Mansfield Town finally chalked up their first pre-season friendly win with a 1-0 success in the battle of the champions at Chester FC tonight.
Conference North title-winners Chester are going for a record-breaking fourth successive promotion this year, but tonight were shot down by Nathan Arnold’s 75th minutes strike.
Manager Paul Cox played it safe and missed the game with the birth of his daughter imminent.
The Mansfield line-up included four trialists – Arnold and Jordan Robertson, who had already figured in pre-season, as well as former Notts County defender Julian Kelly and former Macclesfield striker Amari Morgan-Smith.
Arnold was the pick of the four with another impressive display, and the winning goal, while Morgan-Smith did enough to warrant further consideration after a sterling first half before fading.
However, little went right for Kelly in an error-strewn showing while Robertson was largely anonymous after a decent showing as sub last week at Worksop.
Centre half Ryan Tafazolli was named on the original team sheet, but it was George Pilkington who ran out to begin the game with Tafazolli feeling unwell, Pilkington giving a reliable 90 minutes.
Kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes due to the Stags being held up by an accident en route on the M62.
Arnold burst superbly into the home box in the first minute on the left, his finish too high.
On nine minutes Arnold did get a low shot on target, albeit straight to Danby.
Morgan-Smith had begun the game very brightly, but there was concern when he stayed down after a 50-050 challenge on 12 minutes. However, he was able to continue after treatment.
Deakin raced out his box to head away, but clattered into Titchiner at the same time to concede a free kick on the left. But Mahon’s free kick curled through everyone for a goalkick.
Home striker Seddon limped out of the action on 23 minutes, replaced by Mills in the night’s first change.
On 28 minutes Morgan-Smith’s excellent volley deflected for a corner from Meikle’s right wing cross.
Four minutes later Linwood’s slip gifted the ball to Morgan-Smith who fed Arnold into space one-one with the keeper.
Arnold managed to beat Danby to the ball and draw him out to the left of his goal, but by the time he had improved the angle for a shot, the keeper was well positioned to get in the way.
Pilkington guided a header wide from a Clements corner, then Morgan-Smith only just missed an overhead effort, while Meikle looped a header at Danby as the Stags continued to dominate.
Nevertheless, had Linwood managed to get over a free headed chance from a right wing cross, he might have opened the scoring on 42 minutes, the ball dropping wide of the left post.
Murtagh produced the first effort of the second half after a powerful run forward from midway in the Chester half before making Danby save low to his right at full stretch.
Meikle spotted Black running into acres of space on the far side of the box and chipped the perfect ball into his path, the full back sadly blazing his finish over the bar and out the ground!
Horan’s high looping far post cross was headed wide by Mills soon after.
On 61 minutes Hutchinson took over from the disappointing Robertson for the visitors.
Clements was wide with a low 20-yard snapshot
The deadlock was finally broken with 15 minutes to play.
Murtagh created the chance with a strong run down the right, despite the constant attentions of the aggressive Marc Williams, which ended with a low cross pulled back from the by-line. That skidded towards Arnold on the edge of the box who dispatched it first time with a low, crisp, right-footed finish inside the far post and out of the reach of Danby’s fingertips.
Brees failed to get a header on target three minutes from time.
But it would have been an injustice as Mansfield had done more than enough to win the game.
Stags now prepare for the visit of Peterborough United tomorrow night with Cox having decisions to make on his trialists with Arnold the most likely to win a deal.
CHESTER: Danby (Fearon 80), Kay, McIntyre, Horan, Linwood (Spittle 71), Jarrett (A. Williams 63), M. Williams, Harrison (Heath 71), Titchiner (Brees 59), Seddon (Mills 23), Mahon (Linfield 59).
STAGS: Deakin, Kelly (Marsden 81), Black, Clements, Tafazolli, Sutton, Meikle, Murtagh, Robertson (Hutchinson 61), Morgan-Smith (Thomas 87), Arnold. Subs not used: Poku, Spencer, Gregory.
REFEREE: Rob Jones of Wirral.