DESPITE constant second half pressure and some of their best football this season, Mansfield Town had to settle for a point at home to resilient Hereford United today.
Stags had won their previous four home games but not found much fluency in their football.
After a poor first half wit Hereford enjoying the strong wind at their backs, Stags got the ball down and played some decent football in the second half only to find the visitors rock solid.
Hereford had grabbed a first half lead through Marlon Jackson on 22 minutes after a mistake by Ritchie Sutton.
But Exodus Geohaghon had Stags level a minute from the break with a header.
The visitors hardly threatened at all in a one-way second half with the home fans annoyed by the Bulls time-wasting tactics.
But, despite Nick Wright, Junior Daniel, Louis Briscoe and Ritchie Sutton all going close, Mansfield just couldn’t find a winner on the day.
The Mansfield side showed six changes as manager Paul Cox went back to a 4-4-2 formation.
Out went Chris Clements, Matt Rhead, Lee Beevers, Lee Stevenson, Ryan Tafazolli and injured keeper Alan Marriott.
A new-look defence saw a first start of the season for John Thompson at right back and a return for George Pilkington in the centre.
Lindon Meikle and Anthony Howell came into the midfield while Nick Wright was declared fit to make his first start alongside Jake Speight up front.
Although Stags brought in Notts County youngster Liam Mitchell as cover in goal, reserve keeper Shane Redmond had shaken off an elbow injury in time to make hs home debut anyway.
A neat dummy in the box by Wright helped Stags win their first corner in the second minute which was headed clear.
Geohaghon then had a couple of early opportunities, the second of which was put behind for corner number two, which was also cleared.
Another big throw was cleared as far as Murray, who hooked well over from 20 yards.
United finally got out of their own half to win a corner of their own on five minutes, but Thompson was there with a decisive header away.
The early stages were littered with throws and moves breaking down in the strong wind, but it had largely been an encouraging first 15 minutes for the home side without being able to test the keeper.
Murray was booked on 21 minutes for a late tackle on Clucas. And we finally had a shot on target as Watkins fired straight at Redmond.
But a minute later Hereford were ahead after Sutton’s loose pass on halfway gifted a break to the Bulls from which Clucas carried it forward before feeding Jackson for a deadly finish under Redmond.
More Stags pressure saw a lovely ball from Howell find Daniel to his left who lifted a rising shot over from just inside the box.
Pell was lucky not to be booked for a two-handed shove in the back of Meikle that left the Stags winger on the floor. Daniel took responsibility for the 30-yard free kick, curling it round the wall but narrowly wide.
The home fans were getting frustrated by Hereford’s time-wasting, home boss Cox walking on the pitch at one stage to kick the ball back to the visitors for a free kick.
Stags forced two more successive corners as half-time neared. And, when the second of those was only cleared as far as Wright on the left, he lifted a high ball forward over an advancing defence where Geohaghon was adjudged onside as he planted a header high into the Hereford net on 44 minutes.
Stags created the first opening of the second half as Speight’s flick gave Wright space to fire in a low on-target shot that Bittner always had covered.
O’Keefe angered the home side and fans when he rolled about after a challenge but was soon back up with Hereford gaining some dubious foul decisions.
Another followed soon which allowed Clucas to curl in a free kick that passed through everyone and bounced just wide of the far post.
After the home side’s best spell of possession so far, a quickly-taken throw allowed Wright to get into a central shooting position from which he was too high.
The Bulls replied with two corners without profit.
Stags sent on Rhead for Wright and he almost carved open Hereford with his first touch as he tried to slip Speight away whose firs touch let him down.
Rhead then headed wide of the near post from a Geoghaghon throw as he quickly made his presence felt.
Briscoe then came on for Meikle with 14 minutes left as Mansfield looked for a hero.
Hereford were incensed when Speight when it late at Bittner after he keeper had gathered the ball, the Stags striker shown the game’s second yellow card.
Another long Geohaghon throw was not cleared by the Bulls, allowing Daniel to hook a shot over from eight yards as time began to run out on the home side.
Sutton was not far wide from a pull-back by Howell as Mansfield piled on the pressure.
We entered four minutes of added time in which Briscoe’s low 20-yard shot beat Bittner but rolled wide of the post.
Daniel was booked for bringing down Pell as Stags’ second half exertions finally brought them nothing more than the point.
STAGS: Redmond; Thompson, Pilkington, Geohaghon, Sutton; Meikle (Briscoe 76), Murray, Howell, Daniel; Speight, Wright (Rhead 71). Subs: Clements, Beevers, Stevenson.
HEREFORD: Bittner; Gallinagh, Stam, Graham, Carruthers; Watkins, Clist, O’Keefe, Clucas; Jackson (Canham 87), Pell. Subs: Heath, McQuilkin, Sammons, Smikle.
REFEREE: Darren Handley of Bolton.