Mansfield Town slipped to an injury-time defeat against Hartlepool United on Saturday, bringing their unbeaten start to the season to an end.It was Stags’ under 18s’ first defeat since they lost to the Pools at the beginning of April last season.
Liam Travers’ 94th-minute goal proved to be the difference in the North East after Stags’ stopper Sam Wilson made a string of fine saves to keep the scores level.
He saved from close range as Connor Simpson got onto the end of Liam Travers' sideways pass, smothered the ball down by his right-hand post as Kenton Richardson's cross-cum-shot almost crept into the corner of the goal and got behind Travers' long shot to collect the ball safely.
The Stags’ ‘keeper had only conceded one league goal all season and his contribution to their league position and unbeaten run shouldn't be underestimated.
The Stags were passing the ball around well on what was a decent playing surface, but most of their aesthetically pleasant movement was across the pitch, rather than from back to front.
Whereas whenever the home side picked up possession, they built up the momentum forward from their defence. It wasn't always easy on the eye, but it was effective nevertheless.
Winger Nyle Blake was fouled out on the right wing and right-back Teddy Bloor made good use of the chilling coastal breeze from the free-kick, but Moloney palmed the ball away from under his bar and the Pools’ defence reacted quickest to reaching the loose ball.
Striker Devante Reittie forced a save from Moloney that resulted in a corner which midfielder Surafel Behailu dropped into the six-yard box, causing chaos among the defending team, but Moloney managed to punch left-back Henri Wilder's goal bound header away.
Pools came close to breaking the deadlock when Jack Cooper's long range cross found its way into the Stags’ area, but their towering centre-forward Connor Simpson headed wide.
Jordan Fielding under hit a clumsy back pass to Moloney which Reittie couldn't quite get a meaningful touch on, but still managed to roll the ball into the path of Blake, who uncharacteristically shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Hakeem sliced an angled shot past the post, after taking the ball wide past Moloney.
Hakeem was then booked for an innocuous foul, the first he had committed all game, moments after the referee had also cautioned Pools’ Jon Weirs, rather harshly, for a mistimed challenge.
In first half stoppage time, Travers went close to grabbing the lead for the home side, but defender Kane Baldwin prevented him from shooting with a well timed tackle.
Half-time: Pools 0-0 Stags
Travers was proving to be a thorn in the Stags’ side, but he blazed a shot high and wide at the beginning of the second half.
Wilson pumped a ball upfield which found its way to Teddy Bloor, and he chipped a deep cross into the Pools’ box towards Hakeem which Moloney did well to intercept.
Pools cleared the ball all the way back to Wilson who then launched the ball to Hakeem, who in spite of Cooper's close attention, managed to direct the ball wide to Blake, who rode a challenge before forcing a good save from Moloney with a lo, curling shot.
Reittie and Bloor made some headway down the right flank, but Moloney held onto the former's cross, while Jacob Owen held on just as tightly to Hakeem to prevent him from challenging for the ball.
The Stags got the ball into Hartlepool's area via a string of flicked on headers from Bloor, Reittie, and Blake, before Hakeem nodded the ball down into the path of Behailu who beat Moloney but saw his shot skim wide of the left-hand upright.
Hawkes played a rangy ball down the flank to Lewis Orrell, who swung a first time cross towards Simpson, but Harrison authoritatively took control of the situation and headed the ball firmly away into the distance.
Hartlepool surged forward again, with Hawkes taking a return pass from Simpson, before Bloor blocked his shot at the expense of a corner.
Blake took up the initiative down the right flank, but was stopped in his tracks by Weirs, who was living life dangerously after already being booked in the first half.
Harrison put himself bravely in the way of Travers' shot from the edge of the box and turned the ball behind. Orrell played the ball towards Hawkes, who was hovering near the touchline and planted an in-swinging cross onto the head of Fielding whose header was kept out acrobatically by Wilson.
The home side were peppering balls into the Stags’ rearguard for a spell, but Wilson and his defence were showing the sort of form that has taken them to the top of the table.
Blake showed a clean pair of heels to Weirs and picked out Cain Smith with his cross, but Brooklyn Miller blocked the resulting shot and diverted the ball wide.
The home side struggled to clear the resulting flag kick and the ball found its way back to Cain Smith, who was only denied by a great save from Moloney.
Pools counter attacked from Moloney's kick and there was C.Smith again at the other end, clearing a flick on from Travers.
Wilson pulled off a top draw save that looked to have added another notch onto his clean sheet record and preserved a point for the unbeaten Stags, when he did well to reach the ball in his top left corner when Travers met Hawkes’ cross with a thumping header.
Moloney, who hadn't put a foot wrong all game, dropped Blake's cross in his six-yard box, but the Stags’ players didn't react quickly enough to capitalise as the Pools’ ‘keeper breathed a sigh of relief.
Hakeem went over in the box under a challenge from Kenton Richardson, but it was a fair tackle and another opening went begging. Bloor won the ball out on the right and laid a pinpoint pass into the path of Blake through the channel, whose shot across the face of goal only needed the slightest touch as it went agonisingly wide of the upright.
Midfielder Keaton Ward was now probing for an opening down the left flank having entered the fray from the bench, but the home side were putting up a determined resistance.
Deep into stoppage time, the Stags repelled Hartlepool for what looked like the last time as they saw the ball out for a corner. But as the ball came in, Travers got up above a scrum of players and planted a downward header into the mix, that Wilson managed to get a hand to, but couldn't keep out.
There was no time for Stags to find an equaliser as the referee blew for full-time almost immediately after the restart.
They now need to show a positive response to today's performance, when they come up against Rotherham United on Friday afternoon.
Full-time: Pools 1-0 Stags
Pools: Moloney, Richardson, Cooper (Miller 58), Owen, Fielding, Wood, Travers, Orrell, Simpson (Fell 72), Hawkes, Weirs
Unused subs: Lawrence, Boyle
Stags: Wilson, Bloor, Wilder, C.Smith, Baldwin. Harrison, Blake, Healey, Hakeem, Reittie (A.Smith), Behailu (Ward 77)
Unused subs: Bircumshaw, Walker, Sundby (GK)