IMPRESSIVE STAGS BEATEN BY WONDER GOAL IN JPT
Johnstone's Paint Trophy Northern Section Quarter Final
Darlington 1 - 0 Mansfield Town
Attendance: 2059 (131 from Mansfield)
Darlington 1-0 Mansfield
Substitute Martin Smith smashed in a superb 30-yard shot to send Darlington into the Northern area semi-finals of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
Smith volleyed in the winner with 15 minutes left to make it nine games unbeaten for the Quakers.
Neil Wainwright went close for the home side in the first half but his shot came back off the post.
Simon Brown had the visitors' best chance but his shot was well saved by keeper Sam Russell.
Stags slip out of JPT by a single goal
A SPECTULAR long range blast from Darlington substitute Martin Smith 15 minutes from time ended Mansfield Town's hopes of a place in the JPT Northern semi-finals at the 96.9 TFM Arena last night.
But the hardy 131 travelling Stags fans who braved the cold and long midweek journey up to the North-East at least saw a lively and determined display from their side after the dire display at Rochdale on Saturday.
It was an excellent game with chances at both ends and youngster Nathan Arnold sparkling for the visitors.
But the tie was won by a moment of magic as the experienced Smith produced a screaming missile of a finish worthy of winning any game of football.
Shirtliff made six changes to the side beaten at Rochdale. Richie Barker (groin) and John Mullins (ribs) sat it out with knocks, Coke, Hamshaw and Reet dropped down to the bench and Gareth Jelleyman was rested.
Charlton returned from injury at left back, Buxton was in at right back, Beardsley - hero of the last round - partnered Brown up front, Lloyd was in central midfield and Arnold was wide on the right.
Darlington wasted a gilt-edged chance to grab a third minute lead after some shocking Mansfield marking.
Wainwright got in a cross from the right perfectly onto the head of an unmarked Conlon who somehow put the free header wide from just six yards.
On nine minutes Muggleton was into urgent action, keeping out Joachim's finish with his knees after the former Aston Villa star had latched onto a cutting through ball.
The Quakers threatened again as Stags failed to clear a long Wainwright throw from the right corner flag and the ball came to Cummins who dipped a hurried shot over the bar.
Mansfield had their first opening on 14 minutes as Beardsley's flick from D'Laryea's pass gave Arnold sight of goal only to blast it low past the far post.
Wainwright won a tackle with Charlton to try to burst clear for the home side and, despite the close attentions of John-Baptiste managed to eventually get away a shot from a tight angle which flew into the side netting.
Brown was booked for sliding in on Cummins on 18 minutes.
But Mansfield had survived those early scares and were now starting to play some neat football of their own.
Lloyd almost found a way through from Brown's flick but was robbed by a tackle which might have been a spot kick had he tumbled. But he tried to keep his feet and had to be content with a corner.
Beardsley was felled just outside the box which saw Boulding send his free kick into the wall. The ball broke for Beardsley who saw a low shot deflect wide. And when the corner was cleared to Lloyd he lobbed it tamely into the arms of Russell.
Darlington broke quickly and Joachim won a challenge with Hjelde to release Conlon down the centre. John-Baptiste was across to get in a decisive challenge which left the home side shouting hopefully for a penalty.
There were chances at both ends within a minute as first Brown shot fiercely at Russell from Boulding's incisive pass and then Conlon's header was clutched by Muggleton from James' deep cross as the action swung from end to end.
After a shaky start it had been a much-improved showing from Mansfield, but the half ended goalless.
The second half also began with chances at both ends. A low Logan cross found Joachim in the box, Hjelde got in the way of his shot and there was a big appeal for handball as the ball struck his fallen body.
Stags broke and Russell was in the way of a low Boulding shot.
Straight away Cummins released Joachim down the centre and he blasted low and narrowly wide from 20 yards.
Back roared Stags and Boulding couldn't get a finish onto a low Arnold cross but flicked it to Beardsley who, from three yards, saw a defender's leg stretch out to deny him with a block.
There was a frantic scramble in the Stags box on 57 minujtes which ended with Muggleton holding onto Joachim's low effort from a very tight angle on the right.
A thrilling run from Wainwright saw him skip past John-Baptiste and Charlton before seeing Buxton kick away his low finish for a corner. When that came over James sent a header over the top.
Darlington made a double swap on 63 minutes as Conlon and Logan were replaced by Armstrong and Smith respectively. Stags responded by throwing Rory Boulding into the action in place of Brown.
The visitors began to probe strongly and won two more corners and only a desperate foul on Beardsley prevented him going clear.
Johnson came on for Joachim for the last 18 minutes. But the deadlock was broken in spectacular fashion on 75 minutes by Quakers sub Smith. He looked up from almost 35 yards and unleashed a left footed rocket that zipped into the top left corner to give Muggleton no chance.
Russell was well placed to grab Buxton's header from yet another Arnold corner, and then Mansfield decided to introduce Reet for Beardsley while Wood was given a rare outing in place of Lloyd.
But Darlington hung on as Michael Boulding's stoppage time corner was headed over by John-Baptiste with Muggleton also up there for the final desperate push.
DARLINGTON: Russell, Duke, James, Collins, Ngoma, Wainwright, Cummins, Joachim (Johnson 72), Conlon (Armstrong 63), Logan (Smith 63), Close. Subs not used: Stockdale, Clarke.
MANSFIELD: Muggleton, D'Laryea, Hjelde, John-Baptiste, Brown (R. Boulding 64), M. Boulding, Buxton, Beardsley (Reet 80), Arnold, Charlton, Lloyd (Wood 82). Subs not used: Coke, Hamshaw.
REFEREE: Clive Oliver of Northumberland.
GOALS: Darlington - Smith 75.
CAUTIONS: Stags - Brown 18 (Foul on Cummins)
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Nathan Arnold.
Evening Post report:
STAGS GET STUCK IN TO RESTORE THEIR PRIDE
The outcome may have been just the same, but, thankfully, that was the only obvious similarity between Mansfield's display last night and their much-criticised performance at Rochdale on Saturday.
By common consent, the Stags were awful losing 2-0 at Spotland and thoroughly deserved their public dressing down by manager Peter Shirtliff.
He was much happier with the showing at the in-form Quakers, despite a defeat that gave home boss Dave Penney his sixth consecutive win since taking charge.
Shirtliff said before the game that he was looking for a response, for his players to show some fight and spirit. That is exactly what he got.
It could be argued that Mansfield could not have got any worse and that may well be true. But, even so, the way his youthful side battled for every loose ball, went in fully committed for every tackle and ran their hearts out until the last second must have given Shirtliff belief that the Stags will soon shake off their poor form.
This Johnstone's Paints Trophy exit was a third straight defeat and a fourth in five games. But, on another day, the visitors might have come away with a result.
In fact, it took a wonder goal from substitute Martin Smith with a quarter of an hour left to tip the game in Darlington's favour and see them through to the northern section quarter-finals.
Until then, it would have been hard for the neutral to see which team was at the top of their game and which was struggling for confidence.
You only had to look at the difference in the reaction from the 131 brave souls from Mansfield to know that this was much, much better from the Stags.
The boos of Saturday were replaced by extended applause. Supporters appreciated the players' effort and made the journey back down the A1 safe in the knowledge that a considerable amount of pride had been restored.
The reaction of the players said a lot too. They were much more upbeat about things, though naturally disappointed.
Gone were the bowed heads and the near-silence. Back came the spring in the step and the dressing-room banter.
Even Penney admitted that Mansfield had caused his side plenty of problems and only three substitutions, including the introduction of Smith, had roused Darlington.
It all means that there will be one or two Mansfield players, who did not figure last night, who will be anxious to see the team sheet for the FA Cup second round tie against Doncaster on Saturday.
The likes of Asa Charlton, Jake Buxton, Callum Lloyd, Simon Brown, Chris Beardsley and Nathan Arnold, none of whom started on Saturday, all made meaningful contributions.
As a result, Giles Coke, Gareth Jelleyman, Matt Hamshaw, Danny Reet and Johnny Mullins are by no means sure of their places.
Skipper Richard Barker, who was rested with a slight groin strain, will no doubt return. But elsewhere, Shirtliff has some interesting selection choices to make.
Arnold, in particular, put in an eye-catching display. His pace caused problems down the right and he linked well with the strikers.
It was also encouraging to see Brown get just over an hour under his belt as he continues his search for full fitness. He, too, looked sharp and full of running.
Between them, they spurned Mansfield's best two opportunities of the first half. Arnold skewed his shot wide of the post after being set free by Beardsley's flick, and Brown shot straight at Sam Russell following Michael Boulding's slide-rule pass.
At the other end, Barry Conlon headed over, Julian Joachim's shot was well saved by Carl Muggleton and Neil Wainwright hit the right-hand post.
After the break, Boulding's control let him down at the vital moment when he seemed set to tap in and the Stags failed to make the most of some other good situations.
But just when the Quakers seemed to be running out of ideas, they made the breakthrough when Smith took aim from 35 yards and rifled an unstoppable left-foot shot into the top left-hand corner of Muggleton's goal.
It was a strike that deserved to win any game.
Doncaster, next up, will provide another tough challenge but at least Stags will be back on home turf, where they have played much of their best football this season.
It is the first of four matches before Christmas at Field Mill in which they have a real opportunity to get back on track.
On this showing, they have every chance of doing so.
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