TWO mistakes by keeper Alan Marriott proved decisive as Stags remain pointless after the first two games with a disappointing 4-1 defeat at Gateshead last night, reports John Lomas.
Paul Cox’s men failed to show why they are among the favourites for promotion as they failed to get in gear all night.
More dreadful early defending allowed Gateshead to take a 10th minutes lead, though Luke Jones did nod home an 18th minute equaliser.
But the second half was one to forget, particularly for Marriott who dived over Nathan Fisher’s 56th minute shot from outside the box and then flapped at a 45 yard free kick from Chris Bush that bounced into the net.
To put the seal on a bad night in the North-East, Lee Beevers was sent off for a second bookable offence six minutes from time before the man he brought down, James Marwood, set up Fisher for his second four minutes from the end.
Stags gave a debut to new signing Colin Daniel, replacing the injured Ross Dyer in the three-man attack.
Gateshead included Stags’ summer trialist Ryan McGorrigan on the bench.
Meikle made a fine early burst down the right for the visitors but, having gone past a second man, he over-ran the ball into touch.
For Gateshead, Curtis flicked a header well wide when Bush’s long throw was cleared back out to him to try again with a cross.
But Saturday’s defensive frailties quickly returned to haunt Mansfield. On nine minutes Marriott made a great save to deny Hatch’s close range header from Clark’s looped ball.
That conceded a corner from which Cummins saw his free header saved well by Marriott and Magnay saw his follow-up deflect up and over for another flag kick.
Stags’ defence was under intense pressure and from that next corner they conceded, again far too easily, in the 10th minute.
This time Gillies picked out Hatch who simply thundered a six yard header past Marriott at the same time as Curtis had gone down and the home players were appealing for a penalty.
Cox, sensing things were not working again, quickly sent on Speight for Tolley on 17 minutes and went 4-4-2. And within a minute the Stags were level.
Owens sent in a long free kick from his own half which saw Jones rise to loop a header inside the near post.
Magnay got his head onto another long throw by Bush, but it was an easy take for Marriott.
A mistake by Boyle saw him fail to cut out a Beevers throw and the ball ran for Green who, not expecting it to reach him, scuffed a poor finish wide from 15 yards.
Bush varied his throw routine and sent it out of the box to the lurking Gillies whose 20 yard shot flew over the visitors’ angle.
Good work from Hatch saw him set up Cummins for a shot that Jones threw himself in the way of. The ball ran to Gillies who saw his effort deflect wide for a corner, from which Magnay didn’t get any direction onto his header from Gillies’ ball in.
A good run from Gillies from the left saw him come inside and find Boyle in space to his left, but he sidefooted a first time shot straight to Marriott.
There were a few niggles creping in and Beevers was booked for his challenge on Hatch on 35 minutes.
Mansfield thought they had won a penalty on 37 minutes when Curtis appeared to haul down Green. But those hopes were dashed by an offside flag that was already raised.
A minute later Hatch and Fisher headed on and, despite two defenders, Cummins was able to stretch out a leg and lift the ball just over the bar.
A decent cross in from Daniel on the left flew towards Howell who was unable to get anything on it as it skimmed his head for a goalkick.
Mansfield finished the half strongly with corners from each side, but the half ended all square with Paul Cox likely to have much to say about that early defending during the half-time break.
Stags returned with Thompson in the centre of defence in place of the presumably injured Pilkington.
Mansfield almost snatched an early lead as a long Owens throw was headed on by both Jones and Howells for Speight’s head to finally nod it wide.
Two more Owens bombs were hurled in and twice the Heed cleared their lines.
But the home side regained the lead out of nothing on 56 minutes.
Meikle gave up possession 40 yards from goal where Fisher turned superbly and ran at the defenders before firing low on target from 20 yards.
It seemed a routine save for Marriott, but the usually reliable stopper allowed the ball to squirm under his dive and find the net.
Bush caught everyone by surprise by thundering a free kick over the bar from over 40 yards.
Both sides made changes with Reid on for Owens for the Stags on 67 minutes.
Gateshead quickly forced a corner after Bush’s shot deflected wide off Thompson, Magnay then getting under his header from the corner.
Thompson was booked for a foul on 70 minutes. And from that kick another Marriott howler saw Gateshead extend their lead.
Bush sent the kick in from 45 yards and, with players jostling, the ball bounced through to the keeper who flapped at it as it bounced past him into the net.
Beevers chopped down Marwood as he tried to play a one-two to get in on goal and the inevitable second yellow card and red one were produced.
Four minutes from time Marwood set up Fisher from the left for a sidefooted finish to rub in their superiority with goal number four.
Mansfield almost pulled one back as Green’s close range finish was smothered by Bartlett, conceding the first of two corners.
Marriott denied Fisher hat-trick in stoppage time as he got behind his low shot from the right.
GATESHEAD: Bartlett, Magnay, Boyle, Curtis, Clark, Gillies, Turnbull, Hatch, Cummins, Fisher, Bush. Subs: Marwood, Wilson, Nixon, McGlen, McGorrigan.
STAGS: Marriott; Beevers, Jones, Pilkington, Owens; Roberts, Howell, Tolley; Meikle, Green, Daniel. Subs: Thompson, Speight, Wright, Clements, Rhead.
REFEREE: Darren Handley of Bolton.