After all the promise of pre-season, yesterday afternoon Paul Cox’s Mansfield Town again taught supporters that pre-season stands for nothing, as they turned in a dismal performance – falling to a 1-0 defeat at Northampton Town.
Opening days have never been promising under Paul Cox, now in his fourth term at the helm, Cox has never guided Stags to an opening day victory drawing 1-1 with Bath City in his first season, losing 4-3 to Newport in his second and 2-0 at Scunthorpe last year.
Almost like pre-season results, opening days have come to mean nothing, but still that’s no excuse for the faltering’s at Northampton yesterday, as around 900 supporters headed home disappointed and confused. The Stags made it too simple for Chris Wilder’s side, allowing them to get in behind and exploit space – Chris Hackett caused problems on a number of occasions down the flanks looking to create for John-Joe O’Toole.
Defensively the Stags looked limp, bar for Ryan Tafazolli, who had a fine game putting his body on the line and showing determination for the cause. Simon Helsop looked for passes but seldom found Fisher or Palmer whilst Adam Murray frustrated with a below par display on a day where, we needed a leader.
Credit where credit’s due, the introduction of Liam Hearn for an injured Palmer, injected some life into Cox’s men – every time Hearn led a charge forward you could hear seats in the away end clatter as fans rose in anticipation, this was soon followed by frustrated groans as Mansfield couldn’t turn the ball home. The late fight encouraged but in truth was too little too late.
The goal itself perhaps shouldn’t have stood as there was a clear foul on Stags’ debutant shot stopper Sascha Studer as Darren Carter’s corner was headed home at the back post by Kaid Mohamed. The Stags keeper reacted angrily to the goal claiming a foul as he tore after the referee half way down the pitch, it really was just one of those days!
One game down of forty-six and as we know from our title winning campaign, nothing is won or lost on opening day. With a smaller squad, things will be easier to iron out as Cox can’t just change the entire side as he’s been prone too in the past, everyone must stay together take this one on the chin and go into Wednesday’s capital one cup trip to Sheffield United with a refreshed attitude before heading home to face Oxford United – False beginnings don’t necessarily bring false endings.
STAGS: Sascha Studer, Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster, Ryan Tafazolli, Lee Beevers, Adam Murray ©, Simon Helsop, Rob Taylor (Chris Clements 80), Fergus Bell (Sam Clucas 54), Ollie Palmer (Liam Hearn 54), Alex Fisher
UNUSED SUBS: Martin Riley, Jamie McGuire, Liam Marsden, Amari’i Bell
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