FIRST meets third tomorrow as the two most in-form teams of the Blue Square Bet Premier, Fleetwood Town and Mansfield Town, collide head-on at Highbury.
The stand-out Conference fixture of the afternoon throws up all kinds of possibilities, with pacesetters Fleetwood just seven matches away from the gilt-edged prize of a place in the Football League.
Fleetwood, who lead the division by six points, are enjoying an unbeaten run of 24 matches, while Mansfield have roared into strong play-off contention by winning seven of their last eight.
The only points Mansfield dropped during that outstanding sequence were at home to Fleetwood ten days ago, when an injury-time goal secured them a 1-1 draw, dashing the Cod Army’s hopes of maximum points at the death.
Since that meeting, the Stags have run riot, twice coming from behind to beat Alfreton 6-3 on Tuesday, having thumped Barrow 7-0 last weekend.
But manager Micky Mellon says his team are ready to repel anything Mansfield can throw at them ... and reply in kind.
The Fleetwood boss said: “Mansfield make teams defend. They put everything they can into the box and throw in their big players.
“They are a big side and you have to make sure you stand up to them. But I know we have enough in our side to deal with that and cause them a lot of problems as well. It’s a massive game, but then every game we play now is massive, whichever team we play.
“It promises to be a terrific game on Saturday and has all the makings of a cracker.
“We haven’t played at Highbury for a while (they have played three away games since beating Grimsby on home turf on March 6) so it will be good to be back playing in front of our own fans and there should be a big crowd.”
Mansfield’s run under manager Paul Cox has not gone un-noticed elsewhere in the game. Cox has been linked with the vacant post with League Two strugglers Burton Albion after manager Paul Peschisolido was sacked.
Mellon is unconcerned about internal matters at Mansfield and is purely focused on his own task.
“We tend to live in a bubble on the Fylde coast – the M55 lies between us and the rest of the world! – and I have not heard any of the stories about their manager.
“I am only concerned with what happens at Fleetwood. We have just come through five matches in the space of 15 days, and was a tough schedule.
“We have taken the players off their legs a bit this week and given them a good rest, but it was back to it on Thursday.
“The players are really enjoying their football and there is a real enthusiasm in training.”
It is an attitude that is fully embraced by Mellon. He said: “I am very ambitious. I want to manage at as high a level as I possible can and be involved in big games like this all the time. Let’s get it on!”
Fleetwood are monitoring the fitness of striker Gareth Seddon in the run-up to tomorrow’s match. The frontman injured his ankle in a reserve team run-out in midweek but should be OK.
Another striker, Richard Brodie, is walking a disciplinary tightrope.
No stranger to suspension this season, Brodie is two yellow cards away from a three-match ban and all the serious ramifications that would entail for Fleetwood’s vital run-in. Second-placed Wrexham, who have two matches in hand on Fleetwood, entertain Forest Green Rovers at The Racecourse tomorrow.
n Wear a tin hat if you say this in the environs of Highbury, but even if Fleetwood lose all seven of their remaining games they are still guaranteed a place in the end-of-season play-offs, so impressive is their points tally.