Mansfield Town succumbed to a narrow 2-1 defeat to Burton Albion on an eventful afternoon at One Call Stadium.
Matt Rhead’s second half header wasn’t enough for the Stags, as earlier goals from Alex MacDonald and Callum McFadzean wrapped up all three points for the Brewers, who were reduced to 10 men when Robbie Weir was red carded late on.
Boss Paul Cox made no fewer than five changes to the side that lost to Dagenham & Redbridge last time out, with on-loan Nottingham Forest ‘keeper Dimitar Evtimov replacing Sascha Studer to make his competitive debut for the club.
The Last Post was performed prior to kick-off in honour of fallen servicemen from World War One and was immaculately observed by everyone inside One Call Stadium. A minutes’ applause was also held in honour of former Stags’ player Paul Aldread who unfortunately passed away recently, along with life-long Stags fans, Roy Palmer and Harold Calvert.
The first chance of the game came in the eighth minute when Ritchie Sutton’s header from the centre circle found Ollie Palmer whose delicate lay-off found Sam Clucas who had a touch before hitting a left-footed shot which sailed over the crossbar.
Stags’ started to take the initiative in the opening ten minutes and looked lively on the break. Rob Taylor saw his cross from the left blocked by Phil Edwards which brought along the first corner of the game. Murray’s ball was punched clear by Jon McLaughlin only as far as Taylor who hooked the ball back in to the box, and Ollie Palmer headed the ball towards Matt Rhead but McLaughlin did well to get there before the frontman and clear the ball out for a throw-in.
Mansfield continued to press and Lee Beevers found himself with a golden opportunity to take the lead. Beevers surged in to the box after beating Burton left-back George Taft but could only balloon his shot over the bar.
The Brewers only had one chance of note in the first 25 minutes as Alex MacDonald blasted over Dimitar Evtimov’s bar after the ball fell to him from Callum McFadzean’s free-kick from the right-hand side.
The Staffordshire side thought they’d taken the lead when Beavon’s shot was blocked and the ball fell to MacDonald who swept the ball in to the goal only to see the flag up for offside.
After breaking up Burton’s attack, Rob Taylor set Sam Clucas free down the left who went on to beat four players before poking the ball out of play under pressure from the Burton defence.
The Stags continued to look the better of the two sides and Ollie Palmer had another great chance to put the home side ahead. Rhead slotted a ball through to Palmer, who beat the offside trap before bursting in to the area and seeing his low shot saved by the on-rushing McLaughlin.
As the half wore on, the Brewers continued to find it difficult to break down the Stags defence and Ollie Palmer kept causing problems at the other end with his pace and strength.
The game became scrappy in the final ten minutes of the half, before Burton took a somewhat undeserved lead three minutes before the break. Alex McDonald cut in from the left and shooting from the edge of the area. McDonald’s shot took a huge deflection off Ritchie Sutton, giving Evtimov no chance whatsoever.
Mansfield immediately tried to hit back but their efforts were cut short as Darren Drysdale brought the half to a close and Burton went in to the break 1-0 ahead.
The first five minutes of the second half saw neither side being able to take control of the game, with possession being changed hands frequently.
Rob Taylor provided the first shot of the half when Dimitar Evtimov’s long free-kick was headed down by Matt Rhead to Taylor whose shot with the outside of his left foot flew just inches wide of Jon McLaughlin’s left-hand post.
The Stags continued to threaten Albion’s lead as Lee Beevers’ long throw was flicked on by Ryan Tafazolli to Ollie Palmer who cushioned the ball down to Taylor on the edge of the box who couldn’t keep his half-volley down as it flew over the Burton crossbar.
As they were all day, Stags were the better side as the hour mark approached. Matt Rhead was fouled near half-way and skipper Adam Murray floated the resulting free-kick towards the head of Rhead who could only direct the ball in to the side netting.
Clucas then had another chance for the Stags as Ollie Palmer thread the ball through two Burton defenders but the winger scuffed his shot wide of the goal.
Paul Cox made the first change of the game in the 62nd minute when Alex Fisher came on to replace Ollie Palmer, who played well.
The chances kept coming for the Stags as Ritchie Sutton’s high cross was met by Rhead who got there before McLaughlin but could only send his looping header on to the roof of the net.
Burton punished the Stags for failing to make the most of their dominance, when the visitors doubled their lead. Beavon went through on goal after being played in by John Mousinho. Martin Riley produced a fantastic sliding tackle but the ball fell to Callum McFadzean who rolled the ball in to an empty net.
The Stags immediately got themselves back in to the game in the 75th minute. Adam Murray took a straight free kick from the half-way line which found the head of Matt Rhead who flicked the ball past McLaughlin as the keeper came to claim the ball but got nowhere near it.
Mansfield gaffer Paul Cox made his second substitution of the day in the 76th minute as Fergus Bell replaced Rob Taylor and Burton Albion brought on Marcus Harness in place of Stuart Beavon.
Alex MacDonald almost wrapped up all three points for the Brewers as he hit a shot from thirty yards which thundered against the Mansfield crossbar.
Burton were forced to play the last few minutes with only 10 men as Robbie Weir was shown a straight red card following a coming together with Jamie McGuire.
The final changes of the afternoon saw Lee Bell come on for the Brewers in place of goal-scorer Callum McFadzean and Simon Heslop replacing Lee Beevers for the Stags.
As the game sparked in to life following the red card, the referee indicated there would be a minimum of seven minutes added time as the Stags searched for an equaliser.
Mansfield were pumping plenty of long balls towards target-man Rhead, but couldn’t break down the Burton defence who continued to withstand the heavy pressure that the Stags forced upon them.
Another fracas occurred in the 96th minute of injury-time after Martin Riley collided with Albion goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin. Riley was then confronted by a number of Burton defenders but the referee decided against showing anymore cards.
Burton eventually held on to leave One Call Stadium with all three points.
Attendance: 2,966 (508 away supporters).