Newport County AFC will be looking to hit the ground running in League Two when they travel to Nottinghamshire to face Mansfield Town on Saturday. The Exiles will be looking for their first victory on the opening day since the success over Accrington Stanley five years ago, while Mansfield’s last three-point haul to start a season coincidentally came against County in 2016.
Here, find out all the facts and statistics ahead of the curtain-raiser in League Two.
Mansfield Town have certainly had a highly impressive pre-season ahead of the 2018/19 campaign – winning three of their four friendlies against Championship opposition.
The club’s preparations start away from England, however, as manager David Flitcroft took both the first-team and the youth team on a week’s intensive training in Amendoeira, Portugal.
As part of that warm weather training camp, the Stags played one friendly when facing Primeira Liga outfit Vitoria FC.
The three-times Taca de Portugal winners inflicted Mansfield’s only defeat across the entirety of pre-season when an unnamed midfielder curled a free-kick into the top corner for the games only goal.
On their return to Nottinghamshire, the Stags continued their pre-season preparations with a comfortable 3-0 victory at Bradford PA – two from Lee Angol and a goal from Jacob Mellis.
On 14th July, Flitcroft split his first-team squad in half to play two matches at Retford United and Hednesford Town.
The Stags could only limp to a 0-0 draw at Hednesford but Flitcroft was in attendance to see an emphatic 5-0 victory at Retford.
Angol scored from the penalty spot to give them a half-time lead, before the away side bagged four late goals courtesy of Krystian Pearce, Nyle Blake and two from Omari Sterling-James.
Since those games, the Stags have upped the intensity and staged four home matches against teams from the second-tier in English football.
Frank Lampard’s Derby County were the first team in town at the One Call Stadium, but the former Chelsea and England legend had to leave Nottinghamshire having suffered his first ever managerial defeat.
Goals from Jordan Graham, CJ Hamilton and Angol secured a 3-1 victory for the Stags, before they were held three days later to a 0-0 draw against Sheffield United.
They have since finished their pre-season preparations with two victories – starting with the 2-1 win against Sheffield Wednesday courtesy of Malvind Benning and an own goal.
Last weekend, they again secured a victory over a Championship opposition, this time goals from Craig Davies and Tyler Walker doing the damage in a 2-1 success against Rotherham United.
Summer Incomings / Outgoings
David Flitcroft has been busy in the summer transfer market as he looks to add that extra bit of quality to his squad that might help propel Mansfield Town into the third-tier for next season.
The Stags finished just three points outside of the play-offs last season when securing an 8th place finish in the division, and Flitcroft has brought in five fresh faces so far as he looks for improvement.
That starts with the 44-year old going back to former side Swindon Town and securing the signature of defender Matt Preston. The 23-year old is already vastly experienced for a player of his age, having featured for Walsall in League One on 41 occasions.
Preston was swiftly followed through the door by another player with experience in the third-tier as midfielder Neal Bishop penned a contract at the One Call Stadium on 6th June.
The 36-year old was a mainstay in Scunthorpe United’s play-off campaign in the 2017/18 season, but decided to leave for pastures new ahead of this campaign. It will be his third spell in League Two.
Bishop said upon his arrival: “I can promise I will be giving everything here; in training and matches. This challenge excites me as there’s a really positive vibe around this place.”
Mansfield then completed a triple swoop on 29th June when bringing three fresh faces to the One Call Stadium.
Two of those deals commanded a transfer fee – midfielder Otis Khan and striker Craig Davies both joining for undisclosed fees from Yeovil Town and Oldham Athletic respectively.
Flitcroft said on the pair: “We have been closely monitoring Otis and Craig for some time and their desire and hunger to play for the Stags are qualities which fit perfectly into our model.”
The Nottinghamshire outfit also announced the loan arrival of Tyler Walker from Nottingham Forest on that day. The 20-year old marked his first Championship start of last season by scoring twice in a convincing win over QPR, whilst also representing England at U20 level.
In terms of outgoings, one surprising name on the released list was that of winger Alfie Potter. The 29-year old scored a hat-trick past County last season but left the club in the summer after an 18-month stint.
Other players to leave the club include defender Paul Digby who has joined Forest Green Rovers for an undisclosed fee, striker Jimmy Spencer and defender Johnny Hunt.
One to Watch – Lee Angol
With fellow attacker and last season’s top scorer Danny Rose's future at the club still up in the air, Lee Angol may have to carry a big burden on his shoulders for the first few weeks of the season as the Stags look to hit the ground running in League Two.
The 23-year old will be looking for a better return than the ten goals he managed last season, in what was his first campaign with the Stags following an undisclosed fee move to the club.
All bar one of those goals came in League Two with the most recent being a double to see off Yeovil Town on 28th April 2018.
He also found the net against Crewe Alexandra, Wycombe Wanderers, Accrington Stanley, Luton Town and three times against Grimsby Town – whilst also scoring against Notts County in the CheckaTrade Trophy.
It has certainly been an interesting career to date for the attacker, with the 6’1” striker originally progressing through the youth ranks at Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.
After leaving Spurs, Angol was snapped up by Wycombe Wanderers and made his debut as a substitute in the defeat to Watford on 11th August 2012. It was Gianfranco Zola’s first game in charge of the Hornets.
Appearances in the first-team dried up from there, however, so Angol was forced to prove his worth in the Isthmian League with Hendon.
Following two sperate spells at the club on loan, the striker was also sent out to Maidenhead United and Boreham Wood – his 12 goals across those stints enough for Luton Town to make a move.
He never actually made an appearance for the club, however, as he was immediately given a season-long loan at Boreham Wood in 2014/15 and finished the season as the Conference South top scorer, guiding the Hertfordshire side into the National League for the first time in their history.
That persuaded Peterborough United to hand the striker a three-year contract and he scored 12 goals in 46 league appearances before making the move to Mansfield Town via a loan spell with Lincoln City.
Manager – David Flitcroft
David Flitcroft has been busy this summer trying to mastermind a second promotion from League Two having achieved that feat with a former club three seasons ago.
He is relatively new into the hot seat at the Nottinghamshire outfit having officially taken the reigns on 1st March 2018 following the departure of former manager Steve Evans to Peterborough United.
The 44-year old didn’t exactly have the best of starts when taking charge as he couldn’t build on the exploits of Evans as the Stags slipped out of the play-off places towards the end of the season.
Out of the 12 games he took charge of last season, they only managed two wins alongside six draws and four defeats. That leaves Flitcroft at the moment with a win percentage of 16.7% at Mansfield Town.
Before this current stint in Nottinghamshire, Flitcroft took his first steps into management when joining the coaching staff at Rochdale following his retirement.
He was swiftly appointed as assistant manager at Barnsley on 1st June 2011, taking the managerial position on a caretaker basis following the dismissal of Keith Hill during the 2012/13 season.
A positive run in that temporary stint – two wins from his three matches – saw Flitcroft appointed to the position on a permanent basis and he led the club to survival in the Championship.
His first full season didn’t quite work out as-well as the previous matches, however, and he was dismissed a few months into the season – leaving the club with statistics of 14 wins, 13 draws and 18 defeats from 45 matches.
Flitcroft virtually walked straight into his next job following his exit from Barnsley and took the reigns at Bury FC on 9th December 2013.
He again saved a club from relegation when steering them into a much more impressive 12th position in League Two.
The Shakers achieved promotion into the third tier in the following campaign – to date Flitcroft’s only managerial honour – following a 1-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers on the final day of the 2014/15 season.
Flitcroft guided the club to a reasonable 16th placed finish alongside success in the cup competitions during their first season in League One, but again struggled in the following campaign and was dismissed in November 2016.
He returned to management at the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign when installed as Swindon Town manager and had a relatively successful spell with the Wiltshire outfit before departing for Mansfield.
The 44-year old led them to the cusps of the League Two play-offs following competitive statistics of 21 wins, three draws and 18 defeats from his 42 matches – although ultimately decided to quit and take the job at Mansfield Town.
Stadium – The One Call Stadium
The One Call Stadium is currently the oldest ground in the Football League having hosted football since 1861, although Mansfield Town have only been tenants at the ground since 1919.
The stadium was also home to rugby team Mansfield Marksman for two years in the 1980’s, in addition to hosting greyhound racing and pop concerts, although the most recent sale of the ground in 2012 came with the condition that there could be no non-sports use until 2032.
It has a current capacity of 9,186, although the record capacity for the stadium stands at 24, 467 for a match against Nottingham Forest on 10th January 1953.
Away fans will be housed in the North Stand on matchday behind one of the goals. That comes with a capacity of 1,910 in an all-seater stand.
County have visited the One Call Stadium on several occasions in both the Conference and League 2.
The last time the Exiles had to visit twice in one season came in the 2010/11 season. 121 fans travelled to Nottinghamshire for a 4-2 defeat in the FA Trophy on 15th January 2011, while 198 saw the 3-3 draw in the league just over a month later.
Some other attendances in more recent times sees a league high attendance make the trip on the opening day of the 2012/13 promotion season for both sides.
That was actually the last time County won at the One Call Stadium, a 4-3 victory on 11th August 2012 being overseen by 357 away supporters.
Further attendances in Nottinghamshire include 224 during the 2013/14 season for a 2-1 defeat, 119 the season after for a 1-0 reverse, 158 making the trip in 2016/17 for a 2-1 loss and 57 last season when County lost 5-0 on 13th February 2018.
Previous meetings with County on the opening day of the season
Interestingly, County have faced off with Mansfield Town on the opening day of the season twice in past years.
The first of those curtain-raiser clashes came in what was a season of triumph for both sides – County edging out a seven-goal thriller at the One Call Stadium on 11th August 2012.
Ismail Yakubu got County off to the perfect start for the season when heading home Andy Sandell’s free-kick early on, before it got even better for the Exiles when Tony James doubled the advantage with a half-volley.
Jake Speight and ex-Exile Matt Green eventually drew the Stags level just after the break following a sustained amount of pressure from the home side, before Aaron O’Connor restored an advantage for County with a bullet header.
O’Connor’s strike partner Jefferson Louis then made sure of all three points when drilling a shot into the bottom corner, with Speight’s late header merely acting as an extra consolation for the home side.
The Stags were to get their revenge, however, when the sides again met during the first game of the season as they scored in stoppage time to steal a five-goal affair at Rodney Parade on 6th August 2016.
Mansfield actually had the lead on all three occasions in South Wales, starting with ex-Exile Green again scoring past his former employers when heading home Kevan Hurst’s cross.
County’s number seven Jack Compton marked his debut with a sumptuous free-kick to draw the Exiles level for half-time, although Danny Rose restored the Stags’ advantage midway through the second-half.
Joss Labadie became the second County debutant to score when tapping in what looked like to be a late equaliser at Rodney Parade, but there was still late drama to come.
In the third minute of stoppage-time, Hurst picked the ball up on the far-left side before cutting in and firing an unstoppable curling effort into the far corner that left Joe Day with no chance in the County net.
Referee: Paul Marsden
Assistant Referee 1: Robert Atkin
Assistant Referee 2: Anthony Moore
Fourth Official: James Wilson
Paul Marsden will officiate his first match in League Two on Saturday having been selected as one of the 12 National League referees to be promoted into the Football League for the upcoming campaign.
This accomplishment into the professional game comes after what was a highly impressive season in the fifth-tier last time out – securing a promotion after just one full season as a referee at that level.
Having last been involved on a matchday as fourth official in the National League Play-Off final at Wembley, Marsden refereed his most recent competitive match on Saturday 28th April 2018.
That match was one of 21 games that he presided over in the 2017/18 campaign and resulted in former County manager Justin Edinburgh leading his Leyton Orient side to an impressive 3-1 victory away at Gateshead.
Across those 21 games last season, Marsden brandished a total of 74 yellow cards and eight red cards.
Despite having never refereed a game in the Football League, Marsden has been involved in a couple of matches that involve both County and Mansfield in an assistant referee capacity.
Interestingly, one of those matches actually saw the Exiles face off against the Stags and it came at the One Call Stadium.
The date was 25th February 2017 but not even an early Ryan Bird strike could help County as the home side rallied to boost their play-off ambitions with a 2-1 victory courtesy of goals from Krystian Pearce and Shaquile Coulthirst.
That encounter is one of the two matches he has been involved in from a County perspective – the other coming on 27th August 2016 as the Exiles secured a 2-2 draw at Hartlepool United. Sean Rigg and Jon Parkin scored that day.
Marsden has been an assistant referee for Mansfield Town matches more frequently, although his most recent game was that victory for the Stags against County.
He was also involved in their 3-0 home success against Crewe Alexandra that same season - goals from Yoann Arquin, Ben Whiteman and Malvind Benning doing the damage on 7th January 2017.
Before that, Marsden was also present for Shrewsbury Town’s 1-0 victory at the One Call Stadium on 6th April 2015, whilst being involved in the 0-0 draw with Chesterfield on 22nd March 2014.
Finally, Marsden also helped officiate the Stags’ Carabao Cup clash with Sheffield United on 13th August 2014. Now Reading striker Marc McNulty scored late to decide the tie on the night as the Blades won 2-1.
Other League Two matches that day (All 3pm kick-offs)
Bury vs Yeovil Town
Cheltenham Town vs Crawley Town
Crewe Alexandra vs Morecambe
Exeter City vs Carlisle United
Grimsby Town vs Forest Green Rovers
Northampton Town vs Lincoln City
Notts County vs Colchester United
Oldham Athletic vs Milton Keynes Dons
Port Vale vs Cambridge United
Stevenage vs Tranmere Rovers
Swindon Town vs Macclesfield Town
Can’t make the match?
You can follow along on social media using @NCAFCLive on Twitter, or via the Club’s official Facebook, Snapchat (OfficialExiles) and Instagram pages.
Don’t forget – if you reside outside of the UK, you can watch the game live by subscribing to County’s iFollow service. Commentary by Tim Thraves can also be found at the Match Centre from 2.45pm.
An on-the-whistle match report of this match will be provided on the Club website upon the end of the game. Michael Flynn’s post-match analysis will appear on the website the day after the game, while you can watch all of Flynn’s post-match press conference as-well as two County players by subscribing to iFollow Exiles.