Adam Murray’s new-look Mansfield Town side showed the early, exciting glimpses of promise that everyone was hoping for in Saturday’s 1-1 friendly draw at Tamworth.
After the pre-season opener at neighbours Rainworth a week earlier, Saturday’s game away to a decent Conference North outfit was a much bigger test and a great chance to stretch the legs properly and start to build up an understanding between the players.
Click HERE to read a match report
Click HERE for Adam Murray’s reaction
Murray will have learned plenty from this entertaining affair at The Lamb and was eventually pleased with what he saw, despite a somewhat lethargic start.
His starting XI contained seven summer signings and all acquitted themselves well apart from experienced keeper Scott Shearer, whose third minute howler gifted ex-Stag Ross Dyer a third minute goal after his terrible attempted clearance only reached Danny Newton, who fed Dyer in front of an open goal.
The sight of Stags legend Matt Green back in the Amber & Blue was a joy for the travelling fans and, although he clearly still has work to do to regain full fitness, now and again he showed glimpses of the talent that helped Stags to promotion two years ago.
One tantalising burst of the old pace just before the break looked like it would earn him a goal as he raced down the centre onto a Nathan Thomas through ball, only to see James Belshaw race out his goal and appear to handle outside his box with no whistle.
On a bobbly surface, Stags toiled in the heat for the first 20 minutes before they finally began to get a grip on possession and ask questions of the home defence.
Adam Chapman, back for his second spell with the club, was the catalyst as he sat deep in midfield and patiently engineered each move forward.
Green was used as a lone forward with Jack Thomas is the hole just behind him while wingers Reggie Lambe and Nathan Thomas looked more of a threat when they came infield, allowing full backs Nicky Hunt and Malv Benning to power on. Both full backs look superb signings on this showing.
But it wasn’t until the 55th minute that Stags were level as Nathan Thomas picked out the top left corner from the edge of the box, floating in a magnificent finish just under the angle.
As the substitutions flowed in the second half, the game stuttered with Tamworth enjoying another good spell against a much younger opposition.
That gave teenage sub keeper Sam Wilson some work to do and he managed to keep out a vicious home free kick near the end.
Chris Beardsley showed intelligent play at the other end while fellow striker Adi Yussuf looked a big, powerful handful who might have had a hat-trick, Belshaw making three saves to deny him, and Yussuf also nodding over the bar from a corner as Mansfield ended the game strongly.
A new central defensive partnership saw the powerful Lee Collins, made skipper on the day, alongside Krystian Pearce, who signed the day before. Both did well, though Pearce limped off with a kick on the ankle soon after the break, though afterwards Murray stressed his withdrawal was only precautionary.
This was only Conference North opposition, but that is no reason for anyone not to feel highly optimistic from what they saw on Saturday.