Green equaliser denies Luton
Matt Green’s dramatic late equaliser rescued Mansfield Town a superb point from a pulsating 2-2 draw with Luton Town at One Call Stadium.
Ben Hutchinson guided Exodus Geohaghon’s long-throw into the net as Mansfield went ahead early on, before the visitors drew level thanks to a perfectly-angled strike from Andre Gray.
Gray doubled Luton’s advantage midway through the second period, though the Hatters were denied all three points thanks to Green’s close-range finish five minutes from time.
Mansfield made their intentions perfectly clear from the first whistle and had enjoyed plenty of possession by the time they went ahead on eight minutes.
Geohaghon, skippering the side for the first time, hurled one of his torpedo-like long throws towards the near post and Hutchinson rose highest to nonchalantly guide his header beyond the desperate dive of the flapping Hatters goalkeeper Mark Tyler.
The Stags continued to create several chances against their lacklustre counterparts and after Geohaghon almost caused havoc with another long-throw, Chris Clements saw a vicious 30-yard effort wickedly diverted wide of the woodwork by Luton defender Janos Kovacs.
From the resulting corner, Clements caused pandemonium inside the Luton six-yard box with his superb set-piece delivery, but somehow neither Ritchie Sutton nor Hutchinson were able to flick the ball home, despite both lurking dangerously at the back-post.
Nick Wright could have doubled the advantage when he struck wide from close range following Geohaghon’s right-sided cross on 25 minutes, but Mansfield were struck a body-blow only seconds later when Luton grabbed an equaliser completely against the run of play.
Kovacs found Gray with a hopeful long punt over the top, but despite Sutton being able to get goal-side of his marker, the pacey frontman advanced into the area and drilled a low shot goalwards from the acutest of angles, which somehow crept beneath the body of Shane Redmond.
The Hatters soon began to enjoy the momentum and spurned a series of gilt-edge chances as Mansfield were ultimately fortunate to remain on level terms at the half-time interval.
Ron Henry’s deep left-sided cross was narrowly headed wide by Jake Howells on the half hour mark, whilst Gray aimlessly blazed wide from just a few yards out after Howells’ inch-perfect low pull-back cross from the inside-left channel reached him in the centre.
The best chances that Mansfield managed to conjure up prior to the break were a 20-yard wild effort from Lindon Meikle and a tame header from Anthony Howell, which failed to cause Luton’s veteran shot-stopper any serious problems.
However, the Stags looked rejuvenated and re-invigorated as they put their counterparts under lengthy spells of sustained pressure in the early stages of the second period.
Target man Wright was denied what would have been his second goal of the campaign due to an offside flag when he headed Louis Briscoe’s right-wing cross into the net, whilst Hutchinson failed to capitalise on a mistake from Tyler, which left him with a clear sight of goal, albeit from 35-yards out.
Howell also came closed when he blazed over from close range, though Mansfield were lucky not to have fallen behind on the hour-mark when Kovacs’ point-blank header following a Luton corner was inadvertently blocked on the line by Henry.
Nevertheless, Paul Buckle’s men grew in confidence as the half progressed and established a one-goal advantage as Gray struck for a second time on 67 minutes.
Redmond’s routine downfield clearance met a Luton head, before a centrally-positioned Jon Smith played a simple pass from to Howells on the left flank.
With the Stags defence at full-stretch, Howells then exploited empty space as he poked a delicate ball towards an unmarked Gray inside the area, and the Hatters’ talisman calmly retained his composure by tucking his shot beneath the advancing Redmond.
Green, Jake Speight and Matt Rhead were all introduced to the action in favour of Wright, Hutchinson and Meikle respectively, as Mansfield desperately sought a route back into the game.
But it was the visitors who continued to pose danger, and when they stretchered their opponents defence once more, Scott Rendell was left cursing his own mis-fortune when his stinging left-foot shot was expertly palmed away by Redmond.
The save was the catalyst for a Mansfield comeback and after a frantic period of end-to-end action, Green forced a deserved equaliser with just five minutes remaining as Clements set-piece delivery from the left reached him poaching dangerously, via Rhead’s superb flick.
Clements, industrious in midfield throughout, then proved his full value in the last of four added minutes of stoppage time, with a brave block, which prevented Henry from reaching Gray’s intended low pass through the six-yard box as the Stags held on to stretch their unbeaten home run to 10 games.
Attendance: 2,619 (522 away supporters).