STAGS ROBBED BY LAST MINUTE EQUALISER
Report by Martin Shaw at Field Mill
Mansfield Town were held to a 3-3 draw by Bristol Rovers on a bitterly cold evening at Field Mill. It was a truly fantastic achievement by all the groundstaff to get the game played in such dreadful conditions and the players did more than enough to deserve all three points but were denied by an injury time goal. Goals by Nathan Arnold, on his full league debut, and a great goal from Adam Rundle gave the Stags a 2-0 lead after 25 minutes. Rovers pulled a goal back on 28 minutes, and then were gifted a penalty on 41 minutes as the referee saw an incident that no-one else in the ground saw, claiming that Russell pulled a Rovers player's shirt. Not one single Rovers player appealed for a penalty. Russell scored his first Stags goal after 74 minutes, and it seemed to be enough to earn a priceless victory, but in the second minute of stoppage time, Uhlenbeek was guilty of losing the ball near his own corner flag, and within two seconds, the ball had been whipped into the middle and put in the net. It was probably the most disappointing end to a game since Cardiff.
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Mansfield 3-3 Bristol Rovers
Richard Walker's last-minute equaliser earned Bristol Rovers a share of the points against Mansfield at Field Mill.
Debutant Nathan Arnold drilled Mansfield into a 14th-minute lead and Adam Rundle made it 2-0 on 25 minutes after a clever free-kick routine.
Rovers cut the gap through James Hunt's goal, and levelled when Walker struck a penalty shortly before half-time.
Allan Russell's first Mansfield goal looked to have won the game, but Walker's goal denied the strugglers.
Late hertbreak as Rovers snatch point at the death
THERE was late heartbreak for Mansfield Town when Richard Walker stole in-form Bristol Rovers a late equaliser with almost the last kick of the game in a 3-3 thriller at frosty Field Mill tonight.
It was a miracle the match went ahead at all in the current weather.
But Stags, still without top scorers Richie Barker and Simon Brown, who made the bench, took the game by the scruff of the neck n the tricky surface and led 2-0 after 25 minutes through teenage full debutant Nathan Arnold and Adam Rundle.
But Rovers are in a rich vein of form and they were level by the break through Walker and James Hunt and former Stag Craig Disley also had an effort ruled out.
However, the equaliser left a sour taste as it came from the spot for a penalty that mystified both sides.
Stags had the edge after the break and it seemed justice might have been done when Allan Russell's first goal for the club restored Mansfield's advantage 16 minutes from time.
But full credit to the visitors. The last time the sides met it finished 4-4 and once again they kept going and pulled one out of the fire at the death.
"I thought we were excellent tonight and I can't believe Bristol Rovers have scored three goals against us," said boss Peter Shirtliff.
"The way we played and the way we defended I am at a loss to understand how they managed to score three goals with a minimal number of goal attempts.
"I don't know how we could do better with our performance levels.
"I was mystified by the penalty as was everyone in the ground as only one person has seen it.
"The referee told me to look at the video after the game and I told him I definitely would before I sent in my report.
"He said it was given for shirt-pulling in the box by Allan Russell but Allan denies it.
"A bad decision was made at the end which allowed them their equaliser. But over 90 minutes only one team deserved to win the match.
"We were cruising at 2-0 up but gave away a sloppy goal through laziness in midfield.
"We didn't have the luck at Northampton on Saturday and didn't get the luck tonight. But if we keep working hard I am sure that luck will turn for us somewhere down the line."The ground cover hired to keep frost and snow from the pitch over Christmas certainly did its job and the game was given the go-ahead after a 5pm inspection.
Stags made two changes from the side beaten 1-0 at Northampton on Saturday.
Birchall and Dawson were dropped to the bench with Uhlenbeek restored to the right of midfield in a 4-4-2 and teenager Arnold given a full League debut up front alongside Russell.
Rovers, with four wins in their previous five League matches and three wins and a draw in their last five away matches, were unchanged for the eighth successive game.
That meant they included former Stags hero Craig Disley and former Mansfield transfer target Agogo.
The pitch was playable but hard at kick-off and players concentrated on keeping their feet in the early stages and not making mistakes.
Stags defended a sixth minute corner though failed to get it properly clear and Pressman eventually had to punch to safety when the ball was lofted in again and the defenders in front of him failed to hear his call.
Two minutes later Uhlenbeek's cross-cum-chip had Shearer back-pedalling to make sure he clutched the ball high above his head under the crossbar.
Walker cut inside Buxton as the Stags man sold himself. But Coke cleared his dangerous low cross into the box.
There was little to warm the cockles in the first 14 minutes.
But suddenly Arnold provided a ray of a sunshine with his first senior goal.
Buxton launched a long throw from the right which was half headed clear to Arnold 14 yards out. And he calmly steered home an excellent low finish just inside the keeper's left hand post.
The goal lifted the home side's confidence and Stags began to put some good moves together with Shearer called on to dive onto a dangerous low Uhlenbeek cross after he has exchanged passes with Arnold.
The deserved second goal arrived on 25 minutes. Stags won a free kick to the right of the box. Rundle ran over it into space and Uhlenbeek rolled a pass to him which he drilled home into the centre of the goal from a similar range to Arnold.
Rovers almost had an immediate reply on the break as Carruthers tried to float a ball across the box to the unmarked Agogo. But John-Baptiste rose well to get in a crucial header back to Pressman.
However, on 28 minutes the visitors were literally back in the hunt.
Carruthers crossed from the left to the near post where Hunt stole in to head home.
Stags had a let-off four minutes later when Disley acrobatically hooked home from close range amid a scramble when Pressman was unable to punch clear and the ball came back off the bar. But the referee had already spotted an infringement, presumably a foul on Pressman, and ruled the effort out.
Uhlenbeek almost shocked Shearer with a dipping effort from 30 yards that the keeper just managed to tip over.
But otherwise it was Rovers who were looking the more dangerous since their goal and pushing hard.
Stags tried to catch the visitors on a counter attack but Uhlenbeek just over-his final ball for Russell.
However, Rovers were gifted an equaliser with a controversial penalty on 41 minutes.
Several players went up for a right wing cross in the Stags box and both sides looked surprised as referee Mr Desmond pointed to the penalty spot for an infringement only he had spotted.
Walker stepped up to crash home an unstoppable finish down the centre and just under the crossbar.
Straight away Russell warmed Shearer's hands from long range at the other end.
The referee was approached by angry Stags players plus manager Peter Shirtliff and assistant Paul Holland as the half-time whistle blew to debate the penalty.
Stags should have regained the lead with the first chance of the second half. Arnold's flick saw Russell get goal-side of Elliott and left him with only Shearer to beat. But his attempted side foot finish was tame and straight to the keeper.
Shirtliff made a switch up front on 58 as Birchall replaced Arnold.
Rundle bundled a 25 yard effort at goal from 25 yards soon after when the ball ran loose to him but Shearer was always there.
Coke also had a shot charged down as Rovers tried to clear another high ball into their box.
Stags forced two successive corners while Elliott was booked for tripping Russell as he turned him as the home side tried to force the pace.
But the goal Stags desperately needed arrived on 74 minutes. Buxton's right wing cross was never cleared and the ball eventually ran invitingly for Russell to hammer home a low shot from 12 yards.
Forrester replaced Gibbs two minutes later and, after D'Laryea had missed a golden chance to turn home a low cross at the far post, Haldane replaced Agogo.
Hearts fluttered as shaky defending saw Disley get in a low effort which was deflected round the near post.
Then Walker blazed over from 12 yards after Stags wasted a couple of chances to halt a Rovers break.
One former Stag replaced another near the end as Williams came on for Disley.
Haldane was wide with a shot on the turn as the minutes ticked slowly down.
Rundle tried a low shot in stoppage time which Shearer could only parry upwards and it came to quickly at Coke for him to be able to steer his header into the open goal, the ball sailing over.
But disaster struck in the third and final minute of stoppage time. Uhlenbeek lost possession on the right and Williams got to the by-line before crossing towards Haldane whose header was helped over the line by Walker.
Latest | December 2005