Clinical Mansfield Town progressed to the First Round of the FA Cup with Budweiser after a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Workington at Borough Park.
Two strikes from Jake Speight helped condemn the Blue Square Bet North outfit to defeat, though the hosts were left to rue some bad fortune and a series of missed chances.
On what was a warm afternoon in Cumbria, Gareth Arnison curled an early attempt into the arms of Shane Redmond, whilst Gary Roberts almost set Jake Speight free on goal with a near-perfect through ball at the other end.
The Stags registered their first chance on 10 minutes when Luke Jones headed wide from the edge of the six-yard box, before Speight drew a save from Reds shot-stopper Aaran Taylor moments later with a rasping low right-footed drive from the edge of the area.
Workington came within inches of an opener on the quarter-hour mark when Arnison played a simple pass through to strike-partner Jonny Wright midway inside the Mansfield half, who then looked up and hammered a shot towards goal that clipped the top of the crossbar.
Chances continued to flow and after Anthony Howell wildly blazed a shot over from close range, the hosts again struck the woodwork as Wright held off three defenders and unleashed a dangerous low 20-yard drive that caught the outside of Redmond’s left-hand post.
Skippered by the impressive Will Vaulks, the Reds continued to look dangerous and Redmond was again called into action when he expertly parried an inswinging free-kick from Mark Boyd, before denying David Hewson with the rebound attempt.
Arnison volleyed into the arms of the Stags keeper on the half-hour mark, but despite having been put under pressure for much of the first period, Mansfield went ahead on 33 minutes as Andy Todd’s speculative long ball forward found an unmarked Speight, who rounded the advancing Taylor and slotted into an empty net.
Luckless Workington were again denied by the angles moments prior to the interval as Arnison connected to Boyd’s back-post cross and saw his thunderous volley crash against the bar, with Wright only able to bundle the subsequent rebound across the face of the goal.
And Paul Cox’s troops soon breathed another huge sigh of relief when Junior Daniel, expertly stationed on the goal line, blocked a well-driven shot from Hewson which had looked destined to ripple the net and earn Workington what would have been a deserved equaliser.
The hosts continued to look dangerous in the second period, and moments after Roberts had screwed a free-kick wide of goal, Darren Edmondson’s side protested in vain for a spot-kick following Wright’s tumble to the ground inside the six-yard box under a challenge from Jones.
The Reds were again left frustrated on the hour mark as Niall Cowperthwaite’s dangerous low ball evaded everyone inside a crowded six-yard box, though just as Workington had begun to dictate the direction of play once more, a clinical move saw Mansfield double their advantage.
Substitutes Chris Clements and Ben Hutchinson combined in the centre, with the latter of the two laying a defence-splitting pass towards an unmarked Speight, who advanced goalwards and calmly tucked his shot beneath the body of a despondent Taylor.
Wright spurned two gilt-edge chances as Workington searched for a quick response, whilst lively substitute Joe Mwasile also came close with a powerful right-foot strike that forced Redmond into an excellent low save.
With the only five minutes left to play, the hosts were finally rewarded for their fighting spirit and endless determination as Redmond fouled Wright inside the area, which enabled Arnison to reduce arrears with a well-taken penalty and set up a grandstand finale.
And Workington’s hopes of a potentially fabulous fight-back, almost became a true reality in the closing few seconds of normal time.
Cowperthwaite floated a ball across goal from the right flank, which was met by an unmarked Vaulks at the back-post, but despite having time and space in abundance to do more, the Reds captain lacked composure and only managed to scuff his attempt straight at Redmond.
The Stags shot-stopper commanded his area with fabulous authority during three highly intense minutes of additional time and showed clean fists to claim two deep crosses into his area, as Mansfield managed to hold firm and book their place in tomorrow’s FA Cup with Budweiser First Round draw.