We are the Champions!!!
Magnificent Mansfield Town returned to the Football League in emphatic style, as they were crowned as Blue Square Bet Premier champions with a victory against Wrexham.
On a day that will be forever etched in the memory of the Stags faithful, Matt Green netted the only goal of a captivating contest, with a well-placed spot-kick prior to half-time.
At the final whistle, skipper Adam Murray sank to his knees in a tranquil sense of elated euphoria, whilst those of an amber and blue persuasion were unable to contain their delight.
Following a pre-match atmosphere, which was a mixture of hope, expectation and excitement, the hosts came close to breaking the deadlock in just the second minute.
Adam Chapman hurled a long-throw deep into the Dragons six-yard box and Luke Jones’ powerful connection meant Declan Walker had to frantically scramble the ball away.
Roared on by a vociferous home crowd, Mansfield attacked with pure menace and another opportunity came to pass when Lee Stevenson’s 30-yard snap-shot was blocked by David Artell.
Stevenson, who posed a constant threat, also saw a tight-angled drive well saved by Reds shot-stopper Andy Coughlin at his near post, following Murray’s hooked pass.
The resolve of the Dragons defence was tested once more by resurgent Mansfield on 14 minutes.
Chapman hurled another exquisite throw into the area, this time from the right side, and Stevenson’s clever backwards flick resulted in Murray blazing straight at Coughlin from the edge of the area.
In what was fast becoming one-way traffic, Meikle then shot well wide after a lay-off from Green, whilst Lee Beevers’ teasing right-wing delivery forced Artell into a last-ditch clearance.
With the One Call Stadium crowd a mixture of excitement and trepidation, Mansfield again came within inches of a much-needed opener midway through the first period.
Glen Little’s wreckless foul on Briscoe allowed Murray to whip a teasing cross towards the back-post, where Jones’ rose highest and headed across the face of the target.
However, there could have so nearly been an opener, as Walker’s bizarre backwards flick meant Coughlin had to quickly scurry across his goal-line in order to palm the ball away.
Striker Green blazed high and wide as another chance went begging on the half-hour mark, before Wrexham gave their counterparts a heart-in-mouth moment.
Greg Taylor’s intended long clearance was quickly charged down by Dele Adebola, but with a lurking Little about to fire beyond an advancing Alan Marriott, the linesman raised his flag for offside.
Nevertheless, Mansfield continued to press forward at regular intervals, and amidst a crowded penalty area, Stevenson saw a scuffed low shot blocked by Leon Clowes as they enjoyed yet another chance.
Wrexham gradually began to defend deeper as vital minutes ebbed away, but if ever Mansfield were simply having no luck in front of goal whatsoever.
As the Stags enjoyed yet more pressure, Coughlin woefully failed to connect with another Chapman long-throw, but somehow, just as it seemed the ball was destined for the net, the Reds scrambled clear.
Then, just two minutes later, Briscoe burst down the right side and hammered a low cross towards the near-post, where Stevenson spun away from his marker, only to shoot wide.
However, after 40 minutes of relentless pressing forward, the Stags pressure finally paid off.
Briscoe ran at a back-peddling Little on the inside-left, and having been floored by the gruesome Wrexham star inside the area, the linesman showed no hesitancy in awarding a spot-kick.
Responsibilities were left to talisman Green, and with the weight of the world on his shoulders, he stepped up and hammered a powerful low drive beyond Coughlin into the bottom right corner.
One Call Stadium erupted into almost deafening noise as the Stags faithful knew their heroes had made such an imperative breakthrough in the quest for the title.
With a lead established, Paul Cox’s side now required another to really put Wrexham to bed.
But instead, the Dragons began brightly after the re-start, with Little and Cieslewicz in particular, instrumental in asking questions of the Stags' defence.
However, it was Mansfield who registered the first meaningful chance of the second period, as Briscoe surged through the middle in a counter-attack and fed an over-lapping Lindon Meikle.
Meikle was forced wide by an alert Coughlin, and the danger eventually fizzled out, with Stevenson ultimately hammering an effort wide of the target.
The Stags pumped numerous balls into the area, but Wrexham bravely and resolutely soaked up the pressure, and at times, had 11 men inside their own area.
On the hour mark, amidst almost unbearable tension and drama, Stevenson came so close to a second, which would have almost certainly put paid to any late possible comeback from the visitors.
John Dempster connected with Briscoe’s floated cross at the back-post, and his header towards the opposite stick was met by Stevenson, who was denied by Clowes on the goal-line.
Stevenson blazed over with the subsequent follow-up, and only a few minutes later, live-wire winger Briscoe saw a splendid shot superbly palmed away by Coughlin.
It seemed that, no matter what, Mansfield wouldn’t be able to add a vital second, which they craved so desperately, as the clash entered its final quarter.
Every Stags chance seemed to be falling to Stevenson, and the mercurial playmaker was also denied by the woodwork, following Chapman’s chipped pass deep inside the area.
Another heart-in-mouth moment for Mansfield occurred when Marriott had to race off his line to meet a long punt out of the Reds defence towards substitute Bradley Reid.
With 10 minutes of a nerve-jangling tie left, Mansfield made their first substitution as Junior Daniel replaced Meikle, in an attacking change intended to tire the Wrexham defence.
Anthony Howell was also introduced to the action minutes later, either side of Reid and Jay Colbeck whistling speculative strikes high over the frame of Marriott’s crossbar.
With Kidderminster Harriers leading Stockport County at Aggborough, the tension inside One Call Stadium was almost unbearable in the dying minutes.
Each second passed with utter anxiousness and unparalleled levels of anguish for those associated with Mansfield Town, but on the cusp of stoppage-time Wrexham were reduced to 10 men.
Daniel was about to break clear down the left flank, but Artell’s horrific two-footed lunge into the chest of the flying wingman saw the Reds full-back instantly dismissed.
Four minutes of utter torture then elapsed, with each second as gruelling as the next, as the Stags battled with every last drop of energy to protect their slender advantage.
With all eyes on the referee throughout, North Nottinghamshire erupted into joyous scenes of celebration as he blew three times on his whistle to bring an end to proceedings.
The Stags players sank to the scenes and looked to the heavens above, comfortable in the knowledge that they had just written their names into Mansfield Town folklore.
Five years of torture, despair, anguish, heart-break, frustration and pure agony, had been brought to an end at long-last as the name ‘Mansfield Town’ began to be etched on the Championship Trophy.
Attendance: 6,394 (142 away supporters)..