Report: Scunthorpe 2-0 Stags
Mansfield Town were beaten by Scunthorpe United at a sun-bathed Glanford Park on their return to the Football League.
Strikes by Matt Sparrow and Sam Winnall prior to half-time put The Iron on course for victory, but the hosts had Eddie Nolan dismissed late on.
Ross Dyer had a goal disallowed for Stags with the scores at 0-0, whilst, much later in the game, Louis Briscoe also missed a penalty.
On a proud occasion for everyone connected with Mansfield, The Stags very nearly found the net in just the second minute of a wonderfully warm afternoon.
Lee Stevenson hooked a snap-shot narrowly wide of the right-hand post after Lee Beevers right-wing cross was flicked forwards by Adam Murray.
Beevers posed a constant nuisance for The Iron in the early minutes and another dangerous ball, this time towards the near-post, was well-claimed by Sam Slocombe.
Nevertheless, The Iron struggled as Mansfield dominated the opening quarter-of-an-hour.
The Stags won their first corner on 16 minutes when Stevenson’s speculative 25-yard snap-shot was deflected over the woodwork by David Mirfin.
James Jennings’ subsequent delivery came to nothing, but just moments later, the lively Sam Clucas cut inside from the left channel and saw a low drive saved by Slocombe.
Mansfield’s pressure didn’t end there, however, as Stevenson was hauled down by Eddie Nolan two minutes later, which resulted in a free-kick 25 yards out.
Jennings’ resulting set-piece was only partially cleared by The Iron defence, which allowed Beevers to hook a deep right-sided cross towards the back-post.
Matt Rhead flicked the ball back across the six-yard box from the by-line, but the whistle had already gone by the time Ross Dyer fired home.
With the Glanford Park crowd starting to be come restless, The Iron gradually began to enjoy their brightest spell, as Mansfield’s pressure eased.
Matt Sparrow fired high-and-wide with the hosts’ first opportunity of the game on 24 minutes, before Clucas did likewise at the opposite end.
Nevertheless, Scunthorpe were enjoying plenty of possession by now, and on the half-hour mark, the opener arrived for Brian Laws’ team.
Andy Welsh’s deep ball into the area from the left channel found an unmarked Sparrow, who took a touch, before unleashing a powerful drive into the bottom-left corner.
The Stags were shell-shocked at having gone behind and as the first period progressed, the balance of play swung considerably in favour of Scunthorpe.
Alan Marriott’s superb diving save prevented Andy Dawson from doubling The Iron’s advantage on 35 minutes, after Terry Hawkridge had been fouled.
Two minutes later, Marriott was again in the thick of the action, when he bravely got down at the feet of Sam Winnall and did enough to distract the striker in a one-on-one situation.
However, Winnall gained revenge on Marriott prior to the interval as he doubled Scunthorpe’s lead in bizarre circumstances.
Hawkridge’s long ball down the right channel caught out the Stags defence, who were holding a high-line, and fell into the path of Winnall.
Marriott rushed off his line in an attempt to reach the ball ahead of the striker, but Winnall got there first and rounded the stranded ‘keeper, prior to slotting home.
The Iron began brightly after the break, as they sought to extinguish any hopes Mansfield might have harboured about a comeback.
Dawson’s short-corner within a minute of the re-start almost caught the Stags defence napping, with the hosts working the ball well.
The Stags made their first change on 51 minutes when Lindon Meikle replaced Stevenson in a tactical move, which aimed to give the visitors more width.
On the hour mark, Ollie Palmer was also thrust into the action for his Stags’ debut, replacing Rhead in attack, but the hosts still looked comfortable.
The Iron soon came close to extending their lead further when Nolan picked out Welsh inside the six-yard box, who somehow placed his header wide.
Moments later, Dawson also had a powerful attempt bravely blocked by the body of John Dempster as Scunthorpe again made inroads.
Nevertheless, clear-cut chances were few and far between for both teams in the second period, as precious minutes started to ebb away for The Stags.
With hopes of a Mansfield comeback fading, Ross Dyer was unable to take advantage of a gilt-edge opportunity, which would have made for an interesting finale.
Beevers caused havoc with an arrow-like cross into the Scunthorpe six-yard, which drifted agonisingly wide after Dyer had stooped low to connect to it.
Despite enjoying two corners in quick succession, The Stags were unable to find a way past the steel resistance of The Iron defence.
On the cusp of added time, however, Paul Cox’s men were quite literally handed a route back into the game when Nolan handed Clucas’ intended cross into the area.
Referee Eddie Ilderton quickly pointed to the spot, and thrust a second -yellow card in the direction of Nolan, who had earlier been cautioned for a foul on Dyer.
But in front of the travelling faithful, substitute Louis Briscoe hammered the resulting spot-kick over the target, to further compound Mansfield’s misery.
Five minutes of stoppage-time passed with little incident, as The Iron began their League Two season on a winning note.
Attendance: 5,241 (1,500 away supporters).