Mansfield Town were held to a goalless draw in their Emirates FA Cup first round tie against League One side Oldham Athletic at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Despite being the better side, the Stags were denied their first win over the visitors since 1978 and will now face a replay on Tuesday 17 November at The SportsDirect.com Park.
Adam Murray made two changes to the side that were defeated against Wycombe Wanderers last weekend with Mitch Rose and Chris Clements coming in to replace Jamie McGuire and Matty Blair, while loanee Blair Adams received permission to play by parent club Notts County.
After speaking recently about his intention to draft youngsters into first team reckoning, the Stags’ boss named Cain Smith on the bench for the first time following his influence on the under 18s’ FA Youth Cup first round win over Cambridge City on Monday.
The hosts got off to a sturdy start as the Latics tried to get the experienced Ricardo Fuller in the game as quickly as possible, however the Stags’ midfield were eager to pick up the second ball and take control from the outset.
Mark Yeates had the first half-chance of the contest as he took on right-back Nicky Hunt, and the former Sheffield United winger saw his effort deflected behind after he’d dangerously cut in.
Stags’ striker Matt Green was a constant threat in the opening minutes as he won a number of headers, and he nearly found success as he set Craig Westcarr on his way with a flick-on - after receiving it back from his colleague the former couldn’t get enough contact on it to test the goalkeeper.
Green was involved once again as the ball went high into the area, with Mitch Rose picking up the loose ball and delivering for Adams, who found it difficult to control his shot and Joel Coleman held with ease.
Dominic Poleon was ably assisting Fuller in the offensive areas and the ex-Leeds United man showed great awareness to lay the ball off for Daniel Philliskirk who saw his low goal-bound drive blocked heroically by Ryan Tafazolli.
However Mansfield refused to let the visitors completely have their own way and continued to challenge well as Chris Clements and Adam Chapman boasted high energy levels in the middle of midfield.
Shortly afterwards, Yeates sprung through the midfield and fed Fuller who somehow placed his strike just wide of Brian Jensen’s right-hand post as the Stags survived a scare.
In the next action, Adams strode forward to whip in for Rose who arrived at the back-post and volleyed it towards goal. Although it was impressively on target considering the awkwardness of the ball’s flight, an Oldham defender blocked bravely and cleared the danger.
And that epitomised the manner of the first period which was full of half-chances and stubborn defending, with both teams cancelling each other out.
That looked like it would change as Murray’s men sprinted forward rapidly on the counter-attack with half-time approaching – Craig Westcarr advanced with the ball on the left menacingly and curled a ball in on his left foot for Lambe who incredibly fired the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
No substitutions were made at the break by either side as the quest to break the deadlock began with Mansfield starting on the front foot.
Centre-halves Lee Collins and Tafazolli repeatedly tried to build from the back when they broke up the visitors’ possession, but Green and Westcarr carried on their frustrations as they struggled to get in behind the opposition backline to cause real problems.
When they did, the former created a corner which was delivered with authority by Adams for the rising leap of Rose, who couldn’t keep his header down enough to trouble Coleman between the sticks.
Glorious last-ditch defending from Oldham was the only reason Mansfield couldn’t go a goal ahead. Lambe threaded Green in who tried a cute chip past the keeper, and he pounced on the afforded second attempt but couldn’t convert due to the desperate defending by full-back Cameron Dummigan on the line.
Lee Croft was introduced by Latics’ manager David Dunn and the wide-man cut in threateningly from the right, and his pearler was tipped away by Jensen for the shot-stopper’s only genuine action of the contest, summing up his teammates’ willingness to defend.
Late tackles were a prevalent feature as the game progressed with neither side being able to dictate with the ball and passes going astray. Green and Westcarr carried on endeavouring to hustle up top, despite seeing little success.
Tricky feet from substitute Nathan Thomas saw him work his way into the box and escape several challenges, but his tame shot was clutched gratefully by Coleman.
A flurry of opportunities ensued in the box as Mansfield chased a winning goal with Westcarr seeing an effort cleared to Thomas who after having one attempt cleared into his path, he couldn’t convert as he
composed himself for the second attempt and Oldham scurried the ball away in a hurry.
Adi Yussuf then came on for Green and appeared energetic and keen in his approach as the Stags looked increasingly enthusiastic to ensure a replay was avoided.
Mansfield fought superbly for what would surely be the first and final goal of the afternoon, but were thwarted well by the League One outfit to take the tie to a replay on Tuesday week.
Stags’ XI: Jensen, Rose (N Thomas 63’), Collins, Chapman, Clements, Green (Yussuf 83’), Westcarr, Tafazolli, Hunt (C), Lambe (Blair 81’), Adams.
Subs not used: Shearer, J Thomas, McGuire, Smith
Oldham Athletic XI: Coleman, Mills, Dieng, B.Wilson, Dummigan, Yeates, Winchester, Philliskirk, Poleon (Rasulo 73’), Higdon, Fuller (Croft 55’) (Eckersley 81’).
Subs not used: Renshaw, Vassell, Byrnes, Dunn
Attendance: 2,886 (512 away)