Report: Stags 2-1 Newport
Anthony Howell’s last-minute winner earned Mansfield Town an important 2-1 victory in Sky Bet League Two.
The Stags’ midfielder netted from just a few yards after Matt Rhead brilliantly rose at the far-post to latch onto Sam Clucas’ long right-wing cross.
Mansfield had earlier led through Ryan Tafazolli, before Newport drew level through Rene Howe shortly after the re-start.
Manager Paul Cox made two changes to the team that drew 0-0 at Dagenham & Redbridge with Adam Murray replacing Jamie McGuire, and Ben Hutchinson coming in for Lee Stevenson.
The Stags won the first corner of the match after only five minutes, but Ben Hutchinson’s back-post delivery was too close to Exiles ‘keeper Elliott Parish, who caught the ball unopposed.
Newport’s Adam Chapman could have done better moments later, when he ran at a back-peddling Mansfield defence and saw his 20-yard drive blocked at the expense of a corner by Ritchie Sutton.
Chapman had a more scruffy effort blocked by Murray and claimed by Alan Marriott on the quarter-hour mark, as the visitors shaded the largely tentative opening exchanges.
Mansfield created a rare opening on 18 minutes when Sam Clucas raced down the right-wing to reach Anthony Howell’s lobbed pass, and delivered a teasing cross into the area.
Byron Anthony’s partial clearance was seized upon by Colin Daniel on the edge of the area, who was forced wide by his marker, before he hooked a harmless cross well over the target.
Clucas was causing Newport quite a few problems and the lively winger cut inside again from the right channel moments later, and hit a 20-yard drive which didn’t trouble Parish.
At the other end, Marriott showed good hands to claim a deep back-post cross by Chapman on 21 minutes, following a lengthy spell of possession from Justin Edinburgh’s side.
Another of Newport’s biggest threats came through full-back Ryan Jackson, whose looping long-throws always drew the Stags’ backline into action.
Nevertheless, it was Mansfield who drew first blood on 28 minutes.
Hutchinson retrieved the ball out on the right-wing after his sweet set-piece into the piece was cleared, and floated a superb cross towards the towering Tafazolli inside the area.
The defender made a perfect connection to divert the ball goalwards and it carried just enough power to evade the clutches of Parish and nestle in the bottom-left corner.
With Mansfield now ahead, the Exiles pressed for an instant equaliser and continued to bombard the Stags’ area with crosses, long balls and pressure.
After one such long ball, a Newport player clattered into Marriott at the far-post and the Stags’ custodian required treatment for quite a few minutes, before being able to carry on.
Paul Cox’s players were incensed on 36 minutes when the lively Clucas weaved past his marker and was wrestled to the ground by Andrew Hughes inside the area.
The referee blew his whistle, seemingly to award a penalty, but bizarrely opted to flash a yellow card in the direction of Clucas – much to the disbelief of everyone inside One Call Stadium.
Over the next few minutes, Newport’s Chris Zebroski and Mansfield’s Howell were both booked for separate incidents, as the match became a very stop-start affair.
Stags’ full-back Darryl Westlake had the ball in the net in the first of two minutes of added time, but his close-range strike was ruled out by the linesman for an apparent push.
Newport began brightly in the second half and won a free-kick in a dangerous position around 30 yards out, when Murray and Chapman collided innocuously.
The set-piece was left to Robbie Wilmott, who unleashed a powerful drive which cannoned off the head of Chapman and went wide, but bizarrely a corner was awarded.
Wilmott then drove a low 20-yard snap-shot into the side-netting following the subsequent corner, as Newport searched hard for an equaliser.
The Exiles’ always looked dangerous going forward and made it 1-1 on 50 minutes, when Marriott misjudged a long set-piece by Tom Naylor, and Howe slotted home from eight yards out.
The match was now a really physical battle with very little in the way of creativity or clear-cut chances.
Both teams has two corners apiece around the hour mark, but both defences remained strong, solid and resolute as a unit as they dealt with what was thrown at them.
Newport shaded the possession and territorial advantage and almost went ahead on 70 minutes when Chapman’s bobbling 20-yard drive bounced wide of the right-hand post.
The Stags then put Newport under a sustained spell of intense pressure as they enjoyed three quick corners, but the visitors’ rearguard again held firm.
With just a quarter-of-an-hour left to play, Newport’s Lee Minshull latched onto Wilmott’s inside-pass and let fly with a fizzling 25-yard attempt, which was too high to trouble Marriott.
Mansfield immediately attacked at the other end as Daniel’s long left-wing cross evaded everyone expect Westlake at the far-post, who headed the ball back across goal.
Rhead rose highest to connect and diverted the ball towards Howell, who around two yards out with his back to goal, somehow managed to head over.
The Stags by this point had wrestled the territorial advantage from Newport, though the match was on a knife-edge.
Murray had a chance to grab all three points for Mansfield on 87 minutes, when he collected the ball unopposed and drifted towards goal, but his eventual shot was high and wide.
However, in the very last minute of normal time, the Stags had a reason to celebrate euphorically!
Lindon Meikle’s hooked lob reached Clucas out on the right flank and the winger hooked a brilliant cross towards Rhead at the far-post, who towered above everyone else.
Rhead’s bullet downwards header caught Exiles’ shot-stopper Parish in the proverbial ‘no man’s land’ and Howell was able to stoop low and head home.
The Quarry Lane End behind the goal erupted euphorically as they knew that Mansfield were on the verge of a very important league victory.
The Stags saw out four minutes of added time (and more), before the referee eventually blew his whistle to signal the end of a great afternoon for the home side.