Notts County host Mansfield Town on Saturday in the biggest ever Nottinghamshire Derby.
The Magpies head into the clash in good form after picking up four points from recent matches against table-toppers Lincoln and play-off chasing Forest Green.
As a result they’ve moved within four points of safety and will hope to put the pressure on Sky Bet League Two’s other struggling sides with a win in the 1pm kick-off.
Mansfield need the points for their own reasons as they continue their push for automatic promotion and can go top of the table, for at least a couple of hours, if they win at Meadow Lane.
They lost at Newport last week which was just their fourth defeat of the season but three of those losses have come since the turn of the year.
With so much at stake, it’s no surprise there’s a crowd of over 12,000 expected at the Lane for what promises to be a cracker!
Notts boss Neal Ardley says…
“Even if you take away the rivalry, it’s a really big match because of where both teams are in the league.
“Based on that alone it’s a huge game because of the time of the season and how momentum can swing – add in that it’s Notts v Mansfield and it goes up tenfold.
“They’re a good side who will be looking to bounce back - if we play well, Mansfield will have to play really well but if we don’t, they’ll probably beat us.
“There was a gulf between the teams last time round but there won’t be much in it on Saturday and it could be a moment of brilliance or a mistake that decides it."
Stags boss David Flitcroft says…
“Neal is a fantastic manager – he came in and made a few signings which you can see are working and they’ve had good results recently.
“They’re certainly fighting and Neal has now in his armoury what he probably wanted ten weeks ago.
“No two games are ever the same. We’ve flushed out the Newport loss and this is another opportunity to get three points.
“It will be a massive match and a key one for both teams. The players have to make sure they give everything, like they have done all season.”
Notts have no fresh injury concerns following last week’s victory at Forest Green but Ardley could be tempted to shuffle the pack with a clash against Newport coming up on Tuesday.
Mitch Rose will hope to feature against his former club, as will Kane Hemmings who scored for Mansfield in this fixture last season.
Stags will be without striker Danny Rose who was involved in a heavy collision at Newport on Tuesday night but is now in a stable condition after initial concern.
The game also comes too soon for defender Ben Turner while midfielder Alex MacDonald has trained this week and will hope to return after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
We’ve met before
Ardley’s first league match in charge of Notts was during December’s 2-0 defeat at the One Call Stadium where CJ Hamilton scored once in either half for the Stags.
Hemmings’ stoppage-time penalty denied the Magpies all three points last time Mansfield visited Meadow Lane after Terry Hawkridge gave the hosts the lead 10 minutes before half-time.
Notts haven’t beaten the Stags in the league since 2005 and will hope to end a 12-match winless run on Saturday.
Elsewhere in League Two
Second bottom Macclesfield host play-off chasing Colchester having picked up just one point from their last three matches.
Yeovil also face a top seven side when they travel to Forest Green hoping to avoid a sixth straight defeat, while 22nd-placed Morecambe visit Port Vale who are 20th.
Cambridge have won four of their last five and will look to put more distance between themselves and the dropzone when they host Tranmere, while Cheltenham head to Grimsby who have recorded three victories on the spin.
The Derby’s officials
Referee: Lee Mason
Assistants: Matthew Wilkes and Richard West
Fourth official: Craig Hicks