Reggie Lambe scored an exquisite first-half equaliser as Mansfield Town maintained their play-off position with a 1-1 draw with Leyton Orient at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Both sides had chances to win the contest in what was a tight affair in Nottinghamshire, but with conditions playing a major part, Krystian Pearce’s header which clipped the post was the closest either team came to finding a winner.
Manager Adam Murray made one change to the side that beat Barnet a fortnight ago at The Hive Stadium, with 32-year-old Jamie McGuire coming in for the suspended Chris Clements in midfield, following his two yellow cards in North London.
Orient boss Ian Hendon named former Stags’ striker Ollie Palmer on the bench for his side, preferring ex-Hull City hotshot Jay Simpson who was making his from injury.
Starting the day in eighth position, the away side had to withhold a spell of early pressure as Mansfield became accustomed to the sticky pitch a little better than their opponents. Forward Craig Westcarr had
the game’s first half-chance as he flashed a half-volley wide of the mark from approximately 25 yards out.
Orient had Premier League experience in their ranks and it was two former top level attackers who combined to give the Reds a 12th-minute lead.
Winger Jobi McAnuff cut in from the left and delivered a peach of a cross for Sky Bet League Two Player of the Month in November, Jay Simpson, who rose highest to head past Brian Jensen in the Mansfield net.
Buoyed by the goal, John Marquis shot from distance in the next meaningful action but Jensen watched it sail harmlessly over the bar.
The Stags responded through Reggie Lambe who sent in teasing cross from the right wing which just evaded the runs of Matt Green and Westcarr in the 18-yard box.
The hosts were beginning to grow into the encounter as the first period progressed, with centre-halves Ryan Tafazolli and Krystian Pearce dealing comfortably with the balls lofted their way, and in-form forward Green getting increasingly involved.
Despite initially coping with the conditions well, Mansfield’s attacking moves were frustratingly coming to a halt as they attempted to build from the back, with the ball skidding off the ground in some areas.
Captain Adam Chapman was a particular highlight in the middle of Stags’ midfield as he tried to dictate possession – the midfielder organising his side well to push them up the field, into positions where they could cause damage.
And inflict damage they did, when they equalised on 40 minutes. A ball was hooked in from the right wing from Westcarr for Lambe who brilliantly volleyed it into the bottom corner for his third goal of the season.
Mansfield upped the ante with the first half nearing its conclusion, passing with more intent and trying to force the visitors into making mistakes – although Jean-Yves-M’Voto nearly regained the lead for the O’s from a corner, but the Frenchman’s header went well over.
Into the second half, and it was Orient who had to do some immediate defending as Murray’s men sprung on the counter. Westcarr curled in a fine ball targeting Green who was just beaten to it by Mathieu Baudry.
The contest evened itself out as the swirling rain and winds began to dominate the overall manner of the game.
Lloyd James struck a powerful free-kick from range which deflected behind and when the resulting corner wasn’t cleared properly, Simpson swivelled and shot over Jensen’s crossbar from inside the area.
As the Stags began to stamp their authority on the tie, the Orient frontline of Simpson and Marquis were getting little of the service they required to trouble Tafazolli and Pearce, as the latter two dominated aerially.
The visitors introduced ex-Stags’ frontman Ollie Palmer to the fray just past the hour mark, and moments later the hosts were inches from taking the lead. Pearce got the run on his marker to get on the end of Chapman’s corner, and with plenty of power, his header skimmed Alex Cisak’s left-hand post.
Shortly afterwards, Matty Blair was introduced for Westcarr and the former cleverly worked past Jack Payne before drifting over a cross which was cleared out for Chapman, who skewed it past the post with his left foot.
As the One Call Stadium crowd smelt blood and made admirable noise, Mansfield surged forward in search of their second – Green had a thumping effort deflected behind before McGuire volleyed over the bar.
Mitch Rose reverted to central midfield as Blair took up the right-midfield position, as Murray tried to create more drive through the middle of the park.
Both teams were fighting valiantly for the victory with plenty of running and endeavour, but the two defences were stubborn in their attempts to prevent conceding. Set-pieces had proved to be quite a thorn for Orient to deal with all afternoon, and Green’s flicked header from Chapman’s delivery nearly saw the visitors get punished, but it flew just wide.
Rose then powered a shot from 20 yards, which was well held by Cisak who dived smartly to his right.
There was late drama as deep into injury time, Jean-Yves M’Voto made a rash tackle on Green who looked to be through on goal but only received a caution, however that would be the last action as referee Darren England brought the game to a close and the Stags had to settle for a point.
Stags’ XI: Jensen, Rose, Pearce, Collins, Chapman (C), Green, Westcarr (Blair 66’) , Tafazolli, Lambe, McGuire, Adams
Subs not used: Shearer, Marsden, Beardsley, N. Thomas, Yussuf, J Thomas.
Orient XI: Cisak, Clohessy, Baudry, M’Voto, Kpekawa, Turgott (Palmer 63’), Payne, James, McAnuff, Marquis (Kashket 78’), Simpson (Pritchard 78’)
Subs not used: Grainger, Essam, Dunne, Shaw
Attendance: 2,935 (444 away)