The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Andy Cooke

TWO goals in­side 11 first-half min­utes se­cured an open­ing day win for Scun­thorpe United – and spoiled Mans­field Town’s re­turn to the Football League.

Matt Spar­row’s stylish fin­ish set the Iron on their way be­fore a de­but goal from Sam Win­nall wrapped up a largely trou­ble free af­ter­noon for the hosts, whose only set­back was a late red card for Ed­die Nolan when he han­dled a cross in the box.

Typ­i­cal of the way the af­ter­noon panned out for the Stags, sub­sti­tute Louis Briscoe blasted the re­sult­ing spot kick over the bar.

“We’ve got to grow up quickly and pu­n­ish sides when we get chances,” groaned Mans­field man­ager Paul Cox.

“We had the best three chances of the game in­clud­ing the penalty and we didn’t take any of them.When you go a goal down, you have to stay in the game.

“We’ve come away to a side that got rel­e­gated last year – and I don’t think there was a mas­sive mar­gin be­tween us, cer­tainly for the first 30 min­utes, which I thought we bossed.

“I’m not go­ing to panic, but when you look at the level of teams we’ll come up against, we need to ad­just one or two things. It’s an aw­fully long sea­son and this re­sult won’t be fun­da­men­tal to what hap­pens.”

Clearly a side with con­fi­dence, the Stags im­posed them­selves on the game early on and could have been ahead in­side 120 sec­onds when Lee Steven­son snatched at a shot in the box.

Af­ter that, Scun­thorpe be­gan to deal with Mans­field’s aerial threat and Spar­row’s clin­i­cal strike at the far post just be­fore the half-hour mark set­tled them down.

Five min­utes be­fore half-time, United struck again, courtesy of for­mer Wolves striker Win­nall’s per­sis­tence. He went in to a 50-50 chal­lenge with Stags goal­keeper Alan Mar­riott 25 yards out and got up the quicker of the two to roll the ball into an empty net.

The sec­ond half was a much qui­eter af­fair un­til Nolan, booked ear­lier on for dis­sent, blocked Sam Clu­cas’ cross with his hand in stop­page time. Briscoe’s woe­ful penalty though at least pre­served United’s clean sheet.

“There was a huge pres­sure on us be­cause we were rel­e­gated last sea­son,” said jubilant Iron boss Brian Laws.

“We knew we were go­ing to be given a tough ride and Mans­field’s en­thu­si­asm in the first 20 min­utes showed what they are ca­pa­ble of.

“But we knew if we de­fended our box well, we’d win the game. Once we got our noses in front, we never looked back.

“We con­trolled large por­tions of the game and our mid­field dom­i­nated. You go through all pre-sea­son with op­ti­mism, but un­til you get your first league game, when it re­ally mat­ters, that’s when you find out if you’ve had a good pre-sea­son. Af­ter

this, I would say yes.”

PIC­TURES: Me­dia Im­age Ltd

BIRD OF PREY: Scun­thorpe cel­e­brate af­ter Matthew Spar­row puts them ahead

BLOW: Louis Briscoe misses from the spot

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