Goals in either half from Chris Clements and Ryan Tafazolli secured a memorable 2-0 win for Mansfield Town at Meadow Lane after an enthralling derby with local rivals Notts County.
Adam Murray reverted back to the same outfield players who started the opening day draw with Carlisle last Saturday, with Matt Green leading the line after missing out at Hillsborough through injury on Tuesday night. The only change came in goal for the Stags, with Brian Jensen replacing Scott Shearer between the posts due to an illness to the Stags’ number one; the Danish ‘keeper becoming the oldest ever player for the Stags in the process.
What was always going to be full-blooded passionate derby was highlighted inside the opening minutes of this intense encounter. Civard Sprockel came off worse in a 50/50 challenge with Nathan Thomas, with the Stags winger seeing yellow for his tackle.
With the atmosphere electric inside Meadow Lane, the Jimmy Sirrel Stand packed full of optimistic Mansfield fans were up out of their seats when Matt Green coolly swivelled away from his defender before slotting Thomas clean through on goal.
Calm and composed, Thomas tried to slide the ball past the veteran ‘keeper Roy Carroll in the County goal, but the 37-year old rolled back the years with a superb stop down low to his left to force the ball downwards before looping up off the cross-bar and out for a corner.
First blow to the visitors as the Stags continued to pressurise the League Two new boys by penning them in to their own half, with Julien Jenner’s shot into the side netting the only potential threat from the hosts inside the opening 20 minutes.
A game made for the strong, agile Matt Green; the striker showed his skilful side after lifting a cute little flick over the final defender Sprockel’s head, with the County man deflecting it away with his hand.
A yellow card was awarded to the Dutch centre-half, but last week’s free-kick hero Malvind Benning couldn’t quite replicate his peach of a strike against Carlisle, instead bending it just wide of the top left-hand corner.
Notts needed to stake their claim in this derby match, and they did when Curtis Thompson’s low fizzing cross was met by the boot of Jon Stead, but his goal-bound strike was well smothered by Jensen.
With Mansfield undoubtedly the stronger of the two sides during the first-half, their persistence and hard-work paid off in delightful fashion with a beautifully-crafted goal worthy of any derby match across all four leagues.
After neat passing to feet by the Stags front-line, the ball was eventually fed through to Green, who composed himself before sliding the ball through to the onrushing Clements. The central-midfielder ghosted past the two defenders who tried to crowd him out, before placing the ball inch-perfectly past the huge figure of Carroll in goal, and in to the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
A tremendous goal matched with a tremendous roar from the Mansfield faithful; the goal was well deserved for Adam Murray’s men. County began to lick their wounds and come in search of an equaliser, but their multitude of crosses failed to produce a notable scoring opportunity, with referee Tim Robinson blowing for half-time at the score of 1-0 to the Stags.
Notts County kicked off the second half with two new faces entering the field, with Magpies' boss Ricardo Moniz sending on Graham Burke and Jimmy Spencer in an attempt to change the game.
However shortly after the re-start, Moniz was forced in to completing his third and final change of the match as Sprockel signalled to the bench that his game was over.
With Haydn Hollis on and play recommencing, the centre-half was soon backtracking as Nathan Thomas came storming down the wing. The summer signing was brought in to play once again by the powerful Green, but once again he was foiled by Carroll’s smart reflexes and he dived to his left to tip the effort round the post.
With just under 10 minutes of the second half played, the lively Thomas’ evening came to an end after being replaced by his namesake Jack for the remainder of the match. With the match maintaining its high tempo, Jack Thomas’ introduction gave the Mansfield midfield a breath of fresh air with his energy and hunger.
It was just past the hour-mark as the Mansfield Woodhouse-born midfielder wriggled free of Bennett before whipping in a searing in-swinging cross, with Matt Green throwing himself at it but failing to gain enough of a connection to send it past Carroll.
Still behind in the match, time was ticking away for The Magpies as they had a couple of good chances to level when Jenner sent a daisy-cutting ball across the face of goal which out-foxed the entire Stags defence, apart from Mal Benning who somehow nicked the ball away from the lurking Spencer.
With the resulting corner being pin-balled around the 18-yard box, the ball eventually fell to Hollis just six-yards out from goal. Hollis hit his shot on the turn and despite getting a good connection on it, saw it fire over the cross-bar.
After spearheading the attack at Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday, Chris Beardsley was brought on with 15 minutes remaining in place of Matt Green, with the departing forward once again impressing after his return to the club from Birmingham City.
With Beardsley providing another aerial threat from set-pieces, it was Ryan Tafazolli who popped up with a huge headed goal with 10 minutes left on the clock at Meadow Lane.
A long, floated cross by Benning from 40-yards out went in the direction of the back-post, and just like at Hillsborough in the week, Tafazolli rose above his defender to plant a header firmly past the ‘keeper and in to the back of the net.
A superb jump by the Stags defender, who made it two goals in the space of four days as Murray made his final substitution of the match by replacing Mitch Rose with Jamie McGuire.
With time running out and the home side’s efforts hardly of any trouble to the unbeaten Brian Jensen, referee Tim Robinson brought the game to a close, signalling an outstanding away win for the Stags on a night the fans of Mansfield will not forget in a hurry.
Notts County: Carroll, Adams, Bennet, Thompson (Spencer, 45), Noble, De Silva (Burke, 45), Jenner, Stead, Audel, Sprockel (Hollis, 48), Aborah.
Substitutes not used: Loach, Snijders, Sharpe, Campbell.
Mansfield Town: Jensen, Hunt, Tafazolli, Pearce, Benning, Rose (McGuire, 85), Chapman, Clements, Lambe, N. Thomas (J. Thomas, 54), M. Green (Beardsley, 76).
Substitutes not used: Marsden, Caton, Westcarr, Yussuf
ATTENDANCE: 10,074 (2,767 visitors).