Championship Middlesbrough were forced to battle back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw in tonight’s pre-season friendly with impressive Mansfield Town at the One Call Stadium.
Boro oozed quality at times with their passing and movement as expected.
But the Stags also produced some quality football and, more importantly, held their shape and resolve when under pressure and out of possession.
The first half was a real spectacle, played at breakneck pace.
But the much slower second half showed how much energy both sides had burned in that first 45 minutes.
The Stags began well and were 2-0 up inside 18 minutes.
A Johnny Howson own goal on 13 minutes opened the scoring for Mansfield and, after Paul Anderson had cleared a Dael Fry header off the line, Lee Angoll buried the second on 18 minutes.
Clearly stung, Boro woke up and were level with goals by Mikael Soisalo (19 mins) and Fry (28 mins).
Both sides had chances to win it but in the end it proved a very useful work-out for both clubs before an appreciative crowd.
Alex MacDonald missed out for Mansfield with his hamstring injury.
The winger was the only one to miss out as boss Steve Evans named the rest of his squad who didn’t play in last night’s 4-0 win at Stocksbridge Park Steels.
Stags were awaiting a report on a scan on the injury this week.
The visitors included former Stags star Alex Baptiste but new signing, Forest striker Britt Assombalonga was not in the squad.
It was the first time Stags had faced Boro since the 2-0 home FA Cup defeat by the North-Easterners in 2007/08.
A loose ball from Howson offered Sterling-James a run at goal as early as the second minute, but Baptiste made a fine block as he tried to shoot.
Then Konstantopolous was down well to smother a powerful, low White cross from Potter’s quickly taken free kick.
Soisalo’s poor pass then gave the ball to Atkinson 20 yards outside the Boro box to set up Digby for a shot that deflected wide for a corner.
The game’s first save came on 12 minutes as Bamford got into the Stags box on the right and sent a rasping shot on target that Olejnik pushed upwards to take the sting out of it before catching as it dropped.
But a minute later the home side went ahead.
Byrom found Benning to his left with a free kick and the left’s back’s powerful cross was sliced into his own net by Howson.
On 17 minutes Anderson denied the visitors an equaliser as Fry rose well to meet Ramirez’ corner only to see the former Forest man clear his header off the line.
The action swung to the other end where Sterling-Thomas briefly had a one on one with the keeper only to see Friend rob him at the vital moment.
However, on 18 minutes it was 2-0 to Mansfield.
Digby nudged the ball past a defender down the middle and Angoll showed his finishing talents with a crisp shot that gave the keeper no chance from 15 yards.
But a minute later Boro had pulled one back as Soisalo outpaced Benning down the right and, from a tight angle, smashed an unstoppable rising shot under the bar.
Olejnik was down well to block a powerful Howson shot from 20 yards as the thrills continued and Boro were finally level on 28 minutes. Ramirez sent over a free kick from the left and Fry again rose powerfully to head home from six yards.
Olejnik got a vital push-away onto a deflected low Soisalo cross with Boro players in close attendance.
Atkinson wasn’t far wide with a left foot volley after a long Taft throw was bombed in from the left as an entertaining half came to and end.
Mansfield began the second half very strongly, but Ramirez should have done better on 51 minutes with his rising first time finish over the bar from Soisalo’s pull-back from the right.
The pace slackened off with no chances until on 63 minutes a Byrom free kick was cleared to Sterling-James, whose 18 yard finish flew over the near angle.
There was warm applause for Baptiste on 65 minutes as he was replaced by Chapman.
Then Olejnik did well to steal the ball off the toes of Soisalo as he threatened to go round him.
Sub Slew, given the last 19 minutes to make an impression, wasn’t too high over with a fierce 20 yard shot after his muscle had won the ball with seven minutes to go.
Bamford’s low shot at goal in the final minute was an easy save for Olejnik as the sides settled for the draw.
STAGS: Olejnik, White, Diamond, Taft, Benning, Digby (Thomas 85), Byrom (Collins 88), Atkinson, Anderson, Angol, Sterling-James (Slew 71). Subs: Logan, Bennett, Pearce, Hunt, Thomas, Potter, Hamilton, Mellis, Rose, Spencer.
BORO: Dimi, Christie, Baptiste (Chapman 65), Fry, Friend (Mahmutovic HT), Leadbitter, Forshaw, Howson, Soisalo, Ramirez (Miller 73), Bamford. Subs: James, Hegarty, Wing.
REFEREE: Ross Joyce.
ATTENDANCE: 1,931 (419 away).