ANOTHER DISASTER AS STAGS BEATEN AT ACCRINGTON
Accrington Stanley 1-0 Mansfield Town
Att: 1408 (approx 250 from Mansfield)
Accrington Stanley 1 Mansfield Town 0, Saturday 22nd September
By Stephen Thirkill
STAGS were plunged into deeper relegation trouble today after they slipped to a disappointing 1-0 defeat away to basement rivals Accrington Stanley.
Below-par Mansfield once again failed to take a number of chances and were left to count the cost as a solitary goal on 27mins from the lively Paul Mullin, who scored three times against the visitors last season, condemnded Stags to their third straight League Two defeat.
Both leading scorer Mickey Boulding and subsitute Simon Brown were unable to trouble Stanley keeper Kenny Arthur when they were in good shooting positions for injury-ravaged Stags.
And despite some late pressure trouble-hit Mansfield could not find the back of the Stanley goal and slipped to a costly defeat to enter the League Two drop-zone.
The defeat now leaves Billy Dearden's men with a relegation fight on their hands and facing a 'relegation six-pointer', even though it is still only September, against league newcomers Dagenham and Redbridge at Field Mill on Saturday.
And they will have to play the crucial match without the experienced Martin McIntosh after the commanding Scotsman was forced off with a hamstring injury early into the game.
The Stags have now conceded in every League and cup game this season,
but went into the crunch clash desperate to bag maximum points to kick start their flagging season and haul themselves away from trouble.
Mansfield, who were looking for their first away win of the season, were hit with a pre-match set-back when influential defender Alex John-Baptiste, who has missed Stags' last five games, was ruled out with an ongoing back injury.
Keeper Carl Muggleton shook off a minor foot injury to keep his place in goal, but skipper Jake Buxton (suspended following last week's sending off against Chesterfield) was replaced by Chris Wood, and summer signing John McAliskey (twisted ankle) was replaced by Ian Holmes up front.
Accrington's Paul Carden shook off a calf injury to make his long-awaited debut after his summer move from Burton Albion, but Jay Harris and Leighton McGivern missed the game through suspension.
Stags started the relegation tussle well and fired an early warning shot inside 2mins, when Mickey Boulding blazed a speculative effort from distance over shot-stopper Kenny Arthur's crossbar.
And Boulding, who has already bagged four goals this season, again threatened moments later when he latched onto a Stephen Dawson cross from the right wing following a flowing Stags move only to fire wide from a tight angle.
Stags began to gain an early stranglehold on the game as their neat passing and competitive tackling began to overwhelm the hosts ineffective midfield.
But against the run of play Accrington missed a golden chance to take the lead on 12 mins when pacey Roscoe Dsane sprung the Stags offside trap only to blaze an attempted lob out of the ground from 12 yards out.
The shot seemed to spring Stanley and their fans into life and Dsane once again went close when he latched on to a clever knock-down from strike-partner Paul Mullin on 15 mins before firing high and wide from 20 yards out.
And the first-half changed during that incident when Stags' experienced defender and stand-in captain for the day Martin Mckintosh was forced to limp off with a hamstring injury picked up as he attempted to block the Dsane effort.
McIntosh was replaced by Dan Martin with Lee Bullock slotting into the backline as a makeshift centreback.
Lively Boulding should have done better on 24 mins when he blazed an effort over the bar from distance, despite finding himself with time and space after a neat through ball from Stephen Dawson sprung Accrington's offside trap.
And, not for the first time this season, Stags were made to pay for sloppy finishing when the arially dominant Paul Mullin, who came to life after McIntosh was withdrawn, fired Stanley into an undeserved 27th min lead.
Impressive Mullin, who caused the makeshift Stags defence all game, rose well and beat two defenders to power home a right wing Peter Cavanagh cross past the despairing Carl Muggleton to the delight of the Accrington faithful packed behind the goal.
Moments later Accrington nearly doubled their lead when Andrew Proctor latched on to another knockdown from the ever dangerous Paul Mullin to narrowly fire wide of Mansfield's beleaguered goal.
Accrington grew in confidence and began to pile on the pressure as helpless Stags failed to get any foothold in the vital basement battle.
Stags survived another scare when Mark Roberts failed to latch on to a loose ball during a goal match scramble on 30 mins as Mansfield
struggled to clear a whipped in corner from Peter Cavanagh.
Midfielder Andrew Proctor was then inches away from doubling Accrington's lead when his 30 yard piledriver thundered against the Muggleton's crossbar on 35mins
Under pressure Stags manged to survive the rest of the half without any more scares and could count themselves lucky to only be trailing by one goal at the break.
Stags initially began the second half better and showed their intent when Mickey Boulding had his 20 yard shot blocked by Robert Williams on 50 mins after he was well picked out by a long range pass from Lee Bullock.
But Accrington once again began to take control of the game as sloppy Stags passing gifted Accrington plenty of possession to turn up the heat once again.
Stanley peppered Carl Muggleton's goal, with centre-back Sean Webb firing over from a Cavanagh Corner on 53 mins and debutant Paul Carden firing a soft shot straigh down Muggleton's throat.
Against the run of play Dawson gave the small band of travelling fans hope when he let rip from distance after the ball broke to him on the edge of the box on 58 mins, but the Irishman failed to replicate last week's wonder strike against chesterfield as he screwed the shot wide.
Stags boss Billy Dearden threw on Simon Brown, who was making his return from a long injury lay-off, for the innefective Ian Holmes on 57mins and Nathan Arnold on 65 mins, and switched to a three-man defence in a bid to bring more creativity to the team.
And as Stags began to throw numbers forward as they chased the game gaps started to appear for the Accgrinton attack.
Impressive wing-back Peter Cavanagh played in Roscoe Dsane with a cracking through ball during a swift counter attack on 67 mins, but powerful Dsane was thwarted by Muggleton who turned away the fierce effort with his legs for a corner.
Stags posed more of a threat up front following the substitutions and perhaps should have equalised on 70 mins when Simon Brown headed over from close range after he was picked out at the far post by a Matt Hamshaw centre.
As time ticked away Accrington began to sit back and hit Stags on the break as they attempted to protect their valuable one goal lead.
And on the break Andrew Proctor burst into space down the left-wing and sent a thunderous shot from the corner of the box narrowly wide on 75 mins as Muggleton scrambled across his goal.
The game started to get stretched and energetic Boulding again failed to find the back of the net when he fired straight at the keeper from a tight agnle on 76 mins after he latched on to a long through ball.
The rebound then fell temptingly to Simon Brown, who was a constant threat after his introduction, who saw his goalbound shot agonisingly blocked by the out-stretched leg on Sean Webb.
And on 78mins an increasingly dominant Stags should have scored when Mickey Boulding beat his marker and headed over from just four yards after being picked out by a Matt Hamshaw free kick.
Desperate Stanley began to mount an increasingly determined rearguard action as Stags finally began to find their goal threat.
With time running out Nathan Arnold picked out Simon Brown, who then neatly turned Cavanagh only to send his tame left foot strike wide of the Accrington goal on 85mins.
But Stags failed to trouble the resolute Stanley defence again and Accrington managed to hang on to claim a much-needed three points and plunge troubled Stags into deep relegation trouble.
Accrington Stanley: Arthur, Cavanagh, Branch, Williams, Roberts, Brown, Procter, Carden, Dsane, Mullin, Webb. Subs: Dunbavin, Miles, McEvilly, Richardson, Boco.
Mansfield Town: Muggleton, Mullins, Jelleyman, McIntosh (Martin 15mins), Wood, Hamshaw, McAllister (Arnold 65mins ), Bullock, Dawson, Holmes (Brown 57mins ), Boulding. Subs not used: White, Sleath,
Referee: Alan Wiley (Staffs)
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