Notts County booked their place in the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with a comfortable 2-0 victory over local rivals Mansfield Town at Meadow Lane on Tuesday evening.
A goal in either half from Ronan Murray and Jake Cassidy were enough to send Notts through on the night, as Manager Shaun Derry watched on from the stands as he served the first of a two-game touchline ban for his dismissal in the Sky Bet League 1 game against Colchester United last month.
Notts went for a different shape to their team for the visit of the Stags, with Mike Edwards coming into a back three alongside captain Hayden Mullins and Haydn Hollis, perhaps in a bid to counter the physical presence offered up front by their guests.
Fabian Spiess lined up in goal in place of Roy Carroll, who was away on international duty, whilst new signing Jordan Cranston started at left wing-back, with Curtis Thompson on the opposite flank and a midfield of Gary Jones, Liam Noble and Reece Brown, with Ronan Murray returning to the starting line-up alongside Jake Cassidy up front.
Having come into the game on the back of defeats in the league at the weekend, both side looked keen to put things right in a fast-paced opening spell, but there were no real chances created and it wasn’t until the 13th minute that the game saw it’s first shot on target.
Murray, having received the ball from a short pass outside the area hit a quick snapshot that had Dimitar Evtimov in the Mansfield goal scrambling to his left to palm the ball away and behind for a corner.
Another first five minutes later would receive one of the loudest cheers of the night, as the well-publicised vanishing spray, being used by referees in this competition for the first time this season, came out to mark a freekick for a foul on Murray, although the move would come to nothing for Notts.
Simon Heslop came close to opening the scoring with a fiercely driven shot from distance after the ball was rolled to him by Chris Clements from a freekick conceded by Edwards for a foul on Matt Rhead that would see the Notts defender shown the first yellow card of the evening.
It was Notts though who did make the breakthrough in the 28th minute and they did so in some style, with Ronan Murray collecting the ball and storming forwards before playing a lovely one-two with strike-partner Cassidy as he entered the area and then coolly slotting home into the bottom corner past Evtimov for the opening goal.
Having taken the lead, Notts looked to press home their advantage and were unlucky not to double their lead five minutes later, as Cassidy twisted and turned his way past a helpless Ryan Tafazolli before getting a well-timed shot away from just inside the box that flew just wide of the goal.
And there was a further chance for Notts moments later when a well-hit cross from Thompson picked out Brown, who had leapt well to get above his marker but couldn’t find the target with his bullet header.
The tempo of the game slowed somewhat as it headed towards half-time, with only a speculative long-range effort by Noble to speak of before referee Mark Haywood blew his whistle after a solitary minute of stoppage time to send the teams into the break, with Notts much the happier of the two.
HT: Notts County 1 Mansfield Town 0
Having had the better of the opening half, Notts came out looking to press forward once again and had an early chance when a ball in from the left by debutant Cranston was chested down by Murray and then rolled to Jones just outside the area, but his shot was deflected and fell comfortably to Evtimov, who had been the much busier of the two keepers to this point.
There were further efforts from Edwards, who headed wide from the edge of the six-yard box, and Cassidy, who was played in by a quickly taken freekick by Jones only to see his shot saved, but then the tide began to turn as the visitors fought their way back into the game.
Spiess had to be alert in the 51st minute to punch clear but Notts failed to clear their lines and the ball eventually went behind for a corner that Rhead would connect with but only to head wide.
Rhead then used his size to his advantage to shove Edwards aside in challenging for a long ball forwards that allowed him to play in Alex Fisher, but Spiess was more than a match for the shot when it came and saved comfortably.
It was Rhead who continued to be the focal point of Mansfield’s attacks, but he would twice miss the target with headers from close range, the second of which wouldn’t have counted anyway as he was flagged for offside, but it was an uncomfortable spell for Notts that they were glad to ride out before doubling their lead in the 65th minute.
Mullins played a great ball into the area to pick out Cassidy who had time to turn and fire it home from close range to give Notts a two-goal cushion going into the final 25 minutes of the game.
Mansfield boss Paul Cox made two changes in a bid to get his side back into the game, with Ollie Palmer coming on for Fisher and then Fergus Bell replacing Clements, either side of the second booking of the game, which went to Adam Murray for a late sliding tackle on Curtis Thompson.
Notts also made a couple of changes as the second half ticked on without further incident, with Cassidy making way for Shaun Harrad in the 76th minute and then Noble, who had needed treatment for a knock a short-time earlier, then coming off to be replaced by Nicky Wroe seven minutes from time.
Adam Murray would have the final chance of the game deep into injury time, but having found space in the area he could only pull his shot across goal wide of the target and all that was left was for the referee to bring an end to proceedings and confirm Notts’ place in the next round of the competition.
FT: Notts County 2 Mansfield Town 0
The tricky midfielder, who is on loan from Birmingham City, was a threat throughout the evening and caused Mansfield's defence no end of problems when running at them or setting up attacking plays.