STAGS CONCEDE FOUR AND LOSE AT CHELTENHAM
Cheltenham Town 4 - 2 Mansfield Town
Henry 42, Spencer 61, Brayson 70, Odejayi 90+3.
Christie 64, Corden 83.
Attendance: 3,818 (435 from Mansfield)
Martin Shaw at Whaddon Road
Stagsnet report now in the match centre.
Match Statistics (Cheltenham / Stags)
17 Goal Attempts 8
9 On target 4
7 Off target 4
1 Woodwork 0
2 Corners 10
8 Fouls 12
3 Offside 3
SLUMP GOES ON AS STAGS CRASH TO ROBINS
Despite a battling finish, Mansfield Town crashed to their third defeat in four games as they were beaten 4-2 at Cheltenham Town this afternoon.
It was a far cry from the 4-0 hiding Stags had handed the Robins at Field Mill back in October and was another crushing blow to their automatic promotion hopes.
Although Cheltenham had kept six clean sheets in eight games and only lost once in nine, they have struggled badly to score goals.
They had managed just six in 11 games, two of which were own goals, and had only scored four times in a game once, against Northampton back on 5th September.
With Stags also struggling for goals, the first half had 0-0 written all over it until Karl Henry produced a 30-yard stunner just before the break to put the visitors on the back foot.
Damian Spencer made it 2-0 on 61 minutes. But that brought Stags to life and Iyseden Christie pulled one back three minutes later.
The comeback was halted by another Cheltenham goal, this time Paul Brayson netting in off the far post.
But, to their credit, Stags again roared back and grabbed another deserved lifeline through Wayne Corden seven minutes from time.
Stags had to push everyone forward in a thrilling finish. But there was to be no fairytale point as Colin Larkin saw Shane Higgs deny him with a fine save before, ultimately, Cheltenham sealed the points in stoppage time with Kayode Odejayi beating Kevin Pilkington to a short backpass.
The Robins also hit the woodwork twice in the latter stages as a match which had been so dour in the first half finished with end-to-end thrills.
Stags manager Keith Curle said: "If you give silly goals away you get beaten.
"I have a group of players who fight and battle for everything when they go two goals down.
"I don't know if they are scared but I would have thought that at 0-0 there is more to fight for.
"The last 20 minutes they came out their shells but it mystifies me where they were for the previous 70 minutes.
"On the training pitch we look a team but people have to show the desire to peform on the platform we give them on a Saturday.
"Cheltenham's first goal was a superb effort and you don't mind getting beaten by one of those. But the other three were soft and preventable. We just needed to show a bit of composure at the right times instead of making wrong decisions.
"As a manager the buck stops with me, though, just as I get a pat on the back when we win."
Stags made two changes with Lee Williamson and Richard Pacquette dropped to the bench, utility man Luke Dimech replacing Williamson in midfield and Mendes partnering Christie up front.
Cheltenham were unchanged.
After a tentative start, Stags forced two corners in the sixth minute, the second swinging into the side netting from Corden.
But it was the Robins who almost drew first blood as they won a free kick 20 yards out which saw McCann curl it on target with his left foot to invite a save to his left from Pilkington.
Pilkington then did well to grab a long Duff ball off the head of Brayson after Artell had flicked it back towards his keeper.
The home side created an opportunity on 13 minutes when Devaney crossed from the right and Spencer muscled himself a headed chance which he guided wide of the left post from eight yards.
Duff brought down Christie just outside the box on 18 minutes. But Vaughan blasted the free kick well over the top to the jeers of the home fans behind that goal.
A quickly taken free kick gave Brayson a run at the Mansfield defence which saw Buxton produce a timely tackle. Then Pilkington was comfortably behind a low 30-yard drive from Finnigan.
The Robins continued to threaten and Spencer again headed wide, this time from Henry's cross.
Stags responded with two more corners. The second was cleared as far as Vaughan whose prod forward looked to gave put Christie in. An offside flag went up but keeper Higg would not have known that as he spread himself superbly to block Christie's finish.
A dour game provided a moment of humour as Corden nudged the ball at a corner and walked innocently away, trying to fool Cheltenham and allow Disley a clear run into the box. But Finnigan wasn't fooled and went across to the corner flag and simply took possession to the cheers of the Robins fans.
Dimech, struggling to adapt to his unfamiliar central midfield role, had been warned several times for his challenges and pushed his luck too far on 35 minutes when he brought down Henry and earned a booking, his fifth which will see him serve a one-game ban.
Mansfield at last provided a moment of high quality on 36 minutes when Day headed a long Lawrence cross back across goal and Christie blazed narrowly over with an acrobatic overhead volley.
Four minutes later Stags forced their sixth corner which Lawrence sent over and Artell met with a powerful header on goal that Higgs did well to hold onto.
However, disaster struck on 42 minutes as McCann got to the left by-line and pulled back a low cross which struck team mate Devaney and rolled away from goal.
Stags failed to clear properly as the ball rolled to Henry 30 yards out and he let fly with a sweet right foot shot that flew into the top right hand corner of Kevin Pilkington's goal to break the deadlock.
It was a major blow to the visitors who had just appeared to be settling and had created two good chances inside four minutes.
Devaney was narrowly wide with a low punt from 25 yards in stoppage time as the home side ended the half on a high.
Stags made a change at right back at half time with Hassell on for Buxton.
Cheltenham carved out the first danger of the second half as a long ball forward was headed on by Spencer to Brayson who controlled, turned and got in a low shot on target which Pilkington was forced to turn aside and give the Robins their first corner of the game.
The home then comfortably defended two Mansfield corners as they looked for a way back into the contest.
But Cheltenham punished poor defending from the visitors on 61 minutes with a second goal.
Higgs' clearance found Devaney on the right. And he beat Vaughan to cross low from the by-line across the face of goal where everyone stood and watched Brayson ram the ball high into the net from close range.
A minute later Corden was narrowly wide with a curling effort from just outside the box as Stags tried for an immediate response.
On 62 minutes Mendes was replaced by Larkin. And within two minutes the substitute had carved out a lifeline for the visitors.
He threaded a superb through ball to send Christie in his way and the Stags striker took it on before slotting a perfect low finish past Higgs from 12 yards - his ninth goal of the season.
Larkin had a penalty appeal turned down on 67 as his firm header struck a defender's hand.
Pilkington was well placed to stop a Brayson free kick on 70 minutes. But seconds later Brayson had the last laugh.
Victory ran at the visitors' defence and fed Brayson to his right just inside the box. His produced a crisp low shot across Pilkington which found the net off the inside of the far post.
Curiously, Curle sent on Pacquette for Christie for the last 18 minutes with Christie looking sharp and lifted by the goal.
But it was Pilkington straight back in action as he got down to block a low shot from Spencer.
Pacquettes's first contribution came on 75 minutes as he met a dropping clearance with a volley that sailed out the ground.
Cheltenham almost added a fourth nine minutes from time as Devaney turned Dimech inside out on the right before crossing. The ball reached Finnigan whose low shot clipped the outside of the far post as it ended wide.
Instead it was Mansfield who suddenly popped up with another goal to give Cheltenham an uncomfortable last seven minutes.
Lawrence teased the home defence on the right before arrowing the ball across the box, Larkin getting a flick with a stooping header and the ball finding Corden at the far post where he netted from close range.
The Robins twice tested Pilkington as Stags poured forwards.
Devaney drew two defenders before forcing a great save from Pilkington at his near post with a real blast.
Then Spencer beat Pilkington to a chase for the ball but was forced wide and the keeper stood up to him well as he got a hand to his attempted shy at the empty net.
The closing stages were as breathtaking as the first half had been dour.
Then, with Pilkington backpeddling, substitute Odejayi swung the ball back over his shoulder, and the keeper was just able to stretch up and touch the ball onto the top of his crossbar.
Stags, taking big risks at the back, began to produce some excellent moves and when Pacquette set up Larkin on 90 minutes, he beat one defender before bringing a superb save out of Higgs.
With everyone going forwards, the home side punished Stags in stoppage time with a points-clinching fourth goal.
Hassell tried to get the ball back to Pilkington but Odejayi was always favourite as he sidestepped the stranded keeper and rolled the ball into an empty net.
CHELTENHAM: Higgs, Griffin, Victory, Brough, Duff, Brayson (Odejayi 84mins), Spencer, McCann, Devaney, Finnigan, Henry. Subs not used: Book, Forsyth, Bird, Gill.
STAGS: Pilkington, Day, Vaughan, Disley, Lawrence, Corden, Buxton (Hassell h/t), Mendes (Larkin 62mins), Dimech, Christie (Pacquette 72mins), Artell. Subs not used: J. White, Williamson.
REFEREE: Kevin Friend of Leicestershire.
SCORERS: Cheltenham - Henry 42mins, Spencer 61mins, Brayson 70mins, Odejayi 90mins. Stags - Christie 64mins, Corden 83mins.
CAUTION: Stags - Dimech 35mins (foul on Henry).
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Liam Lawrence.
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