A single strike by Callum Lloyd was enough to earn a narrow victory for AFC Mansfield in the first of two matches against fellow high-fliers in the Premier Division of the Toolstation Northern Counties East League.
Lloyd struck in the 62nd minute for a 1-0 victory that enabled Rudy Funk’s sixth-placed AFC to do the double over fifth-placed Thackley.
But in truth, it was a dull, uninspiring game, particularly in the first half, and The Bulls are expecting a much tougher test when they travel to in-form Staveley Miners Welfare, currently eighth in the table, this midweek.
In the early stages, the two sides cancelled each other out, and there seemed no appetite to win the game. The first real chance did not arrive until the half-hour mark when AFC captain Jimmy Ghaichem teed up striker Ollie Fearon, whose shot from the edge of the box rolled two yards wide.
In front of a crowd of 65, the only other action of the opening half came when home ‘keeper Dale Sheppard raced out of his area for a 50/50 challenge with Sam Robinson that left both players needing treatment.
The second period opened with Fearon getting in a downward header that Thackley ‘keeper Luke Wilson was well positioned to save. The visitors responded with their one and only chance on goal when Luke Robinson headed over.
The Bulls threatened again as George Milner broke into the box, forcing Wilson to save well with his legs, and ten minutes later, they made the breakthrough. The goal stemmed from another Milner effort saved by Wilson. Fearon’s follow-up effort was hooked off the line but only as far as Lloyd, who lifted the ball over a crowd of players and into the far corner of the net.
Fearon went close to a second when he was set up by man-of-the-match Milner, only to be denied by the busy Wilson. And a minute after replacing the frontman, substitute Danny Naylor thought he had scored a second, only to be ruled offside after he got a deflected touch on a 20-yard effort from Lloyd.
AFC MANSFIELD LINE-UP -- Sheppard/ Buxton, Dudley, Plummer, Cheeseman, D’Laryea, Yates, Lloyd, Fearon (Naylow 75), Milner, Ghaichem. SUBS NOT USED: Timons, Paling, Wilson, Wall.