Mansfield Town never looked like pulling off an upset in a 2-0 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern Section first round defeat at League One neighbours Notts County tonight.
The Stags were outplayed for much of the first half and trailed to a superbly-worked Ronan Murray goal on 27 minutes.
Their best spell early in the second half rarely looked like yielding a goal and the Magpies sealed a deserved victory through a 65th minute strike from Jake Cassidy.
Stags took an army of 1,386 fans who chanted ‘hoof’ every time their side played the ball long, unfairly at times, and a small section of them even began chanting for manager Paul Cox to go before the end.
But it was a third straight defeat for Mansfield who now face a long League Two haul to Exeter City on Saturday looking to stop the rot before it starts.
Thompson did well to stop Heslop going clear in the third minute as he chased a Rhead flick.
The cagey early stages saw the sides weighing each other up, and it took 12 minutes for either keeper to get properly involved as Evtimov got down to his left to keep out a 20-yard daisycutter from Murray to give Notts the first of two successive corners.
Then a hopeful Brown dragged a poor 30 yard effort well wide.
A home free kick on 18 minutes saw the ‘World Cup spray’ used for the first time which brought a few cheers from the stands.
Riley had to get in two successive blocks on Murray as he tried to get a shot away from the edge of the box.
Edwards was struggling to reach a short pass on 21 minutes and ended up catching Rhead late to earn a caution.
That produced a 30-yard free which Clements rolled to Heslop who fired in a superb low effort that clipped the outside of the base of the right post on 22 minutes.
A minute later Murray got into the right side of the Mansfield box and let fly with a powerful shot that Evtimov did very well to beat away to his right.
Cassidy pulled a dangerous low ball across the box to no one after receiving a long crossfield pass from Brown as Notts came again.
But the Magpies did break through on 27 minutes with a goal of exquisite quality.
It began deep to the left just outside their own box and saw the ball worked downfield with Murray playing two sweet one-twos with Cassidy before beating Evtimov with a low finish across the keeper and inside the far post.
Cassidy then went on a strong run, teasing Tafazolli before coming inside to pass a low finish the wrong side of the post.
County came close again after Murray had done superbly well to keep a long pass in play and set up Thompson for a cross that Brown met with a firm header which he failed to get on target.
Noble’s 25 yard shot was always going wide a minute from the break as Notts went in good value for their lead.
An eager County were back out early and signalled their intent when Evtimov had to get behind a deflected low Murray shot within 30 seconds.
Then Edwards was wide with a header when the ball was pumped back in after Marsden had cleared the Magpies’ fifth corner.
A quickly-taken free kick saw Evtimov smother Murray’s low angled shot from the right.
On 51 minutes Marsden won Stags’ first corner of the night, taken by Taylor, which ended with Rhead nodding tamely wide at the back stick.
Three minutes later Stags at last gave Spiess something to do in the home goal as Fisher reached a long Evtimov clearance and managed to hook a 16-yard shot on target for the keeper to grab.
Fisher, a bystander for much of the first half, then did well to win a corner which ended with a blocked shot for Taylor.
Stags kept the momentum going and Murray hooked the ball to the far post where Fisher’s glancing header dropped wide.
But County swept 2-0 ahead on 65 minutes. Cassidy ran at Riley from the right of the box and, although the defender, looked to have halted him, Cassidy somehow managed to wriggle past the tackle and slot a low finish under Evtimov from eight yards out.
Adam Murray’s foul on Thompson brought him a 68th minute yellow card.
Bell replaced Clements on 73 minutes as Stags sought a lifeline from somewhere.
It almost came as Rhead headed a Tafazolli ball back across goal and Palmer forced Spiess into a save with a far post header.
A fine home move ended with Cranston’s shot deflecting up and over for a corner with 12 minutes to go. Evtimov came for it and the ball sailed towards Mullins whose first time shy at the empty net was too high.
Murray pulled one of Stags’ best chances across goal and wide of the far post from Palmer’s pass after a much better move.
NOTTS COUNTY: Spiess, Mullins, Hollis, R. Murray, Cassidy (Harrad, 76), Jones, Thompson, Noble (Wroe, 83), Edwards, Brown, Cranston. Subs not used: Andrews, Keane, Whitehouse,
MANSFIELD TOWN: Evtimov, Riley, Sutton, Tafazolli, Marsden (Beevers, 87), Taylor, A. Murray, Clements (Bell, 73), Heslop, Fisher (Palmer, 66), Rhead. Subs not used: McGuire, Studer.
REFEREE: Mark Haywood of West Yorkshire.
GOALS: Notts R. Murray 27, Cassidy 65.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Tafazoli
ATTENDANCE: 3,7801 (1,386 away)