Stags bank on ‘uncouth’ front pair to destroy Dons

Paul Cox is hoping his ‘uncouth’ front pairing of Matt Rhead and Ollie Palmer can go from strength to strength.
Stags' strike force of Matt Rhead and Ollie Palmer.Stags' strike force of Matt Rhead and Ollie Palmer.
Stags' strike force of Matt Rhead and Ollie Palmer.

The pair, who will hope to terrorise AFC Wimbledon at One Call Stadium tomorrow, are very raw at this level and attracted plenty of criticism from home fans at Hartlepool on Tuesday, particularly for man-mountain Rhead.

But Cox admitted he is pleased he will never have to try to face them on the field.

“The BBC reporter said to me afterwards that he thought our front two were a bit uncouth,” said Cox.

“But they are looking a force for anyone to cope with in this league now.

“I was a centre half and I wouldn’t want to be marking them and few defenders in this league will be looking forward to playing against them.

“They have power and pace and are starting to understand each other really well.

“Matt Rhead has really bedded himself into the first team and I am over the moon for him. Ollie is getting better every game and just needs a goal right now.

“The lads certainly put in a shift on Tuesday. We did get a bit of luck at the right time but I am a big believer that you make your own luck.”

Cox was delighted with his side’s showing in the 4-2 win on Tuesday and added: “Alan Marriott’s penalty save was the turning point and I thought we thoroughly deserved it. It was one way traffic after we tweaked things in the second half.”

“Every time I see the penalty decision on the DVD I think Ritchie Sutton got the ball. But I have got to keep my mouth shut in terms of referees. If you are not 100 per cent certain, as has happened against us on a number of occasions this season, you don’t give it. But they do have a tough job.”

Rhead was happy to be called ‘uncouth’ and even happier to celebrate his goal in front of the baying Hartlepol hoards who had barracked him during the game.

“That’s a positive and I take it as a compliment,” he smiled. “It’s one of those things. I was getting a bit of stick so when I scored my goal I let them know how happy I was about that. You just take it on the chin.”

Hartlepool players were furious Rhead’s goal was allowed to stand as they felt Palmer was offside.

“They might have had a case to be fair,” said Rhead. “ I headed the ball into the corner but, although Ollie didn’t touch it, he did put their keeper off. We showed great character in that second half.”

Rhead is finally on a run of starts for the Stags and said: “I always try to do my best for the team and I think I am settling into the side and the Football League at the minute which I hope will continue.

“I think we need to get past 52-54 points to be safe. But then we still need to push on. We don’t want to get to 54 points and have a holiday. We want to finish as high as possible.

“I think this is a very good league, it is so competitive. Every game is against a tough team willing to fight for every point.

“There is quality in every team and, make a slight mistake, and you get punished. That’s happened to us quite a few times this season, but we are learning.”

He added: “That was a great result on Tuesday so I hope we can now push on and get a good result tomorrow.

“The most important thing is that we impose ourselves on the game and we will hopefully then get a result.”

He also said the fans could make a huge difference tomorrow and that the players needed their backing even more than in last weekend’s 0-0 derby draw with Chesterfield.

He said: “We need them even more so than the derby game, we need them to get behind us which helps us on the pitch. They travelling fans got behind us on Tuesday and we gave them the result they deserved.”