John Lomas Stags Blog: The only way is up - to snowy Carlisle!

If the snow doesn’t come down and spoil it all, Stags face a battle royal at one of the Football League’s most distant outposts this Saturday in their six-point showdown with Keith Curle’s Carlisle United.

The forecast is grim – as is the thought of going to Brunton Park, perched at it is right in the top corner of Cumbria not far from the Scottish border.

Stags will be travelling overnight and keeping their fingers crossed the weather hasn’t made it a pointless trek when they awake on Saturday.

Not only is the pitch a concern but also a worry are the huge old stands at the largest football ground in England to still include terracing.

The seats and standing areas will all need to be safe for the public to go in whatever the state of the pitch.

The snow is forecast today and tomorrow followed by cold weather.

To be honest, the prospect of a postponement and Carlisle away on a Tuesday night sounds even worse than the weather forecast.

However, Adam Murray and his men have to focus solely on one thing – how to come away with three points.

And, despite the current run of only one win in 10, I have a warm feeling of optimism for Saturday (the game, not the weather) and the remainder of the season.

Each of the three games since Adam Murray has thrown in his handful of new signings has seen them gel further.

After a first half of looking like the strangers they actually were at Burton, they clicked after the break and pushed a decent Brewers side all the way.

At home to Exeter, they created so many chances and only lost the game due to a couple of silly defensive lapses.

Last weekend’s home match with leaders Wycombe saw them take another step forward.

For me the big factor in that was making Ricky Ravenhill skipper.

Murray spoke of him as captain material when he arrived, and he was the lynchpin of a highly effective spine last weekend with fellow new boy Michael Raynes behind him showing how commanding he can be in central defence and loanee striker Vadaine Oliver a constant threat in front.

Wycombe may have arrived as leaders. But Stags were in no mood to pay them too much respect on a saturated surface and Ravenhill’s early tackles, that upset the opposition, were a catalyst for increased noise from the stands and team mates rolling up their sleeves alongside him in the trenches.

I was annoyed by the constant attempts of the visitors to get a Stags player sent off in an ill-tempered affair that referee Eddie Ilderton did his best to control, dishing out eight yellow cards in the end, tellingly five of them going to Wycombe, despite their mardy attitude.

Once again Mansfield’s luck was out in front of goal as another wealth of chances failed to go in and deliver a KO blow, the Chairboys escaping with a 0-0 draw.

But you do get the feeling that this new-look Stags side might just blow someone out of the water very soon.

Former Stags boss Keith Curle is having a tough time at Brunton Park with supporters there used to playing at a higher level.

Way back in 1974 I can remember them winning their first three games to go top of the old Division One, effectively now the Premier League.

But, like their ground, those memories have long since tarnished and rot has set in.

There is talk of Carlisle fans staging a protest against their board of directors on Saturday which would be a distraction Curle would not need and could go to Mansfield’s advantage.

Carlisle have lost four of their last five games and, if Stags can hit the heights of their last two performances going forward, they may find a few more defensive gaps opening up than they have enjoyed of late.

However, they need no more warning about United’s battling spirit than the meeting between the sides at One Call Stadium earlier in the season when Stags were 3-0 up at half-time but left hanging on at 3-2 as the visitors took over in the second half.

Adam Murray is right in his comments this week that this isn’t a must-win game and there will be no gold medal for winning on Saturday with another 19 ‘cup finals’ to come.

But, at the same time, strugglers Dagenham & Redbridge face Cheltenham at home, definitely a possible three points there, while Tranmere, the only other side below Stags other than Carlisle, face a tougher task at Exeter.

The thought of being in the bottom two on Saturday night is a sobering one after all those years of agony in the Conference and one that Murray must use as a spur. The only way is up.

Good luck to the hardy few fans that will be venturing north to get behind them. Keep an eye on the forecasts and stay safe.