Football - Easter double frustrates Stags

JERMAINE Easter spoiled new-look Mansfield Town's afternoon with two second half goals to grab a point for Stockport County in the season opener at Edgeley Park this afternoon.

Stags had led 2-0 at the break through Stephen Dawson (22) and Adam Birchall (31) with Kevin Pressman only having one real save to make in the first half.

But the second half belonged largely to Stockport and debutant Easter pulled one back just three minutes into the second half before hauling them level on 66.

However, Stags still deserved their point and finished the game the stronger.

Much had been made of Carlton Palmer's return to his old club and he gave an assured display as Stags dominated a first half short on goalmouth incident.

Stags had seven of the starting XI making debuts with only Rhys Day from the 16 that played the first game of last season.

Naming himself in the side, Palmer sprang three surprises, leaving out Uhlenbeek, Buxton and Rundle from the pre-season friendlies, bringing in Hjelde, McLachlan and Tipton.

The game saw a relatively quiet first 15 minutes with just a shot off target by Tipton on seven minutes the nearest to a goal.

Barker also beat keeper Spencer to a through ball but, from a tight angle, finished well off target.

When Boshell blazed over from Stockport's first corner of the game on 21 minutes it summed up the game so far.

But Stags swept ahead straight after that. From Tipton's square ball, Dawson stroked home a sweet low shot from 20 yards which went just inside Spencer's left hand post.

Stockport almost levelled within two minutes as Briggs latched onto McLachlan's loose ball and drilled in a low shot which Pressman got down well to save.

At the other end Day headed wide of the far post from Jelleyman's free kick.

But Birchall made it 2-0 on 31 minutes. He took control of the ball just outside the box, looked up and beat Spencer on his near post with a fierce low finish.

Briggs was just over the angle with a curling 20-yard effort in reply two minutes later.

Stags solidly defended two home corners to go into the interval with their 2-0 advantage.

But Easter put the home side back in the hunt within three minutes of the restart.

He turned in the box, eight yards from goal and got in a shot which, although not struck truly, still managed to creep inside the post with Pressman rooted.

Palmer was replaced by Coke on 56 minutes, the away fans giving him a standing ovation as the home fans booed.

Raynes was booked for a foul on Barker on 64 minutes but Barker sent the free kick straight into the wall.

Hamshaw replaced Singh on 65 minutes and within a minute had created the equaliser.

His free kick was headed towards his own goal by Jelleyman and Easter was on hand to finish from almost on the line with Pressman helpless.

Stags sent on Rundle in place of Birchall before the game restarted.

Tipton was just too high as he whipped in a vicious first time blast from the right of the box on 70 minutes.

Stags had a let-off on 80 minutes when Easter arrived just too late to head home Briggs' superb cross with Pressman wide open.

Then Tipton rifled just over at the other end with another powerful shot from the right.

Stags won a corner on 87 minutes which saw Stockport break quickly and neat passing gave Bramble sight of goal, only Jelleyman's last ditch challenge making sure his finish span out for a corner.

Stags finished the game strongly and piled on the late pressure, though Easter did head wide with a brief chance for Stockport from Hamshaw's cross.

The visitors forced two late corners and almost snatched it in the second minute of stoppage time as Tipton put the corner across and Day planted a firm header inches wide of the post.