Report: Stags 0-0 Plymouth
Mansfield Town earned a hard-fought point against high-flying Plymouth Argyle in an entertaining encounter at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Stags created some good chances to win the game in an end-to-end match against the Pilgrims, but both defences put in stern work to ensure the deadlock wasn't broken as Adam Murray's men rose to ninth position in League Two.
Manager Murray made two changes to the side that were edged out by Luton Town last week with midfielder Jack Thomas and defender Lee Collins coming into the side at One Call Stadium in place of the injured Chris Clements and the suspended Nicky Hunt.
The hosts got off to an assured start as they attempted to set the tempo, with Matt Green's physicality and pace in the forward areas causing the visitors problems. A nice pass from Collins nearly put Green through but the ball just evaded the man chasing his fourth league goal of the campaign.
Plymouth hit back with a golden opportunity as the ball was crossed in by Peter Hartley for Reuben Reid who laced a volley towards the Stags’ goal but saw it cannon off the crossbar and out to safety. But the Stags remained undeterred by the early scare and continued to look composed on the ball, without carving out too much in the final third.
Malvind Benning's curling free-kick caused danger as it headed towards Nathan Thomas but he couldn't get a clean enough connection to trouble Luke McCormick in the Pilgrims' net.
Soon after, goalkeeper Brian Jensen made a wonderful save as Graham Carey was given space inside the area to get a powerful effort away while Ryan Tafazolli tried a spectacular over-head kick at the other end which trickled wide of the Argyle goal.
The promotion-chasing away side spurned another glorious chance when Ryan Brunt glanced a header wide following good work down the left by Gary Sawyer, but despite Derek Adams' men having the better of the chances, Stags still ploughed forward and endeavoured to put passing moves together.
Green and his attacking colleague Craig Westcarr worked tirelessly to force Plymouth into errors, but were devoid of a bit of luck in many instances to get the break their graft deserved in the opening half-hour.
An encouragingly menacing run from Nathan Thomas on the left side resulted in a dangerous cross being sent in by the winger, however it evaded the head of Green in the 18-yard-box and got cleared away, as Mansfield began to grow into the encounter offensively.
Nathan Thomas frightened the visitors once again after the ball was well kept in by Green who laid it back for the former but his effort was dragged agonisingly past the post.
In-form Argyle forward Jake Jervis threatened to put the visitors in the lead as he got in behind, however his wayward drive was watched wide by Jensen. Mansfield responded as Benning had another whipped set-piece, but Plymouth stood firm to clear the ball under pressure from Ryan Tafazolli and Krystian Pearce who were up from the back.
Westcarr found room 25 yards from goal and let fly with a thumping strike which went just wide as the first half drew to a close with Murray's side finishing the opening 45 minutes with their tails up.
The hosts started the second period in the same vein as they ended the first, dictating possession and trying to use the acceleration of Green and Westcarr.
However it was the visitors who almost opened the scoring as Carey curled a free-kick towards goal from the left which Jensen dealt with, while Green tested the hands of McCormick with a stinging drive moments later at the other end. Carey tested the Stags’ ‘keeper with an almost-identical rasping free-kick with the match heating up in terms of chances, but Jensen got strong enough hands on it to divert away.
Stags' defence persisted in stubborn fashion with the midfield harrying admirably to give Plymouth's playmakers little time to influence proceedings. Mitchell Rose's work-rate was a particular highlight and Adam Chapman managed to find Rose with a defence-splitting through-ball but he saw his right-footed drive tipped past the post by McCormick at full stretch.
The heavily-involved Carey collected the ball in space and fired an effort past the post for the away side, while Green's cheeky chip nearly found the back of the net as both sides fought valiantly to break the deadlock.
Jervis, whose five league goals this season had catapulted Plymouth into the automatic-promotion places before the contest, was bearing down on goal and attempted to take it around Jensen, but the experienced keeper smothered him impressively to keep the match goalless.
The Pilgrims continued to produce a number of set-pieces but Murray's well-drilled defensive line refused to let them trouble the scoreline, as substitute Adi Yussuf's raw pace alongside Green ensured Mansfield were still a threat as they attempted to climb into the play-off places with a win.
Murray freshened things up with winger Matty Blair, returning after a seven-month injury lay-off, coming on to replace Nathan Thomas on the right as the hosts looked for an extra injection of energy to come away with the three points. Another long-range finessed free-kick from Carey skimmed the roof of the net with a little under ten minutes remaining on the clock.
Both teams pressed purposefully and Green created Mansfield's next chance. Green fed Blair inside the box who drilled a cross towards Yussuf but the Tanzanian forward couldn't convert from close range. Green then cut in from the left in his next action, but he saw his right-footed shot fly wide.
Pearce and Tafazolli worked impressively in the centre half positions to nullify the away side's attacking prowess and limit them to half-chances from range. Four minutes of added time was signalled at the end of the second 45 minutes as the Stags energetically sprung back and forth.
Despite their best efforts, they were denied a victory by a threatening Argyle side but remain unbeaten at One Call Stadium this season and lie just one point off the play-offs.
Stags: Jensen, Benning, Rose, Pearce, Collins (c), Chapman, Green, Westcarr (Yussuf 52)', J Thomas (Lambe 56'), Tafazolli, N Thomas (Blair 79')
Subs not used: Shearer, Marsden, Blair, McGuire, Fitzpatrick
Plymouth Argyle: McCormick, Mellor, Sawyer, Nelson (c), Hartley, Simpson, Reid (Tanner 66'), Carey (Threlkeld 87'), Jervis (Wylde 72') , Brunt, Boaten
Subs not used: C Harvey, Cox, T Harvey, Purrington,
Attendance: 3,185 (463 away)