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16:55 11th April 2015

Report: Plymouth 2-1 Mansfield

Mansfield Town were unable to pick up any points, despite an encouraging performance in a 2-1 defeat to Plymouth Argyle at Home Park.

The hosts took just two minutes to open the scoring with Anthony O’Connor opening the scoring following Bobby Reid’s set-piece cross.

Plymouth doubled their lead just after the hour mark when Carl McHugh headed home from a corner, but Vadaine Oliver responded within a minute for the Stags.

Despite piling on the pressure in the closing stages, the Pilgrims held on to record a vital win which keeps them in firm contention for the play-offs.

Stags’ boss Adam Murray made three changes to his starting line-up after Easter Monday’s solid performance in defeat to Shrewsbury Town. 

Goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley was ruled out with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Swiss counterpart Sascha Studer. Striker Rakish Bingham was the preferred option in attack as he came in for ill winger Terry Hawkridge.

Moments before kick-off, Ritchie Sutton also fell victim to illness and was a late exclusion as fellow centre-back Ryan Tafazolli took up a place in the back four.

The home side couldn’t have made a better start as in only the second minute of the match, Bobby Reid delivered a great 20-yard cross from outside the penalty and picked out advanced O’Connor, whose looping header crept past Studer’s right post.

The Pilgrims created more trouble moments later when right wing-back Kelvin Mellor’s cross put pressure on defender Martin Riley who was up to the task and cleared the ball to safety.

An impressive piece of attacking link-up play between Lee Beevers, Reggie Lambe and Jack Thomas resulted in a corner for the Stags. Lambe received the ball off the set piece and his well-hit strike forced a full-stretch save from Luke McCormick.

Lambe was in the thick of the action again a minute later when his 20-yard pass found the head of Oliver whose header crept into the back of the net, only to be flagged offside.  

More attractive football flowed as Adam Murray’s men looked to find the equaliser. Midfielder Jack Thomas used his skill to evade the Argyle defence, but McCormack held his eventual shot comfortably.

As the first half-hour ticked by, Beevers found his way into the referee’s notebook after a heavy challenge on Alessandra on halfway.

Despite Plymouth dominating possession, the visitors found themselves with another good opportunity in the 34th minute as Bingham and Oliver looked to work with each other on the left side but the latter’s cross could not Thomas waiting in the penalty area.

Captain Jamie McGuire gave away possession in the centre of the park and the loose ball was pounced on my Alessandra who tried to feed through midfielder Olly Lee but for Tafazolli’s important intervention. 

The last notable action of the first half came with its last kick when a slick passing move by the Stags resulted in Oliver receiving the ball in the penalty area. His shot sailed just wide of the goal, but it was good signs going forward.

The second half burst to life in the 51st minute when the Stags added to their tally of opportunities. It was Oliver with the ball at his feet after Beevers’ 45-yard pass. He failed to spot Bingham in a good position to his left and shot wide of goal.

The Pilgrims managed to evade the stranglehold for a brief moment when striker Reuben Reid looked to sprint his way into the penalty only to be halted by a superbly timed challenge by Thomas.  

Adam Murray made the first substitution of the match when striker Matt Rhead came on in place of Bingham.

Another fine move from the Stags resulted in Clements shooting from close-range but McCormack was up to the test. 

The excitement continued as Plymouth threatened on the counter-attack but the quick-footed Alessandra dragged his shot across the goal.

John Sheridan’s men had another opportunity to add to their lead as a firm shot forced Studer into a solid save before Lee’s follow-up shot was blocked by the stretching centre-back Ritchie Sutton.

The home side did get the goal they were after in the 63rd minute in a similar fashion to their first as McHugh received the ball off a corner and leapt the highest and sent his header into the back of the net.  

A frantic second half saw the Stags gain a lifeline almost immediately after as Beevers’ cross found Oliver in the penalty area whose initial shot rebounded off the apex of the goal back into his path. He had no such misfortune with the follow up and fired the ball into the back of the net to make the scoreline 2-1.

The Pilgrims’ star man Reuben Reid was withdrawn in the 76th minute of the match and Zak Ansah came on in his place. 

A warm reception from the travelling fans was on hand as Hearn was introduced by Adam Murray to make his first appearance in eight months after returning from a serious knee injury in place of Oliver.

Plymouth looked to close the game out in the 81st minute as Ansah squared the ball to Bobby Reid but his shot was deflected out for a corner by the outstretched leg of Tafazolli.

The match was delayed for a significant period with five minutes remaining when Beevers had to receive attention after contesting for the ball.

Rhead found the ball at his feet as the match went deep into six minutes of stoppage time but failed to test McCormack. With fingernails almost no longer, an entertaining match of football concluded with the home side going away with a valuable 2-1 win as their promotion hopes continued.

Attendance: 6,626.