Blue Square Bet Premier
Staurday 13 August 2011 - Field Mill - kick off 3.00pm
||Garner, Simpson, Stonehouse, Jones (c), Preece, Burnell, Connolly, Hogg, Russell (Murray 74), Watkins, Phillips (Cook 90). subs not used: Matthews, Rollo, Webb.
|man of the match:
||D Handley, B Lamb, A Young
|league position: 10th
||next match: Wrexham (H)
Report taken from
Adam Connolly's deflected equaliser earned Bath City a share of the spoils on the opening day of the new Blue Square Bet Premier season.
They got off to a terrible start when Paul Connor was left unmarked to head Mansfield Town into a third-minute lead.
The visitors then rode their luck at times, with the Stags twice hitting the woodwork and having a shot cleared off the line.
But they managed to secure a hard-earned point when Connolly's shot from 20 yards found the back of the net in the 35th minute.
City boss Adie Britton included two former Mansfield players in his defence, with Paul Stonehouse and Mark Preece making quick returns to the club they left during the summer.
Indeed, such has been the turnaround in staff at Field Mill during the past three months that City actually had more of last season's Stags squad in their team than Mansfield, with only goalkeeper Alan Marriott surviving the cull.
City, who also welcomed back captain Gethin Jones and Sekani Simpson from injury, started with the expected 4-5-1 formation, with Alex Russell and Marley Watkins providing support to target man Lee Phillips.
Kick-off was delayed for ten minutes due to the number of fans trying to get into the ground - and the City defenders' minds still seemed to be in the dressing room in the opening stages.
Just three minutes were on the clock when the visitors fell asleep at a throw-in and Adam Murray was allowed to put in a cross which found Paul Connor completely unmarked six yards out to glance home.
City keeper Garner could do nothing about the goal but he did produce a fine save at his near post a couple of minutes to prevent Matt Green doubling Mansfield's advantage.
The visitors looked slightly stunned but showed signs of clearing their heads when Phillips used his strength to win possession on the edge of the box and drill in a low shot which beat keeper Marriott but whistled just millimetres past the post.
City went close again in the 20th minute when, from their first corner of the game, Lewis Hogg's cross was met at the near post by Jones but he couldn't get enough purchase on the header and it drifted wide.
JUst as the visitors looked like they were getting on top, they endured a rocky period where they almost went further behind four times in a minute.
First Preece got back to make a good block at the near post on a shot from Green, who looked to be offside as he raced through on goal.
Then, from the subsequent corner, both Martin Riley and Green hit the woodwork before Louis Briscoe forced a magnificent reflex save from Garner as City somehow emerged unscathed.
And they made the most of that let-off in the 35th minute by levelling the scores. A good period of pressure ended with Phillips rolling the ball back to Connolly, whose well-hit shot from 20 yards took a deflection and beat the helpless Marriott at his near post.
City would have been grateful to go into half-time all square after some nervy defending, and there was almost another poor start to the second period when Andy Todd had chance to shoot from 12 yards but failed to make contact with the ball.
Garner also had to race off his line to deny Connor after the City defence were caught out by another long ball over the top, while the Stags striker was also stopped in his tracks by a perfectly-timed tackle from Preece as he surged into the penalty area.
But, despite their defensive frailties, City were looking much more solid going forward and a good move ended with Russell flicking on a Watkins cross for Phillips but his header was comfortably saved by Marriott.
Mansfield made the first change of the game in the 70th minute, with Ross Dyer coming on for goalscorer Connor, and the sub made an immediate impact, setting up Murray for a rising shot which went too high and having a shot cleared off the line by Preece within three minutes of his entry.
Lindon Meikle came on for Green in the 76th minute to give Mansfield a new-look forward line, while City's first switch saw Scott Murray replace Russell.
Murray slotted in well down the right and put in a couple of testing crosses, one of which found Hogg at the near post but the midfielder could not divert the ball goalwards from a tight angle.
The City sub was also involved in a swift counter-attack but, with Phillips breaking into the box unmarked, overhit his cross and the chance was gone.
But it was Mansfield who looked most likely to nick a winner late on, with Garner forced to save from both Dyer and Todd in injury-time.
However, City held on to ensure they avoided defeat on the opening day for the first time since 2007.