Jarrod Bowen and Nouha Dicko were both on the scoresheet for Grant McCann’s side, who produced a performance full of attacking intent only to be be twice pegged back by their League Two hosts.
McCann handed a first start to summer signing Tom Eaves after naming a full-strength side at the One Call Stadium. Eaves, signed from Gillingham on a free transfer, leads the Tigers’ attack and is supported by Kamil Grosicki, who only returned to pre-season training on Monday. Josh Bowler was named on the bench two days after joining on a season-long loan from Everton, along with fellow new boy Ryan Tafazolli.
A bright opening from the Tigers saw the men in white create the first chance of the afternoon with less than two minutes played. After some patient play at the back, Jordy de Wijs’ ball over the top caught the home defence napping and set Eaves away, although the big front-man was unable to guide his effort on the half-volley on target.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic though and the Stags carved out a decent chance of their own on seven minutes following a swift counter-attack. A string of passes saw the ball find its way to Omari Sterling-James wide on the right and his low centre found Andy Cook, who saw his strike on goal was bravely blocked by Erich Lichaj.
The end-to-end action continued as neat play from Kamil Grosicki down the left saw the Polish international send a low ball into the box which was met by Jarrod Bowen, but the wide-man saw his effort under pressure fly over the bar.
Only the frame of the goal prevented the Tigers from taking the lead on 14 minutes. After the home side had failed to clear their lines from Bowen’s corner, the ball eventually came to feet of Grosicki inside the box, who saw an audacious chip come back off the post with Conrad Logan in the Mansfield goal rooted to the spot.
Both sides were keeping the ball moving well on a slick surface at the ground formerly known as Field Mill but it was another ball over the top – this time from Lichaj inside his own half – that caused problems for the Mansfield backline. The full-back’s pass – looking for the run of Eaves – was perfectly weighted and almost gathered by the striker inside the box but Logan was quickly off his line to snuff out the danger.
Eaves was once again causing problems for the Stags defence when showing good strength to hold his marker to get on the end of Grosicki’s delivery from a right-wing corner, only to guide his header narrowly over.
The deadlock was finally broken on 27 minutes with the Tigers taking a fully deserved lead. Grosicki was the creator, driving his way into the box and the byline before cutting the ball back to Bowen, who made no mistake with a clinical finish from close-range.
The League Two side looked to produce an immediate response to falling behind though. Stephen Kingsley was forced to put Otis Kahn’s teasing cross behind at the back post, with the resulting corner easily dealt with and cleared by the Tigers.
Kahn was looking dangerous once again six minutes before the break, with only a smart stop from George Long preventing the Stags’ number ten from levelling the scores.
Bowen was denied what looked like a clear-cut penalty on 43 minutes after being pulled back as he looked to get shot away and it proved to be a costly decision by the officials as the home side grabbed an equaliser moments later.
After de Wijs was adjudged to have fouled CJ Hamilton 25 yards from goal, Kahn’s free-kick cannoned back off the crossbar and fell nicely into the path of Neal Bishop, who produced a fine first-time effort to lash the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the box.
It was a frustrating end to what had ultimately been a positive first 45 minutes of football for the Tigers, which had seen McCann’s men dominate.
The Tigers’ Head Coach made one change at the break with Nouha Dicko replacing Eaves up top, and it took the striker just 15 seconds to make his mark! The home defence somehow managed to lose control of the ball straight from kick-off, allowing Dicko to race through, round Logan and slot the ball into an empty net to restore the Tigers’ lead.
That lead lasted just nine minutes though as the Stags equalised for a second time through Hamilton, who found the bottom corner with a low strike after being afforded both time and space inside the box.
Putting their disappointment and frustration firmly behind them, the Tigers went in search of an immediate response. Stewart won the ball midway inside his own half before releasing Bowen down the right. The winger burst forward and cut back onto his left-foot before curling a shot on-target, only to see it easily claimed by Logan.
The hosts had a great opportunity to take the lead for the first time when Sterling-James’ cushioned header found Cook, but thankfully Long came to the Tigers’ rescue as he produced an important block to deny the Mansfield man.
Both sides made changes just past the hour mark as Grosicki and Lichaj were replaced by Jon Toral and Robbie McKenzie, while the hosts introduced Krystian Pearce and Alex MacDonald in place of Matt Preston and goalscorer Bishop.
The Tigers continued to put pressure on the home defence as Dicko forced Logan into a smart save with a fierce half-volley, before Bowen failed to collect Toral’s dangerous ball in from the left.
Mansfield were also looking dangerous going forward as well though and came close to a third goal when Cook fired wide under pressure from Kingsley after being picked out by Mal Benning.
McCann made his fourth switch of the afternoon with new arrival Bowler brought on in place of Henriksen with 16 minutes to play. The loanee went straight out to the left flank, with Toral moving into the middle of the park.
Logan produced a fingertip save to push de Wijs’ goalbound header over the bar – although it wouldn’t have counted had it gone in with the assistant’s flag raised for offside – before Bowler’s first real involvement saw the winger beat his man, only to be left frustrated as his attempted cross went straight out for a goal kick.
Reece Burke picked up a knock whilst making a crucial clearance but thankfully returned to his feet after lengthy treatment, although no risks were taken with the centre-back who was quickly replaced by Tafazolli.
The Tigers had the chance to win it in stoppage-time as Dicko ventured forward, but his pull-back failed to find a player in white, allowing the home defence to clear the danger as the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the match.
Mansfield Town: Logan, White (Clarke 46), Benning, Preston (Pearce 63), Bishop (MacDonald 63), Khan, Sweeney (Gibbens 80), Cook, Hamilton, Sterling-James, Smith.
Hull City: Long, Lichaj (McKenzie 61), Kingsley, Burke (Tafazolli 87), de Wijs, Stewart, Henriksen (Bowler 74), Irvine, Bowen, Grosicki (Toral 61), Eaves (Dicko 46).
Subs Not Used: Ingram, Milinkovic, Fleming, Greaves, Sheaf, Lewis-Potter.
Att: 1,799 (283 Hull City fans)