Ollie Palmer’s second half strike gave Mansfield Town a narrow 1-0 win over Concord Rangers in a closely-fought contest as the Aspect Arena in Essex.
Palmer struck just after the hour mark, following some great work by the excellent Rob Taylor, as the Stags saw off non-league opposition for the third time in as many years to book their place in Round Two.
The conditions for the game were absolutely atrocious with driving rain throughout the early stages of the first half making life difficult for the Stags, as well as a very bobbly surface.
Concord looked full of energy in the early exchanges and nearly got off to a flying start as skipper Matt Fry forced a good near-post save from Sascha Studer following an inswinging corner from the left.
The Stags’ first chance came from a set-piece on 13 minutes when Chris Clements curled the ball over from 25 yards, after Rob Taylor was brought down on the edge of the box.
A minute later, a stretching Reggie Lambe was unlucky not to turn the ball goalwards when Liam Marsden drilled an inviting low ball into the area.
Concord then squandered a golden opportunity to take the lead on the quarter-hour mark. Sascha Studer raced off his line and horribly misjudged a long downfield, which allowed Lewis Taaffe to get the better of him.
With the goal at his mercy, Taaffe took a touch and then unleashed an effort which was heroically headed off the line by Liam Marsden, who mopped up by clearing the danger at the second attempt.
The Stags’ Ollie Palmer had a shot deflected wide, before Concord’s Steve Cawley headed well wide of the target at the other end, as the pendulum constantly swung to and forth.
The next opportunity of any real note was for the hosts on 22 minutes. Jordan Chiedozie, who scored a sensational goal in last week’s tie, capitalised on a weak clearance by Studer and let fly with a powerful 30-yard attempt which flew just over the bar.
Mansfield’s next chance was had by Simon Heslop, but the midfielder’s shot from 30 yards was short of any real direction and Rangers ‘keeper Josh Vickers wasn’t troubled.
By the half-hour mark, the match had descended into a scrappy, niggly contest and Jamie Sendles-White was the first player to go into the referee’s notebook for a tough challenge on Sam Collins.
Clear-cut opening remained incredibly sparse for both teams, but as the match ticked towards half-time, the Stags started to shade proceedings and get the ball in some key areas.
Reggie Lambe, with his quick feet, good turn of pace and trickery, began to cause some real problems and five minutes prior to half-time, he threaded a ball through towards Taylor in a two-on-two attack, but the ex-Port Vale man skewed a low shot wide.
Lambe showed more good feet a few moments later and managed to win a corner from which Chris Clements’ delivery found Ryan Tafazolli, who stooped low but couldn’t get his header on target.
After two minutes of stoppage-time, during which Taylor got a nasty kick off Alex Woodyard in a tackle, the two teams went in at half-time on level terms.
Fergus Bell replaced Sendles-White ahead of the second half and the substitute nearly made an immediate impact as he crept into empty space midway inside the hosts’ half and released Palmer with a delicious through ball.
The Stags’ striker was denied by a quickly-alert Vickers and the ball ricocheted back towards Taylor on the edge of the area, whose follow-up attempt was blocked.
Bell’s introduction evidently troubled the hosts and as the rain began to pour heavily once again, the visitors applied yet more pressure with the substitute hitting the post from eight yards.
On 52 minutes, Simon Heslop nearly broke the deadlock as he was in a perfect position to pick up a partially-cleared corner, and let fly with an audacious 25-yard volley that flew just wide.
As the hosts began to tire somewhat, Mansfield continued to put their foot on the gas and Palmer went close with a curling 20-yard shot, following some great work on the flank by Bell.
Concord needed inspiration and almost found it on the hour mark as Chiedozie twisted and turned his way into space inside the area and flashed a low ball through a packed goalmouth, but nobody was able to connect.
The hosts’ quest to cause an FA Cup giant-killing then took an almighty turn for the worse on 62 minutes, when Adam Murray’s team finally opened the scoring.
Taylor did all the hard work – showing excellent stretch to keep the ball as he went on a run down the left flank and his piercing low ball was thundered home at the back-post by Palmer.
Palmer should have turned from scorer to creator soon afterwards as he stretched his legs to run at a back-peddling defender, but he failed to spot an unmarked Lambe advancing alongside him and was eventually dispossessed.
Mansfield then made their second change midway through the second period as Rakish Bingham replaced Taylor – a move which seemed to suggest that the visitors wanted a second goal.
Concord’s hopes of a comeback almost came real on 73 minutes, when Riley and Chiedozie battled for a ball inside the area and the fleet-footed young striker went to ground.
Whilst the home fans screamed for a spot-kick, referee Andy Davies had a long look and seemed to take an eternity to make up his mind, but no penalty was awarded.
With the non-league outfit still furious, Mansfield went straight down the other end and squandered a golden chance to kill off proceedings as Palmer was foiled by Vickers in a glorious one-on-one opening.
The Stags went agonisingly close again on 81 minutes as Lambe played a teasing ball across the face of goal, but a stretching Matt Rhead, who had just come on for Palmer, couldn’t turn the ball home.
The miss almost proved costly as straight up at the other end, livewire Chiedozie nipped the ball past a man inside the area and hit a shot narrowly over the upright with Studer beaten.
Concord threw every last drop of energy into finding an equaliser in the closing stages, but couldn’t breach a resolute Mansfield defence, which was marshalled exceptionally by both Riley and Tafazolli.
During four minutes of injury-time, the hosts couldn’t cause trouble from another corner, before Lambe was cautioned as the visitors attempted to keep the ball in the corner at the other end.
Ultimately, the hosts desire alone wasn’t enough, as the Stags emerged as narrow, but deserved, victors.