STAGS DENIED BY 97TH MINUTE EQUALISER
Blue Square Bet Premier
Mansfield Town 1 - 1 Darlington
Connor 8 Wright 90+7
Attendance: 2,234 (169 from Darlington)
Date: 16 October 2010
Stags hit by injury time sucker punch
Mansfield Town 1 Darlington 1, Saturday 16th October
FOOTBALL can be a cruel a very game and Stags discovered this to their cost on Saturday after they conceded an equaliser seven minutes into stoppage time to draw 1-1 with Darlington, reports Stephen Thirkill.
Paul Connor's eighth goal of the season looked like being enough to wrap up all the points and push David Holdsworth's men back into the play-off zone.
Instead veteran striker Tommy Wright stole into the Mansfield penalty box after some slack defending to fire home a Chris Senior cross in the 97th minute and earn a share of the spoils.
The bitter blow now leaves Stags without a win in five games and increases the pressure on boss David Holdsworth.
Stags had turned in a solid display of attacking football in the first half as Adam Murray and Louis Briscoe in particular causing havoc down the left touchline with their pace and surging runs.
But football is all about taking chances and Mansfield will be left counting the cost of Paul Connor's miss when he was one-on-one with Sam Russell on the stroke of half-time.
Had the normally composed striker doubled his tally and his team's lead Stags would no doubt have gone on to wrap up three well-deserved points.
But Darlington were allowed to fight another day and came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half.
In truth they should have levelled as the visitors blew a number of good chances with Tommy Wright in particular guilty of blazing wide when he should have rifled home.
And, as the game began to get stretched, Stags pushed on in search of the decisive goal with Medley and Day coming close to making it 2-0.
But they proved to be costly misses as Wright made up for his earlier blunder to stab home at the death and rob Stags of a crucial two points.
Stags, without a win in four league outings, had made four changes to the starting line-up with the under-fire Gary Mills making way for Tyrone Thompson in midfield.
Former Stag Rhys Day was also given a place in the first 11 following his loan move from Oxford on Friday, while fellow loan signing Simon Grand had to settle for a place on the bench.
Paul Stonehouse and Kyle Nix also earned recalls in Stags' new-look 4-3-3 formation.
Darlington fielded former Stags striker Jefferson Louis as the North East side looked to arrest their recent poor slump in form.
Stags thought they had taken the lead after eight minutes when Nix flashed a sweetly struck free-kick from 25 yards just inches past the post.
But just one minute later Stags hit the front after a neat flowing move involving Briscoe, Cain and Connor.
Briscoe broke inside off the left wing before picking out Cain at the side of the box. He thin chipped over an inviting cross which left Connor with the simplest of headers from just two yards out.
Mansfield continued to turn up the heat and the lively Briscoe took full advantage of the space given to him before running at the defence and firing just wide from 20 yards on 13 minutes.
It was an impressive start to the game for Stags as Nix and the rest of the midfield took a firm control of possession to push the visitors onto the back foot, while Briscoe was chief tormenter with his surging runs down the left flank causing trouble.
Darlington finally came to life and won their first corner on 25 minutes after Miller's low drilled cross was hacked behind.
Stags captain Steve Foster was then forced to put the ball behind for another corner on 28 minutes after Louis had shown a superb change of pace to get to the byline and cut the ball back into the danger zone.
And from the resulting corner Darlington finally registered their first attempt on Aksalu's goal when Daniel Hone fired a header over from seven yards out when he should have done better..
At the other end Cain fired a warning shot for Stags on 37 minutes after he latched on to a loose ball from a deep Stonehouse cross. But his well hit strike clipped a defender and went out for a corner.
Moments later Murray and Briscoe combined well down the left flank as Murray played in the winger. But Briscoe's seemingly goal-bound shot was blocked to safety by the head of Liam Hatch.
The flurry of chances saw confident Stags come to life with Briscoe and Murray once again finding plenty of space to build attacks down the left flank.
And the constant threat of Briscoe nearly drew dividends on 42 minutes when he burst inside and unleashed a rocket of a shot from the edge of the box which agonisingly rattled the side netting.
Connor should then have doubled his personal tally and Mansfield's lead on 44 minutes when he found himself one-on-one with Russell after an exquisite throughball by Nix.
But he lacked the necessary composure to give Stags what woukd have been a deserved 2-0 half-time lead as he drilled his shot straight at the Darlington shot-stopper.
And it nearly proved to be a very costly miss right at the start of the second half after the Stags rearguard failed to clear a Bridge-Wilkinson corner.
But with the goal at his mercy Ian Miller miscued his effort well wide to the relief of David Holdsworth's men.
The visitors then blew another golden chance to level the game when an unmarked Tommy Wright shockingly fired wide from 10 yards out after substitute Gray had combined well with Bridge-Wilkinson to pick out the experienced striker on 55 minutes.
A minute later defender Daniel Hone was then thwarted after his toe-poked effort following a goalmouth scramble was cleared off the line by Rhys Day.
The noisy Field Mill faithful did their best to revive the edgy Stags as they perhaps sensed that an equaliser was just around the corner.
Stags were clearly struggling as they lacked the flair and control in midfield, which was on display in abundance throughout the first half, in what was becoming a very stop-start affair.
Bridge-Wilkinson, who came into the game more in the second half, then fired a free-kick from distance over the bar on 70 minutes as the visitors pushed for the equaliser.
Despite barely crossing the halfway line the second period Stags nearly found themselves 2-0 up on 75 minutes when Day nearly capped his return to the side with a goal.
But his towering header was cleared off the line at the back post by Aaron Brown as Darlington lived to fight on.
Stags weathered the storm and, with time ticking down, began to take a much firmer control of possession to earn a flurry of corners.
In the first of seven minutes of stoppage time lively sub Luke Medley nearly wrapped up the game when he broke on the counter attack before directing his shot into the arms or Russell.
Football can be a cruel game and Stags learnt that to their cost in the seventh minute of stoppage time as Mansfield switched off at the back to blow two vital points.
The defence were caught napping as Wright made up for his earlier miss to tap home a Senior cross from eight yards past the despairing dive of Aksalu to seal a share of the spoils for the visitors.
It was a bitter blow for Holdsworth's men who had looked certain to wrap up the win and move back into the play-off places.
STAGS: Aksalu, Silk, Foster, Briscoe, Thompson, Nix (Istead 90 mins), Stonehouse, Connor (Parker 90 + 5 mins), Cain (Medley 64 mins), Murray, Day. Subs not used: Collett, Grand.
DARLINGTON: Russell, Miller, Hatch, Waite, Wright, Moore (Powell 83 mins), Hone, Austin (Gray 45 mins), Brown, Louis (Senior 70 mins), Bridge-Wilkinson. Subs not used: Lowson, Clarke.
REFEREE: Peter Wright of Southport.
ATTENDANCE: 2,234 (169 away)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Adam Murray.
Mansfield Town 1-1 Darlington
Evening Post report
A GOAL seven minutes into stoppage time by Tommy Wright denied Mansfield Town a first victory in seven matches as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Darlington here this afternoon.
The Stags looked set for a welcome three points as they led through Paul Connor's eighth goal of the season, scored in the ninth minute.
But with their last attack of the game, the Quakers broke down the left flank and Wright was in the right place at the right time to sweep home from close range.
After an uninspiring first few minutes, Mansfield won a free-kick 25 yards from goal and almost went in front when Kyle Nix curled inches wide of the left-hand upright with keeper Sam Russell beaten.
But the Stags were in front in the ninth minute as Connor notched his eighth goal of the season.
Louis Briscoe's buccaneering run opened up space for him to pick out Ashley Cain on the right flank.
His pinpoint cross picked out Connor who had the simple task of nodding home from close range.
The Stags went in search of a second and Briscoe was not too far away as he dragged a low shot wide of goal from just outside the box.
Steve Foster did well to cut out a dangerous, low, right-wing cross from Jefferson Louis after the striker had sped past Paul Stonehouse.
From the resulting corner, Danny Hone should have done better when he headed over from the edge of the six-yard box.
Briscoe was rightly denied a penalty as he went down in the box in the 36th minute before Connor was ruled offside as he looked to break clear.
A slick pass from Adam Murray then set Connor free down the left, whose cross was half cleared to Cain and his deflected shot flew over the top.
Briscoe twice had shots that caused Russell concern, the first blocked by a Darlington player and the second held by the visiting keeper.
Connor should have put the hosts 2-0 up on the stroke of half-time when he was put in the clear by Nix's astute through ball, but his low finished was blocked by the legs of Russell.
Darlington came out of the blocks quickly at the start of the second period and should have levelled things up when Ian Miller shot wide from close in amid a goalmouth scramble.
There was another warning for Mansfield when Chris Moore flashed a dangerous centre across the face of goal.
Darlington's Tommy Wright could not believe it when he somehow missed from 10 yards out after being teed up by substitute Josh Gray's pull-back from the left byline.
With Mansfield protesting over what they felt was a foul on keeper Mihkel Aksalu, Rhys Day then had to scramble off the line.
As the midway point of the second half approached, Mansfield threw on Luke Medley in place of Ashley Cain.
Gareth Waite tried his luck for the visitors from distance only for his shot to hit his own player and ricocheted away for goal.
Mansfield almost notched the second they needed to all-but secure victory when Nix's right-wing corner saw Day head for goal at the far post only for Aaron Brown to nod off the line.
A swift break by Murray saw him release Briscoe but this time the flying winger's shot was charged down as he cut in on his right foot.
As the game became stretched in the closing stages, Medley raced away to force a comfortable save from Russell.
Mansfield hoped to see out the stoppage time without incident, but they were caught cold by Darlington's late, late show.
Chris Senior put in an inviting low centre from the left that was perfect for Wright to slam into the net from eight yards.
It left Mansfield with no time to respond as two points slipped through their fingers.
Late, late equaliser a huge kick in the teeth for Mansfield
Evening Post considered report
A KICK in the teeth, a jolt to the solar plexus, a bitter pillow to swallow. Whatever the metaphor used, it was that sinking feeling only the concession of a stoppage time leveller can engender.
As the final seconds of seven minutes of stoppage time ticked away, Mansfield Town looked to have the three points wrapped up.
Yes, they had endured some anxious moments in the second half as visitors Darlington pushed on in search of a breakthrough – none more so than when Tommy Wright missed a sitter.
Yet they seemed to have weathered that particular storm and were still in control through top scorer Paul Connor's first half strike with the referee preparing to whistle for full-time.
A first victory in five games was just what the Stags needed, having not won since their 4-0 triumph over Eastbourne Borough.
It was set to lift the Stags not only by firing them up the table but also in terms of raising their spirits after a disappointing trot.
The home fans were perched on the edge of their seats ready to raise the roof for their team, who had seemingly put the reverses against AFC Wimbledon and Rushden and Diamonds behind them.
But then came the moment to sour Mansfield's day. A 'sickener' was how Mansfield boss David Holdsworth described it.
Chris Senior was given too much space on the left-hand side of the penalty are and he scampered to the left byline before cutting the ball back to Wright, who made no mistake second time around.
As the Darlington fans cavorted in the corner of the North Stand, home fans slapped their seats in frustration and players looked skywards, holding their heads in their hands.
There was barely time to restart the game. The Stags, of course, still took a point, but so late was the Quakers' strike, it felt like a defeat.
As they battle to keep pace with those clubs aiming for a play-off berth, they can ill-afford such last-gasp concessions.
With a FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie to look forward to this weekend, the Stags will take their first break from the rigours of the Blue Square Bet Premier that has already seen them pack in 16 games.
It would have been much better to go into that game at FC Halifax Town with a confidence-boosting triumph under their belts, but now they must stew for another week before having the opportunity to put things right.
That is not to say that Mansfield did an awful lot wrong against the Quakers, playing, in spells, some of their most eye-catching football of the campaign.
The midfield trio of Adam Murray, Kyle Nix and Tyrone Thompson in a 4-3-3 formation certainly played their part thanks to their ability to manoeuvre the ball around slickly.
But, aside from Connor's eighth goal of the season to open the scoring, Mansfield did not make the most of their spells on top.
A second goal at any point would, as Holdsworth acknowledged afterwards, pretty much have killed off the north-easterners.
As every manager knows, though, one goal is never enough and Darlington kept going right to the death to nick a reward.
Mansfield showed no less than four changes going into the match, some more predictable than others.
It was no surprise to see loan signing Rhys Day – back for a second spell at the club – handed a start in the centre of the defence, with Chris Smith making way. Nor was it a shock to see Gary Mills left out of the side after being the brunt of some supporters' anger at Rushden, with Kyle Nix, back from a virus, taking his place.
There were, however, one or two raised eyebrows that Luke Medley was dropped after just one game up front to allow Thompson to start and that Paul Stonehouse was preferred at left-back to Kevin Sandwith.
A scrappy opening to the game was quickly forgotten when Mansfield forged ahead in the ninth minute.
Moments after Nix had curled in a free-kick, Louis Briscoe, who enjoyed a superb first half, found Ashley Cain on the right and his pinpoint cross was nodded in by Connor from close range.
It should have been 2-0 to the Stags on the cusp of the break when Nix threaded through for Connor, who beat the offside trap but could not beat Sam Russell as his low finish was blocked by the keeper's legs.
The visitors came out after the restart with a renewed sense of purpose.
Day, enjoying an encouraging debut, cleared off the line before seeing Aaron Brown do the same to his goalbound header.
In the final ten minutes, Mansfield had several situations where they might have killed the game off but their final ball, or finish, was lacking.
As the game entered added on time that was extended by injuries to three different players, it seemed as if Connor's late substitution – replaced by Keigan Parker – was his opportunity to soak up applause as the game's match-winner.
That was until the dramatic, final twist which means Mansfield's frustrating run goes on for a while yet.
Match facts: Mansfield Town v Darlington
Mansfield: Aksalu, Silk, Day, Foster, Stonehouse, Nix (Istead 90+2), Murray, Thompson, Cain (Medley 64), Connor (Parker 90+6), Briscoe. Subs not used: Collett, Grand.
Darlington: Russell, Miller, Hatch, Waite, Wright, Moore (Powell 84), Hone, Austin (Gray 46), Brown, Louis (Senior 71) Bridge-Wilkinson. Subs not used: Lowson, Clarke.
Referee: Peter Wright (Southport).
Attendance: 2,234 (169 visitors).
Goals: Connor (9). Darlington: Wright (90+7).
Shot on target: Mansfield 7 Darlington 2.
Shot off target: Mansfield 6 Darlington 5.
Fouls: Mansfield 10 Darlington 12.
Corners: Mansfield 6 Darlington 4.
Offsides: Mansfield 3 Darlington 5.
Bookings: Mansfield 2 (Connor, 30, unsporting behaviour; Day, 70, foul) Darlington 3 (Waite, 5, foul; Bridge-Wilkinson, 21, foul; Wright, 76, foul).
Sendings off: Mansfield 0 Darlington 0.
Mansfield's man of the match: Adam Murray. Rarely gave away possession and was frequently involved in Mansfield's best moves going forward. Had a strong influence after quiet games against AFC Wimbledon and Rushden.
Mansfield Town 1 - 1 Darlington
Date: 16/10/2010 Venue: Field Mill
Attendance: 2,234 Referee: P Wright
Dan Branowksy reports
Mansfield fell fowl to a last gasp Darlington equaliser as they let slip of three points to draw 1-1 with the Quakers.
Mansfield were in control of the game throughout and should have extended their lead on a number of occasions, however it was Tommy Wright who had the last word, cancelling out Paul Connors opener.
Stags were on the back of a four game winless run.
'Attacking' seemed to be the word of the day, as Mansfield started with a new look 4-3-3 formation, and Darlington with an adventurous 3-4-3. Mansfield's two mid-week loan signings of Rhys Day and Simon Grand made the squad, Day returning for the Stags partnering Steve Foster at the back.
Ex-Stag, Jefferson Louis faced his former side, starting up-front for The Quakers and Marc Bridge- Wilkinson made his first start for the club, after a loan move from Carlisle.
Both teams are in poor form and would be desperate to make amends in order to climb up the table.
The match started slowly, with Mansfield having the most of the ball. Kyle Nix went agonisingly close early on when his 25 yard free kick was struck just wide of the left hand post.
The stadium came to life in the 8th minute when Louis Briscoe weaved in and around the Darlington area before releasing Cain who chipped in the ball which Connor dispatched with ease.
Not content with just the one goal advantage, Mansfield continued to search for another, putting pressure on the defence with a number of telling balls, before the superb Louis Briscoe shot inches wide from the edge of the area.
Darlington struggled to get into the game in the opening 15 minutes, often resorting to playing the long ball up to new signing, Jefferson Lewis to no avail.
The Quakers could have been forgiven for thinking they were about to equalise when Ian Miller had an open header on goal, however the linesman judged him to be offside, Miller missing the target anyway.
Darlington started to show a bit more intent as the half went on.Jefferson Lewis proved to be something of a handful for the Stags defence, using his strength to shield the ball and win free kicks. He strolled past Stonehouse on the right with ease before sending in a low whipped ball which Foster had to kick out for a corner.
Louis Briscoe had a penalty shout in the 35th minute when close control and quick change of direction foiled the sleeping Darlington defence. The referee however was not impressed and waved play on.
Mansfield had Darlington under ten minutes of intense pressure towards the end of the second half, Mansfield finding bags of space in their opponents half as they searched for a two goal lead. In a nice period of play, Connor's wide ball was just too much for Briscoe before falling to Cain whose deflected shot was well wide.
Mansfield continued to threaten, as Murray constantly kept finding space and creating chances. Tyrone Thompson played a clever through ball to Connor, who couldn't quite get a shot away before the keeper collected it.
With only 5 minutes left of the half, the very impressive Louis Briscoe showed off his quick feet as he turned in and out of the Darlington defence before unleashing a wicked drive which wasn't far off at all.
Darlington were struggling to cope with Mansfield's free flowing, attacking football and the crowd were really enjoying what they were seeing. After intricate passing in and around the Darlington area between Murray and Nix, Murray released Paul Connor in space but his driven shot was right at the keeper's legs. As the half time whistle blew, the Stags were met with rapturous applause, perhaps disappointed that their lead wasn't extended, however.
One minute into the second half, a Darlington corner caused mayhem in the Stags defence; the ball bouncing about everywhere before Hatch's shot was stabbed wide. The goal-mouth incident left Mihkel Aksalu in a bit of pain, but after a few minutes of treatment he was able to continue.
Darlington gave Mansfield a reminder that they're still in the game when Moore burst down the right hand side and fired in a dangerous ball across the box, with Tommy Wright just missing the connection.
Darlington's best chance of the game came when Tommy Wright wasted a golden opportunity to equalise. Bridge Wilkinson played in Josh Gray on an overlapping run before he squared the ball across the box towards Wright who had the best part of an open goal to aim at, but his shot from only a few yards out was scuffed badly and flew out of play.
Minutes later, a Darlington corner was swung in towards the back post and Aksalu was clattered to the ground. Much to the fans surprise no foul was given and Rhys Day managed to scramble across to clear the ball off the line.
A few moments of worry for the Stags faithful, as Darlington certainly looking more dangerous than they had done all game.
A moment of controversy came about in the 66th minute when a dangerous flying tackle by Hone caught Nix but Referee Peter Wright waved play on and if it wasn't for the linesman's flag, Mansfield may have found themselves pegged back.
The game started to lose some of it's flow and tough challenges were going in everywhere, Rhys Day clumsily taking down Wright on the edge of the box before Bridge-Wilkinson sending the resulting free-kick over the bar.
With only 15 minutes left on the clock, Rhys Day rose above the Darlo defence, heading a bullet header towards goal but Aaron Brown was wise to his game and blocked it off the line.
Desperate to find a way back in to a match that had lost its edge, Darlington midfielder Chris Moore hit a decent effort at goal from 30 yards out which Aksalu comfortably dealt with.
Similarly to the first half, Murray managed to find space and played a brilliant ball out to man of the match, Louis Briscoe who cut inside before releasing his shot which was deflected out of play.
As the minutes ticked down, Mansfield controlled the match once again, keeping possession in their opponents half.7 minutes of additional time were added onto the end of the match, setting up a tense finale. Mansfield dominated the added time but on a Darlington counter attack in the last minute of the match Senior played in a great ball which Wright bundled into the back of the net.
Stags were stunned and were made to pay for missed chances as they left the game two points shy of what they felt they deserved.
Injury time equaliser salvages point for Quakers
Saturday 16th October 2010
The Quakers looked to be heading for their fourth successive defeat but in the seventh minute of injury time, Chris Senior picked the ball up on the left and drilled in a low cross, which was met by the oncoming Wright, who bundled the ball past a helpless Aksalu in the Stags' goal.
Mark Cooper has asked his players for a reaction prior to the game but it was the home side that deservedly took the lead in the ninth minute when Lewis Briscoe played the ball out wide to Asley Cain on the left and his cross was met by Paul Connor to head in from close range.
The Quakers were clearly struggling to cope with the pace and skill of Briscoe down the left flank and he almost doubled his side's lead shortly after when he drited in from the left and struck a fierce right-footed shot but the ball just whistled past Sam Russell's post.
The closest Cooper's side came to an equaliser in the first half was from a right-sided Aaron Brown corner, which was met by Daniel Hone but the defender's header sailed agonisingly wide.
Despite several chances for the home side, the Quakers went in at half time just a goal down and after the interval, Cooper's side came out looking far more determined.
Cooper introduced Josh Gray at half time for Kevin Austin and the midfielder almost provided a breakthrough for the Quakers when his low cross from the left was met by Wright, who looked certain to score, but the striker scuffed his shot and the ball flew wide
Despite dominating the first half, Mansfield seemed to sit back in the second period and after sevral stoppages for injuries, referee Peter Wright added seven minutes of added-on time which would prove vital for the visitors.
The home fans were growing increasingly frustrated at their side's inability to put the game beyond Darlington and they eventually paid for earlier missed chances when Wright popped up in the 97th minute to score the equaliser that sent the away players and fans into raptures.
Latest | October 2010