Mansfield Town exited the Johnstone's Paint trophy this evening, losing 3-1 at the hands of Notts County.
Second half goals from Izale McLeod, Mike Edwards and Jon Stead were enough to see the Nottingham side into the second round of the competition despite Craig Westcarr’s late penalty for the Stags.
Stags’ gaffer Adam Murray made six changes to the side which beat York City on Saturday with Chris Beardsley, Adi Yussuf, Nathan Thomas, Lee Collins, Jamie McGuire and Liam Marsden coming into the side in place of Matt Green, Ryan Tafazolli, Nicky Hunt, Chris Clements, Craig Westcarr and Reggie Lambe.
Notts on the other hand made just the three changes, with goalkeeper Scott Loach making his debut for the club in place of Roy Carroll who is away on international duty, defender Wes Atkinson replacing Thierry Audel and midfielder, Stanley Aborah, returning to the side after suspension, in place of Mawouna Amevour.
The game started with Notts in the ascendency, putting in dangerous crosses from either flank via Adam Campbell and Genaro Snijders. The first shot of the game came from midfielder, Graham Burke, but stand-in captain Lee Collins put his head where it hurts to prevent Brian Jensen from being called into action.
The first time the Stags had a sight of Scott Loach’s goal came in the seventeenth minute, albeit somewhat fortuitously. The ball cannoned off Adi Yussuf’s face and fell in the space in-behind the County back four. Mal Benning sprinted from the left-hand side but was beaten to it by Loach by a matter of inches.
Following the half-chance, Mansfield enjoyed a spell of possession where they held onto the ball for over a minute, before Jamie McGuire was seemingly tripped on the edge of the Magpies’ box, but no foul was awarded by referee, Richard Clark.
With the Stags stopping for a free-kick, County broke down the other end with pace and numbers. Krystian Pearce looked to have the situation under control in the right-hand corner of the Stags’ half before slipping on the wet, Meadow Lane surface and gifting the ball to the increasingly influential Campbell. The winger cut into the Stags’ box before curling a shot against the base of Brian Jensen’s post.
In the five minutes that followed, Notts continued to create chances in this Johnstone’s Paint Trophy first round tie. A long ball forward by Wes Atkinson was collected by Jon Stead and the ex-Sheffield United forward got the wrong side of Collins, but the centre-half put him under pressure as Stead could only direct a tame shot into the arms of Jensen.
A minute later, Notts really should have been ahead. Some neat passing on the edge of the Stags’ box saw Campbell take the ball past Jensen before rolling the ball across the six-yard box instead of shooting and Collins was on hand to clear.
The end-to-end nature of the contest saw Mansfield almost turn the game on its head as Adi Yussuf had a great chance to put the Stags ahead. A lofted through ball by Jamie McGuire saw Yussuf bare down on goal but Loach stood tall and turned the Tanzanian striker’s left-footed shot behind for a corner.
It was then the Magpies’ turn for a chance as Izale McLeod, a recent acquisition from Crawley Town, held the ball up in the Stags’ box before feeding Genaro Snijders, but the Dutchman could only drag his shot wide of the goal.
The final action of the half came when Atkinson whipped a delightful ball across the face of the Mansfield goal which evaded everyone, before Liam Marsden turned the ball safely behind for a corner.
Both managers made changes at the break as Jack Thomas came on for the Stags in place of Mitch Rose, while Notts’ manager Ricardo Moniz replaced Gill Swerts with veteran defender, Mike Edwards.
County started strongly in the second period and Stags' shot stopper Brian Jensen kept the scores level just three minutes after the restart. Notts played some nice football on the edge of the Stags’ box before Snijders threaded a ball through to Campbell who looked to poke the ball under the on-rushing Jensen but the big Dane stood tall and turned the ball behind.
After cutting out a quick free kick, Audel found himself the subject of an incredibly strong, but fair challenge by Beardsley who then crossed a brilliant ball onto the head of Krystian Pearce but the defender could only direct his header, from all of 16 yards, straight at Scott Loach.
Quickly turning defence into attack, Notts went ahead. An Aborah through-ball was latched onto by Izale McLeod who calmed himself and lifted the ball over Brian Jensen to give the Magpies the lead.
Stags did well to nullify the County attack in the minutes that followed.
The Meadow Lane surface proved to be slippery for the majority of the players and Mal Benning was no different. Under little pressure, the left-back lost his footing and gifted the ball to Snijders who drove into the box but could only direct his cross straight into the arms of Jensen.
Stags made their second substitute of the evening when Chris Clements came on to replace Adam Chapman. Clements was immediately involved as he took part in the move which saw Nathan Thomas’ effort tipped around the post for a corner.
Adam Murray then made his final change of the evening with Craig Westcarr coming on to replace Chris Beardsley.
Striker Westcarr was then the creator of Stags’ best chance of the second half. The former County man received the ball on the edge of the Notts box, and hit a rasping drive on the turn which stung the palms of Scott Loach in the Magpies' goal.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Stanley Aborah went down in the centre circle with no one around him and was quickly replaced by ex-Manchester United midfielder Alan Smith.
As the Stags pushed for an equaliser, County put some breathing space between the sides. A corner was swung in from the left and when the ball broke loose in the Stags’ box, Mike Edwards was on hand to roll the ball through the legs of Brian Jensen and cement Notts’ place in the second round.
With ten minutes to go until the final whistle, Stags threw men forward in search of a way back into the game, leaving themselves open at the back and the Magpies had two goals ruled out, correctly, for offside.
Notts made their final change of the game after Haydn Hollis was forced off after a clash of heads and he was replaced by Julian Jenner.
The Magpies then made sure of their progression in the competition with a third goal. Jon Stead was bundled over on the edge of the box by Benning and the former Bradford City man picked himself up and dispatched the free-kick, with the help of a couple of deflections from the Stags’ wall.
With the game lost, the Stags did get a consolation goal. After a brilliant ball from midfield, Westcarr was brought down in the box by Edwards and the striker, on his return to his former club, smashed the penalty low and hard to Loach’s right with just seconds remaining.
Stags’ focus will now turn to league matters again when they welcome AFC Wimbledon to One Call Stadium on Saturday.
Notts County: Loach, Atkinson, Hollis (Jenner 88), Audel, Swerts (Edwards 46), Burke, Aborah (Smith 78), Snijders, Stead, Campbell, McLeod.
Substitutes not used: Pilkington, Spencer.
Mansfield Town: Jensen, Marsden, Pearce, Collins, Benning, McGuire, Chapman (Clements 61), Rose (J. Thomas 46), N. Thomas, Yussuf, Beardsley (Westcarr 64).
Substitutes not used: Lambe, Shires.
ATTENDANCE: 2696 (754) away