Rhead heads Stags to victory
Matt Rhead grabbed a superb last-minute winner as Mansfield Town earned a courageous 1-0 victory over Forest Green Rovers at One Call Stadium.
The Stags looked as though they would have to settle for a point, before Rhead’s last-gasp ensured a victory that moves Paul Cox’s men into the higher echelons of the Blue Square Bet Premier table.
Mansfield attacked the North Stand in the first period and almost struck an early goal after three minutes.
Gary Roberts swung a dangerous free-kick into the six-yard box and as Rovers shot-stopper Sam Russell flapped at thin air, both Jake Speight and Exodus Geohaghon stabbed shots goalwards, which were blocked by defender Aarran Racine at the expense of a Stags corner.
Nevertheless, Roberts’s resulting set-piece delivery was too high for Rhead, and the visitors soon began to take a foothold as they created a series of chances in quick succession.
John Dempster blocked a well-driven shot from James Norwood after the striker had worked his way into a dangerous position, whilst Matt Taylor also screwed a low shot wide.
And on 15 minutes, Forest Green should have gone ahead as Stephen Brogan’s intelligent ball from right to left stretched the Stags defence wide open, but Jan Klukowski, who cut inside, woefully blazed wide of Liam Micthell’s goal, despite having time and space in abundance to do far better.
Mansfield soon hit back with a series of good opportunities and after a blocked shot from Roberts broke to Junior Daniel around 35 yards out, the wide man unleashed a rasping left-foot volley that would have found the top corner, had Russell not produced an exceptional diving save.
After Rhead arrowed a back-post header wide from the resulting corner, Geohaghon almost turned a loose ball into an empty net a few moments later as the shot-stopper again flapped wildly at another set-piece delivery into his area.
Paul Green blazed over the woodwork at the opposite end close to the half-hour mark, but Rovers, who enjoyed a lot of possession throughout the encounter and played some neat passing football, were soon on the attack once more as the Mansfield defence began to live dangerously.
Kieron Forbes broke free down the left flank and played a tantalising ball through the six-yard box, which eluded everyone and carried too much pace for an unmarked Norwood, who was lurking at the back-post.
Mansfield were then saved by the officials on 39 minutes when Mitchell parried a cross from Jared Hodgkiss straight into the path of Ed Asafu-Adjaye, who powerfully headed home, only to see his premature celebrations cut short because of an offside flag that had been raised by the linesman.
Both teams struggled to carve out any clear-cut chances after the interval, but on the hour-mark Stags loanee shot-stopper Mitchell produced a save of undoubted quality when he stooped low at lightning-quick speed to keep out a point-blank header from Taylor, before Geohaghon cleared the danger.
Rhead whistled a shot wide of Russell’s left-hand post at the other end on 73 minutes, whilst Dempster was unable to guide his header towards goal after he connected well to a cross from Roberts.
Forest Green were unfortunate not to have snatched a winner in the last minute of normal time as Taylor chased down a loose ball that was heading for Mitchell, who blazed his powerful clearance into the body of Geohaghon, which almost allowed the Rovers striker to collect the loose with an open goal at his mercy.
Nevertheless, Adam Murray picked up possession from Geohaghon’s hooked clearance and played a simple pass into the path of substitute Louis Briscoe, who had advanced on the overlap, down the right channel. Under a challenge from Asafu-Adjaye, Briscoe won a right-sided throw from midway inside the Forest Green half.
Geohaghon then hurled one of his trademark deliveries into a crowded penalty box, and Rhead rose higher than anyone else to meet the ball and cushion a fine header into the top corner, which sparked wild celebrations and earned Mansfield a vastly important three points.
Attendance: 2,019 (60 away supporters).