Braintree 1 v 1 Mansfield Town, Saturday 20th August

STAGS are still looking for their first win of the season after they failed to turn possession into goals in the 1-1 draw against Braintree Town, reports Stephen Thirkill.

Mansfield dominated large periods of the game, including virtually all the second half, but all too often struggled to convert chances and possession into goals.

Anthony Howell and Matt Green were guilty of missing decent half chances throughout the first 45 minutes as both sides enjoyed spells of possession.

It looked like Stags would be heading for all three points when a simple Louis Briscoe tap-in gave Mansfield the lead two minutes into the second-half.

But once again the Mansfield defence showed worrying vulnerabilities from set-pieces as they failed to clear an O’Connor corner allowing Sean Marks to prod home an equaliser just seven minutes later.

Despite sustained spells of pressure, Paul Cox’s men were unable to crack the determined rearguard of the Essex outfit as they poured forward in the second half.

Meikle had an excellent chance to seal all three points on 70 minutes when he curled a left-footed effort comfortable wide after finding a yard of space in the box.

Despite the draw, Stags can take heart from a solid defence display and a spirited response after Braintree had levelled the game.

Mansfield will now need their key players to shine bright on Tuesday when they look for their first win of the season against fierce rivals Luton Town at Field Mill.

Stags went into the game with a point to prove following their 3-0 beating at Gateshead in midweek and furious boss Paul Cox rang the changes.

The towering Ben Futcher replaced Tom Naylor at the heart of the Mansfield defence following his one-month loan signing from Richie Barker’s Bury.

While midfielder Jon Worthington and striker Paul Connor were dropped to the bench against the Blue Square South champions.

Anthony Howell also stepped into the central midfield berth to offer Stags an extra attacking dimension.

The Iron came into the game hoping to steamroll Mansfield in similar fashion to their 5-0 thumping of Grimsby on Tuesday night.

Stags had their first sniff on goal after four minutes when a fierce shot from Matt Green was deflected out for a corner by Jai Reason.

At the other end Sean Marks caused Stags bother moments later after he drifted away from Riley, before his powerful shot from distance was smartly saved low to his right by Alan Marriott.

Green registered Stags’ first strike on target after 13 minutes when he latched on to a knock down by Howell, before he spun in the box and directed a tame shot into McDonald’s palms.

Howell then nodded a header wide from a deep Kendrick free-kick as Mansfield began to get on top of the game.

As the first-half progessed Stags gained dominance of the midfield area, with Briscoe and Meikle looking threatening down their respective flanks.

Kendrick breathed a huge sigh of relief on 27 minutes after he chopped down Yiadom with a late tackle on the left touchline.

But referee Graham Hardwood gave the left-back one final warning before an early bath.

The home side came back into game with the pacey Yiadom looking the most likely man to break the deadlock as both sides continued to enjoy spells of possession without creating any clear-cut openings.

Green came close to opening the scoring on 39 minutes as Braintree once again failed to clear a deep-inswinging Kendrick free-kick.

But the striker failed to get the necessary power on his header to beat McDonald as the half ended goal-less.

Two minutes into the second-half Louis Briscoe fired Stags ahead with one of the simplest goals he will ever score.

Matt Green picked up the ball on the left side of the box before turning his marker inside out with a powerful run on goal.

The frontman then unleashed a hard low shot which was parried by McDonald.

But the goalkeeper failed to send the ball to safety allowing Briscoe to smash home from 10 yards out to the delight of the travelling fans.

The lead was short-lived though as Braintree levelled against the run of play just seven minutes later with the Stags defence once again showing their fragile state from set-pieces.

Matt Paine dropped into space at the back post from an O’Connor corner, before his headed knock down allowed Sean Marks to show his striker’s instinct and poke home from a yard out.

The Stags fans were left incensed on 62 minutes when Symons appeared to stamp on the head of O’Neill as the pair got up from a tackle.

But he escaped without any punishment as both referee and linesman appeared to miss the incident.

Meikle missed an excellent chance to fire Stags back into the lead on 70 minutes after Howell played the winger in with an incisive lob over the head of Thomas.

But Meikle took one touch too many as he cut inside the box and fired his curling effort two yards wide of the right post.

Howell and Briscoe then both failed to a get telling touch to a Meikle cross as they burst into the box on 73 minutes as Stags continued to push for the winner.

Referee Harwood waved away appeals for a Stags penalty on 80 minutes when Briscoe appeared to be felled in the box after turning Paine in the box with some nifty footwork.

The frustrations continued to grow for on-top Mansfield a minute later as Green saw his thunderous effort blocked for a corner on 81 minutes after neat link up play with Adam Murray.

It was to be Stags last real chance of the game as they were forced to settle for one point.

BRAINTREE: McDonald, Thomas, Bailey-Dennis, Paine. Reason (Quinton 73 mins), Symons, Davis, Marks, Wright (Chilaka 82 mins), O’Connor, Yiadom. Subs: Constantine, Jones. James-Lewis.

STAGS: Marriott, O Neil, Futcher, Riley, Kendrick, Briscoe, Howell, Murray, Meikle, Dyer (Connor 81 mins), Green. Subs not used: Redmond, Wood, Worthington, Stevenson.

REFEREE: Graham Harwood:

BOOKINGS: Kendrick (7 mins - foul on Yiadom); O’Neill (29 mins – foul on Reason); Wright (72 mins – unsporting behaviour).

ATTENDANCE: 875.

STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Ben Futcher.