DISAPPOINTING STAGS FALL TO DISASTROUS DEFEAT
Darlington 1-0 Mansfield Town
The disappointing Stags fell to a disastrous defeat at Darlington this afternoon. It was a defeat that leaves them looking anxiously over their shoulders at Northampton Town, whose win at Hull means they are just 4 points behind with a game in hand.
Ananova report: Darlington 1 Mansfield Town 0
Darlington eased their plight at the bottom of the table with a crucial 1-0 win against promotion-chasing Mansfield.
Darlo grabbed the winner after 49 minutes when the Stags defence failed to clear a Mark Convery corner and defender Matt Clarke headed in from close range.
The Quakers should have been ahead inside the first 20 minutes, but were denied by the woodwork three times.
In the seventh minute on-loan striker Danny Graham struck an upright and then in Darlington's next attack the same player fired across goal and hit the opposite post.
Darlington striker Barry Conlon, a target for the Stags earlier in the season headed against the crossbar in 20th minute.
The visitors also struck the upright in the 35th minute when a Liam Lawrence cross was headed against the post by Colin Larkin.
Mansfield went close to an equaliser in the 58th minute when defender Rhys Day headed over the top from another corner by Lawrence.
Stags stumble at Darlington
MANSFIELD Town's automatic promotion dream suffered a shattering blow when they were beaten 1-0 by struggling Darlington at the magnificent Reynolds Arena this afternoon.
And that left Monday's home clash with Bristol Rovers (3pm) assuming even greater significance.
After surviving a torrid first 20 minutes against Darlington when the home side struck the woodwork three times, Stags dominated possession for long spells and created chances of their own.
But once the relegation-haunted Quakers stole a scrappy goal early in the second half through their man of the match, defensive rock Matty Clarke, they simply clung onto what they had and got men behind the ball in numbers.
"It's not the result we wanted or expected but there is always the chance of an upset in these games," said Stags boss Keith Curle.
"We came here on the back of two good results and two good performances and were hopeful of taking three points.
"It was a scrappy game and in the first half there were so many chances at both ends I thought it could end up 4-3 or 5-4.
"But in the second half neither keeper really had a save to make and we gave a scrappy goal away.
"We just didn't do the simple things well for 90 minutes. Then we got frustrated as young players desperate to do well are prone to.
"With players like Wayne Corden and Liam Lawrence in your side you need to get the ball out wide to hurt teams. But, sometimes when you don't get success from that straight away, players decide to change things instead of being patient.
"We matched them and there was no lack of confidence, effort or energy. We've come off the rails today. But we can still finish third and Monday is now a massive game for us. We've been doing well at home and it's important we keep those results going and supporters turn out in their droves to get behind us."
Stags, who were unchanged, had to defend a first minute corner which produced a call for handball from the home team as the visitors scrambled it clear.
Darlington won another corner on three minutes which Convery sent over and Conlon rose to head goal wards, Pilkington tipping over his bar at the last minute.
Amazingly Stags allowed Conlon another header from the resulting corner and this time he was narrowly wide with the goal at his mercy - a real let-off for Mansfield.
Stags' goal continued to live a charmed life as Graham hit both posts within a minute.
The Mansfield defence allowed a through bal down the centre to run on towards goal and Graham got in a poke which came off the right post.
Shortly after Graham attacked the Mansfield defence on the right and got in a low shot that beat Pilkington but came back off the far post.
A Hassell free kick finally got the ball into the Darlington box. It was cleared as far as MacKenzie who lined up another of his blockbuster shots that struck a defender before being cleared.
And on 14 minutes keeper Price was finally tested as Corden went on his first run, cutting inside before curling a looping shot on target that forced Price to tip over his bar.
Stags began to play some neat passing movements.
But it was Quakers who again came desperately close on 20 minutes.
Valentine crossed from the left and Conlon again rose magnificently to loop a header over Pilkington and onto the top of the crossbar.
The game went through a scrappy spell before Stags twice came close.
On 34 minutes Mendes found Larkin in space on the left and then ran on to get a return pass from his strike partner that he fired goal wards, blocked in front of goal by a defender with Price unsighted.
A minute later Lawrence crossed early from the right as Larkin made a superb run down the centre and the Stags striker got there with a flicked header that beat Price but hit the inside of the far post and somehow came out again.
Pilkington then did well to clear ahead of Conlon's foot as a John-Baptiste backpass began to fall short.
Three minutes from the break Mansfield compiled a series of passes which ended in Corden looping a shot just over the far angle.
Then Lawrence set up a shooting chance foe Williamson which was low and straight at Price.
Seconds later Price ran out his box to head clear a through ball. The ball ran to MacKenzie but he couldn't get a shy away on the empty net as an opponent quickly closed him down.
Stags finished the half on a high as passes from Mendes and Larkin cued up Lawrence to their right whose low shot beat Price and missed the far post by inches.
However, the second half began disastrously for Mansfield as Darlington bagged a scrappy goal within four minutes.
Mansfield were defending a corner. But John-Baptiste sliced it up and high in front of his own goal. And, as everyone challenged as it dropped, the towering Clarke just managed to force the ball over the line from close range with a header.
MacKenzie almost replied immediately. A tackle on Mendes saw the ball run to the Stags midfielder some 20 yards out. And his curling shot bounced awkwardly for Price who had to turn it round his right hand post.
Stags had another escape on 56 as Conlon got away down the left and drilled the ball in hard and low. It was cleared as far as Keltie and his on-target blast was kept out by Pilkington's legs.
But the visitors almost levelled a minute later as a corner was cleared out to Hassell. As the Darlington back four pushed forward, three Stags players were left onside in front of goal as Hassell floated it back in and John-Baptiste guided a header just wide.
Two minutes after that Day powered a header just over from a Lawrence corner as Stags stepped up their hunt for an equaliser.
White entered the fray up front in place of Larkin in the 68th minute while the home side swapped Maddison for McGurk on 72 minutes.
Both sides made further changes on 77 minutes as the under-utilised Corden was replaced by Disley while Clark came on for Convery.
Darlington won a free kick on 78 minutes from which Valentine tried to beat Pilkington on his near post but found the keeper alert and in the way.
Both sides made their last changes on 83 minutes as Teggart came on for Graham and Beardsley was brought on as a third striker in place of MacKenzie for the visitors.
Hutchinson saw the afternoon's only yellow card in the final minute for going into a tackle with studs showing.
Day almost snatched a stoppage time point as he met a Curtis cross with a powerful header that only just cleared the home crossbar.
And the big defender was cautioned in stoppage time for preventing Price sending what proved to be the final clearance upfield.
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