back in three or four weeks to first get sorted and then get some training in so I can be back in contention at the end of December.
"For a goalkeeper, it's not so much a case of getting fitness, but getting back sharp again with your drills."
Although Marriott has been rarely challenged for his place since becoming one of David Holdsworth's first signings in January 2009, he knows that might change now.
"I have been watching Kevin Pilkington since he came in on loan and I think he has stood out with his performances," he said.
"Pilks is a quality goalkeeper and his loan could well be extended, so I know I won't walk back into the side."
Mansfield can thrive using 4-4-2, insists defender Rhys Day
Evening Post, 1 Dec 2010
RHYS Day is convinced Mansfield Town will prosper if they play 4-4-2 week in, week out.
Departed Stags boss David Holdsworth often came under fire from fans for using a 4-5-1 cum 4-3-3 formation.
Fans also made their feelings clear at half-time when the team trailed 2-1 at home to Hayes and Yeading using a similar system during Duncan Russell's first game in caretaker charge.
But Mansfield did revert to 4-4-2 for the second half of that match and overturned their deficit to run out 3-2 winners.
They also employed similar tactics at in-form Wrexham last weekend and secured a creditable 1-1 draw.
Stand-in captain Day believes those successes highlight there is no need for experimentation.
"I think players feel most comfortable at 4-4-2 because most of us have been brought up playing it," he said.
"It's what the English game is all about and what we are used to. As a side we have shown in the last one-and-a-half games we can play it well."
Paul Connor became the first Mansfield player to reach double figures of goals this season with his strike at the Racecourse Ground and Day reckons there will be plenty more to follow.
He said: "I'm sure Conns will be aiming for at least 20 goals now this season," he said.
Mansfield's game against Barrow, scheduled for Saturday, is already in doubt because of snow with a pitch inspection planned for 9.45am on Friday.
Pilkington proud to be part of Stags revival, as they look to bounce back into League
IT ranks as one of the proudest moment in Kevin Pilkington's career. It's an occasion he and Mansfield Town fans will never forget.
Unfortunately, though, the triumph that was the Stags' promotion from the old Division Three at the end of the 2001-2002 season is now a distant memory and a rare high point in the last decade of the club's history.
Since then, Mansfield have not only slid back down to the basement division of the Football League, but out of English football's elite 92 altogether, before even flirting with relegation from the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Goalkeeper Pilkington was a key member of the squad to earn that club's last sliver of success, a side that included the likes of Chris Greenacre, Lee Williamson, Bobby Hassell, Liam Lawrence, Craig Disley and Wayne Corden.
He was also part of the team that lost out so narrowly in the 2004 Division Three play-off final at Cardiff to Huddersfield Town on penalties.
Pilkington eventually left the Stags for local rivals Notts County in the summer of 2005, spending five seasons at Meadow Lane before joining Luton Town in the summer.
It is from the Hatters that the 36-year-old has found himself back in the familiar surroundings of Field Mill, joining on a three-month loan until January to get some first team action under his belt.
That stretch, weather permitting, could see Pilkington pass the 200 mark of appearances in all competitions for Mansfield over his two spells.
"I've no regrets at all about coming back, I'm enjoying it," said Pilkington.
"I'm playing games, which is what you want to be doing at this stage of your career.
"If you are in the team then you tend to be happy and, at the moment, I am loving it.
"I think that is because the Mansfield lads are all so enthusiastic and are so eager to do well.
"I still see some of the faces around the club from when I was here last time, which is great.
"I was speaking to Billy Dearden (former manager) the other day and we were talking about the good team we got together here.
"It would be nice to see that success here again after some tough times.
"I think the play-offs is the least we should be looking for this season. We have some really good players, not just in the team but in the squad.
"I just think we need to believe a little bit more because we have shown when we play well what we can do."
Less than a month into his temporary spell in north Nottinghamshire, Pilkington has seen the Stags part company with manager David Holdsworth, the man who brought him back to Field Mill for a second time.
But the Stags have reacted positively under the caretaker management of Duncan Russell and Paul Hall with a victory over Hayes and Yeading (3-2) and a draw at Wrexham (1-1).
Pilkington said: "I don't really know what went wrong when we were on that bad run because I was only here for the last four games of David's spell in charge.
"All I know is that the lads are pulling in the right direction. They are taking what Russ says on board.
"I'm sure 90 per cent of the lads have been through this before at one club or another.
"Whoever comes in next will bring their own ideas. For the moment, Russ has told us that he wants to keep a stable team, which always helps. It can't help that much if people are coming in and out all the time.
"You have to get that partnership going in the back four, especially in the middle.
"Rhys and Grandy did well at Wrexham and I thought we kept a superb line, particularly in the first half."
In that aforementioned clash at the Racecourse Ground, the Red Dragons went down to ten men late in the first half after the dismissal of Andy Mangan for violent conduct.
The Stags felt they should have gone on to win the match, but Pilkington was philosophical about the point gained against an in-form Welsh side.
"To say the preparation, or lack of it, that we had for the Wrexham game we did very well," he said.
"We didn't have a pre-match meal and had to get our own food at a service station and we didn't set off until later.
"It would have been easy for us to then lose and use what had happened to us as an excuse, but the lads were brilliant, really professional, and did a good job.
"The conditions were awful, but we had three great chances to go and win the game. It was just unfortunate we did not put them away.
"I was absolutely freezing in the second half because I only had one meaningful touch of the ball.
"I think that showed how much we dominated the game. Sometimes facing ten men can work against you, but we played as well as we could do without getting the three points."
What has been a smooth transition into the dressing room at Mansfield for Pilkington has been further assisted by the presence of a couple of familiar faces.
Both Rhys Day and Adam Murray played alongside the Hitchin-born shot-stopper when Keith Curle was in charge of the Stags.
Pilkington said: "It is nice to have players you already know here because you know you can be honest with them and they will take it in the right way.
"I'm one who likes to say my piece in the dressing room, but these lads expect it. It's the same if someone I know has a go at me – I would accept it.
"Having familiarity helps you settle in and I get on really well with Rhys and Muzza."
Mansfield loan keeper Pilkington admits future still up in the air
KEVIN Pilkington today admitted the possibility of him returning to Mansfield Town permanently depends on the views of two managers.
The veteran keeper has played six games for the Stags – the club with whom he won promotion from the old Division Three in 2001-02 – on loan from Luton Town.
That deals runs until January, meaning Pilkington is set to continue to deputise for injury victim Alan Marriott in the short-term.
But beyond that, things are uncertain, despite being contracted to the Hatters until the end of the campaign.
Pilkington still has great affection for the Stags, the club for whom he made 189 appearances between 2000 and 2005.
However, he knows he has to broach his future with Luton boss Richard Money and whoever is appointed as David Holdsworth's successor at Mansfield before any decision is made.
"What happens for me in the New Year depends on what Luton are thinking – and the new Mansfield manager," said Pilkington.
"I have to respect what the manager (Richard Money) thinks.
"He gave me a contract for the season and wanted me to go on loan to get some games under my belt.
"I don't know if they want me back there or not, so I will have to sit down there and have a talk with them about it.
"If Luton said I could go, then of course I would be interested in coming to Mansfield, but if they still want me there, I would respect that as well.
"It also depends if Mansfield still want me by then, so it is still up in the air."
Pilkington has been impressed with the way caretaker manager Duncan Russell, assisted by Paul Hall, has gone about business since Holdsworth's exit two-and-a-half weeks ago.
He said: "Russ has been really enthusiastic, he is a likeable character and is desperate for the lads to do well.
"All the lads respect him and have got behind him and he is doing his best for the time being."
"Whether he will get the job full-time or not we don't know yet, but whoever is put in charge, the players will get behind that person."
Latest | December 2010