Nuneaton Town 2 Mansfield Town 1 - 12th July 2011

NEAALC100828G11 Eastwood Manager Paul Cox
NEAALC100828G11 Eastwood Manager Paul Cox

NEW-look Mansfield Town squandered an early led as they went down 2-1 in their first full pre-season friendly at Nuneaton Town last night.

Goal machine Lee Stevenson gave Stags a sixth minute lead and, going forward, they impressed hugely with some excellent football against a Nuneaton side expected to challenge for promotion again.

But the defending was not as good as the Boro grabbed a 14th minute equaliser through Guy Hadland and a 32nd minute winner from Lee Smith.

Stags fans would have been delighted to see how comfortable the new signings looked on the ball and the quality of some of their side’s football with Stevenson’s work rate and Adam Murray’s passing really catching the eye.

The subs rolled on during a second half in which a lively cameo show from Adam Smith caught the eye, as did the contribution of returning Stag Anthony Howell.

Mansfield began the game with six new faces alongside five from last season.

Of those, five of them had signed with former Northampton, Bristol Rovers and Oxford left back Chris Carruthers on trial in the back four.

Stags went 4-3-3 with Dyer and Briscoe either side of Connor up front.

The Mansfield bench included former Everton Welsh U231 international left back Nathan Craig and ex-England youth right back Rhema Obed, released by Arsenal, who both had little chance to show their talents in the final 15 minutes when they came on.

Naylor did well to slide in and concede a corner after an early home break down the right, cutting out Armson’s low cross.

Marriott then failed to hold their first corner, conceding another, which was cleared.

It took Lee Stevenson, scorer of 35 goals for Eastwood last season, just six minutes to register his first Mansfield goal.

Carruthers chipped in a cross from the left and Stevenson showed great technique in steering in home as it dropped with a left footed volley.

However, four minutes later Naylor cut a miserable figure on 10 minutes as he limped off with an early hamstring tweak, Matt Bell taking over.

And, before the new back four, could get organised Nuneaton were level from a free kick conceded 20 yards from goal by Worthington.

Armson floated the ball across and Hadland went in bravely with a powerful diving header that beat the dive of Marriott on 14 minutes.

More dithering defending from Stags saw Glover skip clear of the offside trap down the right and go past the advancing Marriott.

But, with a poor angle to goal, he tried to square to Armson in front of the empty net and Sutton slid in to block before Armson fired his second chance wide of the near post.

Stags’ best move of the game on 28 minutes saw a succession of quick passes culminate in Briscoe going past Albrighton and shooting low and wide of the far post.

But, for all their impressive play in possession, Mansfield were still looking vulnerable at the back and Armson guided a header just wide from Smith’s right wing cross.

And on 32 minutes the home side were ahead as another slip at the back by Bell saw Smith left with only Marriott to beat, just poking the ball past him as the keeper tried to smother.

A swift home move down the right saw Hadland get in behind Carruthers to the by-line and pull a low ball back towards Glover whose finish was deflected wide for a corner by the block of Worthington

Moore replacing Smith for the home side was surprisingly the only half-time change, and Stags were almost level immediately as Dyer crashed a powerful header narrowly wide of the near post as Briscoe whipped in a free kick from the right.

Stags made six changes on 58 minutes and one of the subs, Adam Smith sent a looping header over from O’Neill’s cross soon after joining the action.

But Glover twice came close to sealing the win in as many minutes, acrobatically reaching a long cross at full stretch at the far post but unable to turn it home, and then forcing Redmond’s first save in a Stags shirt with a 20 yard attempt towards the top corner.

There were shouts for a penalty when Dyer went down under the challenge of Belcher in the box but play continued.

Redmond made another vital stop, getting down to his right to parry Albrighton’s low shot after a left wing cross was half-cleared.

It was all Mansfield in the last 15 minutes and Howell almost grabbed an equaliser for Stags six minutes from time as he got a firm header onto Todd’s cross but the wrong side of the post.

Mitchley also headed wide from a corner on 88 minutes. And a minute later, as Stags pressed hard, Todd got his head onto a deflected Howell cross but saw keeper Alcock make a great reaction save from close range.

NUNEATON: Alcock, Hadland (Taylor 83), James (Gudger 69), Noon (Belcher 69), Dean, Albrighton, L. Smith (Moore ht), Lavery (Walker 57), Glover, Armson (Manship 78), Burns (Whittaker 78).

STAGS: Marriott (Redmond 58), O’Neil (Obed 78), Carruthers, Murray, Sutton, Naylor (Bell 11, Craig 78), Worthington (Todd 58), Stevenson (Howell 58), Connor (Meikle 58), Briscoe (A. Smith 58), Dyer (Mitchley 79).

REFEREE: Grant Taylor.