Corey Gregory’s 13th minute header won the game for Matlock, who after looking like hitting a cricket score, increasingly lost their way as the game wore on.
Here lies a lesson for Matlock, one that bit them on the behind many times last season. Be ruthless, take the opportunities that come your way, else you might be punished.
On the night a youthful Mansfield outfit had neither the quality nor the strength to unhinge the Gladiators back four, but better sides might have made them rue their missed chances.
A big contributory factor though was the form of Stags custodian Adam Bishop who pulled off at least five top class saves to prevent Matlock from holding a handsome interval advantage. Those saves might have proved crucial for Mansfield grew in confidence as Matlock needed to be alert at the back.
A number of probably first choice players were also missing from the hosts’ line up and manager Mark Atkins took a look at a trialist midfielder who looked tidy on the ball and was always prominent until his second half withdrawal.
Recently signed Oliver Brook fired fiercely too high in the 3rd minute before Gregory extended Bishop diving to his left to superbly tip aside his 5th minute effort. Only a minute later Bishop pushed a Dean Freeman header on to the bar with Gregory lifting the loose ball too high from close range.
A Stags trialist shot timidly at Jon Kennedy following a woefully under hit Freeman back pass before Gregory, partnering Leon Osborne in attack, bicycle kicked too high.
But Gregory broke the deadlock steering a clever looping header over Bishop after an excellent cross from Joe Leesley on the left.
Trovarn Thompson sliced wide after Mansfield swiftly took a free kick but Bishop was again the Stags saviour with a great save from the Matlock trialist’s skidding low twenty five yarder. Then Osborne ballooned over from twelve yards, saw Bishop pull off another great stop and the trialist was again thwarted by Bishop, this time from a twenty yard distance.
Danny Fletcher cracked a shot over the bar as Matlock switched off momentarily again but Matlock could and should have been at least four goals ahead by half time.
It was mainly frustration for the Gladiators after the break as the chances dried up somewhat, although a diving header from Oscar Radford bounced narrowly wide and a David Haggerty effort was cleared off the line.
Phil Roe poked an effort at substitute goalkeeper Frazer Hampson after an individual run into the heart of the Stags back four, but Matlock were having to defend more. That said, Kennedy was never seriously threatened.
Another trialist Josh Meade again impressed, both at right back and then in midfield, but manager Atkins was not overly impressed with his side’s performance. Having started well and dominated, too many of his charges took the foot off the pedal.
MATLOCK TOWN; 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Josh Meade 3 Joe Leesley (14 Phil Roe 46), 4 Trialist (18 Martin Foster 54) 5 David Haggerty 6 Dean Freeman 7 Liam Needham (15 Alex Hewitt 46) 8 Oliver Brock (17 Oscar Radford 46) 9 Leon Osborne ( 3 Joe Leesley 78) 10 Corey Gregory 11 Lavell White (12 Jason Stokes 46)
MANSFIELD TOWN X1: 1 Adam Bishop 2 Rory Thomson 3 Louis Danquah 4 Drew Gibson 5 Trialist 6 Charlie Brownlie 7 Trialist 8 Chris Spencer 9 Danny Fletcher 10 Trovarn Thompson 11 Tyler Blake. Subs: 12 George Holloway 14 Cameron Graves 15 Joe Fitzpatrick 13 Frazer Hampson 17 Dave McCarthy
REFEREE: N Hopton (Derby)