With a goal scoring record and reputations like Liam Hearn’s, one of two things could have happened last night as the deadly hitman made his first bow in a Stags shirt, he’d either disappoint on a grand scale by picking up an injury, or he’s be an instant hit. Fortunately it was the latter as a crowd of 3,493 watched on as it took Hearn just eight minutes on the pitch to make an impact.
The former Grimsby striker changed what was a flat encounter into something full of fizz as he successfully drew a foul from substitute Leeds United keeper Marco Silvestri on 71 minutes before dusting himself down and emphatically converting to open the scoring.
Earlier in the day Paul Cox revelled his latest signing, midfielder Simon Heslop – he featured alongside two Trialist, another goalkeeper rumoured to be Sasha Shuder and a familiar face in full Rob Taylor. Heslop took time to settle but eventually came into the game with some strong challenges, whilst Shuder had little to do but what he did, he did well, making a firm save during the second half with his legs at 0-0 and he also seemed confident coming to claim crosses and set plays. What also impressed me was the fact he liked to play a high line, he often encouraged his back line to push which gave us a few more options going forward.
Taylor, again playing left wing back, looked competent – not perfect but firm in challenges and eager to get forward and distribute, he also put in some testing set-plays which added another edge to an eager Mansfield attack.
Mansfield came up against a Leeds side that, for all their pace and fancy football, delivered little and wowed even less – Paul Cox’s men soaked up what Dave Hockaday’s had to offer with relative ease, Martin Riley in particular impressive in a back three with a series of well-timed challenges.
Leeds inability to do anything with the ball and the early evening humidity made it a rather drab affair to watch, there was no real chance of note until the 40th minute when Fergus Bell came close to opening the scoring. Newby Simon Heslop started the move with a well-placed pass to Alex Fisher, it’s he that kept the move alive – holding up well before spraying a pass wide to the advancing A.Trialist [Taylor] – his cross was headed away straight into the path of Bell who riffled narrowly wide from the edge of the Leeds box.
Moments later Fisher nearly broke the deadlock following a mix-up in the Leeds defence, however the front man couldn’t quite get his effort on target as the angle was against him.
The visitors had an opportunity themselves three minutes before the break as a short corner was whipped in to the feet of Italian Tommaso Bianchi who, unmarked, couldn’t turn past A.Trialist [Shuder].
Matt Rhead replaced Alex Fisher at the break and threatened to break the deadlock from a number of corners from A.Trialist [Taylor] however it wasn’t until the introduction of Liam Hearn on 63 minutes, which drew a big round of applause, that the pendulum began to swing in Mansfield’s favour.
It took the former Grimsby and Alfreton man eight minutes from first gracing the One Call Stadium turf to hitting the back of the net, doing so from the penalty spot after he was pulled down by the United keeper.
It was an emphatic strike from Hearn who then hit again seven minutes from full time. John Dempster provided the spark with a directional pass which was flick on between the visiting defence by Rhead, Hearn did the rest with a well-timed angled run – finishing by coolly lofting the ball over the advancing keeper and into the empty net to widen the smile on supporters’ faces ahead of Friday evenings trip to Hearn’s former employers, Grimsby Town.
Stags: 1. A.Trialist GK [Shasha Studer], 14. Ritchie Sutton, 4. John Dempster, 9. Martin Riley, 5. Lee Beevers (16. Liam Marsden 70), 8. Adam Murray © (15. A.Trialist [Unknown] 78), 20. Simon Heslop (18. Chris Clements 65), 2. A.Trialist [Rob Taylor] (3. Amari’i Bell 70), 7. Fergus Bell (12. Jack Thomas 78), 17. Alex Fisher (6. Matt Rhead 45), 10. Ollie Palmer (13. Liam Hearn 63)
Unused Subs: Jamie McGuire, A.Trialist [Unknown]
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