MANSFIELD Town eased to a 2-0 pre-season friendly win at Northern Premier League Premier Division Hednesford Town tonight.
Lee Stevenson gave them the interval advantage at Keys Park with a 19th minute strike. But, lacking sharpness in front of goal this early in the summer, the wasteful Stags could and should have put the game out of reach by the break.
Instead, after changing the entire team at half-time, it took a Jamie Tolley blockbuster to seal victory in a quieter second half from the chances point of view.
Matt Rhead winning everything in the air and the long throws of Andy Owens were two of the visitors’ chief weapons in a one-sided first half in which centre halves George Pilkington and Luke Jones once again impressed, while the running of Nick Wright was the highlight of the second half.
It was a second win in two pre-season outings for Paul Cox’s men with trips to Shepshed and Gainsborough ahead on Thursday and Friday.
Hednesford created the first chance on three minutes when they were given the benefit of the doubt over a ball that seemed to have gone out for a throw and Nathan Woolfe launched a deep cross towards Elliott Durrell whose return ball back across was volleyed wide by Woolfe.
But Stags began to force their way into the game and Owens and Green both had shots blocked from situations created by the presence of Rhead.
Clements, making a quick return to the club he has just left, did well to chest down a Stevenson cross to tee himself up on 17 minutes but couldn’t keep his hurried half-volley down as it beat the crossbar.
But two minutes later, when the home side struggled to clear their lines from an Owens throw, the ball eventually rolled temptingly to Stevenson who seized his chance to whip home a low finish inside the right hand post from 16 yards.
It should have been 2-0 on 21 when the referee allowed the advantage after a nasty late tackle on Howell, Rhead putting Green in on goal only to see keeper Dan Crane block his low finish.
Rhead headed a long Owens throw against the bar on 23 minutes and, from the corner by Clements, Owens saw Crane block his first finish and then sky his follow-up into the stand with the goal at his mercy.
Mansfield were in total control at this stage and Rhead should have hit the target when set up by Clements 20 yards from goal.
Another golden chance went begging when Rhead nodded a far post Stevenson cross into the path of Howell who put his first time finish wide.
On 34 minutes Ben Bailey missed the ball completely to allow Rhead to waltz clear. But he somehow allowed his finish to clip the helpless Crane and go for a corner.
Home skipper Dave Macpherson blocked a low Green shot almost on the line before the home side finally roused themselves into a spell of pressure before the break with no end product.
Stags emerged with a full new 11, the Pitmen making two changes, and within seconds of the restart Wright’s flick set up Roberts for a shot that was blocked.
Had Ronny Hoffman got more on his header from a Hednesford corner soon after it would have all been level, Redmond able to grab the loose ball.
Wright was making a very lively start and on 50 minutes, when his shot was cleared as far as Tolley, the ex-Wrexham man crashed an unstoppable 25 yard piledriver zipped past a rooted Crane and inside the keeper’s left hand post to finally double Stags’ advantage.
A mistake by Sutton in the box allowed O’Connor to feed Michael Lennon, who bundled a shot at Redmond.
Then Redmond lost control in the box and almost let in Lennon but did just enough to keep possession under pressure and clear.
Dyer and Meikle did well to give Wright sight of goal, but a challenge was enough to force him to shoot wide.
Sean O’Connor curled a great effort just over the far angle for the Pitmen as we entered the last 15 minutes.
Redmond finally had real work to do when he tipped over Jamey Osbourne’s 18 yard free kick as it dipped.
The ever-dangerous Wright chipped Crane and the bar near the end of another excellent workout.
HEDNESFORD TOWN: Crane, Disney, Campion (Dunleavy 90), Bailey, Hoffmann, Clarke (Osborne HT), Durrell (Melbourne 62), Macpherson (Crookes 62), Rey (Lennon HT), Harvey (O’Connor 37), Woolfe (Hendrie 62).
STAGS FIRST HALF: Marriott; Todd, Pilkington, Jones, Owens; Clements, Hand, Howell; Stevenson; Green, Rhead.
STAGS SECOND HALF: Redmond; Beavers, Dempster, Sutton, Benjamin; Roberts, Tolley, Poku; Meikle; Dyer, Wright.
REFEREE: Mr M. D’Aguilar.