Report: Newport 1-1 Stags
Sam Clucas’ equaliser earned Mansfield Town a deserved point in a full-blooded clash with Newport County at Rodney Parade.
The winger cancelled out Chris Zebroski’s opener for the hosts, with a close-range header midway through the second period.
Both teams had a player sent-off in the closing stages.
Lee Minshull was given his marching orders after an apparent elbow on Martin Riley, whilst Matt Rhead was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
In what proved to be a feisty encounter in South Wales, the hosts made a bright start and came close to an opener inside the first five minutes.
Robbie Willmott’s untidy left-sided corner towards the near-post evaded everyone, which forced Alan Marriott into a quick reaction stop.
Moments later, the hosts then won a free-kick in a dangerous position, right on the edge of the area, when Jamie McGuire fouled David Pipe.
McGuire was cautioned for the offence, but Willmott was unable to find the target from the resulting set-piece as he blazed high over the woodwork.
Backed by a vociferous home support, Newport continued to look dangerous, and they tested The Stags’ defence with a number of long-throws.
However, Mansfield who last won in this part of South Wales in 1987, were next to come close in a simple route one attack.
Marriott’s long downfield punt was flicked on by both Rhead and Clucas, before Ben Hutchinson hit a 20-yard snap-shot narrowly wide.
Christian Jolley was then off-target at the other end, following a fine run in which he cleverly weaved his way inside from the right flank.
On 20 minutes, Clucas, who caused the hosts some real problems with his trickery, glanced a header wide following John Dempster’s cross.
Jolley was then cautioned for a foul on McGuire, and it wasn’t long before tempers began to boil over.
Referee Dave Phillips had to speak to players from both teams, after Lee Minshull sustained a head injury in an innocuous collision near to the dugouts.
Clucas then let slip a gilt-edge opportunity to put The Stags into an early lead midway through the first period.
McGuire’s speculative ball forwards reached Clucas, who saw an effort superbly kept out by an advancing Lenny Pidgeley, which enabled Tom Naylor to make a clearance.
Newport enjoyed several set-pieces throughout the match and it was on the half-hour mark, that the hosts went ahead.
Adam Chapman floated a fine cross towards the near-post, where some lapse marking allowed Zebroski to head Newport into a lead.
Despite having fallen behind, The Stags surged back at Newport and burly frontman Rhead enjoyed two chances in as many minutes.
In the first chance, Rhead received an intricate lay-off by the mercurial Clucas, before he flashed a 20-yard snap-shot just wide.
And a minute later, he came even closer to registering an equaliser when he crashed a bullet-header straight at shot-stopper Pidgeley.
Before the break, Dempster was also off-target with a header, after a left-sided cross by James Jennings reached him inside the area.
The first period was gripping, feisty and pulsating in its entirety, but after the re-start both teams initially struggled to create chances.
What had been a full-throttle clash had turned into a scrappy affair, with neither side able to dictate play for longer than a few minutes.
Nevertheless, Rhead was still a central figure in the action.
The powerhouse received a caution for dissent on 58 minutes, just moments before his deep back-post cross had to be tipped away by a back-peddling Pidgeley.
The Stags, who slowly began to assume control, made their first substitution on 64 minutes, when Ollie Palmer replaced Lee Beevers.
And three minutes later, Paul Cox’s men struck a deserved equaliser.
Hutchinson delivered a low flag-kick into the six-yard box, which caught a deflection off a Newport player and allowed Clucas to head home.
Newport went close to quickly re-establishing a lead as Marriott had to hold a 25-yard drive by the lively Zebroski.
At the other end, a last-ditch intervention by Harry Worley, denied Clucas a shooting opportunity as Palmer’s flick on caused chaos for The Exiles.
Newport were reduced to 10 men with 15 minutes remaining when Minshull appeared to flick an elbow at Martin Riley.
However, things were quickly levelled up when Rhead received a second yellow card for a mis-timed challenge on Worley.
The pendulum swung either way during what was a gripping finale, but neither team could find a winner to seal maximum points.