Report: Carlisle 2-1 Mansfield
Mansfield Town succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at Carlisle United on a disappointing day at Brunton Park.
It was all going so well for Adam Murray’s team at the midway point as they led at the break courtesy of a header by Vadaine Oliver right on the stroke of the break.
However, two goals in nine minutes by Charlie Wyke and Kyle Dempsey, earned the U’s the points.
The Stags got proceedings underway on a mild afternoon in the Great Border City and immediately put their relegation-threatened counterparts under pressure.
Only 40 seconds or so had elapsed when Reggie Lambe picked up possession wide out on the right flank and delivered a teasing cross towards the back-post, where Vadaine Oliver got up high, but couldn’t direct his header goalwards under pressure.
After a tentative period of scrappy midfield play, the hosts enjoyed two corners in quick succession on 10 minutes, but didn’t carve out any danger as the Stags’ defence held firm and dealt with the pressure.
Mansfield then began to enjoy a sustained spell of possession and spent quite a few minutes inside Carlisle’s half of the pitch, but they didn’t really make any clear inroads.
Instead, it was Keith Curle’s side that went within a whisker of an opener on 18 minutes when a high ball dropped to Brad Potts on the right-hand side of the area. The youngster powerfully drilled the ball through the six-yard box and with the goal gaping, a full-stretch Steven Rigg tried to connect, but was unable to do so and Mansfield were let off the hook.
This led to a spell of pressure by the Cumbrians, who, courtesy of Rigg, had the ball in the back of the net on 23 minutes, but Rigg’s low drive from the edge of the area was ruled out because of an earlier foul.
The Stags went straight down to the other end and mustered up a half-chance as Reggie Lambe got the ball in a good position around 15-20 yards out, but his scruffy effort under pressure went harmlessly wide of Mark Gillespie’s right-hand post.
Arguably one of Carlisle’s best players was right-back Danny Grainger and the ex-Dunfermline Athletic let fly with a speculative 30-yard drive on the half-hour mark, which didn’t have any accuracy to trouble Stags’ keeper Adam Smith.
Grainger was a constant threat with his long-throws, but almost opened the scoring from a set-piece situation just a couple of minutes later.
The Scotsman delivered an inswinging free-kick in from the right which bounced up and caused all sorts of hesitancy in the visitors’ defence. No fewer than five players in a blue shirt were rushing in at the back-post for a seemingly easy tap-in, but nobody managed to get a touch and the ball went inches wide of the target.
It was a huge let off for Mansfield, who were determined to take full advantage of it.
The scrappy proceedings continued right up until the break with very little in the way of goalmouth action, other than a Simon Heslop free-kick straight at the ‘keeper, and a hit and hope attempt by Junior Brown which cleared the target.
However, with just seconds to go until the half-time whistle, the Stags made a breakthrough in fortuitous circumstances.
Blair looked offside as he fed a pass through to Lambe on the right, who picked out Oliver with a carbon copy of the cross in the first minute, but on this occasion the frontman got up high and got direction on his header, which clipped the inside of the post and beat a despondent Gillespie in the Carlisle goal.
The Cumbrians were clearly irked by the opening goal and bursts out of the traps in the second half – nearly forcing an equaliser within a couple of minutes.
After a corner from the right was bizarrely played towards the centre-circle, the resulting lofted ball into the area fell kindly for Dempsey, who unleashed a venomous drive that had to be parried away by Smith at his near-post.
Carlisle continued to attack and soon went close again. In a sweeping, quick, free-flowing move, Dempsey and Rigg linked up, before the latter threaded a low ball through towards Potts, whose rasping 20-yard drive narrowly went over.
The home crowd were shouting vociferously for a penalty on 56 minutes when Smith and U’s striker Charlie Wyke collided in an attempt to reach a loose ball inside the six-yard box.
The Cumbrians were incensed that a corner, as opposed to a penalty, was given by the referee – and from the subsequent flag-kick, Troy Archibald-Henville saw a tame header beyond the far post easily claimed by Smith.
Grainger then blazed a shot miles over the woodwork following a left-sided corner by Dempsey on 63 minutes, as the U’s remained frustrated in their search for an equaliser.
In the aftermath of that attack, Mansfield full-back Callum Elder required treatment for a knock and this resulted in the Stags having to play with just 10 men for a couple of minutes.
Whilst Elder was receiving treatment, Carlisle’s right-back Matt Young got forward and tried his luck with an audacious pot shot from distance, which didn’t ever look as if it would trouble Smith.
A minute later, Simon Heslop became the first player to go into the referee’s notebook.
As the game ticked past the midway point in the second period, Mansfield’s injury woes increased as although Elder was okay to continue, Blair went down under a tackle from Dempsey. In evident discomfort, the winger had to be stretchered off, with striker Billy Kee coming on to replace him.
Carlisle continued to press forward at frequent intervals and their pressure paid off on 72 minutes. Grainger’s free-kick into the area was flicked on by Archibald-Henville and Wyke was there to pounce – stabbing the ball home from three yards.
Shocked at having conceded an equaliser, the Stags began to attack and came within a whisker of re-taking the lead as Lambe burst into the box and played an inviting ball across the face of goal for Oliver, who simply mis-timed his connection and the chance came to pass in agonising fashion.
Mansfield’s woes were then increased on 79 minutes, as Carlisle struck on the counter-attack to double their lead.
David Amoo brought the ball forward and with two players advancing to the left of him, the substitute stretched the Stags’ defence and played a pass to Wyke inside the area, who opened up his body, turned and played the ball to Dempsey to slot home.
It was a body-blow for Adam Murray’s men, who tried in vain to get an equaliser in the closing stages, but the closest they came was a powerful header by Michael Raynes from a Lambe corner, which was palmed over by Gillespie.
During six minutes of added time, the Stags pressed Carlisle back and Lambe tried his luck with a curling 20-yard attempt, but that too was saved by Gillespie.