Match analysis: Mansfield Town show that they have plenty more to offer this season

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Mansfield Town were denied an opening day win after Jabo Ibehre’s goal in first half stoppage time rescued a 1-1 draw for Carlisle United.

Stags had started the first half well and looked dangerous in wide areas with Nathan Thomas, and Reggie Lambe in particular, finding space and showing a willingness to run with the ball and take people on.

That pressure finally told as Mansfield took the lead in a way that those in the ground will no doubt talk about for years to come.

New boy Malvind Benning stepped up and crashed home the sweetest of free-kicks from all of 30 yards, which would have sent twitter into meltdown mode had Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi scored in a similar fashion.

It was a moment to savour and a moment all in the home sections of the bumper 4,000 crowd will be desperate to see repeated in the coming months.

But one thing Stags fans will not want to see repeated was the lack of defensive concentration which, ultimately, cost Murray’s men two points and a winning start.

With half-time just seconds away Mansfield’s rearguard switched off allowing Derek Asamoah and Ibehre the time and space needed to fashion an opening with a neat one-two.

Ibehre then did the rest with a calm and composed finish past Scott Shearer to give Carlisle an unlikely get out of jail free card.

Stags had bossed large periods of the first half and will have felt hard done by to go in level at the break.

Mansfield came out fighting in the second half, but failed to find the same dominance in possession and creativity, espeically out wide, as they had enjoyed in the first half, with Lambe and Thomas fading and the visitors stepping up their play.

The home side did have their chances to win the game with Chris Clements going close as he fired shots just over and into the Quarry Lane end midway through the second half.

Matt Green also came within a whisker of capping a dream return from Birmingham City as he spun well in the box before firing just past Gillespie’s right-hand post in stoppage time.

At the other end Carlisle enjoyed good spells of possession with, in what was perhaps their best chance of the half, Asamoah just inches away from connecting with Angelo Balanta’s cross on 76 minutes.

The draw was perharps a fair result with neither team doing enough in the second 45 minutes to warrant winning the extra two points.

But the result and performance, already an improvement on last year’s opening day defeat at Northampton Town, will give Stags plenty of encouragement.

Matt Green did show glimpses of his former self, and perhaps would have taken his injury-time chance with a few more games under his belt.

While it is fantastic to have Green once again wearing the yellow shirt, Stags must stick to the flowing passing football that Adam Murray is so eager to implement.

Too many times the first intention was to lump the ball up to the ever reliable Matt Green, especially when the ball was in Scott Shearer’s hands or at his feet.

It is no doubt an easy option to clear the danger area, but too often Green was left isolated with the ball failing to stick up top and Mansfield unable to impose themselves upon the visitors.

Footballers have been brought in who are comfortable on the ball and Stags must have belief in their own ability to control possession and use the ball effectively.

What they must now do is find the key to unlocking their attacking potential and getting very best out of Matt Green once again, and find the way to better last season’s paltry total 38 league goals.

If Stags can do that, then the goals and league points will come and Mansfield will finally be able to believe that better times are to come.

Mansfield Town (4-3-3): Shearer, Hunt, Rose (J. Thomas), Tafazolli, Benning, Pearce, Chapman, Clements, Lambe (Westcarr 85), M. Green, N. Thomas (Yussuf 74)

Subs: Jensen, Beardsley, McGuire, Caton.

Carlisle United (3-5-2): Gillespie, Miller, Atkinson, Raynes, Grainger, Brough (Balanta 71), Joyce, Kennedy, Hery (Dicker 8), Ibehre, Asamoah.

Subs: Hanford, Wyke, Osei, Archibald-Henville, McQueen.

Attendance: 4,146 (722 away)

Chad man of the match: Reggie Lambe

Referee: Lee Swabey.