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Archived News from March 2011

25th March 2011 11:10

FA Trophy Semi-Final 2nd leg
Luton Town 1 - 1 Mansfield Town (AET)
Owusu 46. Gnapka sent off 84, Lawless sent off 89. Briscoe pen 118
Attendance: 6133 (912 from Mansfield)

Date: 19 March 2011

Martin Shaw at Kenilworth Road

In a truly extraordinary day at Kenilworth Road, Mansfield Town reached Wembley for the first time in 24 years. The Stags led 1-0 from the first leg. A first half of fabulous entertainment ended goalless with David Grof pulling off one amazing save, Luton hitting the inside of the post, and the Stags also missing some good chances. Luton leveled the tie a minute into the second half when Lloyd Owusu scored with a fine shot. The rest of the half was quieter until Luton had Gnapka sent off for a second yellow on 84 and Lawless sent off for a straight red on 89 minutes. Both were clearly the correct decision. The game went into extra-time and the Stags, with a two-man advantage, were now favourites for the first time. Despite overwhelming possession, the Stags barely tested Luton keeper Kevin Pilkington, but two minutes away from a penalty shoot-out, the Stags were awarded a penalty when Briscoe's shot which was heading wide, was apparently handled by Luke Graham (video evidence awaited). Briscoe took the resulting penalty and blasted it down the middle, Pilkington saved, but in an enormous stroke of luck it came straight back out to Briscoe who rammed home from close range. Luton could not muster a response with their nine men, and the Stags had done it. Outstanding displays from the entire defence and goalkeeper Grof were mainly to thank for the victory. The Stags are going to Wembley!

Full report later.

Man of the Match: Tom Naylor


Mansfield Town reach Wembley final of FA Trophy
CHAD report by John Lomas

Luton Town 1 Mansfield Town 1 aet (Mansfield win 2-1 on agg), FA Trophy semi-final second leg

GLORIOUS Mansfield Town and their thrilled supporters are celebrating booking the club's first Wembley final for 24 years.


Against all the odds, Stags travelled to FA Trophy favourites Luton Town this afternoon and, in a white hot intimidating atmosphere, pulled off the 1-1 draw they needed to go through after winning the first leg 1-0 at Field Mill last Sunday.

Luton Town's players, supporters and management ended a torrid afternoon pointing angry fingers firmly at Oxfordshire referee Graham Scott after he sent off two Luton players in the final six minutes of normal time and also awarded Stags a controversial penalty kick which led to their winner two minutes from the end of extra-time.

But the Hatters have only themselves to blame for committing footballing suicide and, after Stags' 2-0 defeat at Kenilworth Road earlier this season, when the referee sent off Steve Foster and booked seven other visitors in a dreadful display of refereeing, Mansfield could feel hugely satisfied that things had gone their way this time.

Mr Scott can feel very proud of his handling of this highly-charged and ill-tempered affair as he tried to let play flow without blowing up for everything, but he made the big calls correctly, despite the hostility he knew it would breed, and there is little doubt both were red cards.

Stags, with Tom Naylor really coming of age with his best showing in a Stags shirt, defended magnificently in the first half.

And, although keeper David Grof did make one superb save and Luton also hit the post, Stags missed three good chances to add to their first leg lead.

You wondered if those missed opportunities would come back to haunt them - and they did within 42 seconds of the restart as the ball sat up nicely for Lloyd Owusu to bury the equaliser for the jubilant Hatters.

But Luton could not find a way through again and their late red card double then left them facing the tiring prospect of extra-time with nine men, with which they coped admirably until former Stag Luke Graham's raised arm blocked a Louis Briscoe shot on 119 minutes.

Mr Scott bravely pointed to the spot and, even though another ex-Stag Kevin Pilkington, made the save, Briscoe tucked away the follow-up to book an FA Trophy showdown with Darlington at Wembley on Saturday, 7th May and bring some joy to a miserable season.

Stags boss Duncan Russell stuck with the same 11 who had won the first leg, having rested six of them for the midweek league defeat at York.

And Stags were roared on by a magnificent travelling army of 912 – more than double the number of Hatters fans at Field Mill last week.

Newton was wide on the turn under pressure in the first minute as Luton, as expected, made the early push.

Kevin Pilkington then safely gathered a nice left wing centre from Spence in Stags' first raid.Mitchley went down easily in the box to the fury of the home fans under a challenge from George Pilkington.

And on 10 minutes Briscoe fired in the game's first shot on target which went straight into Kevin Pilkington's midriff from 18 yards.

Two minutes later George Pilkington got in a close range far post header from a long free kick which forced Grof into a superb reaction save.

An error from Sandwith allowed Barnes-Homer to latch onto a low pass and get into the right of the box and pull back a low cross which saw Owusu slip at the crucial moment as Naylor challenged.

Stags suffered a 20th minute blow as Cain pulled up chasing the ball with a pulled muscle, Smith coming onto the left wing and Briscoe moving across to the right.

With Luton feeling Stags were time-wasting, tempers were starting to simmer and Gnapka was booked for a shove in the back on Naylor as he shepherded the ball out for a goal kick.

On 26 minutes Stags had a let-off after Nix slipped while trying to clear on the edge of the box. The ball rolled to Owusu who scuffed a finish against a post and Naylor completed the clearance.Grof then stood up well to a ferocious near post blast from Gnapka.

On 28 minutes Stags broke away down the left and when Mitchley went past last man Howells, he could have gone on to finish or play it square to Connor but chose to shoot early and tamely at Kevin Pilkington and his big moment was gone.

Another great chance opened up for the visitors on 33 minutes. Smith curled his corner back towards Sandwith who headed powerfully at goal. Naylor got the last touch as Kevin Pilkington got his body in the way and the ball rolled towards Connor who missed the target from six yards.Stags again came close on 38 minutes as Briscoe sent the ball in from wide right, Connor headed on and Mitchley lashed a shot just wide of the right hand post.

Luton stepped it up again and Naylor got in a vital far post head away from a Barnes-Homer cross as the visitors went in for half-time still in pole position, though it was hard to fathom how it was goalless.However, Mansfield were caught cold 42 seconds after the restart as Owusu levelled the tie, beating Grof with an unstoppable right-footed half-volley from 16 yards after controlling a long, hopeful punt forwards with no one alive to the danger.

In reply Briscoe was too high with his header from a Nix right wing corner.

There followed some worrying moments for a shellshocked Stags and Owusu looked well offside on 55 minutes when Gnapka threaded a through ball to him seven yards from goal.

The flag stayed down but Grof made himself big and by the time Owusu had made some space to finish, with defenders racing back in his way, he lifted the ball over the bar from 10 yards to the jeers of the Stags army behind the net.

Graham upended Smith to earn a booking on 57 minutes. Then Sandwith guided a downward header wide of the post from Stags' second corner of the half.

Newton had a shot blocked as Luton again raised their pace and Grof was there to make another save from a deflected Barnes-Homer shot.

On 71 minutes Adam Smith had homes hearts fluttering with a curling shot across goal that only just beat the far post.

However, with six minutes left, the wheels suddenly began to come off for the favourites.

Gnapka left his foot in as he came in late on a tackle on Spence and, with one yellow card under his belt already, he could have little complaint when a second yellow and a red were shown at him.

A minute later action man Naylor, who had covered every blade of grass on Kenilworth Road, was too high with an acrobatic overhead kick while Thompson made a great tackle on Barnes-Homer as he burst into the box as both sides went for a winner.

But, incredibly, a minute from time the home side went down to nine men as referee Mr Scott produced an instant red when Lawless jumped into the back of Nix and led with his arm.

He was nowhere near the ball and his challenge left Nix unconscious on the floor right in front of the furious Stags bench as again tempers ran high.

Nix came back round but was obviously unable to play any further part and will also miss the trip to Histon in midweek from that challenge.

Sub Steven Istead was wide in the sixth minute of stoppage time as the game ended 1-0 to Luton and all square on aggregate.

That left the Hatters facing the uneasy prospect of 30 minutes of extra-time two men short and Stags firmly in the driving seat.

With the home fans creating a cauldron of noise, the Hatters were the first to show as Barnes-Homer cued up Walker for a shot that sliced off the outside of his right boot and spun wide of goal.

Briscoe headed over from a Smith corner as Luton tried every trick in the book to waste time, Kevin Pilkington eventually warned by the referee.

With Luton working their socks off, Stags found few chances, Connor firing tamely on the turn to Pilkington before the break.

Luton were running on empty as Stags pressed hard but, agonisingly, the winning goal remained elusive.

But Briscoe was wide of the far post, Naylor sent a 25 yard shot skidding through to force Pilkington to save and claims for a penalty kick by Danny Mitchley were rightly ignored.

Tempers boiled over yet again after a clash between Istead and George Pilkington as Luton hung grimly on.

Sandwith was inches wide with a header from a free kick and Smith ballooned one over from 25 yards with an ambitious shot as we hurtled towards penalty kicks.

But referee Mr Scott took centre stage once again two minutes from the end as he decided Graham's hands had gone up deliberately to block Briscoe's shot in the box and pointed to the spot.

Luton argued long and hard, Walker shown a yellow card for dissent, but Stags suddenly had the chance to win it.

But the drama was far from over. Briscoe stepped up to try to drive the spot kick straight down the centre.

However, Pilkington guessed right and stuck up a strong arm to make a fabulous save. Unfortunately for Pilkington, Briscoe was alert and following up and made no mistake as he poked home the loose ball.

That sparked wild celebrations with the home crowd baying for the referee's blood and coins and missiles hurled at Briscoe.

The timing of the goal could not have been better as it left Luton no real time to come back and avoided the lottery of penalties when Luton's two-man deficit would have meant nothing.

The final whistle soon after sparked ugly scenes all round the ground with Luton convinced they had been robbed and not enjoying seeing Mansfield's celebrations.

But they had only themselves to blame, despite manager Richard Money's interesting protestations afterwards that neither sending-off was just, the penalty decision was wrong, and that Stags should have had three men, including Briscoe, sent off instead.

Stags can now look forward to their big day out at the spiritual home of football where they will face a Darlington side they have twice draw with but dominated on both occasions this season.

And, whatever their shortcomings this season in the league, this team and manager Duncan Russell, will make club history for the right reasons on 7th May.

LUTON: K. Pilkington, Keane, Graham, G. Pilkington, Newton (Walker 69), Barnes-Homer (Morgan-Smith 112), Kroca, Lawless, Howells, Gapka, Owusu (Crow 77). Subs not used: Tyler, Poku.STAGS: Grof; Silk, Naylor, Sandwith, Spence; Cain (A. Smith 22), Nix (Istead 90+2), Thompson, Briscoe; Connor, Mitchley. Subs not used: Marriott, Foster, Stonehouse.

REFEREE: Graham Scott of Oxfordshire.

ATTENDANCE: 6,133 (912 away).

GOALS: Luton – Owusu 46mins. Stags – Briscoe 118mins.

CAUTIONS: Luton - Gnapka 24mins, Graham 57mins, Walker 118mins, Crow 119mins.

DISMISSALS: Luton – Gnapka 84mins (second yellow card), Lawless 89mins (violent conduct).



Luton Town 1-1 Mansfield Town AET - Mansfield win 2-1 on aggregate
Evening Post report

MAGNIFICENT Mansfield Town are on their way to Wembley after reaching the FA Trophy final with a dramatic 2-1 aggregate victory over nine-man Luton Town.


Louis Briscoe was the hero as he tapped home from close range in extra-time after initially having his 118th-minute penalty kick saved by Kevin Pilkington.

It saw the Stags level the game at 1-1 after Lloyd Owusu's strike in normal time had put the Hatters in front.

And with Mansfield having won the first leg at Field Mill 1-0 thanks to Danny Mitchley's strike, that was enough to take them through to the play under the famous arch on May 7.

The Stags were given a huge helping hand by the sendings off towards the end of normal time of Claude Gnakpa and Alex Lawless.

Luton started the game brightly as Gankpa fed Adam Newton, only for the off-balance midfielder to fire wide.

Mansfield's first foray forward saw Briscoe pick out Ashley Cain on the opposite flank but his intended cross was deflected straight into the arms of Kevin Pilkington.

Kevin Sandwith then made an important tackle on Owusu after Barnes-Homer had squared the ball into his path inside the area.

At the other end, another Cain cross was headed weakly up in the air by Paul Connor and collected by Pilkington before the referee waved away claims for a penalty for an alleged push on the Stags' top scorer from a Gary Silk centre.

It was the visitors who got in the first shot on goal as Briscoe cut in from the left, but his effort was easily saved.

In the 12th minute, Luton were close to going in front when Lawless' free-kick was powered goalwards by the head of Luke Graham, only for David Grof to tip the ball up onto the bar, allowing his team-mates to clear.

A neat Owusu flick then almost put in striker partner Barnes-Homer, but Grof just got there first.

There was a let-off for the Stags in the 19th minute when Barnes-Homer raced into space down the right and slid the ball in low for Owusu, who missed his kick with the home crowd ready to celebrate.

Mansfield suffered a blow in the 22nd minute as Cain was forced off injured. Adam Smith replaced him, going on the left with Briscoe switching to the right.

Another set piece saw Luton hit the woodwork again as Owusu was left holding his head in his hands after his shot came back of the inside of the left-hand upright.

Grof was then called into action as he pushed away Gnakpa's powerful volley.

But as the half hour approached, Mansfield had a golden chance to net on the break when Danny Mitchley nicked the ball past the last defender and found himself in the clear through the left channel.

But instead of picking out the unmarked Connor in the middle, he chose to attempt an ambitious chip that never troubled Pilkington.

The Stags won their first corner in the 32nd minute and, again, should have netted.

Sandwith flicked the ball on for Tom Naylor, whose close range finish was blocked by Pilkington before Connor stabbed inches wide from the follow-up.

For all Luton's pressure, it was Mansfield who were beginning to create the better openings and a superb flick from Connor gave Mitchley room to shoot from the edge of the box, only for his drive to flash past the right-hand post.

That was the last serious action of the first half and the Stags were made to pay for their misses within 45 seconds of the restart.

A long ball forward was headed clear only as far as Owusu, who cracked the ball on the volley into the top right-hand corner from the edge of the area.

Mansfield tried to respond quickly but Briscoe's header was well over the top from a Kyle Nix right-wing corner.

It should have been 2-0 to Luton soon after as Gnakpa's ball beat the offside trap but though Owusu side-stepped Grof, he blasted over from ten yards under pressure from three Mansfield defenders.

Not long after the hour mark, Briscoe won a Mansfield corner that was headed wide of the left-hand post by Sandwith from Nix's delivery.

Grof did well to punch the ball away from Gnakpa as he took the ball down on his chest and was shaping to shoot.

But while Luton were having most of the pressure, Mansfield still threatened occasionally and Smith was only fractionally wide of the right-hand upright with a thumping, low drive.

The match took a new twist with 11 minutes to go as Gnakpa was sent off for a second bookable offence after scything down Dan Spence.

And Mansfield were given another huge boost when Lawless was also dismissed after crunching straight through the back of Nix.

Unfortunately for the Stags, though, it came at a cost as Nix had to go off injured, replaced by Steven Istead.

Five minutes of added time were added, but Mansfield could not make it count.

Despite being two men down, Luton started extra-time well as substitute Jason Walker flashed just past the left-hand upright.

With the home crowd doing their best to lift their side, Mitchley overran the ball as he looked to turn, while Briscoe could not divert Spence's cross on target.

The Stags winger then headed just over the top from a right-wing corner before, from another flag-kick, Sandwith headed down but just out of the reach of Naylor as he looked to apply the finishing touch from close range.

As the game moved into the second period of extra-time, the decibel level from the stands moved up several notches.

But it was Mansfield, understandably, who were on the front foot, only for Briscoe to curl off target.

Naylor was the next to try his luck from distance and though it had to be saved, Pilkington was equal to it.

Mansfield had claims for a penalty waved away when Mitchley went down under Walker's challenge.

With time running out, Sandwith was only a whisker away with a free-kick from right on the edge of the area.

Then with just two minutes to go, Mansfield were awarded a penalty when Briscoe's shot struck a Luton hand.

The same player stepped up to take the spot kick and though his effort was saved by former team-mate Pilkington, he followed up to force home the rebound.

There were two minutes of stoppage time to see out, but Mansfield held on comfortably to spark wild celebrations from players, management and fans alike


Wembley's the word as Stags book their place in FA Trophy final
Evening Post considered report by Matt Halfpenny

THERE'S a certain seven letter word that Mansfield Town fans are never going to tire of hearing over the next seven weeks. Guesses, anyone?


It's fair to say that following the Stags in recent years has not been much fun.

Relegated from the Football League and with little sign so far of returning to that promised land, the club have this season been threatened with eviction off their long-term Field Mill home in an ongoing battle with former chairman Keith Haslam.

But after all their suffering and frustration, the loyal band of supporters who continue to don the amber and blue week in, week out, finally have a significant, hugely-precious and tangible reward – a Wembley visit.

That prize was secured on an appropriately sunny March day in Bedfordshire over the weekend, and sparked memorable scenes that spoke volumes of just how much hurt was swept aside.

Much of the credit goes to manager Duncan Russell, his staff and their players – and they deserved the grins hugs, hand slaps and high fives as they cavorted around on the pitch.

But this was truly an occasion for the supporters who revelled in the prospect of a first trip to the national stadium since Kevin Hitchcock, Bristol City and all that in the Freight Rover Trophy final of 1987.

There were some who thought Mansfield may never play at Wembley again. Even for those who never gave up hope, 24 years is still long enough.

The Stags have endured an undoubtedly disappointing Blue Square Bet Premier campaign where they will, most likely, finish in mid-table.

Yet this occasion, especially should they go on to win it, could be the springboard to put them back on the right road, especially if chairman John Radford can wrestle back control of the ground.

Not for one minute should anyone think that Mansfield did things the easy way at Kenilworth Road – they never do.

What those in attendance saw was a riveting, rip-roaring and nerve-wracking clash that kept all and sundry gripped from first to last.

Leading 1-0 through Danny Mitchley's first-leg strike, the Stags still went in as underdogs against a Luton side who had scored 45 goals in 18 games on their home patch and lost just twice all season.

Previous form for the visitors was not particularly encouraging either, having lost 2-0 in the league in September with Steve Foster sent off and 4-1 the previous season when Scott Gardner saw red.

But in a volatile atmosphere, it was ultimately the Hatters who lost their discipline and, with it, the tie.

It has to be said that Mansfield were fortunate not to be two or three goals down before they got going.

Lloyd Owusu missed his kick with the goal gaping and struck the inside of the post, while Luke Graham had a close-range header tipped onto the bar by Grof. Not only that, but Ashley Cain was forced off with an injury, meaning the Stags had to re-jig early. Eventual match-winner Louis Briscoe switched to the right and Adam Smith operated on the left flank.

Suddenly, though, the away side found their feet and in the lead up to half time should have gone at least one goal ahead.

Mitchley raced clear only to chip into the arms of Pilkington when a square pass would have meant a tap-in for strike partner Paul Connor.

Then, the superb Tom Naylor was denied at close quarters by Pilkington and Connor dragged the rebound wide.

And another chance came and went when Connor's pinpoint flick on saw Mitchley volley inches wide.

Fears such profligacy might prove costly seemed to be confirmed when Owusu fired Luton in front just 45 seconds after the restart with a volley from the edge of the box.

But Luton self-destructed. Claude Gnakpa needlessly picked up a second booking for a late tackle on Dan Spence while Alex Lawless also saw red after he thumped through the back of Kyle Nix with a challenge that knocked the midfielder unconscious.

On the face of it, with a two-man numerical advantage, it should have been a simple task for the Stags to secure their passage in extra-time.

But roared on by a passionate, partisan home following, Richard Money's battlers were never going to roll over and surrender as they bid to hold out for penalties.

But then came the moment. Briscoe's shot appeared to strike Graham on the hand and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Taking the kick himself, the winger's shot to Pilkington's left was well saved by the man who was playing in goal for the Stags on loan as recently as January.

However, the ball broke kindly for Briscoe and he kept his cool to force home from close range.

It left Luton with little hope, or time, of redeeming the situation and the full-time whistle heralded the onset of Mansfield pandemonium.

After the bedlam had died down, Russell reflected that he was suffering a splitting headache from motioning to head the ball when Connor went up for a challenge and instead bashed his head on the dug-out.

You suspect he was just one of many with that particular condition come yesterday morning

Match facts: Luton Town v Mansfield Town
Luton: K. Pilkington, Graham, G. Pilkington, Kroca, Howells, Keane, Lawless, Gnakpa, Newton (Walker 69), Barnes-Homer (Morgan-Smith 112), Owusu (Crow 77). Subs not used: Tyler, Poku.

Mansfield: Grof, Silk, Naylor, Sandwith, Spence, Cain (Smith 22), Thompson, Nix (Istead 80), Briscoe, Connor, Mitchley. Subs not used: Marriott, Foster, Stonehouse.

Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).

Attendance: 6,133 (912 visitors).

Goals: Luton: Owusu (46). Mansfield: Briscoe (118).

Shots on target: Luton 3 Mansfield 7.

Shots off target: Luton 7 Mansfield 11.

Fouls: Luton 17 Mansfield 14.

Corners: Luton 3 Mansfield 9.

Offsides: Luton 5 Mansfield 1.

Bookings: Luton 3 (Gnakpa, 24 and 79, fouls; Graham, 57, foul on Smith) Mansfield.

Sendings off: Luton 2 (Gnakpa, two bookings; Lawless, serious foul play) Mansfield 0.

Mansfield's man of the match: Tom Naylor. An absolutely monumental display from the teenage central defender, who frustrated Luton time and time again with his pace off the mark, aerial prowess, ability to read the game and capable distribution. Has a very bright future in the game if he continues his current rate of progress


Tigerish Town robbed by calamitous official
dunstabletoday.co.uk report

FA Trophy, semi-final second leg
Luton Town 1 (0) Mansfield Town 1 (0) aet (agg 1-2)

WEMBLEY-BOUND Stags stole through to the final of the FA Trophy with a late equaliser – and tie winner - at a sun-drenched Kenilworth Road this afternoon, writes Mark Wood.


Nine-man Town played with passion and pride as they put in a valiant performance but were left to curse a calamitous refereeing performance from Graham Scott.

Not only did the official send off two Luton players late in normal time but he also awarded Mansfield a dubious penalty at the death in extra-time, which Louis Briscoe netted at the second attempt after former Mansfield favourite Kevin Pilkington had brilliantly saved his initial spot-kick.

The Hatters created all of the chances in normal time and levelled the tie through Lloyd Owusu's fine strike at the start of the second half.

But a second visit to Wembley in two years wasn't to be for Town's vocal faithful as Claude Gnakpa was dismissed for a second yellow card on 84 minutes and was closely followed by Alex Lawless who received a harsh straight red for a challenge through the back of Kyle Nix.

And despite a super rearguard action from the Hatters the Stags were gifted a late winner to book their place in a Wembley final for the first time in 24 years.

Town made four changes to the team that laboured to a goalless draw at Cambridge United in the league on Tuesday night.

With Paul Carden and Robbie Willmott cup tied, Mark Tyler and Danny Crow also dropped to the bench as in came keeper Kevin Pilkington, midfielder Alex Lawless and Gnakpa and striker Matthew Barnes-Homer.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg the Hatters watered the still largely bald pitch before kick off to give it some added zip.

Good work from Barnes-Homer and Gnakpa in the opening seconds created a chance for Adam Newton, but having turned his man he could only fire wide.

A brilliant turn by Barnes-Homer saw him surge forward but his through ball didn't run kindly for Owusu and Mansfield were able to clear.

The Stags looked to get forward at every opportunity with Tyrone Thompson's curler being well fielded by Kevin Pilkington.

In an open start the Town went close again on 12 minutes. Lawless whipped in a teasing free-kick and as the combination of Zdenek Kroca and Luke Graham the keeper appeared to get a touch as the ball rebounded off a defender and Mansfield were able to clear.

Barnes-Homer was just unable to connect with an Owusu knockdown before the pair reversed roles and Owusu just couldn't get on the end of Barnes-Homer's cross.

A great chance then went begging on 19 minutes as Owusu again fluffed lines. Barnes-Homer raced on to Lawless' first time pass and pull-back picked out Owusu but he miskicked with the goal gaping.

Town began to turn the screw and were twice desperately unlucky no to level the tie on 27 minutes. First Owusu somehow squeezed out a shot in a crowded penalty that beat David Grof but hit the left-hand upright and span agonisingly across the face of goal before Mansfield cleared.

Gnakpa then unleashed a thunderbolt that was well beaten away by Grof before Danny Mitchley raced clear at the other end but lost all his composure and chipped tamely into the grateful arms of Kevin Pilkington.

But the Stags always looked dangerous and they almost broke the deadlock in this encounter on 33 minutes from their first corner.

Kevin Sandwith's near-post header ran across the face of goal and Tom Naylor's close range strike was blocked by a mass of Luton bodies with Paul Connor stabbing the rebound woefully wide.

Connor then produced lovely knockdown for Mitchley seven minutes before the break and the lively striker's effort flash just wide.

It took the Hatters just 50 seconds to level after the break. Owusu did well to control a defensive header on the edge of the area before unleashing an unstoppable drive past the despairing dive of Grof.

Owusu then spurned another glorious opportunity to give the Hatters lead in the tie for the first time. Gnakpa's reverse pass completely sold the Stags defence leaving Owusu with just Grof to beat. The experienced hitman tried to go round him and somehow contrived to lift his shot over the bar. A flailing elbow from Gary Silk seemed to catch Owusu in the face on 68 minutes although nothing was give and the Hatters made their first change moments later, bringing on Jason Walker for Newton.

With the game so evenly poised both sets of supporters were nervy and hearts were in the mouth for Hatters when Adam Smith flashed just wide on 71 minutes.

More fresh legs came in the form of Crow who replaced Owusu 77 on minutes, before disaster struck on with six minutes to go when Gnakpa slid in for a terrible challenge on Dan Spence. The referee was left with little alternative but to send the Frenchman off for his second booking, although manager Richard Money was left to curse the fourth official for not allowing him to have subbed him off in place of Amari Morgan-Smith seconds earlier.

An acrobatic Tom Naylor effort then dipped just over the bar with five minutes to go before things went from bad to worse with just a minute to go. Lawless challenged forcefully with his shoulder through the back of Nix and referee Scott raced to the scene and harshly brandished a straight red card to leave Luton with just nine men.

Five minutes of injury time were added but a winner couldn't be found as the game went into extra-time.

And Town almost did the unthinkable and took the lead but Walker's effort in the second minute went just wide.

Briscoe saw a header from a corner dip just over in the 102nd minute as brave Town defended deep while another Sandwith header drifted across the face of goal. Connor then rolled a shot straight at Kevin Pilkington deep into the first half of extra-time.

Briscoe curled wide on 108 minutes and Naylor thumped a fine effort straight at Kevin Pilkington two minutes later as Mansfield searched for a winner.

Graham produced a brilliant block to deny Briscoe before Mitchley dived to try and win a penalty but neither booking or a penalty was forthcoming.

A dangerous free-kick on the edge of the Luton area was curled just wide by Sandwith with six minutes to go and Smith blazed a long-ranger well over as valiant Town defended like tigers before referee Scott gifted the Stags victory with just two minutes to go.

George Pilkington flung himself into another block and Scott was the only person in the ground to believe he handled it on the way and pointed to the spot, much to the astonishment of the home crowd.

Briscoe fired the penalty high to the left but Kevin Pilkington threw himself to his right to produce a magnificent save but the ball popped back out and Briscoe was first to it to stab home.

Nine-man Town desperately poured forward to try and grab a winner, even slinging Kevin Pilkington into the box at one point, but it wasn't to be.

Ugly scenes greeted the end with a stand-off between Stags directors and Luton fans in the main stand while a scarf and other small objects rained down on the referee as he was ushered off by the stewards.

Hatters: Kevin Pilkington, Keith Keane, Luke Graham, George Pilkington (C), Adam Newton (Jason Walker 69), Matthew Barnes-Homer (Amari Morgan-Smith 112), Zdenek Kroca, Alex Lawless, Jake Howells, Claude Gnakpa, Lloyd Owusu (Danny Crow 77). Substitutes not used: Mark Tyler, Godfrey Poku.

Stags: David Grof, Gary Silk, Kevin Sandwith, Louis Briscoe, Tyrone Thompson (C), Kyle Nix (Steven Istead 90+2), Tom Naylor, Dan Spence, Paul Connor, Ashley Cain (Adam Smith 23), Danny Mitchley. Substitutes not used: Alan Marriott, Stephen Foster, Paul Stonehouse.

Bookings: Gnakpa 24; Graham 57; Gnakpa 84; Walker 118; Crow 119.

Sent off: Gnakpa 84; Lawless 89.

Referee: G Scott.

Assistant referees: D Treleaven and A Gillett.

Fourth official: C Knowles.

Attendance: 6,133 (Mansfield 912).

Star Hatter: Keithe Keane. Tiger in the middle, looked like the Keane of old



Latest | March 2011