Ten-man Stags were beaten 1-0 by Accrington Stanley at One Call Stadium this afternoon, with Seamus Conneely’s second-half header the difference between the two sides.
Stags found themselves a man down in the 13th minute, after Mal Benning was given his marching orders following a high challenge on Billy Kee.
Despite playing the majority of the affair with a man less, Flitcroft’s side battled valiantly throughout, and were the better side for large portions of the game.
Stags started immediately on the front foot as they looked to attack Accrington from the word go. Lee Angol had the first opportunity of the game, but he saw his effort from just inside the box tipped over the bar by Aaron Chapman.
It was then Conrad Logan who came to Stags’ rescue at the other end, as his stunning reflex save from Scott Brown’s close range effort kept the game goalless. Callum Johnson managed to pull the ball back to the onrushing Brown, but Logan was equal to the task when he fired his shot towards goal.
Minutes later, Stags found themselves down to ten men. As the ball bounced towards Kee on the edge of the Accrington box, Benning attempted to prod it away, but caught the former Mansfield forward with his studs showing. After tensions flared for a brief moment, referee Andy Haines produced the red card to send Benning off inside 15 minutes.
Stags responded well to going a man down, though, as they continued to take the game to the visitors. Rhys Bennett was the next player to go close to opening the scoring, as he headed wide following MacDonald’s in-swinging corner.
Ten minutes later, Bennett went even closer with yet another header. This time, though, Chapman reacted well to tip the defender’s close range effort over the bar.
Going into half-time, Stags were undoubtedly the better side, despite their one-man disadvantage.
Stags started the second-half as they played throughout most of the first, but once again could not add the finishing touch. This time, Hayden White drilled the ball across goal to find Kane Hemmings, but his shot rolled inches wide of Chapman’s post.
It was in the 60th minute that Accrington’s Seamus Conneely opened the scoring. Sean McConville’s cross found the head of the Stanley skipper, who had the simple task of finding the target from close range.
Stags, once again, reacted brilliantly to something going against them. A moment after going a goal down, White found space on the right-wing (as he had done so all afternoon), and curled in a tantalising cross which only just evaded the lurking Angol.
Substitute Miller tried to work some space inside the Accrington box next, and did well to get the ball across the face of goal. Unfortunately, Stags did not have the luck of the bounce this afternoon, as the ball ricocheted around the Stanley box before being cleared to safety by Jimmy Dunne.
Logan kept the Stags in it late on with another fine stop. Kayden Jackson had a chance to double Accrington’s lead as he found himself through on goal, but Logan saved well with his feet before the ball was hooked away by White.
This would be the last action of the afternoon, and despite being a man down for the majority of the contest, Stags will feel hard done by to leave One Call Stadium empty-handed.
STAGS’ XI: Logan; White, Diamond, Bennett, Benning; MacDonald, Atkinson, Mellis, Hamilton; AngolOlejnik,, Hemmings (Miller 66).
UNUSED SUBS: Olejnik, Digby, Anderson, Hunt, Thomas, Byrom.