A double from debutant Otis Khan ensured Newport County AFC started the 2018/19 season with defeat as Mansfield Town secured a 3-0 victory at the One Call Stadium.
In a first 20 minutes full of chances, the home side took the lead in the 12th minute after an initially good start from the Exiles.
Tyler Walker – on loan at the club from Nottingham Forest – kept his composure to finish from close range in the box after initial good work from teammate Neal Bishop in setting up the opportunity with a clever cross back into the area following a corner.
Padraig Amond forced two good saves from home goalkeeper Conrad Logan as the Exiles pushed to find an immediate response, but following the half-time interval, Khan took centre-stage to confirm a home victory.
Walker this time turned provider for Khan’s first, the former Yeovil Town midfielder connecting to the cross to power a header home from within the area, before completing the scoring with a simply sublime strike from distance.
Mike Flynn decided to hand five of his ten new signings their competitive debuts from the off at the One Call Stadium.
That saw the Exiles line-up in the familiar formation of 3-5-2 from the first whistle in Nottinghamshire, with Mickey Demetriou, Scot Bennett and Fraser Franks making up the defensive line in-front of Joe Day.
Tyler Forbes and Dan Butler again provided some attacking intent in their wing-back positions having impressed in pre-season, helping to compose a midfield that included Matty Dolan, Keanu Marsh-Brown and captain Andrew Crofts.
Padraig Amond and Jamille Matt formed the attacking partnership from the off as the Exiles looked to kick-off the season in the right manner.
For Mansfield Town, Stags manager David Flitcroft mirrored Flynn when also naming five debutants in his starting side.
Otis Khan and Craig Davies – who both commanded transfer fees for their arrival into Nottinghamshire – were joined in the home side by Matt Preston, Neal Bishop and loanee Tyler Walker.
The Stags also elected to play a 3-5-2 system from the offset, the rest of their side composed by goalkeeper Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Malvind Benning, Alex MacDonald, CJ Hamilton and captain Krystian Pearce.
Both teams started the first twenty minutes like freight trains as they could have easily had two or three apiece in that time frame after an electric and entertaining opening.
Andrew Crofts and Matty Dolan both dragged shots wide as County made the livelier start at the One Call Stadium, but it was in the 11th minute that the Exiles came closest to an opener.
The combination of a Dan Butler cross to a Padraig Amond header had already yielded three opportunities by the time of the latest chance, this particular delivery from distance saw the Irishman head back across goal to the onrushing Bennett, but Malvind Benning had read the situation to deny the tap-in.
From that point on, Mansfield grew into the game and forced Joe Day into his first actions of the afternoon when the County shot stopper diverted a Tyler Walker curling effort past his far post.
But the Stags debutant wouldn’t have to wait too much longer for his opening goal in the blue and yellow of Mansfield as he netted from the resulting corner.
The cleared delivery was hooked back into the area by Neal Bishop, and after the County defence had failed to play the Nottingham Forest loanee offside, the striker had the time to find the bottom corner from five yards.
County certainly hit back to that early setback and the combination of Butler and Amond worked wonders again as the Irishman forced two reaction saves from Conrad Logan with a header and the follow-up half volley.
The chances just kept on coming in the entertaining opening and those first 20 minutes were brought up by Stags striker Craig Davies hitting the base of the post with a curling attempt from the edge-of-the-area.
From there, the game seemed to die down to a much steadier pace as very few other chances could be created by either side in Nottinghamshire.
Walker probably should have done better when presented with a sight at goal on 38 minutes, but he tried to cutback and was blocked off by Butler with ease.
At the other end, Matt fired a tame effort into the hands of Logan but that was about it for the first 45 minutes of action – despite the best efforts of the Exiles when putting together some encouraging passages of play.
From a County perspective, Fraser Franks was particularly impressive with several powerful headed clearances, generally controlling things from a defensive point of view and looking composed on his competitive debut.
Joe Day again pulled off some superb saves early-on, while Padraig Amond could feel a little aggrieved not to have found the net, but home goalkeeper Conrad Logan had his angles spot on when making that double save after 16 minutes.
The second-half seemed to be starting in a similar vein to how the first-half ended, Khan’s attempt that was speculative at best the only chance created in the early stages.
But the game suddenly sparked into life from nowhere as the Stags doubled their advantage in the 55th minute with a quick breakaway goal.
It was the combination of two debutants that produced the goal, Walker this time turning provider with an in-swinging cross that gave Khan the simplest of jobs to head past a helpless Joe Day from virtually the penalty spot.
The Exiles had to do something to try and force a way back into the contest and Flynn threw on Josh Sheehan and Antoine Semenyo in place of Crofts and Matt.
But if anything, the home side continued to be the more imposing force on the contest and they trebled their lead after 64 minutes of football.
Benning and Bishop both combined well in the centre to feed the ball to Khan on the edge of the area, the midfielder picking his spot and firing into the top corner with aplomb.
Semenyo’s introduction did provide County with extra attacking intent and the Exiles almost got one back with 10 minutes of the contest remaining.
Amond burst through on goal after a splitting pass through the two Mansfield centre-halves, the Irishman taking the ball past the onrushing Logan in the home goal but seeing the effort cleared off the goal line by the recovering Hayden White.
Sheehan also forced a smart save from Logan late on but that was remarkably the last chance of note despite the indication of nine additional minutes, meaning County’s search for a win on the opening day of the season continues.
Mansfield Town: Logan, Hamilton, White, Preston, Pearce (C), Benning, Khan (Butcher 75’), Bishop, MacDonald, Walker (Mellis 90+5), Davies (Graham 90’)
Subs not used: Olejnik, Sweeney, Sterling-James, Gibbens
Newport County AFC: Day, Forbes, Demetriou, Bennett, Franks, Butler, Dolan, Crofts (C) (Sheehan 59’), Marsh-Brown (Cooper 72’), Matt (Semenyo 59’), Amond
Subs not used: Townsend, Pipe, Harris, Bakinson
Referee: Paul Marsden
Attendance: 4,423 (320 AWAY)
Next up for County: Crewe Alexandra (11th August 2018) HOME