Rakish Bingham came off the bench to inspire Mansfield Town to a priceless 2-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon in Sky Bet League Two.
The striker capitalised on some hesitant Dons defending to slam home the winner three minutes from time and move the Stags up to 16th position in the table.
Lee Beevers had opened the scoring just shy of the hour mark, before AFC Wimbledon drew level thanks to George Francombe’s spot-kick.
However, Bingham popped up with a late match-winning strike, after the visitors had spurned some gilt-edge chances, to secure a priceless three points.
Stags’ boss Adam Murray made two changes to his starting line-up after Saturday’s loss to Bury. Midfielder Jamie McGuire replaced Ricky Ravenhill and also took the captain’s armband, whilst the other change saw striker Billy Kee get a chance to impress from the first whistle as he replaced midfielder Jack Thomas.
AFC Wimbledon’s goalkeeper Ross Worner was Neal Ardley’s preferred option with the gloves and featured in his first game of the season.
Kee had the first opportunity to break the deadlock in sixth minute after he evaded the Dons’ defence and got on the end of a 40-yard pass from McGuire. The striker’s initial attempt cannoned off the crossbar and fell to him on the rebound, but he was unable to get good contact on the header and it floated over the goal.
The match quickly became a physical encounter as a number of fouls attracted the attention of referee Scott Duncan. The Stags continued to press high up the pitch as they limited the visitors’ progression forward.
The hosts threatened to open up the Dons’ defence in the 17th minute as a pin-point 30-yard cross from Beevers on the right-wing found striker Vadaine Oliver, who attempted a slick link-up with strike partner Kee. The move was prematurely brought to a halt by the offside flag even though Worner appeared to have already dealt with the danger.
Neal Ardley’s men had their first attempt in the 20th minute as winger Sammy Moore’s strike from just outside the penalty area was deflected behind. The visitors came even closer from the resulting corner when defender David Winfield’s looping header forced Stags’ ‘keeper Lenny Pidgeley to dive at full-stretch to his left in order to keep the ball out.
On the half-hour mark, Pidgeley was called into action again, albeit more comfortably this time after right-back Barry Fuller’s cross from the right side fell to the feet of burly frontman Adebayo Akinfenwa who was afforded space to turn and get a shot on target. Opportunities began to come thick and fast for both sides.
The Dons were forced into a first half change when left-back Callum Kennedy suffered an injury. Midfielder Francombe came on in his place and Jack Smith moved to left-back.
As the first half entered its final 10 minutes the Stags continued to press forward. Some good link-up play in the final third transpired as Kee played a short pass to winger Reggie Lambe who, in turn, centred the ball to the on-running Chris Clements who fired his shot into an AFC Wimbledon defender. Muted appeals for handball were waved away by the referee.
Despite a final sight on goal when Oliver had his fierce shot deflected away from goal after receiving the ball from a crafty Junior Brown back-heel, both sides went in at half-time with the match goalless despite a number of chances presenting themselves.
Both teams attempted to work their way into the second half and had their opportunities to take the lead. Some good close-range passing between Clements, Kee and Lambe failed to produce the killer ball. Moments later, a well-timed 30-yard through ball from Chris Tanner found its way through to striker Jake Reeves who failed to test Pidgeley after he didn’t get the desired connection on his shot.
The visitors continued to apply the pressure, but it was the Stags who took the lead in the 56th minute.
After Clements’ free kick was only partially cleared by the Dons, the ball fell to Beevers who smashed it past Worner from outside the penalty area to send the home fans into raptures. Beevers continued his bright spell in the match shortly after at the other end when he completed a vital covering tackle to deny Tanner a shot on goal.
The Dons made their second substitution in the 68th minute when exciting striker Adebayo Azeez replaced winger Sean Rigg. Not long after, Clements played in Oliver who charged down the right wing and could only blaze his shot wide of the right post.
Against the run of play, the visitors drew level in the 69th minute after the Stags conceded a penalty after defender Tafazolli handled the ball in the area. Francombe stepped up to the spot and calmly put the ball into the back of the net.
Murray went to his bench for the first time in the match as he introduced Jeffrey Monakana in place of Brown. The Dons also made a change as Tanner made way for Alfie Potter. The Stags introduced two further attacking threats as Oliver off for strikers Matt Rhead and Rakish Bingham came on in place of Oliver and Kee respectively.
The Dons applied the pressure once more and the Stags received a lifeline in the 82nd minute when Azeez sent a good opportunity wide of goal after managing to stay onside and get on the end of a well-placed 30-yard pass from Moore.
The match would take a major turn late on as the Stags scored what proved to be the winner in the 87th minute.
After Monakana played the ball into the penalty area, the Dons were unable to clear the ball to safety and substitute Bingham managed to get his well-placed shot past the retreating defenders.
Despite a frantic end to the match, the match finished 2-1 to see Adam Murray’s men get back to winning ways at home and climb to 16th place in the Sky Bet League Two table.