Goal-shy Mansfield held as battling part-timers earn replay in FA Cup
A GREEN keeper, a hairdresser, two policeman, a firefighter, financial advisor, a few students and a golf course manager. This had FA Cup written all over it.
Add to that a referee flown in for the day from Japan as part of an exchange between the English and Japanese FA, Jumpei Iida, and it had a different feeling to it all together to a normal league game.
Slough Town, one of the two lowest ranked sides left in the competition, rolled up in north Nottinghamshire with an upset on their minds. In the Evo-Stik Division One Central, they are the equivalent in standard to our local sides like Carlton Town and Rainworth MW.
The Stags had navigated their way through a tricky fourth round qualifying tie at Workington, winning 2-1, and a home tie against a part-time side experiencing the biggest day of many of their careers was always going to pose some problems.
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So it proved. Although Slough did not quite pull off the giant-killing they dearly wanted, they did frustrate a Stags side who threw everything at them without finding the breakthrough required.
And while it was wave after wave of attack from the hosts in the second half, they failed to work Slough goalkeeper James Warrington like they would have wanted.
They hit the bar once, missed an attempt from point-blank range but still lacked a ruthlessness in the box, something that has hindered them at home in other matches this season.
But for it to happen against the part-timers left many fans with little sympathy, just relief that they were still in the hat for the second round draw with a tricky replay to negotiate to make it through.
Cox made seven changes, with top scorer Jake Speight suspended proving a striking blow as he had bagged both goals in the previous round.
There was a first start of the season for Ben Hutchinson while Chris Clements, Lee Beevers, Louis Briscoe, Lindon Meikle and Ritchie Sutton all came in. And with loan goalkeeper Liam Mitchell not allowed to play by parent club Notts County, Shane Redmond started in goal.
But the opening half proved frustrating, as Mansfield failed to click through the gears, looked a little lacklustre and unable to get the opening goal required to settle the nerves among the supporters.
It finally kicked into life when Slough goalkeeper Warrington raced out of his box only for his timing to let him down as Matt Green nipped around him, down the right flank before crossing into the box. Ben Hutchinson fired a shot, which was blocked, and Lindon Meikle struck the rebound only for Alex Brown to get back and save on the line with an outstretched leg.
Howell then saw his close-range shot saved and after Matt Green's effort was blocked, it fell to Howell again but this time the midfielder struck it wide.
But on 34 minutes it was Stags who were almost behind with what proved to be the most clear-cut chance of the game. Police officer Ed Smith swept his way beyond Exodus Geohaghon from the left and into the box but Redmond pulled off a superb one-handed save at full stretch to turn the ball over his bar.
Clements, on a rare start, was the bright spark for Mansfield and he continued that into the second period with his range of passing and forward surges, as Stags got on the front foot from the off.
Shortly after the interval, the Stags showed some urgency as Briscoe played a ball into Hutchinson who displayed a superb touch to flick it between two defenders for the winger to race onto but Briscoe could not find the finish to match as he sliced wide of the far post.
And on 55 minutes, Clements twisted his way to the byline on the right of the box, crossed to the back post where Meikle rose only to see his header cannon back of the bar.
It was much improved and brought about positivity from the home crowd as the one-way traffic continued and then a Dempster header goalwards found Green but from two yards out in the centre of goal, he somehow headed over the bar.
Then a mix-up with 16 minutes left saw Redmond out of his box, Dempster running back but neither dealt with the ball in behind the defence and electrician Danny Burnell got in behind them, trying to get clear to pull the trigger but Redmond just recovered in time to tackle the striker on the edge of his own box.
Stags kept pushing forward but could not carve out the clear-cut opportunity required.
While the giant-killing did not come on this occasion, the FA Cup threw up another of its underdog stories. It is just a story the Stags hope Slough do not finish off in fairytale style when they meet in their replay in eight days' time.
Mansfield: Redmond, Sutton, Dempster, Geohaghon, Beevers, Briscoe, Howell, Clements, Meikle, Hutchinson (Wright, 65), Green. Subs: Thompson, Rhead, Roberts, Todd, Stevenson, Daniel
Slough: Warrington, Fraser, Rhone, Brown, Bowden-Haase, Woozley, Burgess, D Deeney, Burnell (Sonner, 78), Smith, Swift (Logie, 82). Subs: Murphy, A Deeney, Hawtree, Sinclair, Perkins
Referee: Jumpei Iida (Japan)
Attendance: 1,686 (250 visitors)