Report: Argyle 1-1 Stags
Mansfield Town suffered injury-time heartbreak as they conceded a last-gasp equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Plymouth Argyle at Home Park.
The Stags looked set to come away with maximum points from their longest away trip of the campaign, following Matt Rhead’s opener on 74 minutes.
But in the sixth minute of stoppage-time, Plymouth rescued a point thanks to a close-range strike by Lewis Alessandra, which leaves Mansfield occupying 19th position in Sky Bet League Two.
The hosts started brightly but should have done better with their first chance when Alessandra hit a tame 20-yard shot straight at Alan Marriott on three minutes.
The Stags were forced to defend strongly throughout the match and both Reuben Reid and the lively Alessandra had attempts blocked during another period of early pressure.
Mansfield caught their first glimpse of Luke McCormick’s goal on nine minutes, but Lee Stevenson’s scruffy 30-yard snap-shot failed to trouble the Argyle shot-stopper.
McCormick had to claim Westlake’s inviting right-wing cross under pressure from Matt Rhead moments later, though it wasn’t long until Plymouth were back on the attack.
Reid threatened to break clear and was brought down by John Dempster around 30 yards out, which led to the Stags’ skipper being shown a yellow card.
Luke Young curled the resulting free-kick narrowly wide, but the midfielder was awarded another shooting chance when Riley fouled Reid in a similar position two minutes later.
Young managed to hit the target on this occasion as he drilled a shot through a five-man defensive wall, but Marriott got down well to make a comfortable save.
Mansfield gradually began to establish a foot-hold in the match, but were unable to capitalise on a mistake by McCormick, who spilled Darryl Westlake’s cross on the edge of the six-yard box.
The Stags soon let slip another opening when Chris Clements’ back-post corner was inadvertently headed across goal by Rhead towards Clucas, whose subsequent close-range header rippled the side-netting.
Paul Cox’s players were again left frustrated on 26 minutes when James Jennings curled a left-foot shot straight at McCormick from the edge of the area.
At the opposite end, the Pilgrims wasted a great opportunity when Young’s quickly-taken low corner reached Reid on the edge of the six-yard box, whose shot was high and wild.
The hosts spurned another good chance as Neal Trotman, who scored Argyle’s winner in the reverse fixture in October, headed over from Conor Hourihane’s right-wing free-kick.
However, despite having been on the back-foot at times, Mansfield could have taken the lead in the last minute of normal time at the end of the first period.
Clements planted a long set-piece ball towards the edge of the area, where Ryan Tafazolli’s intricate flick fell kindly for Rhead, who screwed a half-volley over the target.
With the half-time whistle looming large, Plymouth spurned two further opportunities in stoppage-time as Curtis Nelson saw a header tipped over, before Jason Banton blazed over.
Mansfield let slip a golden chance within minutes of the re-start as Marriott and Rhead combined in a simple route one attack, before an advancing Clucas chipped a shot wide.
Moments later, Clements also embarked on a driving run through the middle and when his effort was blocked, Lee Stevenson acrobatically hooked the ball wide.
The Stags then endured a heart-in-mouth moment when Alessandra cut inside and went to ground under a challenge inside the area, but no penalty was awarded.
Plymouth couldn’t capitalise on another great opening when Hourihane’s back-post cross found Nelson, whose header into the ground drifted through the six-yard box and away from danger.
The Pilgrims’ frustrations then became visibly evident on the hour mark when McCormick and Trotman had to be separated by the referee, following a dropped cross by the Argyle custodian.
McCormick was cautioned for his part in the incident and removed both gloves to receive treatment for a wrist injury, prior to being replaced by substitute shot-stopper Jake Cole.
Argyle’s defensive mis-communications continued and Cole’s first job was to pick the ball out the back of the net, as Mansfield broke the deadlock on 74 minutes.
Jennings slotted a low ball towards the edge of the six-yard box, which wasn’t dealt with, and Rhead pounced from just a few yards out to put the Stags on course for victory.
Plymouth began their search for an equaliser almost immediately and substitute Tyler Harvey tried his luck with an ambitious cross-cum-shot, which was palmed away by Marriott.
The Pilgrims created more chances though and after Reid’s low 20-yard drive was parried by Marriott, only Tafazolli’s last-ditch goal-line clearance prevented Alessandra from equalising.
Reid also whistled an attempt over after the ball was deflected into his path, whilst Clucas tested Cole with a low attempt at the other end, following some good link-up play with Stevenson.
Mansfield looked relatively comfortable as six minutes of added time were awarded and for more than four of those, Plymouth struggled to get hold of the ball.
However, in the last minute of injury-time, the Stags suffered cruel heartbreak.
Alessandra latched onto a low pull-back by Harvey and drove a shot into the bottom right-hand corner to earn John Sheridan’s team a fortuitous share of the spoils.