STAGS DISAPPOINT IN FRONT OF BUMPER CROWD
Blue Square Bet Premier
Mansfield Town 1 - 1 Bath City
Connor 3. Connolly 34.
Attendance: 3997 (80 from Bath)
Date: 13 August 2011
Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at Field Mill
Despite a great start to the opening match of the season, and an early lead from Paul Connor, Mansfield Town were disappointingly help to a 1-1 draw by Bath City at Field Mill. Connor headed home on 3 minutes, but then an incredible treble miss as the Stags hit the post, the bar, and had a header tipped over on 21 minutes which was costly as Bath equalised on 34 minutes with Adam Connolly's shot from the edge of the box taking a big deflection to beat Alan Marriott. Mansfield lacked ideas after that until substitute Ross Dyer came on and livened things up, nearly scoring on 72 minutes when he rounded the keeper but couldn't beat the defender on the line with his shot, and the Stags had other half chances before a golden opportunity in stoppage time as Andy Todd seemed certain to score in the six-yard box, but appeared to be pushed from behind and the chance was gone. At the final whistle, boss Paul Cox remonstrated with the referee for not awarding a penalty. Frustration for Mansfield and very disappointing that, as had happened so many times before, the Stags failed to put in a good showing in front of a bumper crowd, many who were taking advantage of £2 entry with a Wembley ticket stub.
Stagsnet report in the Match Centre
Mansfield Town 1 Bath City 1, Saturday 13th August
CHAD report by John Lomas
PAUL Cox's first game in charge of new-look Mansfield Town ended in frustration as Stags were held 1-1 by Bath City at Field Mill, reports John Lomas.
In front of a bumper gate of almost 4,000 home fans, Cox could not have wished for a better start as goal ace Paul Connor headed them into a third minute lead from a Matt Bell cross.
But, after Stags failed to take another of several good opportunities, the part-timers were level from Adam Connolley's deflected 35th minute strike.
There were some excellent performances from home players with full backs Bell and Luke O'Neill plus centre half Martin Riley shining as well as Jon Worthington in the centre of midfield and Matt Green up front.
But too many times Stags went for the long ball option and wingers Andy Todd and Louis Briscoe were not utilised often enough to get crosses in.
Stags forced 11 corners to Bath's three and pinned the Romans in their own box for the last 20 minutes without being able to deal the killer blow.
Stags, with players out injured and Joe Kendrick suspended, gave debuts to six of their 15 new signings with five more on the bench, including defender Nick Wood, who has signed a one month deal as cover.
Tom Naylor was joined by three debutants in the back four in O'Neill, Riley and Bell while player-coach Todd and Worthinton made first appearances in midfield and Green got the nod over Dyer up front.
Bath's back four included Preece and Stonehouse, both released from Field Mill this summer.
The kick-off was delayed to accommodate the long queues of fans still trying to get in with the club offering £2 admission to anyone producing a Wembley FA Trophy final ticket stub from last May.
There was also a minute's silence for ex-Stags player Jimmy Goodfellow and club stalwart and ex-deputy safety officer Trevor Mitchell, who have both passed away.
The game finally kicked off in a cauldron of noise and within three minutes that noise was even louder as Stags grabbed an early lead.
Bath failed to clear a Bell throw on the left near the corner flag. Bell was then allowed to whip in a cross which found Connor unmarked five yard from goal and he guided a superb header wide of Garner's fingertips.
On seven minutes Connor helped a clearance on to Green who, from a tight angle, still found an on-target finish that forced Garner to beat away.
However, a slip by Naylor on nine minutes saw him miss his header and let in Phillips whose low finish was only just wide of Marriott's left hand post.
Soon after Green cut in from the left and unleashed a low shot that took two deflections before going out for a corner.
Full credit to Bath as, a goal behind, they had to start probing and did so, Hogg starting to cause some problems with good wingplay wide on the right.
Jones almost produced an equaliser on 19 minutes as he rose highest to meet a Hogg corner but couldn't direct his header on target.
Green was let loose on the right once more from Briscoe's forward ball and this time his low finish was deflected for a 22nd minute corner.
From that the Bath goal led a charmed life as Riley met the corner with a header that hit the left post and came back out to Naylor whose shot hit a leg and went up onto the bar and came back to him, his second attempt being saved.
On the half-hour Preece almost saw an early end to his return to Field Mill as he went in on Murray with his studs showing, leaving the Stags skipper needing treatment.
But, despite the home fans' chants of 'off, off, off' the centre half escaped with a booking.
Phillips was wide from 25 yards as Bath looked for a way back in.
And that opening came on 35 minutes. Hogg did well on the left by-line to pull back an inviting low cross to the edge of the box where Connolly's low shot took a deflection and gave Marriott no chance in goal.
You could feel the sense of deflation on the pitch and in the stands as a game that could have been all but won by Stags was suddenly level.
In first half stoppage time the home side won their sixth corner but the referee spotted pushing and blew for a free-kick and half-time.
Todd had a shot charged down and Bell was well off with the follow-up as Stags began the second half on the attack.
A Murray flick invited Connor to chase the ball down, but keeper Garner left his line quickly and just managed to prevent the striker sidestepping him.
Green did well to chase down Garner and force the keeper into a poor kick out, the ball reaching Connor who, with Garner out of position, was then robbed by a crucial Preece tackle.
A tug on a defender by Green on 58 earned the Stags striker a yellow card for persistent fouling after several warnings.
A minute later Bath might have been in front as Hogs' right wing cross was helped on towards Phillips who, right in front of goal, sent his header down Marriot's throat.
It was Bath who were playing the better football at this stage, keeping it on the ground and Russell tested Marriott with a low 20-yarder that was easily gathered.
Seconds later Green came inside from the right and ran along the edge of the box before forcing Garner down low to his right to gather a shot that lacked any real pace.
With 20 minutes to go, goalscorer Connor was replaced by Dyer up front.
On 72 minutes the physical presence of Dyer saw him hold off two defenders to leave the ball loose for Murray whose finish was too high.
A minute later Murray returned the favour as his ball forward saw Dyer beat the keeper to it, turn and try to force it into the empty net only to see Preece back to clear off the goal line.
This was better from the home side and Stags made a second change up front with 14 minutes to go as Meikle made his debut in place of Green.
Adam Murray was lectured for dissent after he blew his top over a succession of fouls against the home side.
On 85 minutes Naylor got a firm head onto a Bell corner only to see it fly over the top as frustrations grew.
Pushing forward near the end, Stags were almost caught on the break as Murray's long cross found an unmarked Hogg who could get no power on his header at the far post.
Twice near the end Meikle went for the wrong option when loose in the box, losing the ball after taking too many players on when he should have passed and then forcing Garner to save at his near post with team mates better placed.
Todd might have been a last gasp hero but failed to get his head on the ball right in front of goal after an O'Neill free kick was helped on.
But the Romans held on for an excellent point.
STAGS: Marriott; O'Neill, Naylor, Riley, Bell; Briscoe, A. Murray, Worthington, Todd; Connor (Dyer 70), Green (Meikle 76). Subs not used: Redmond, Stevenson, Wood.
BATH CITY: Garner; Simpson, Jones, Preece, Stonehouse; Russell, Connolly, Burnell, Hogg, Russell (S. Murray 74); Phillips (Cook 90). Subs not used: Matthews, Rollo, Webb.
REFEREE: Darren Handley of Lancashire.
ATTENDANCE: 3,997 (80 away).
Reasons to be cheerful for Cox, despite the draw
By Nottingham Post, by Stevie Roden
EVER since he was unveiled as Mansfield Town's new manager back in May, Paul Cox had been dreaming of the opening day of the season.
And at the weekend, Cox finally got the chance at the highest level in non-league, after serving his apprenticeship at Eastwood Town, where he enjoyed nothing but success during a trophy and promotion-laden tenure.
By the time 5pm arrived on Saturday, however, his voice was worn, his emotions had been tested to the limit and he was most probably looking forward to a stiff drink.
He had longed for that day, but the result was not what he dreamed of as Bath City frustrated his side at Field Mill and they had to settle for an opening day 1-1 draw in front of nearly 4,000 fans.
Many of them had taken up a cut-price ticket offer which caused kick-off to be delayed by ten minutes.
It was certainly not the best result to get your Stags career underway; definitely not the worst. And this morning, Cox will still be thinking about all those ifs, buts and maybes as he chalks off his first game as a boss in the Blue Square Premier, with his second fast approaching tomorrow night at Gateshead.
Cox said it was never about him, it was about his players, the fans and ultimately, he wants to be a success, to put a smile back on the faces of the supporters.
Prior to Saturday, the last time Cox stepped into the dug-out for any competitive game was ironically at Field Mill, as he led his Eastwood Town side to a thumping 6-1 win in the final of the Notts Senior Cup against Carlton Town.
For the Stags, last season ended in a trip to Wembley and defeat to Darlington in the FA Trophy final, while the league campaign was a failed one as they finished a lowly 13th.
That is why Cox has spent the summer assembling a squad to compete for promotion – a squad he can trust and utilise to deliver his vision.
Six players from the 15 signed in the past couple of months by Cox were handed their debuts from the start, with Luke O'Neill, Matt Bell, Martin Riley, Andy Todd, Jon Worthington and Matt Green given the nod. All five on the bench were also new players.
And it was the perfect start as, after just three minutes, the Stags were ahead.
New signing Bell whipped in a superb cross from the left, following a short throw-in, but it was one of last season's players who finished it as Paul Connor rose and superbly steered a downward header into the far bottom corner from ten yards out.
After 20 minutes, and with Mansfield in the driving seat, the home fans were left puzzled as to how they had not doubled their advantage.
From a corner, Riley's header found the foot of the post before Tom Naylor's follow-up struck the bar, courtesy of a deflection that saw it rise sharply.
And when it came back down, Naylor headed from close range, but Glyn Garner showed great reflexes to tip over.
At that stage, it was more a question of how many Stags would win by as opposed to would they emerge victorious from the match.
But ten minutes before the break, Bath were on level terms when Lewis Hogg pulled an intelligent ball back to the unmarked Adam Connolly on the edge of the box. The midfielder pulled the trigger and, after taking a deflection off Naylor, he succeeded as his shot beat Marriott.
From there, the half petered out as Mansfield lost their momentum and there was no major improvement at the start of the second period.
Matt Green forced a save from Garner and then Ross Dyer, on for Connor, was fouled as he burst diagonally into the box, finding the goalkeeper out of position.
Had he gone down as he was caught, it could have been a spot-kick but after gathering himself, he swiveled and shot from seven yards only to see former Stag Mark Preece clear off the line.
Dyer had already teed up the advancing Adam Murray straight after coming on, but the captain's rising shot from the edge of the box was just off target.
Urgency had returned to Mansfield's game and as they pressed, they almost found the breakthrough deep into injury time, but Todd could not divert a long free-kick into the box into the back of the net.
As the ball dropped dangerously in front of Garner in the six-yard box, he got across the goalkeeper's path but failed to connect, as he appeared to be pushed in the back, putting him off balance.
In the end, Saturday's big curtain-raiser fell a little bit flat, being held to a frustrating draw against a side who packed the midfield and set-up to stop Mansfield playing.
But at least the waiting is over for Cox.
Now he will hope to be heading back south tomorrow night from Gateshead with three points in the bag, and the season really up and running
Bath City start season with a useful away point thanks to Connolly strike
MATCH REPORT: Mansfield Town 1 (Connor 9) Bath City 1 (Connolly 35)
Adam Connolly's deflected equaliser earned Bath City a share of the spoils on the opening day of the new Blue Square Bet Premier season.
They got off to a terrible start when Paul Connor was left unmarked to head Mansfield Town into a third-minute lead.
The visitors then rode their luck at times, with the Stags twice hitting the woodwork and having a shot cleared off the line.
But they managed to secure a hard-earned point when Connolly's shot from 20 yards found the back of the net in the 35th minute.
City boss Adie Britton included two former Mansfield players in his defence, with Paul Stonehouse and Mark Preece making quick returns to the club they left during the summer.
Indeed, such has been the turnaround in staff at Field Mill during the past three months that City actually had more of last season's Stags squad in their team than Mansfield, with only goalkeeper Alan Marriott surviving the cull.
City, who also welcomed back captain Gethin Jones and Sekani Simpson from injury, started with the expected 4-5-1 formation, with Alex Russell and Marley Watkins providing support to target man Lee Phillips.
Kick-off was delayed for ten minutes due to the number of fans trying to get into the ground - and the City defenders' minds still seemed to be in the dressing room in the opening stages.
Just three minutes were on the clock when the visitors fell asleep at a throw-in and Adam Murray was allowed to put in a cross which found Paul Connor completely unmarked six yards out to glance home.
City keeper Garner could do nothing about the goal but he did produce a fine save at his near post a couple of minutes to prevent Matt Green doubling Mansfield's advantage.
The visitors looked slightly stunned but showed signs of clearing their heads when Phillips used his strength to win possession on the edge of the box and drill in a low shot which beat keeper Marriott but whistled just millimetres past the post.
City went close again in the 20th minute when, from their first corner of the game, Lewis Hogg's cross was met at the near post by Jones but he couldn't get enough purchase on the header and it drifted wide.
JUst as the visitors looked like they were getting on top, they endured a rocky period where they almost went further behind four times in a minute.
First Preece got back to make a good block at the near post on a shot from Green, who looked to be offside as he raced through on goal.
Then, from the subsequent corner, both Martin Riley and Green hit the woodwork before Louis Briscoe forced a magnificent reflex save from Garner as City somehow emerged unscathed.
And they made the most of that let-off in the 35th minute by levelling the scores. A good period of pressure ended with Phillips rolling the ball back to Connolly, whose well-hit shot from 20 yards took a deflection and beat the helpless Marriott at his near post.
City would have been grateful to go into half-time all square after some nervy defending, and there was almost another poor start to the second period when Andy Todd had chance to shoot from 12 yards but failed to make contact with the ball.
Garner also had to race off his line to deny Connor after the City defence were caught out by another long ball over the top, while the Stags striker was also stopped in his tracks by a perfectly-timed tackle from Preece as he surged into the penalty area.
But, despite their defensive frailties, City were looking much more solid going forward and a good move ended with Russell flicking on a Watkins cross for Phillips but his header was comfortably saved by Marriott.
Mansfield made the first change of the game in the 70th minute, with Ross Dyer coming on for goalscorer Connor, and the sub made an immediate impact, setting up Murray for a rising shot which went too high and having a shot cleared off the line by Preece within three minutes of his entry.
Lindon Meikle came on for Green in the 76th minute to give Mansfield a new-look forward line, while City's first switch saw Scott Murray replace Russell.
Murray slotted in well down the right and put in a couple of testing crosses, one of which found Hogg at the near post but the midfielder could not divert the ball goalwards from a tight angle.
The City sub was also involved in a swift counter-attack but, with Phillips breaking into the box unmarked, overhit his cross and the chance was gone.
But it was Mansfield who looked most likely to nick a winner late on, with Garner forced to save from both Dyer and Todd in injury-time.
However, City held on to ensure they avoided defeat on the opening day for the first time since 2007.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Marriott, Naylor, Worthington, Riley, Briscoe, Connor (Dyer 70), Green (Meikle 76), Murray, O'Neill, Bell, Todd. Subs not used: Redmond, Stevenson, Wood.
BATH CITY: Garner, Simpson, Stonehouse, Jones, Preece, Burnell, Connolly, Hogg, Russell (Murray 74), Watkins, Phillips (Cook 90). Subs not used: Matthews, Rollo, Webb.
REFEREE: Darren Handley (Lancs).
ATTENDANCE: 3,997 (80 away fans).
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