Stags defeated by Wrexham
Mansfield Town’s consecutive winning record came to an abrupt end as they slipped to an agonising defeat to Wrexham on a stormy night at the Racecourse Ground.
Following an uneventful first half in which there was only one shot on target, the Stags went ahead when Matt Green tapped home in the midst of a goalmouth scramble early in the second period.
But Wrexham fortuitously drew level when Dean Keates’ deflected free-kick was bundled over the line by Alan Marriott on 68 minutes.
And the hosts grabbed a crucial winner as Danny Wright slotted home following Dele Adebola’s delightful through ball ten minutes later.
However, the match will be remembered for Wright’s other ‘goal’, which rattled the underside of the crossbar and appeared to have crossed the line, but was not awarded.
Manager Paul Cox made two changes to his starting XI as Adam Chapman and Lindon Meikle returned to the side in favour of Lee Stevenson and Louis Briscoe respectively.
And with only four minutes gone, Mansfield almost established an early advantage as Chapman fired into the arms of Reds custodian Chris Maxwell after combining with Junior Daniel.
However, just moments later there was cause for concern at the other end as Lee Beevers collapsed to the ground in agony after an innocuous collision with Danny Wright.
Beevers was able to continue following lengthy treatment, but the clash soon developed into a scrappy encounter, with neither team able to get a complete foothold.
Chapman fired high and wide with a speculative 30-yard shot on 13 minutes, whilst Alan Marriott was called into action when he collected Jay Harris’ back-post ball towards Joe Clarke.
Wrexham were forced into an early substitution midway through the first period, as Chris Westwood limped off with an apparent injury, and was replaced by Declan Walker.
As a result, the hosts had to re-shuffle their back four, with Stephen Wright moving across to centre-back to allow for the substitute to feature at right-back.
Chances were to be had at a premium as proceedings remained scrappy.
Martin Riley was cautioned for a foul on former team-mate Matt Green, before Johnny Hunt whistled an effort wide of Marriott’s left-hand post close to the half-hour mark.
The Stags gradually began to press forward and attempted to use the width to their advantage, but the Reds defence held firm against a barrage of pressure.
Five minutes before the interval, Mansfield enjoyed their best chance of the first period.
Following some fabulous combination play between Adam Murray and Daniel, full-back Greg Taylor whipped a teasing cross towards the back-post, which forced Maxwell to palm the ball away.
Shortly after the re-start, Luke Jones thought he had broken the deadlock when he poked home Chapman’s long-throw, but his effort was controversially ruled out due to apparent pushing on the goalkeeper.
Subsequent appeals by furious Stags players were waved away, but Mansfield remained on the attack and less than a minute later Chapman drew a splendid save from Maxwell.
Wrexham looked dangerous on the break, though, and the lively start to the second period continued as Harris blazed over with a 30-yard strike, having combined with Clarke.
Nevertheless, the deadlock was soon broken – and it was by the Stags!
Chapman’s corner was met by the towering head of Jones, and with Maxwell only able to palm the ball away, Green reacted instinctively to slam the ball into the net from two yards out.
The Stags were now on course to break a Conference Premier record and record an incredible 13th successive league win, but Wrexham weren’t going to give up without a fight.
On the hour mark, frontman Wright came within a whisker of an equaliser as his bullet header drew a superb fingertip save from a full-stretch Marriott.
The hosts continued to apply pressure and eventually levelled with a goal which owed more than a shade to a touch of good fortune, on 68 minutes.
Reds skipper Dean Keates saw his 30-yard free-kick take a wicked deflection, enough to wrong-foot Marriott, who inadvertently knocked the ball into his own net in a desperate attempt to keep it out.
Buoyed by their equaliser, Wrexham continued to attack and almost went ahead when Clarke’s venomous 18-yard drive went straight at a static Marriott.
In what was fast becoming a pulsating, topsy-turvy encounter, full of unpredictability, the Stags regained the initiative and almost re-established an advantage.
Chapman’s curling free-kick was horrendously spilled by Maxwell, and amidst a sea of bodies, it was Riley who eventually poked the ball away in what was a precarious position.
Briscoe replaced Daniel for the final 15 minutes, but with seconds of the substitution, it was Wrexham who vitally struck to keep alive their title hopes.
Substitute Glen Little, who only moments earlier had replaced Adrian Cieslewicz, poked an inviting ball through to Danny Wright, which the striker made no mistake with.
With Mansfield still licking their wounds at going behind, and the home sections of the Racecourse Ground still celebrating, there was then a moment of huge controversy.
Dele Adebola combined with Danny Wright on the edge of the box, who unleashed a thunderous 20-yard drive that rattled the underside of the woodwork and appeared to cross the line.
The strike, hugely reminiscent of Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ against Germany in 2010, was eventually collected by Marriott, whilst the out-of-position linesman waved play on.
Wrexham’s players instantly surrounded the officials in protest, but play continued and Mansfield began to look more settled as they pushed for an equaliser.
In the final 10 minutes, Jones came within inches of snatching a leveller, but headed just inches over following Murray’s right-sided corner towards the back-post.
Powerhouse Matt Rhead was thrown into the action to add to the Stags attack, but despite four minutes of added time, the Stags were defeated for the first time in nearly two months.