By Matt Badcock
MATTY BLAIR remembers his first proper meeting with Mansfield manager Adam Murray – they had a ding-dong in the Conference play-offs!
Stags’ player-boss Murray has signed the pacy attacker from League One Fleetwood. The 25-year-old will be a familiar face to the Field Mill faithful, having seen him score an extra-time winner for York in their 2011-12 Conference play-off semi-final.
The Minstermen went on to win promotion at Wembley, where Blair scored the decisive goal to beat Luton 2-1. Now Murray has got the former Stratford Town and Kidderminster Harriers man on his side – and Blair’s looking forward to being a pain for them, rather than against.
“The manager hasn’t mentioned it yet, but in that play-off game we started on each other,” Blair laughed.
“I was being a cheeky sod and smashed the ball out of play. I’d just scored so I was trying to waste some time and he was desperately trying to get his team back into it.
“I should have got booked really but I got away with it. He came over and tried to smash me so we had a bit of a square up. It hasn’t come up yet. It’s cool, I’m sure we’ll have a laugh about it soon.
“I’ve been in training and had quite a few people around the club mention the goal. I tried to go under the radar with that, too. It was a great goal at the time.
“I’ve had a few good tussles with them over the last few years. I like going to Mansfield. I like the ground, it’s open and the atmosphere is always good. Hopefully I can do that now for Mansfield rather than against them.”
Blair scored past his old club York in last season’s League Two play-off semi-final and then started Fleetwood’s triumphant Wembley final against Burton Albion.
He’s found game time harder to come by this term, however, and he’s eager to make up for lost time.
“Fleetwood are doing well and full credit to them, so I’m not leaving with any anger,” said Blair. “The club have been good enough to let me go. It’s good for all parties.
“I haven’t played in League One as much as I’d want, but I just need some more time on the pitch to get performing at the level I know I can and to help Mansfield kick on and go forward.
“It’s that feeling of playing and winning – and maybe scoring. You miss it. You hear players who’ve retired saying how they want to be back involved. That’s what it is. That feeling of winning a game of football. You can’t beat it.”
Murray has been busy in the transfer marker as he looks to take the Stags away from the drop zone. Blair joins fellow new faces Ricky Ravenhill, Michael Raynes and loan signings Billy Kee, keeper Adam Smith and Callum Elder.
New deals have also been struck for Junior Brown and Reggie Lambe, while Vadaine Oliver’s loan from Crewe has been extended.