NEW Mansfield Town manager Paul Cox warned fans that success would not happen overnight. And that was underlined as his new-look Stags side, containing six debutants with five more of the 15 new players on the bench, was held 1-1 by Bath City at Field Mill on the opening day of the season on Saturday, reports John Lomas.
“I don’t think our performance today was that bad, but we will get much better,” he said.
“It was the first game of the season against a side that came here to put men behind the ball and frustrate us.”
“I thought we should have had possibly three penalties. The ball bounced against a hand on one occasion, their keeper has clipped Ross Dyer when he’s tried to go round him and the referee should have pulled it back for a penalty when he didn’t finish and right at the end Andy Todd said he was pushed two-handed in the back in front of goal.
“Muzza (Adam Murray) had another chance near the end when the ball got stuck under his feet. And Bath have scored with their only real shot - and that took a massive deflection off Tom Naylor.
“Maybe we scored too early? We looked good when we got the ball wide and our full backs forward. And in the last 20 minutes we whipped some great balls into the box.
“Their keeper made a great save and near the end there was only one team that was going to win it.
“With Bath having only one up front and packing the rest of the pitch, it is hard for midfielders to get the ball down and play how we’d like to. Hopefully we will have learned something from today as other sides may come here and do this.
“You have got to give Bath credit. They are good at what they do and are very stubborn.
“The worst thing was it was such a big crowd and we wanted to put on a performance and score a few goals. But this is a tough league and you have to earn the right to compete. There will be no easy games this season.
“On another day we would have scored the second or the deflection would not have happened and their shot would have gone straight in Alan Marriott’s arms and it would have been a totally different game.
“I said before the game it won’t happen overnight here – it is a building process. Also we should have players back from injury for the game at Gateshead on Tuesday.
Stags skipper Adam Murray said: “On another day we would probably have scored three or four goals.
“I should have had one at the end myself.
“The size of the crowd showed the expectation before kick-off, then we scored and the bar was raised again.
“If we had won 5-0 expectation would have been raised even higher and fans might expect us to have the league won by Christmas.
“They have got to realise that’s not how it works. Even if we win the next four or five, it’s still not how it works. It’s where you are by January. We have only played a handful of games together.
“I think Bath will cause a lot of problems with that formation. As a midfielder it frustrates you as you can’t get the ball down and pass it as you’d like to, all you can do is get it forward as early as you can.
“It becomes a war and all you can do is battle. We didn’t have much possession and if you don’t have possession, you can’t affect the game. You just have to dig in and make sure you don’t lose it.”
Bath boss Adie Britton said: “I have a history in my managerial career of struggling on the first day of the season so I have to be pleased with this.
“We knew we had two tough games to start the season with, Mansfield away and Wrexham at home, having lost the corresponding games last year.
“Over 90 minutes I thought we deserved something out of the game.
“They created a massive threat through balls into the channels and set pieces. But in open play in the middle third I thought we had much more control in those areas.
“We just didn’t have the cutting edge going forward considering the positions we got into. But we’ll take the point today – it’s a start.”