Mansfield Town put up a gallant effort as they came from behind to record a valuable point in a 1-1 draw with Cheltenham Town at Whaddon Road.
The home side opened the scoring early in the second half when a Wes Burns strike managed to evade Lenny Pidgeley, but the Stags equalised midway through the second half as Billy Kee got on the end of a Chris Clements through ball, before firing his shot home.
As a result, Mansfield are now 11 points clear of the Sky Bet League Two relegation zone with 11 matches of the season remaining.
In this important match, four changes were made to the Stags starting line-up as midfielder Ricky Ravenhill, winger Reggie Lambe, striker Vadaine Oliver and goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley all returned to the team.
Both teams attempted to find their feet in the early stages. The Robins attempted to make inroads into the Mansfield penalty area in the first 10 minutes after a surging run forward by Craig Braham-Barrett on the left side of the field was dealt with my the Stags defence.
The visitors looked to create a chance of their own in the 12th minute as Oliver burst past the Cheltenham defence and into the penalty area. He attempted to square the ball to Chris Clements on the edge of the box, but the ball was unable to make its way through to the midfielder.
After the first 20 minutes, both teams continued to defend solidly with a valuable three points on the line. Mansfield had a sight on goal when left-back Callum Elder beat his man on the left-hand side of the penalty area. He advanced dangerously looking for support from his team-mates, but the Australian took one touch too many and the ball was cleared by the Robins’ defence.
Shortly after, Cheltenham won themselves a corner. Matt Sparrow sent his set piece low and hard towards the heavy traffic in the penalty area. Pidgeley charged forward and got ahead of his opponents to eliminate any chance of a Robins player getting a shot on goal.
Adam Murray’s side created one of their best opportunities in the 28th minute when winger Junior Brown got on the end of a superb cross from Lee Beevers from the right side and smashed his header against the crossbar. The follow-up shot from inside the penalty area by Clements could only be cleared into the path of midfielder Simon Heslop, who had a close-range shot blocked by Troy Brown.
The home side created a good chance for themselves when Troy Brown managed to get his right-footed shot from the left side of the field on target. The midfielder’s shot tested Pidgeley, but the Stags custodian was equal to it getting fingertips to the ball and sending it over the crossbar.
With five minutes remaining in the first half, Elder conceded possession on the left side of the field which allowed winger Wes Burns to complete a fine solo effort. He decided to make his way in-field and unleashed his shot from just outside the penalty area but was unable to get the connection he would have liked and the ball went comfortably into the arms of Pidgeley.
The Stags had one final opportunity as the first half drew to a close. Robins’ keeper Trevor Carson dealt with Ryan Tafazolli’s looping header at the back post comfortably and both sides went into half-time with the scores locked at 0-0.
Just two minutes after the interval, Cheltenham went 1-0 up as Burns received the ball and was afforded space to turn in the penalty area. He fired his accurate shot along the ground, which managed to evade Pidgeley and nestle in the back of net.
Three minutes later, hearts were in the mouths of the home fans when Heslop narrowly failed to replicate his set piece heroics from previous matches as he curled his free-kick just wide of the right post.
Stags’ boss Adam Murray looked to add further impetus in the final third as he bought on striker Billy Kee in place of Heslop.
Sparrow received the first yellow card of the match as he committed a reckless challenge on Clements.
On the hour mark, Braham-Barrett looked to use his skill to evade the Stags defence. He managed to make his way into the penalty area and was able to cut inside multiple defenders on the right side of the box before his attempted cross was deflected behind for a corner by Tafazolli.
Mansfield made another attacking substitution in the 64th minute when Junior Brown made way for Jeffrey Monakana.
Midway through the second half, the visitors had a great chance when Kee fired his shot over the crossbar from 12 yards.
The striker would have no such lack of fortune moments later as he capped off a wonderfully crafted move in the final third. Kee managed to get on the end of a Clements through ball and his composed finish found the back of the net and equalised for the Stags.
With the match locked at 1-1, the Stags had an opportunity to take the lead through a free kick in a promising position. Clements stepped up to take the set piece and whilst he managed to get his effort over the wall, Carson was waiting on the goal line and claimed comfortably.
The Robins had an opportunity of their own in the 81st minute as Burns received possession on the edge of the penalty area but flashed his effort wide of Pidgeley’s right-hand post. This would prove to be Burns’ final action of the match as he was substituted for Eliot Richards.
The Stags breathed a sigh of relief in the 84th minute when Vaughan’s cross caused havoc in the penalty area. The ball evaded everyone in the box and Beevers managed to clear the ball away from danger in the end.
Despite the best efforts of both teams, no further goals were added to the tally and the Stags were able to go away from Whaddon Road with a valuable point.
Attendance: 2,597 (283 away supporters).