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17:03 22nd September 2012
By  Andrew Webb

Stags earn point at Telford

Mansfield Town recorded their first draw of the Blue Square Bet Premier season after an entertaining encounter against AFC Telford United at New Bucks Head.

Lee Beevers put the Stags in control with a bizarre opener on 11 minutes, before an unfortunate Ryan Tafazolli turned the ball into his own net as Telford equalised moments later.

Richard Davies struck shortly after the half-hour mark to fire the Bucks ahead, but Jake Speight recorded his fifth goal of the campaign from the penalty spot to earn Mansfield a precious point. 

On a glorious afternoon in Shropshire, both teams carved out goal scoring opportunities inside the opening few minutes.

Steven Leslie whistled a speculative 35-yard drive over the woodwork as the hosts carved out the first chance at one end, whilst Speight was off-target with his shot at the opposite, after he reached the end of a superb long throw from Exodus Geohaghon.

Both teams attacked with venom in the early stages and Telford soon created another good opportunity.

Kieron St Aimee picked up possession in the middle of the park and set about on a driving run through the middle, yet despite team-mates being unmarked either side of him, the striker somewhat selfishly chose to power a low effort straight at Stags shot-stopper Alan Marriott. 

Mansfield then scored the opening goal in somewhat bizarre fashion.

Lee Stevenson played the ball out towards Beevers on the right-flank with a quickly taken free-kick, after powerhouse striker Matt Rhead had been fouled by Jordan Rose midway inside the Bucks’ half. After taking a touch, Beevers looked up and delivered a fine cross towards the back-post, which inadvertently found the net, via the woodwork.

However, the lead didn’t last long as St Aimee atoned for his earlier error by helping to force an equaliser.

James Spray whipped a low cross towards the near-post from left flank and with St Aimee lurking dangerously on the shoulder of Tafazolli, the Stags centre-back swung a leg at the ball and inadvertently turned it into the net and beyond the desperate dive of Marriott.

After such a frantic opening, the game soon developed into a tactical midfield tussle. The Stags were forced to soak up a vast amount of Telford possession, but nevertheless appeared lively on the counter-attack with Speight and Stevenson in particular looking dangerous.

Speight angled a shot wide of the target from the cusp of the six-yard box on 28 minutes after a good cross from Junior Daniel, prior to Steve Jones scuffing an effort straight into the arms of Marriott as Telford enjoyed an opportunity of their own on the half-hour mark.

The Bucks, who played some lovely one-touch passing football throughout the game, then went ahead on 34 minutes. 

St Aimee showed some good footwork to peel away from his marker on the right flank, and played a simple pass into the path of Davies. Stationed on the edge of the area, Davies took a touch to set his body, before he arrowed a low shot through the legs of Ritchie Sutton and into the bottom right-hand corner.

However, Telford’s delight soon turned to despair as they were hit with a double sucker-punch.

Liam Chilvers unnecessarily pulled Jake Speight to the floor inside the area, a result of which saw a penalty awarded to Mansfield and the Bucks full-back receive a straight red card for the offence.

Subsequent protests of innocence led to a long delay before the resulting spot-kick was taken, but when it was, Speight retained his composure and coolly slotted into the bottom left-hand corner, with shot-stopper Ryan Young diving in the opposite direction.

Despite a numerical advantage in players, Mansfield would have fallen behind for a second time prior to the interval, had it not been for a superb piece of goalkeeping from Marriott.

The Stags shot-stopper expertly re-adjusted his body in order to parry a powerful 20-yard shot from Leslie, which had caught a wicked deflection, before then denying Jones in equally superb fashion with the subsequent rebound.

Despite Telford boss Andy Sinton confronting referee Brett Huxtable at the start of the second period, the Bucks looked somewhat refreshed after the re-start and continued to play their unique brand of free-flowing football.

St Aimee scuffed a tame effort straight at Marriott in one attack, and the veteran shot-stopper had to race from his line moments later in order to prevent Jones from latching on to a threaded through ball from Phil Trainer.

Stags boss Paul Cox opted to make a double substitution close to the hour-mark, as Anthony Howell and Lindon Meikle replaced Matt Rhead and Lee Stevenson respectively.

And both substitutes came close to finding the target within minutes of their introduction.

Firstly, Howell lashed a vicious 25-yard strike narrowly over the woodwork, which was only a few moments prior to Meikle seeing his shot from the angle of the box agonisingly ripple the side-netting, after it had took a wicked deflection that looked to have left Young flat-footed.

From the resulting corner, Chris Clements volleyed straight into the arms of the keeper as Mansfield continued their desperate search to find a winning goal.

An unmarked Adam Murray came within inches of finding that winner on 77 minutes, when he almost connected to a low ball inside the six-yard box after some good work from Louis Briscoe, whilst Clements and Howell also arrowed separate opportunities wide of the target as the game approached its conclusion.

Ultimately, however, the hosts remained robust and also survived a series of Geohaghon throws in the closing minutes to record a precious point and deny Mansfield what would have been a deserved victory.

Attendance: 1,736