IF Stags are to achieve their season goal of promotion back to the Football League they will clearly have to show much more bite and resolve on the road than they displayed last year.
Horror shows such as the 4-0 capitulation against Hayes and Yeading and defensive displays conjuring up images of a hot knife through butter need to become a thing of the past.
And on Tuesday night Paul Cox’s new-look Mansfield Town showed good signs that they are well set up to withstand long periods of pressure and spells camped in front of their own goal line.
Despite losing 1-0 to Championship outfit Doncaster in their second home friendly of the pre-season, Stags looked solid and resolute for huge spells of the game as their 4-5-1 defensive shape and excellent work-rate saw Rovers controlling the ball well but going nowhere in the process.
The new-look central defensive partnership of Martin Riley and John Thompson marshalled the side well, while Worthington and Murray provided an excellent screen in the central midfield area.
Ultimately Mansfield were undone by a clinical finish from former Scunthorpe striker Billy Sharp – a quality of striker the Stags’ defence will not have to contend with in the Blue Square Premier.
There was little, if anything to chose between the two side, and although Stags are still searching for their first pre-season win boss Paul Cox will be happy with how his side is currently shaping up.
Stags will also be buoyed be the excellent crowd of 1576, which was larger than a number of league games last season and a clear sign that the Field Mill faithful have high hopes for the season ahead.
Stags boss Paul Cox made a number of changes to his line-up for the tough test against Doncaster, with Irish trialist Joe Kendrick, new signing John Thompson and Lee Stevenson stepping into the starting eleven.
The unknown Irish left-back (28) most recently played for Bray Wanderers and is a former trainee at Newcastle United.
The Field Mill faithful were also looking forward to getting their first glimpse of former Notts County defender Thompson, who finally signed for the club earlier in the week.
Doncaster, who began their climb out of the Blue Square Premier to the lofty heights of the Championship a decade ago, named a number of big-name players including goalkeeper Neil Sullivan in their starting team.
Rovers started best and should have taken the lead after just six minutes when James Hayter sprung the offside trap after a slick passing move through the visitor’s midfield.
But, despite all the time and space in the world, he lifted a lazy chip over Marriott as well as the Stags’ crossbar from seven yards out.
Doncaster continued to boss the early stages of the game as their superior ball retention allowed them to take a firm control on the game.
But, with Stags adopting a solid 4-5-1 defensive shape and good work-rate, goal-scoring chances remained a rarity during a very slow tempo start to the friendly.
Donny defender Ellis Deeney then unsuccessfully tried his luck from distance after 24 minutes as Rovers continued to show few signs of being able to crack the resolute Stags defence.
Lone striker Paul Connor wasted Stags only chance so far when he was picked out with a defence-splitting pass by Martin Riley on 35 minutes.
But Connor failed to get his body shape right and, after wasting valuable time controlling the ball, dragged his effort tamely wide from 20 yards while under pressure.
Doncaster made a number of substitutions for the start of the second half as they looked to give a good run out to their entire squad.
Amongst the five new players taking to the field were former Scunthorpe hit-man Billy Sharp and winger James Coppinger.
But the switch failed to provide a new spark for flat Rovers, who continued to control the tempo with a slow and deliberate passing game inside Stags’ territory.
Doncaster finally sprung into life on the hour mark as Coppinger began to find some joy down the right flank.
He cut inside before sending in a decent cross, which Sharp met with a true striker’s instinct before heading over.
At the other end Louis Briscoe fired a speculative effort high and wide after latching on to a defensive clearance from an Anthony Howell corner on 63 mins.
Coppinger once again showed his threat on 69 minutes as he turned Sutton inside out before fizzing over a fierce low cross, which eluded both defenders and attackers.
Murray then skied a free-kick well over the bar on 72 minutes as both sides became reduced to long range efforts in what was becoming an increasingly tame affair.
Doncaster finally took the lead on 79 minutes when Billy Sharp showed his goal-scoring prowess as he comfortably beat Riley with some neat footwork, before drilling a powerful shot past Marriott at the near post.
It proved to be the difference between the two sides as Rovers shut the game down with some controlled spells of possession.
STAGS: Marriott, Sutton, Kendrick (Horne 63 mins), Murray (Bell 84 mins), Riley, Thompson (Pejic 70 mins), Briscoe (Smith 65 mins), Stevenson (Howell 52 mins), Connor, Worthington, Meikle (Dyer 66 mins). Subs not used: Smith, Bell, O’Neil, Todd, Mitchley, Redmond.
DONCASTER: Sullivan, Dumbuya, Friend, Gillett, Hayter, Brown, Baxendale, Vine, McDonald, Deeney, A. Trialist. Subs: Woods, Hird, Naylor, Bouherra, Spurr, Oster, Coppinger, Sharp, Quinn.
ATTENDANCE: 1576 (195 away).
MAN OF THE MATCH: Adam Murray.
REFEREE: Andy Woolmer.