Mansfield Town kicked off their 2015/16 Sky Bet League Two campaign with a 1-1 draw with Carlisle United, after Jabo Ibehre’s goal on the stroke of half-time cancelled out Malvind Benning’s breathtaking free-kick midway through the first period.
Adam Murray opted to go with the same midfield and attack that held Premier League side Leicester City to a 1-1 draw a fortnight ago here at the One Call Stadium; with only the defence boasting a change as the Stags boss paired Ryan Tafazolli and Krystian Pearce at the heart of the defence after Lee Collins took a late knock.
Shrewsbury Town winger James Caton put pen to paper on a one-month loan deal prior to kick off against the Cumbrians, with the 21-year old handed a spot on the Mansfield Town bench for the season’s opener.
The physical presence of Matt Green was an attribute teams such as MK Dons and Leicester City struggled to deal with in pre-season, and today was no different as he challenged the Carlisle back-line with his strength and determination.
A constant target from Scott Shearers’ long kicks, the second-time debutant created a handful of chances during the first 10 minutes of the game but was unable to force a save out of Mark Gillespie.
It was in fact Reggie Lambe who registered the first real opportunity to cause the opposition ‘keeper some issues as he latched on to a perfectly weighted cross-field ball from Adam Chapman, before shooting low into Mark Gillespie’s gloves.
Despite carving United open with well-worked passages of attacking play, the visitors almost shot themselves in the foot as David Atkinson’s poor clearance fell straight to Mitch Rose inside the area. The central midfielder rode a couple of challenges before laying the ball off to Nathan Thomas, with the winger’s stinging strike taking a huge deflection before looping just over the bar.
We’ve seen through pre-season that Rose isn’t afraid to have a pop at goal from distance, and this was exemplified when the summer acquisition let fly from around 30-yards out moments later, missing the top right hand corner by the smallest of margins.
The home side had the overall better of the first half an hour as Rose was flattened around 25-yards from goal after originally shimmying free of the first defender. As Mansfield loaded the box, Malvind Benning picked his spot as he stepped up to curl a beautifully placed strike which flew over the wall and inch-perfectly in to the top right hand corner of the flailing Gillespie’s net.
An absolute wonder strike from the left-back who was also making his debut for the club, with the fans rising to their feet to applaud what could well be an early Stags goal of the season contender just under 30 minutes in to the first game of the campaign.
Conceding the goal must have registered deep in the Carlisle camp as they went in search of an equaliser. Jason Kennedy had the first attempt when his shot from the edge of the D was parried by Shearer, before Jabo Ibehre looped his attempt on goal safely over the bar moments later.
With time ticking away in the first half, the Cumbrians picked the perfect time to level the tie as Jabo Ibehre rifled home with just seconds left of added time. A one-two between Ibehre and Asamoah saw the latter see his deflected pass find his strike partner with a yard of space, and the former Colchester forward swivelled inside the area before drilling low past Shearer and into the bottom corner.
That was the last action of the first half, with referee Lee Swabey blowing shortly after to signal the interval with the scores tied up at one apiece.
Carlisle started the second half strongly and could have produced some good opportunities to take the lead if it wasn’t for the imperious Krystian Pearce guarding the back-line with some crunching tackles and skin-tight man-marking.
With threatening chances very few and far between as the tempo began to drop a level in the match, it was around the hour mark that the visitors came within a whisker of snatching the lead after Patrick Brough fortuitously found himself in acres of space down the left.
The wide-man whipped in a tantalising cross for the onrushing Asamoah and Miller to attack, but neither could get good enough contact on the ball as it evaded the back-post after sweeping across the face of goal.
Mansfield’s turn next, as Mitch Rose lead the attack down the right hand side before laying the ball off to Nathan Thomas. Thomas in turn teed up Clements, with the Stags no.8 seeing his shot from distance diverted another direction after taking a deflection, before bending just over Gillespie’s cross-bar.
After missing the last few weeks of pre-season, Adi Yussuf was named amongst the substitutes by manager Adam Murray this afternoon, and he brought the former Oxford City forward on in place of Nathan Thomas with just over 15 minutes remaining.
Straight in to the mix of things, Yussuf did well to escape his defender before sending a delightful pull-back at the by-line to entice the prowling Matt Green, however it was unfortunately just half a yard too far behind the Stags striker.
With Mansfield cranking up the pressure, Green was again at the heart of the home side’s advances with a powerful run down the wing topped off with a floated ball in to the area that was just inches too high for the outstretched Yussuf.
Lambe did manage to latch on to the loose ball before the oncoming Gillespie, but the angle was tight for the winger with his effort calmly palmed away by the Carlisle no.1.
Murray threw on Craig Westcarr for his debut in place of Lambe as we entered the final few minutes of the afternoon, while Jack Thomas replaced Mitch Rose in central midfield, but neither side could steal the points at the death.
This came despite Adi Yussuf’s fierce effort on the turn in stoppage time, with the substitute’s fizzing effort clearing Gillespie’s post by a matter of inches.
All-in-all, a good point for the Stags in front of a packed crowd at the One Call Stadium; with a visit to Hillsborough on Tuesday to take on Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup next on Adam Murray’s agenda.
Mansfield Town: Shearer, Hunt, Tafazolli, Pearce, Benning, Rose (J. Thomas, 90), Chapman, Clements, Lambe (Westcarr, 85), N. Thomas (Yussuf, 74), M. Green.
Substitutes not used: Jensen, J. Thomas, McGuire, Caton, Beardsley.
Carlisle United: Gillespie, Miller, Atkinson, Raynes, Grainger, Brough (Balanta, 72), Joyce, Kennedy, Hery (Dicker, 87), Ibehre, Asamoah (Osei, 79).
Substitutes not used: Hanford, Wyke, Archibald-Henville, McQueen.
ATTENDANCE: 4,146 (772 visitors).