Mansfield Town produced a positive display back at One Call Stadium as the Stags came from a goal behind to secure a 1-1 draw against Championship side Rotherham.
Mansfield were welcomed back to their home stadium by over 2,000 home fans this afternoon.
Debutants Christy Pym and Riley Harbottle shone in their first outings as Stags’ players.
Within the first minute of the match, Rotherham worked the ball well down the right-hand side when Chiedozie Ogbene delivered an out-swinging cross towards the head of striker Conor Washington. The northern Irishman saw his effort saved by Pym at close range.
In the seventh minute, Will Swan was set free down the right flank. The Nottingham Forest loanee beat Rotherham captain Richard Wood in a foot race before chopping back inside on the by-line to work a shot at goal. The 21-year-old saw his low driven effort skim narrowly wide of the far post.
After a quarter-of-an-hour, both sides headed over to the dugouts for a water break – the first of several scheduled stops in play – as the players looked to take on extra fluids in the scorching heat.
The away side worked the ball well in the following minutes after the restart, though the Stags’ back three were equal to the threats, dealing with the pressure and preventing any shots on Pym’s goal.
A display of strength in the middle of the park from Stags’ skipper Ollie Clarke in the 26th minute allowed him to thread a ball through to Stephen McLaughlin. The left wing-back delivered a sublime cross deep into Rotherham’s area. Lucas Akins arrived to head the ball towards goal but couldn’t generate enough power to trouble Viktor Johansson between the Millers’ posts.
In the 37th minute, Swan slipped through Clarke who let the ball run across his body to enter the away side’s box. The club captain then fizzed the ball across the area but none of his teammates were there to meet the inviting cross.
With five minutes of the first-half still to play, Swan occupied a wide position and displayed his talent in front of the home fans with a delightful nutmeg on Dan Barlaser. Unfortunately, the ball was then given away by the former Bristol Rovers man as he attempted to switch play but overcooked his lobbed pass.
Rotherham came forward in the following minutes. Two identical crosses from Chiedozie Ogbene were sent into the penalty area at the Quarry Lane end. However, nothing materialised as Pym came out to gather the first confidently and the second opportunity saw Jamie Lindsay spurn his chance form six yards out.
Will Swan continued the second-half as he finished the first. The Mansfield-born attacker drove into the Rotherham box and set the ball back to George Lapslie, who wasted no time in slipping the ball through to Jordan Bowery. Stags’ number nine tussled with Hakeem Odoffin, eventually playing the ball off the Rotherham player to earn his side a corner.
Mansfield made a strong start to the second-half with Bowery at the centre of things again with 55 minutes on the clock. The former Aston Villa forward danced through the Rotherham defence before unleashing a low effort from just outside the box. Johansson was able to get down well to gather the shot.
In the 60th minute, Rotherham took the lead through Joshua Kayode when a dangerously-placed corner landed on the head of the Millers’ frontman, who dispatched past Pym from point-blank range.
Both sides then made three substitutions. For Mansfield: Hiram Boateng, George Maris, and Stephen Quinn came on to form a fresh midfield as the Stags looked to bring the score line level.
Entering the 73rd minute, another substitute Kellan Gordon made a strong start as he raced away down the right – winning a free kick just outside the Rotherham box. The subsequent free kick was taken by Stephen McLaughlin who rolled the ball short to Boateng who fired a low attempt straight into the hands of Johansson.
In the 76th minute, Jason Law, Rhys Oates and George Cooper replaced the impressive Riley Harbottle, Will Swan and Lucas Akins.
Mansfield continued their search for an equaliser as Gordon arrived on the end of a loose ball in the 79th minute but his ball was blocked and headed away by Hamish Douglas.
Stags’ pressure paid off in the 85th minute as substitute Oates, who had been seeing a lot of the ball since his arrival, was played through down the right. The club’s top scorer from last season raced away from Rotherham’s last man and got his angles right as he blasted the ball past the visiting goalkeeper perfectly to draw Stags’ level.
Oates received the ball in a similar position three minutes later and looked to have been brought down before he had the chance to put his side ahead. The referee didn’t see anything wrong with the challenge, much to the disappointment of the home fans, and waved Oates back to his feet.
With the two additional minutes, Mansfield finished the game strong and battled hard for a winner. The final chance of the game came as Gordon was released down the right flank. After beating the Rotherham left-back in a foot race his pacey cross couldn’t find the outstretched leg of Jason Law.
A good end to the game saw Nigel Clough’s side unable to snatch a winner as the game finished 1-1. Mansfield continued their unbeaten run in this pre-season campaign as attentions now turn to Tuesday night’s fixture against Sheffield United.
STAGS XI: Pym, Bowery (Gordon), O’Toole, Hawkins, Harbottle (Cooper 76’), McLaughlin, Clarke © (Quinn 65’), McGeouch (Maris 65’), Lapslie (Boateng 65’), Swan (Oates 76’), Akins (Law 76’).
UNUSED SUBS: Mason, Gale.
ROTHERHAM XI: Johansson, Barlaser (Holvey 71’), Wood © (Champion 76’), Wiles (Rathbone 63’), Ogbene (Durose 71’), Washington, Lindsay Holvey 71’), Kayode (Kelly 65’), Odoffin (Douglas 71’), Humphreys (Hull 63’), Kioso (Warne 71’).
UNUSED SUBS: Vickers, Warne.
REFEREE: Josh Smith