Craig Priest writes…
Conference champions Mansfield Town failed to recreate that winning feeling yesterday as they returned to the One Call Stadium for the first time since the infamous title win, falling to a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of Championship neighbours Nottingham Forest.
Radoslaw Majewski’s 52nd second pot shot proved the eventual difference between the two sides and in truth, it was always going to play out that way on what was another scorching summer afternoon. The Stags came up against a strong Forest side which included the likes of Jonathan Greening and Dexter Blackstock despite the Reds also sending a side to take on Ilkeston.
The result and lack of a goal again means that the comments of doubt are beginning to creep in, however in the second half especially I was encouraged by the desire and application of the players and am convinced had it not been for the excellence of Karl Darlow in the Forest goal, Cox’s men would have taken a draw out of the match at least.
As per pre-season is not always about the result, the players got a good work out on a scorching day against opposition that rarely had the ball in the air. The likes of Ryan Tafazolli, Sam Clucas and Jake Speight put in encouraging displays whilst the match again highlighted areas to improve on – something which there are plenty more games in which to do so.
Some supporters were still taking to their seat as the traveling Forest faithful cheered the opening goal. Midfielder Radoslaw Majewski picked up the ball around thirty yards from goal and took a pot shot which should have been easy for Alan Marriott to deal with, yet somehow squirmed underneath the Stags’ joint longest serving player.
The majority of the opening quarter of the game belonged to forest and on eight minutes, a fluent move down the left wing saw Stephen McLaughlin tee up Matt Derbyshire, who failed to keep his shot down much to the relief of the Stags defence. Seconds later Stags got a brief sight of goal themselves, Matt Rhead and Sam Clucas combined to send Lee Stevenson into the box, however the attacking midfielder’s shot was defelected safely away for a throw.
Alan Marriott then redeemed himself for his early error with two saves in as many minutes as on 13 minutes he expertly palmed away Derbyshires’s forceful header from a McLaughlin cross before getting down low to keep out Blackstock.
On the half hour mark Cox’s men wasted two set pieces as Murray and Jennings stepped up to deliver a free kick and corner in quick succession, three minutes later Lee Stevenson coolly slotted past Darlow but saw his effort chalked off for offside after dominance in the air from Rhead and a deflected effort from livewire Lindon Meikle.
Three minutes prior to the break, a deep James Jennings free kick teed up another Stags chance, defender John McCombe came so close to making the perfect introduction as his well-executed over head kick landed inches wide.
Cox made four changes at the break as Jake Speight, Ryan Tafazolli, Anthony Howell and Louis Briscoe entered the fray for Stevenson, Riley, McGuire and Meikle respectively – it took a matter of seconds for the fresh legs to cause problems in setting up Sam Clucas, the former Hereford man earned a corner from which Howell nodded wide.
Three minutes later, captain Murray launched a long central attack which found Briscoe. The wide man drove forwards before slotting Jake Speight into the area – Karl Darlow again came to the visitors rescue palming away the front man’s well struck effort.
In the sweltering heat chances came for and far between whilst substitutions became more regular, on 65 minutes James Jennings delivered a cross from deep which saw Clucas have a headed effort palmed away for a corner, Briscoe then tested the water as the set play came out to him on the edge of the area however again, Forest clung on.
With ten minutes to go it was again Briscoe testing the water, this time striking the bar from 10 yards following Ross Dyer’s knock down – defender Ryan Tafazolli had Stags’ final chance five minutes later, nodding wide from a Chris Clements left sided free kick.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 0-1 Nottingham Forest
STAGS: 1 Alan Marriott, 2 Lee Beevers, 5 John McCombe (12 John Dempster 57), 21 Martin Riley (18 Ryan Tafazolli HT), 3 James Jennings (12 Paul Black 75), 7 Lindon Meikle (22 Louis Briscoe HT), 8 Adam Murray © (19 Chris Clements 70), 6 Jamie McGuire (13 Anthony Howell (HT), 11 Sam Clucas, 10 Lee Stevenson (9 Jake Speight HT), 15 Matt Rhead (21 Ross Dyer 57).
UNUSED SUBS: Ian Deakin, Nathan Arnold (Trialist), Ben Hutchinson, Ritchie Sutton
REFEREE: Andrew Haines (Tyne & Wear)
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