Report: Stags 2-3 Stanley
Two injury-time goals saw Accrington Stanley come from behind to earn a dramatic victory over Mansfield Town at One Call Stadium.
Kal Naismith struck an equaliser in the fourth-minute of added time, before James Gray sealed maximum points for James Beattie’s side with a well-placed shot into the top-right corner.
The Stags had led for long periods in the match thanks to two goals by John McCombe.
The opening exchanges were played in blustery conditions and were largely scrappy with neither team able to gain the upper-hand.
Martin Riley received treatment when he landed awkwardly after clearing a high ball, but Kal Naismith was unable to cause any danger with the resulting corner.
At the other end, the closest that Mansfield came in the opening quarter-of-an-hour was when James Jennings over-hit a cross into the arms of Marcus Bettinelli.
There was then a stoppage in play of around four minutes after Riley was left requiring treatment, following an aerial collision with James Gray on the edge of the Stags’ area.
Gray appeared to use an elbow in the incident, which went un-noticed by the officials, and as a result Riley was left sporting a head bandage for the rest of the afternoon.
Mansfield then created a half-chance with their first corner on 19 minutes.
Adam Murray’s ball to the back-post found Riley, whose header across the six-yard box was acrobatically hooked well wide of the target by Calvin Andrew.
The Stags gradually began to assume control and broke the deadlock midway through the first half courtesy of John McCombe.
The defender, who was returning to the side in the absence of John Dempster, rose high to connect with Murray’s in-swinging corner, and blazed home after his initial header rattled the upright.
Stanley offered little in response and almost fell further behind when Lee Stevenson picked up a loose ball midway inside the visitors’ half, and drilled a low effort narrowly wide.
The visitors came close to an equaliser on the half-hour mark as Lee Naylor flashed a free-kick just over, after Murray brought down Naismith around 25 yards out.
Moments later, James Beattie’s men created another chance, but Josh Windass lacked accuracy with a rising shot from around 15 yards, which was never going to trouble Marriott.
On 35 minutes, the Stags were unable to take advantage of a cheap corner that Stanley conceded, as James Jennings’ cross to the near-post was headed away by Tom Aldred.
Jennings made a vital intervention at the other end before half-time, which kept the Stags in command.
Piero Mingola collected the ball wide on the left flank and beat two players as he cut inside and dragged a low effort across the area to Gray, who was distracted by a back-tracking Jennings.
On the brink of four minutes injury-time at the end of the first period, Mansfield almost doubled their lead in a set-piece move almost identical to their earlier opener.
Jennings was the provider on this occasion, floating a fine ball to the edge of the six-yard box, where Riley charged in and sent a looping header narrowly wide of the target.
Mansfield always looked dangerous with their set-pieces, but with the last corner in the opening 45 minutes, Bettinelli showed good hands to advance from his line and claim a high ball.
However, Accrington looked refreshed after the re-start, and grabbed a quick equaliser with a goal that had more than a shade of good fortune about it.
Mingola’s inside-pass towards the edge of the area found Naismith, whose scruffy effort caught a wild deflection, which wrong-footed Marriott and landed in the net.
Most of the One Call Stadium crowd were still stunned from Stanley’s leveller, when Naylor tried his luck with a speculative 35-yard pot-shot that was well off-target on 57 minutes.
Backed by their noisy travelling contingent, the visitors seemed to grow in confidence and again went close when Marriott had to beat away Naylor’s vicious near-post corner.
Mansfield had now been restricted to rare chances and when Stevenson caught a glimpse of goal on the hour mark, he dragged a 25-yard attempt horribly wide.
A few moments later, the midfielder was close to making a telling connection to Jamie McGuire’s right-sided cross, after some great pressing by him and Murray midway inside the Stanley half.
Although affairs were largely scrappy, Mansfield slowly began to dictate play again and Murray had a 25-yard drive deflected over the woodwork by Aldred on 67 minutes.
From the subsequent corner, Jennings picked out McCombe with a superb delivery towards the back-post, and his powerful strike was blocked on the line by a Stanley player.
Nevertheless, the ball ricocheted back to McCombe, who drove his second shot into the net, via the underside of the crossbar, to put Mansfield into a 2-1 lead.
Now it was the visitors turn to find a goal and they almost did so when Mingola cut inside and hammered a left-foot attempt just over the woodwork.
With 15 minutes left to play, Naismith won a corner after some good solo work, which was delivered by Naylor, but beaten away to safety by the wrists of Marriott.
Both teams then made changes with Accrington bolstering their attacking threat with the introduction of George Bowerman and Shay McCartan in favour of Windass and Hunt respectively.
Meanwhile, Mansfield brought on Lindon Meikle for Stevenson, as they sought to protect their lead and record a priceless first league victory since September.
Accrington continued to probe with intent and the Stags endured a heart-in-mouth moment as Mingola ran at his marker and squared a low ball across the six-yard box, which Jennings had to hoof away.
With nerves jangling and hearts pounding, Naylor’s long set-piece free-kick into the mixer was well-held by Marriott with just five minutes remaining.
Tension was high, the stakes were great and it wasn’t long until McCombe had to make a vital clearance under pressure, after an inviting near-post cross by Naismith.
Substitute Matt Rhead was thrown on for the closing few minutes, and the burly striker almost helped to put the three points beyond doubt on the brink of injury-time.
In a Stags counter-attack, Rhead threaded a low ball through to an advancing Daryll Westlake, who raced into a one-on-one where he was denied by the legs of Bettinelli.
Jennings received the Stags’ first yellow card as the match ticked into four minutes of added time, in which Stanley continued to throw the proverbial ‘kitchen sink’ at Mansfield.
And a cruel, dramatic and heart-breaking late twist came in the last minute of added time as Mansfield suffered yet more gut-wrenching misery.
Naysmith picked up possession on the edge of the area and somehow drove a low shot through a crowded area, and into the bottom-corner to drive a dagger into the Stags’ hearts.
With the Stags still shell-shocked, matters were made much worse in the sixth-minute of injury-time when Stanley scored again to steal three points.
Gray collected a pass from the right channel on the edge of the area and drove a powerful attempt into the top-right corner, to earn Beattie’s men all three points.
Attendance: 2,549 (73 away supporters).