REPORT FROM CHELTENHAM SITES
Report from http://www.cheltenhamtownfc.com
Mansfield Town won the battle of the promotion favourites at Field Mill after a pulsating 90 minutes.
The Robins shaded the first half but Mansfield were the better side after the break and the win moves returns them to the position of favourites for the third automatic promotion spot.
This result was the first time Cheltenham had suffered back-to-back defeats since August and Mansfield became the first team to complete a League double over them.
Cheltenham made one enforced change to the team that lost 1-0 at Macclesfield Town on Saturday, loan signing Nathan Tyson replacing the suspended Julian Alsop in attack alongside Tony Naylor.
The game kick off in a tumultuous atmosphere but the proceedings got off to the worst possible start for the Robins.
Naylor was given a great chance after only three minutes when he raced clear of the defence with only goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington to beat, but he allowed the ball to run away from him and the Mansfield number one was able to force the ball clear.
The action switched almost immediately to the other end and Cheltenham conceded a foul wide on the right when Chris Greenacre was impeded. Former Blackburn and Leeds midfielder Scott Sellars floated the free-kick into the box, a header from Andy White rebounded off the post and Greenacre was on hand to thump his 28th goal of the season from close in.
Cheltenham had chances to draw level soon afterwards when Mark Yates headed just wide from a Lee Williams cross and Tyson skated onto a pass from Williams only to drag his shot well wide.
Next it was Mansfield's turn to attack with Steve Book diving to push aside a fierce volley from Craig Disley and White swivelling onto the resulting corner only to hook his effort high of the target.
There was no let up to the electric pace of the game as Cheltenham, undaunted by their early setback, foraged forward in search of an equaliser.
The travelling fans did not have too long to wait because it was in the 24th minute that Tyson, who had headed a cross from Naylor straight at Pilkington only moments before, was brought down to the left of the box by Stuart Reddington.
The former Chelsea defender was booked for the tackle and there was further punishment from the free-kick taken by Milton. Yates made another one of his well-timed runs to meet the set play and send a powerful header low into the Mansfield net.
Tyson very nearly earned another goal with a great piece of opportunism seven minutes before the break. He somehow managed to hook his leg around the ball and rob defender Martin Pemberton of possession mid-way inside his own half. Tyson exchanged passes with Naylor before rolling a shot past Pilkington and just wide of the target with Naylor only a short stretch away from making decisive contact.
Tyson's pace was causing the home defence all manner of problems. They were unable to settle on the ball for a moment and found themselves sitting further and further back. Mark Yates forced Pilkington to fall upon a long shot which he could not hold and Naylor followed up for the rebound but from an offside position.
Many people in the press box agreed that the first half was the best 45 minutes of third division football they had seen all season, the raucous atmosphere adding further weight to the occasion.
Mansfield boss Stuart Watkiss made a double substition at half-time. Both changes were like-for-like with left-back Pemberton giving way to the more experienced Allen Tankard and Lee Williamson replacing Disley in central midfield.
The changes almost had an immediate effect as Greenacre turned sharply onto a long throw from Tankard and flashed a shot across the face of goal only two minutes after the re-start.
Cheltenham found it difficult to recycle the ball from goal kicks in the absence of Alsop. Time and again long clearances from Steve Book were coming straight back to the Cheltenham defence, and on one occasion when Tyson went in to compete for a loose ball he got himself booked for a high challenge.
Suddenly the home crowd became agitated by a series of refereeing decisions, first among which was the waving of play-on when Adam Murray went down under a challenge from Jamie Victory on the edge of the box.
Cheltenham then won a free-kick just outside the Mansfield area but Russell Milton's deflected effort crept over the crossbar.
Mansfield were forced to replace the injured Greenacre with veteran former Irish international striker David Kelly 15 minutes from time, but it was the other experienced campaigner Sellers who almost conjured a goal when his 20-yard free-kick was pushed against the post by Book.
But the Stags kept pushing forward, Cheltenham found themselves unable to relieve the pressure and Field Mill exploded in the 77th minute with another goal for the home side.
Right-back Bobby Hassell slashed a loose ball across the area and White stretched out a leg to deflect the ball beyond Book's desperate dive.
Steve Cotterill responded by making a triple substitutionn but it was to no avail as Mansfield saw out the remaining minutes to claim the three points.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Pilkington; Hassell, Reddington, Barrett, Pemberton (Tankard 46); Sellars, Disley (Williamson 46), Murray, Corden; Greenacre (Kelly 74), White. Other subs: Bingham, Clarke
CHELTENHAM TOWN: Book; Howarth, Brough, M.Duff, Victory; Williams (Devaney 80), Yates, Finnigan, Milton (Lee 80); Tyson (Grayson 80), Naylor. Subs: Hill, Muggleton
REFEREE: C.H.Webster (Tyne and Wear)
ATTENDANCE: 8,643 (1,080 from Cheltenham)
Latest | April 2002