NIGEL Clough had warned that Mansfield would need to score two at least to win “because Andy Cook always gets one here”.

Cook had scored in the last four meetings between the sides at Field Mill - two for each club.

In fact, Mark Hughes’ dug-out debut at home 19 months ago was the only time that he has not netted against the Stags since his West Yorkshire move.

So despite Cook being injured, Clough fully expected Hughes to wrap him up in cotton wool and get him back out there to continue that prolific run.

As it was, those pre-match fears in the Mansfield camp proved groundless. There was no Cook and no goals anywhere.



Both teams effectively possessed the cutting edge of cotton wool on an afternoon that was heading for goalless neutrality from very early on.

Once the initial skirmishes had died down, this was a dour deadlock between two sides cancelling each other out. Chances, and moments of any interest, were strictly at a premium.

City will have been the happier with the outcome.

A second straight league clean sheet, after a start when they couldn’t buy one, and a solid away point at an opponent who are always a promotion benchmark.

Like that recent draw at Stockport, this result will probably look better once the season and the table settles down.

But there is that nagging feeling that with a bit more end product that one point could quite easily have become three.

Just three combined efforts on target illustrate the futility of much of the play at both ends. Defences kept a strong grip with nobody possessing the wherewithal to find a way through.

That is the conundrum that Hughes needs to solve as City prepare for a welcome run of home games after spending so much time so far on the motorway.

Cook is still to get off the mark for the new season - a fact that will be bugging him 10 times as much as it disturbs everyone else connected with the club.

But it is that presence up there that the rest of the team lack in his absence. There is no focal point to play off, nobody to hold the ball up for others.

With no Cook, City have to think outside the box and try something different going forward.

Saturday’s stalemate in the Nottinghamshire sunshine suggested that it won’t be an easy task.

There were no opportunities for Jamie Walker and Tyler Smith to run in behind the defence - a tactic that had found some joy against Wrexham’s plodding backline.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bobby Pointon got another half hour off the benchBobby Pointon got another half hour off the bench (Image: Thomas Gadd)

So, City enjoyed plenty of possession in Mansfield’s half but lacked the nous to do something constructive with it.

It was crying out for Alex Pattison to make those trademark bursts from midfield. Unfortunately, like Cook, he will remain in sick bay for the coming weeks while his hamstring has chance to heal.

Hughes had hoped that getting him off early at Wrexham would do the trick. But the damage had been done and the current top-scorer will be a spectator for a while.

Without Pattison’s driving influence, Mansfield keeper Christy Pym was restricted to just two saves while Walker landed one lob from a tight angle onto the roof of his net.

Still, that was double the workload of Harry Lewis whose match was far quieter than he must have anticipated considering that Mansfield went into it on the back of three home wins and eight goals scored.

But those in front of him continue to look more of a cohesive defensive unit and restricted the free-scoring Stags to very little.

Lewis was called into proper action once to deny long-time City nemesis Davis Keillor-Dunn as Mansfield tried to lift the tempo in the second half.

Other than that, the only scare came from Lucas Akins with a flick header from a corner that bounced past the far post almost in slow motion as everyone watched and hoped.

Mansfield missed Rhys Oates, their midweek scorer at Sheffield Wednesday, who has joined a lengthy injury list. But Akins has been around the block and always presents a handful for defenders.

On this occasion, though, he was generally well shackled by the back three/five who are clearly getting to grips with the shape the more often they play that way.

Ciaran Kelly is a case in point. The big Irishman has all the attributes to become a solid pillar at the back and looks to be improving week on week.

After a shaky first few weeks, and he was far from alone in that, Kelly appears to be finding his feet fast.

A strong personal outing was summed up by a vital interception when he stretched to get a leg on a low cross bound for Akins lurking in the goal mouth for a tap-in. Instances like that earn your clean sheet.

The home crowd of 8,535, boosted by a sell-out away end of nearly 1,700, was Mansfield’s largest for 19 years. It was the biggest since a play-off semi-final against Northampton in May 2004.

It made for a lively, occasionally abrasive, atmosphere in the stands that was unfortunately not matched by the entertainment on offer.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Rayhaan Tulloch looked direct on his first City appearanceRayhaan Tulloch looked direct on his first City appearance (Image: Thomas Gadd)

The boisterous to-and-fro between the sets of supporters at the start inevitably died down with the lack of spectacle put in front of them.

The heat was possibly a factor. After the wet and miserable August, September football dawned in glorious weather and the intensity may have suffered in the energy-sapping conditions.

For those jaded by the late-night finish to the transfer window hours earlier, the contest had an almost soporific effect.

But City kept their wits about them enough to earn their reward and in Brad Halliday had one of the more energetic performers on offer.

Halliday may not be a wing-back born and bred but he is taking to the new responsibility keenly and showed the engine needed to cover that extra ground.

Once or twice, there was even a suggestion that he might break the deadlock as he made willing forays into the Mansfield box.

But he was no more successful than anyone else in disturbing the status quo and it was just a case of City maintaining their defensive concentration to avoid any late slips.

A potentially hazardous trip negotiated, they can now look forward to four of the next five games in BD8 and a much-needed break from the road works.

Table-watchers will point to their lowly 15th spot six matches into the long League Two journey; the more realistic will note that they are two points off fifth.

The fixture list presents a decent opportunity to make quick inroads in the coming weeks. But they’ve got to come up with the right attacking menu with no Cook - or Pattison - to help out.