Stags hang on for a point at bottom club Bath

BATH CITY 1 STAGS 1 - MANSFIELD Town endured an uncomfortable afternoon at bottom club Bath City this afternoon where the Romans were unlucky not to take all three points..

But, in the end, the Stags were lucky to come away with anything, having gifted Bath the opening goal, wasted four good chances of their own, including two one-on-ones with the keeper for Matt Green and Anthony Howell, and survived a late offside goal that would have won it for Bath.

There was only one side that looked like winning it late on as evergreen winger Scott Murray came on to inspire the Romans to a powerful finish.

It was a fifth game without victory for Paul Cox’s men who need to get back on track quickly.

At least Alan Marriott was in tip-top form and new boy Arman Verma gave a cultured first half display, though faded in the second half.

Stags gave just one debut to their four new signings at bottom club Bath City today.

Verma came into the midfield in place of the suspended Adam Murray to partner Paul Bolland with midfielder Anthony Howell pushed up front with Matt Green for the first time.

Marcus Kelly missed out on a debut after picking up a knock in his first training session yesterday while other new boys John Dempster and Nialle Rodney had to be content with a place on the bench.

Ex-Stags defender Paul Stonehouse was among the subs for Bath in a game officiated by female referee Amy Fearn.

Centre half John Thompson was handed the Mansfield captain’s armband with Murray missing.

Bath were immediately on the attack with Hog running powerfully down the centre before scuffing a tame finish towards Marriott.

Mansfield, playing down the pronounced Twerton Park slope, responded with Green making a nuisance of himself around the box before rolling the ball back for Bolland to drive well over from 25 yards.

On nine minutes Stags were given a real scare as Watkins left Verma in his wake in the middle to slot a through ball forward for home debutant Bryan whose shot clipped the outside of the near post.

An offside flag halted Green when he thought he was through one-on-one three minutes later.

Verma showed his class on 17 minutes when he swapped passes with skipper for the day Thompson and then ghosted past a defender before seeing his powerful 20 yard shot deflect just wide.

But Stags fell behind on 19 minutes when Verma overhit a pass to Bolland, the ball bouncing off the midfielder’s shin towards Marley.

He ran on and squared to Sean Canham for a shot that Marriott beat away only to see Watkins run in to drill home the follow-up from 16 yards.

But Stags were level – with a spot of fortune – within four minutes.

Verma fed Meikle on the left and the winger curled a cross to the far post which debut-making keeper Matthews misjudged and saw it float over him and end up just inside the far angle and in the net.

However, Bath should have restored their lead on 27 minutes. Jones headed a long free kick from the far post straight in front of goal where Clough stole in but, with the goal gaping three yards away, he somehow managed to lift it over.

It was poor defending from the visitors and a huge let-off.

Both sides had a shout for handball in the box ignored as Stags continued to have the edge in a scrappy affair.

Two minutes from the break, as Bath players made their penalty appeal, Dyer broke away from his own half with a splendid burst forward.

His final ball to Howell was perfect and the makeshift striker saw Matthews block his finish.

Soon after Howell poked a tame effort inches wide, though Matthews seemed to have it covered all the way as the sides went in deadlocked.

Meikle almost repeated his first half fluke early in the second half with a low left wing cross that bounced across goal and just wide of the far post.

Marc Canham was booked for taking a free-kick before she was ready for him to do so.

Green’s persistence then won Stags their fifth corner of the afternoon which saw Clough get in the way of Thompson’s header, O’Neill swinging the ball back in there and this time Green sending a header over from 10 yards.

Bath won their first corner which sparked a scramble that saw Marriott smother a far post Clough effort.

That gave a second corner which Marriott punched out to the edge of the box to Bryan, who launched a shot well over.

Green wasted a great chance on 55 minutes. O’Neill picked him out at the far post with a pinpoint cross and, although he got a head on it, Green could manage no power or direction and a grateful Matthews grabbed the ball as it bounced.

Jones could only manage a glancing header on a dangerous Bath free-kick a minute later.

Then Marc Canham was wide from 15 yards after a poor clearing header from Thompson bounced to him.

Marriott made two significant contributions, punching away a free-kick and superbly taking a long cross as the home side enjoyed a decent spell.

Both sides made changes with 25 minutes to go, veteran Murray on for Bryan and Briscoe replacing Bolland.

Jones got a head on another long home free-kick which saw the ball bounce onto the roof of the net, then Watkins scooped a low shot narrowly wide as Bath continued to look the more likely to find a winner.

Hogg clearly hauled back Dyer as he tried to burst clear, Clough booked for challenging the referee’s decision.

A Watkins backheel in the box set up Simpson for a rising shot over the top as Stags struggled to make an impression.

However, Green wasted a gilt-edged chance on 74 minutes as Meikle lofted a through ball over the defence which Green reached but, with only to the keeper to beat, prodded a finish wide of the far post.

It was Green’s final chance as a minute later he made way for the debut of Bradford loanee Rodney.

Another Stags attack saw Bath counter quickly with sub Amadi-Packington feeding Murray who fired ambitiously over the top from wide on the right.

Freeman put his side under pressure when he allowed Murray to rob him but recovered to block his cross.

Then Amadi-Packington controlled another Murray cross to set up Hogg for a vicious shot straight at Marriott.

Mansfield had another huge let-off five minutes from the end. Murrat, who was having a storming cameo on the right, drilled in a low cross which Philips turned home almost on the line and looked up to see an offside flag against him.

Watkins, under pressure, was too high from a Watkins chest-down as the minute ticked away.

Dempster made his Stags debut two minutes from the end in place of Freeman.

Marriott was just down quickly enough to beat Murray to a Hogg through ball.

Briscoe was booked for a foul on the halfway line as we entered two minutes of stoppage time, the kick reaching Murray who shot straight at Marriott.

Then Amadi-Packington rifled an absolute belter of a shot from 15 yards from a half-clearance which sailed wide of a rooted Marriott’s feet with almost the last kick of the game.

BATH CITY: Matthews, Simpson, Hogg, Clough, Jones, Gallinagh, Connolly, M. Canham (Phillips 75), Watkins, Bryan (Murray 64), S. Canham (Amadi-Packington75). Subs not used: Phillips, Stonehouse, Russell.

STAGS: Marriott; O’Neill, Sutton, Thompson, Freeman (Dempster 88); Dyer, Bolland (Briscoe 65), Verma, Meikle; Green (Rodney 65), Howell. Subs not used: Stevenson, Redmond.

REFEREE: Amy Fearn of Packington.

ATTENDANCE: 816 (146 away).

CAUTIONS: Bath – M. Canham 43, Clough 69. Stags – Briscoe 90+1.

CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Alan Marriott.