Mansfield Town and Exeter City played out an entertaining goalless draw at the One Call Stadium, with a scoreline belying the goalmouth action that was on show.
Both teams had numerous chances to break the deadlock – but a combination of stout defending, good goalkeeping and squandered chances kept the sheets clean for either side.
Paul Tisdale opted for the same starting XI as the side that beat Bristol Rovers at home on the opening day of the campaign. The only change to the 18-man squad came on the bench, where Alan Gow
’s absence was filled by Myles Anderson
Following consecutive defeats in their opening two fixtures of 2013/14, the hosts made some substantial changes to the complexion of the side – including throwing in Calvin Andrew straight into the starting line-up for his Stags debut.
The first Football League game back at the One Call Stadium following a five-year absence began at frantic pace, with plenty of hurly-burly being shown by both sides.
Early on, Jordan Moore-Taylor
whipped in a left-footed cross which was met at the back stick by the arriving Arron Davies
– the City winger had to improvise an overhead effort as the ball spun up, but Alan Marriott wasn’t tested.
At the other end, the hosts nearly got their first goal of the new campaign when Anthony Howell found space to cross from the right and despite good control in the box from debutant Andrew, he inexplicably miskicked for an easy Artur Krysiak
In the ninth minute, the travelling Grecians stood up in unison to pay tribute to Adam Stansfield, whose giant shirt occupied a block of seats in the away end.
But minutes later, Moore-Taylor became an early casualty for the Grecians. He was replaced by Aaron Dawson
as early as the 12th minute after being unable to run off his knock.
James Jennings, playing as a left-sided wing-back, was next to go close for the Stags as he was invited to shoot from outside the area. The angle didn’t favour the Mansfield man and he leant back when he shot, and cleared the crossbar.
Howell was displaying a real knack of winning aerial battles and when a corner from the right looped up in the air off a Mansfield head, the midfielder rose highest to nod goalwards from six yards. It needed Craig Woodman
in the right place at the right time to make a goalline clearance to retain parity.
David Wheeler was showing real industry and willingness at the other end of the pitch and opted to hit an effort on the half-volley from a wide position outside the area – it was watched well and held by the Stags goalkeeper though.
The home fans inside Field Mill – who are used to seeing their side steamroller teams on their home patch – were beginning to grow restless when City were the most effective in midfield. A foul won on the edge of the area allowed Liam Sercombe
to fire in a freekick which Alan Marriott touched just over.
Mansfield almost had a jammy opening goal when a Krysiak clearance hit Ollie Palmer and the ball looked like it was travelling into the net – only to loop into the side-netting, a foot wide of the post.
The final chances of an action-packed half fell the way of the visitors – firstly Sercombe’s volleyed effort diverted just a matter of inches over the bar by Wheeler.
Then John O’Flynn
, who had worked tirelessly throughout the first half, went close after controlling a Dawson cross but his left-footed effort went across goal and no more than a foot wide.
Half-time: Mansfield Town 0 Exeter City 0
Within a minute of the restart, City had a freekick to take just outside the box. O’Flynn was the man to strike, but his low effort didn’t quite have the conviction to trouble Marriott.
Wheeler was showing himself to be a real livewire on the right wing and as he plucked a Sercombe dink out of the air inside the box – and City fans were calling for a penalty as the ball hit a Stags defender, but the referee wasn’t interested.
The winger was involved again a moment later when he received the ball on the inside-right channel and tried to slip in Sam Parkin and O’Flynn, who were queuing up in the area – but the dissecting ball was just out of reach for both strikers and was cleared up and behind by Richie Sutton.
The home fans couldn’t believe that they didn’t take the lead just before the hour-mark when a route-one attack saw goalkeeper Marriott lump downfield, the ball flicked on, and Clucas escaped through on goal. Krysiak reacted within the blink of an eye to get a palm to the ball and deny the midfielder as he tried to round the City stopper.
Exeter were certainly having the better of the chances in the second period, with the midfield in particular frustrating their counterparts. Sercombe in particular was always showing for the short ball and helping to build the attack, with Parkin dropping deep to knit the play.
The hosts rang the chances within a short period to chance the focus of the attack, with Adam Murray, Matt Rhead and Lee Stevenson all entering.
And while City might have gone ahead on a few occasions, it needed a wonder-save by Krysiak to prevent the hosts going ahead in the final few minutes. Jamie McGuire received the ball from a throw in and set himself up for a half-volley – and a superb back-peddling save kept his clean-sheet intact.
Paul Tisdale threw on Jamie Reid
and Tommy Doherty
in the closing moments, and had a superb chance to steal three points when Reid drew a foul outside the box.
It was Reid himself that took the resultant freekick, but Marriott saved the effort well as the game petered out goalless.
Full-time: Mansfield Town 0 Exeter City 0
Mansfield Town: Marriott; Sutton, Dempster, Riley; Jennings, Clucas, Howell, McGuire, Beevers (Murray 77); Andrew (Rhead 81), Palmer (Stevenson 69).
Subs (not used): Briscoe, Tafazolli, Speight, Meikle.
Exeter City: Krysiak; Moore-Taylor (Dawson 12), Coles, Baldwin, Woodman; Davies, Bennett (Doherty 87), Sercombe, Wheeler; O’Flynn (Reid 87), Parkin.
Subs (not used): Pym, Anderson, Reid, Gosling, Keohane.
Attendance: 3,284 (272 away)
Referee: S. Mathieson