Strikers Kee to Stags Revival

After another weekend of missed chances, the Stags will be hoping their luck will alter this weekend as they make the arduous trip to fellow struggler's Carlisle, where rookie manager Adam Murray will not only face one of his old clubs, but also an ex-manager in Keith Curle. He was enticed back to Mansfield by Curle following the Stags play-off final disappointment in 2004 and perhaps has his opposite number to thank for cementing his affinity with the club, which ultimately paved the way for his third and current spell at the club beginning in 2010. As we know, Murray's current spell at the club has entailed roles as a player, captain, assistant manager and now a place in the 'hot-seat'.

If we turn our thoughts back to Murray's first spell with the club in 2002, in which he helped Mansfield gain promotion to the Second Division, he is best remembered for displaying a killer instinct in front of goal, despite not being a striker. He scored seven goals in thirteen games between February and April, a better than one in two record.

Although in more recent times he found himself operating in a deeper role, where goalscoring was not one of the expected requirements, it will not have been lost on him that the Stags attacking options were somewhat lacking following the sale of last seasons top scorer Sam Clucas to those of whom we do not speak. Rakish Bingham had not fancied after a promising start, Liam Hearn and Alex Fisher were both out injured, and both Matt Rhead and Ollie Palmer were still failing to convince the majority of fans, including myself, that they could cut the mustard in the Football League.

Once the transfer window was opened, Murray moved quickly to secure the loan signing of Billy Kee from Scunthorpe United. Since July 2009, Kee had scored 57 league goals in 103 starts, a record not too dissimilar in terms of percentages to Murray's loan spell in 2002. There is no doubt that as signings go, this was a coup for any League Two side. At the time of his signing, Murray made no secret that the Stags had fought off interest from other clubs to sign Kee. There was some indication from Scunthorpe boss Mark Robins that Kee had 'off the field issues' earlier in the season. Whether or not these are still ongoing is not known, but Murray himself is no stranger to speculation about non-playing matters and it obviously did not deter him in his pursuit of the former Burton hitman.

For the last three games, Kee has been partnered in attack by fellow loanee Vadaine Oliver, who has so far hit four goals in eleven starts for the Stags. Paul Cox initially signed Oliver in October, one of his last signings as Mansfield boss. He made an immediate impact on his debut away at York, where his header down was smashed into the net by the now departed Daniel Carr. He scored his first goal for the Stags and played a starring role in the 1-0 defeat of promotion chasing Plymouth, which arguably earned Murray his first job in management. Across the starts he has made so far, Oliver has been a 1 in 3 man himself.

In their three starts together so far, they have scored a goal each. However, despite their somewhat prolific past records, they have missed over ten good chances in those three games.

Kee's profligacy in front of goal can perhaps be attributed to the fact that he had not started a league game before signing on the dotted line since last season. As a result, he is understandably short of match fitness, but is at least getting into the positions to score goals, which previous incumbents had found problematic to say the least. Murray described him as a 'fox in the box', a poacher who would finish any chance that came his way. Whether it is his lack of sharpness which is shrouding his finishing prowess, only time will tell. It would be a concern if Kee does not rediscover his shooting boots within the next couple of games, as he has now played three lots of ninety minutes and presumably been training with the team for four weeks. In the meantime, he will need to adapt his all round game, particularly his link up play, which has been lacking on the whole.

Vadaine Oliver is a different kind of striker to Kee. He is more like the old fashioned target man, with added velocity. He wins as many headers as Matt Rhead and has bags of pace. Having said that, like Kee so far, he is missing too many chances. Over the course of time, Oliver may get cut more slack than Kee as he is doing much for the team but ultimately, no matter what variation of attacker you may be, you will be judged on the amount of chances you convert. Don't get me wrong, four goals in eleven starts is not to be sniffed at, but with your team in a relegation battle and creating so many opportunities, they must be taken.

All things being well, one day in the near future, everything will click into place. The backline will stand strong and produce risk free clearances. The central midfielders will combine endeavour with ingenuity. The wingers will jink past opposing defenders and deliver devastating final balls and our strike force will be on hand, with the correct mindset and requisite ability to fire the Stags up the table. Let us hope that this one day is Saturday.