Stags battle for point at struggling Nuneaton
INJURY and finding himself out of favour meant Nick Wright had to wait for his moment in the spotlight.
And last night it came, the striker bagging his first goal on only his second start for Mansfield, since joining from Kidderminster in the summer.
But despite doing his job after having the faith placed in him as last season's 30-goal top-scorer Matt Green was dropped to the bench, it still wasn't enough to earn victory against bottom side Nuneaton.
Following this 1-1 draw, the question Wright, his team-mates and manager Paul Cox will be asking themselves is how didn't they come away with all three points?
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The hosts never threatened in the first period, as Stags dominated proceedings, only to fall behind five minutes after the interval with Nuneaton's only shot of purpose on target, Connor Taylor's well-taken effort.
Stags showed character to get level nine minutes later through Wright but despite further pressure, they just could not get themselves in front, meaning their miserable away run goes on in the league – now taking just five points from a possible 24, winning only one of eight.
Wright for Green was the only change from the side that drew with Slough in the FA Cup.
The one blow came with the news this season's goal threat with eight to his name, Jake Speight, was not involved following a cortisone injection in his knee, although he is expected to be fit for the visit of Southport on Saturday.
After a slow opening to the game, Ben Hutchinson cut in from the left, fed Chris Clements on the edge of the box and after he twisted away from his marker, he curled over.
It was to set the tone for the opening 45 minutes as Mansfield simply dominated possession against a Nuneaton side sat bottom of the table and without a win since the first week in September.
Hutchinson was to be the next threat as he met John Dempster's ball from the left with a downward header, which Ben McNamara palmed away and as Wright dived in for the rebound inside the six-yard box, the goalkeeper pounced to get their first.
And 15 minutes in Mansfield showed more attacking intent as Lindon Meikle sharply cut into the box from the left but pulled his low effort wide of the near post before he produced a similar run, this time teeing up Louis Briscoe on the right of the area but his low shot was blocked
The closest the Stags came to opening the scoring in the first half came midway through when neat work by Wright allowed him to find Meikle in space, 20 yards out, but with McNamara beaten, the winger's right-foot strike thundered against the bar and over before Hutchinson turned in a similar area only to drive his shot straight down McNamara's throat.
On the stroke of half-time Hutchinson sent Meikle racing down the left and raced towards the back post himself to meet the cross but rather than finish the fleeting move from eight yards out, he appeared to get caught in two minds as to whether to tee it across goal or shoot, resulting in the move coming to nothing.
The second half began with millionaire chairman John Radford moving from the directors' box and making his way to join the Stags fans behind the Nuneaton goal.
But after being on the back foot, Nuneaton took the lead five minutes after the interval as Taylor nipped in from the left and 20 yards out, curled a superb effort in off the far post – their first shot on target and any purpose – to stun the visitors.
Stags were level nine minutes later, however, as Briscoe was fed down the right, turned his man and whipped in a pinpoint cross for Wright to dive in behind the defence and turn the ball beyond McNamara.
Then after Clements' corner came back to him, he pulled it back from the byline for Briscoe who unleashed a 15-yard shot that curled just millimetres wide of the far upright as the Stags began to take control again.
There was a scare 11 minute from time, as Nuneaton's Simon Forsdick flashed a shot just wide from the right of the box, with Shane Redmond scrambling.
Stags' Colin Daniel came on with five minutes left and his first touch saw him dart down the left and shoot from 22 yards only to see his drive tipped onto the bar and over by McNamara, before Demspter was denied from point-blank range at the death.
Nuneaton: McNamara, Forsdick, James, Malaga, Cowan, Dean, Armson, Sleath, Walker, Brown, Taylor (York, 73). Subs: O'Halloran, Smith, Thompson-Brown, Gordon.
Mansfield: Redmond, Sutton, Geohaghon, Dempster, Beevers, Howell, Briscoe (Daniel, 85), Hutchinson, Wright (Green, 86), Meikle. Subs: Rhead, Murray, Thompson.
Referee: Wayne Barratt (Bromsgrove)
Attendance: 838 (180 away fans)