Mansfield Town held league leaders Doncaster Rovers to a 1-1 draw at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
The home side dominated much of the game against their South Yorkshire rivals on New Year’s Eve, and took the advantage through striker Matt Green near the hour mark. However, Doncaster snatched an equaliser against the turn of the tide soon after with a Liam Mandeville penalty.
Stags' boss Steve Evans fielded four new faces for today’s One Call Derby, bringing in wideman CJ Hamilton and forward Danny Rose to replace winger Ashley Hemmings and midfielder Jamie McGuire, whilst veteran striker Darius Henderson made way for attacking midfielder James Baxendale.
Meanwhile, left-back Malvind Benning returned to the side after serving his one-match suspension on Boxing Day against Morecambe in place of striker Pat Hoban.
Buoyed by a strong away following, the visitors looked to make early inroads towards the Mansfield goal using the flanks. But the Stags countered strongly, playing a high-intensity pressing game.
Mansfield took 15 minutes to register their first shot on target, as a Chris Clements free-kick was played short to Benning and the 23-year-old full-back let fly a stinging attempt from outside the box. However, it was headed to safety by a Rovers defender.
The home side continued to maintain an upper hand over proceedings, but clear-cut opportunities remained few and far between.
Doncaster, on their part, could only muster a handful of hopeful crosses from both flanks, which caused very little headache for the Stags’ towering custodian Scott Shearer.
At the half-hour mark, the visitors forced a corner through frontman Andy Williams, whose attempted pass from the right of the area was deflected over the byline by Mansfield centre-back Krystian Pearce.
The resulting Mandeville delivery from the corner arc was nodded over the bar by Williams himself.
On 37 minutes, Stags' striker Green raised the hopes of the home faithful as he dispossessed opposition shot-stopper Marko Marosi at the edge of the area, meaning the goal was left unguarded. But the Rovers defenders regrouped in time to clear Baxendale’s attempted cross from the right of the 18-yard box.
Steve Evans’ side continued to purr, forcing Doncaster to play second fiddle, but the score remained goalless at half-time.
The Stags forced the first save of the second-half from Marosi, who dived low to his right and denied Hamilton’s hammered left-footed attempt on 49 minutes.
Green was the creator once more five minutes after, as he raced down the left on the back of Hamilton's pass, before playing a cross into the centre; but an onrushing Rhys Bennett skied his header.
On 55 minutes, frontman Green managed to outmuscle his marker, and earn a corner via a deflected right-footed effort. However, the flag-kick delivery failed to yield the desired result and was headed to safety.
Mansfield continued to turn the screw, and scored the much-deserved opener on 59 minutes through Green. The Rovers’ backline could only clear a corner to Benning, whose left-footed drive from distance was steered into the back of the net by a crafty back-heel from the Stags’ striker.
Darren Ferguson’s Doncaster side then sought a reply through striker John Marquis on 69 minutes, but his powerful shot from the left of the Mansfield goal ricocheted off the stanchion.
Mandeville followed up Marquis’ effort two minutes later with a curled effort from outside the penalty box, but could not impart enough bend on the ball and it went wide for a goal kick.
Come 77 minutes though, Doncaster restored parity with Mandeville’s penalty. Shearer had come out of his line swiftly to deny the Rovers’ striker earlier, but fouled Tommy Rowe inside the area on the rebound; and Mandeville did the honours from the spot as he sent Shearer the wrong way and dispatched his effort in to the bottom corner.
The game hung in the balance, and on 88 minutes, the Stags had a close shave as Rowe found his header clip off the upright and land into Shearer’s gloves.
Both sides called into action a flurry of substitutions, but the move failed to affect the scoreline, and it finished 1-1 in the last fixture of the calendar year at One Call Stadium.
Stags XI: Shearer, Bennett, Benning, Collins, Pearce, Clements (M.Rose 86’), Green, Baxendale (Hurst 86’), Howkins, Hamilton, D.Rose (Hoban 78’)
Subs not used: Jensen, Thomas, Hemmings, McGuire
Rovers XI: Marosi, Mason, Alcock (Middleton 63’), Butler, Baudry, Rowe, Blair, Houghton, Mandeville (Keegan 85’), Marquis, Williams
Subs not used: Jones, Wright, Beestin, Calder, Longbottom
Attendance: 5,042 (1,618 away fans)
Referee: Stephen Martin