Report: Stags 1-1 Pirates
Mansfield Town were held to a draw by Bristol Rovers in a thrilling end-to-end encounter at One Call Stadium.
The Stags took the lead when Lee Stevenson headed home Calvin Andrew’s cross on 22 minutes, but Keiran Murtagh’s late own goal saw The Pirates earn a point.
On a damp and drizzly afternoon in North Nottinghamshire, the match began at a slow tempo as both teams took time to get used to a slippery surface.
The visitors enjoyed the first opportunity when Lee Brown latched onto Oliver Norburn’s low through ball, but saw his angled strike saved by Alan Marriott.
Rovers shaded the early proceedings, and Ryan Brunt was soon off-target with a speculative attempt from the edge of the area.
Nevertheless, Mansfield created their own chances, and after Stevenson flashed an effort wide, Sam Clucas did likewise from Andrew’s pull-back.
On 13 minutes, The Pirates should have gone ahead, when David Clarkson pounced upon a mistake by Andrew on the edge of the six-yard box, but stuck a venomous effort wide.
Torrential rain, which was now starting to pour, added to already difficult playing conditions, but The Stags began to take control.
After Andrew had a shot deflected wide, the lively Clucas saw an effort from an acute angle blocked by Pirates shot-stopper Steve Mildenhall.
Paul Cox’s side then made their pressure tell, as they broke the deadlock on 22 minutes.
Andrew, this time on the right flank, whipped a fantastic ball towards an unmarked Stevenson inside the area, who powerfully headed beyond Mildenhall.
Five minutes later, John Dempster almost doubled The Stags’ advantage, but his header from Clucas’ right-wing corner, fell narrowly wide of the target.
Rovers then enjoyed a sustained period of pressure around the half-hour mark, as Ollie Clarke had a speculative 20-yard strike saved by Marriott.
Marriott was again called into action on 33 minutes, when he was forced to get down low in order to keep out a powerful attempt from Clarkson.
The Stags’ custodian was called into action more frequently prior to half-time, and Clarkson almost capitalised on a poor backwards header by Lee Beevers.
Clarkson was posing a constant threat and the striker drilled a powerful attempt straight at Marriott, as Rovers continued to press forward.
The Stags punctured Rovers’ dominance on 42 minutes, as Clucas headed over from Murtagh’s right-sided delivery into the area.
Nevertheless, the visitors were soon on the attack again, and spurned a gilt-edge chance to equalise less than 60 seconds later.
Clarkson exquisitely turned away from Beevers and fed an inviting ball to Michael Smith inside the six-yard box, who was only denied by the trailing leg of Marriott.
Rovers had one final chance in injury time at the end of the first period, but Pat Keary lacked accuracy with a header from Clarkson right-sided corner.
The Pirates started positively after the re-start and wasted yet another opportunity, with Clarke firing wide from ten yards, after Bond’s precise pull-back.
Ritchie Sutton then attempted the spectacular, but to no success, with a long-range effort, following a poor clearance by Mildenhall.
The match was now being played at a frenzied pace and in Rovers’ next attack, Marriott was required to palm away a deep cross by Smith, before Clucas made a timely clearance.
Marriott gathered a low right-footed drive by Bond on the hour mark, before Clarke whistled an effort wide of the left-hand post, only a few moments later.
The visitors kept pressing forward in search of an equaliser and substitute Elliot Richards skipped past two men, but saw his shot held by Marriott on 65 minutes.
However, The Stags came within a whisker of doubling their lead, just a few moments later.
Substitute Matt Rhead, who had earlier replaced Andrew, latched onto a deep back-post corner from Clucas, but saw his powerful header blocked on the goal-line.
Martin Riley then helped to preserve Mansfield’s lead with some first-class defending, as he brilliantly held off Richards, before throwing his body in the way of a powerful shot by Brunt.
Clucas had an appeal for a penalty turned away on 75 minutes, before Marriott bravely claimed a low right-wing cross by Alefe Santos, at the feet of Brunt.
Just as it seemed as though The Stags may hang on to register all three points, the visitors drew level with less than seven minutes remaining.
Santos’ shot from just inside the area caught an unfortunate deflection off Murtagh, which diverted it beyond a wrong-footed Marriott and into the net.
The equaliser reflected The Pirates’ endeavour, and with momentum on their side, John Ward’s side sensed that they could steal maximum points.
John-Joe O’Toole had a venomous right-foot drive blocked by Dempster on 86 minutes, before Ollie Palmer inadvertently blocked a long-range effort by Murtagh.
Roared on by a voiciferous home crowd, Mansfield put their counterparts under immense pressure during four minutes of added time, but were unable to find a winner.
Attendance: 3,275 (432 away supporters).