It was the first day of the season in the newly-named English Football League on Saturday, and Mansfield Town’s season started with a bang, in Wales, with the Stags deservedly winning a thrilling game at Newport.
Amazingly, it was Mansfield’s first away win on the opening day of the season for 26 years, since August 1990 and a win at Wigan Athletic.
Adam Murray had repeatedly said that pre-season was all about getting the right level of fitness into the players, and it paid off in full as the Stags kept going on a very hot day until the 93rd minute to claim a richly deserved winner.
And what a winner it was as Kevan Hurst, on his Stags league debut, curled a brilliant shot from the edge of the box on the left, over the keeper, and into the right corner of the net.
Hurst ran 80 yards to celebrate with 339 travelling Mansfield fans.
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Match report: Newport County 2 Mansfield Town 3
Many of those travelling Stags fans had had a terrible journey with bad traffic and even a coach breakdown for the Stags Supporters Association, but went home very happy after that. It was a wonderful moment that we’ll remember for a long time.
It capped an outstanding performance from Hurst who also set up a goal for Matt Green with a terrific cross, and almost set up another for him with an equally good cross, but Green’s header was brilliantly saved.
After the game, Hurst said he didn’t think he had a particularly good game! If there’s better to come, I can’t wait to see it.
Green is looking somewhere near back to his best to me. He scored one, had one disallowed, and worked very hard for the team with tireless running. He was unlucky with the disallowed goal as well, as he swept Benning’s curling free kick into the net from about seven yards.
Our pitchside video footage, while not completely definitive, suggests Green was just onside, by studying it on freeze frame, as the free kick is taken.
There is more to come I think in Green’s partnership with Danny Rose up front, for although Rose won plenty of headers, Green didn’t get on the end of many of them and that is an area for them to improve together.
And I think they will do. Danny Rose himself had a fine game, also on his Stags league debut. His goal was well-taken, clinically finished from 16 yards. He also wins lots of free-kicks, including the one that led to the disallowed goal.
I said last week that I thought that at least nin of the starting 11 at Worksop would start at Newport. Well it turned out to be all 11, in an unchanged side. Krystian Pearce is still out injured, and when he is fit, there will be huge competition for places at centre half, with the new loan signing of Kyle Howkins from West Brom. Howkins came on as substitute on Saturday and looked very impressive.
There is room for improvement at the back though with both goals conceded being avoidable. Both came as a result of free-kicks given away in dangerous positions, and the marking for the second goal was really poor.