Stags fell just short of a dramatic comeback against Crewe Alexandra at One Call Stadium this afternoon, after finding themselves 4-1 down at half-time. Lee Angol scored Stags' only goal of the first-half, with Kane Hemmings and Ricky Miller adding goals for David Flitcroft's side in the second.
The Stags went into the half time break 4-1 down after a frantic, action-packed opening half hour. Crewe took the lead in seventh minute when James Jones found the bottom corner with a well struck, low effort. Then, three minutes later, it was 2-0 as Jordan Bowery turned the ball in from close range. Mansfield halved the deficit through Lee Angol but Crewe restored their two goal advantage in the 25th minute through Harry Pickering before Charlie Kirk made it 4-1 two minutes later.
Mansfield made two changes at the break, introducing forwards Ricky Miller and Danny Rose, and the added attacking options helped Stags to two second-half goals to cut the deficit. The first arrived in the 50th minute as Kane Hemmings headed in his 13th goal of the season at the back post. The Stags had to wait until the 77th minute for their third and it was Miller who got it, converting from close range after winger CJ Hamilton’s shot was deflected into his path. Mansfield threw everything at Crewe but there was to be no fourth goal despite the Stags having a plethora of chances.
Mansfield manager David Flitcroft made one change to the starting eleven that narrowly lost at Luton with winger Alfie Potter coming in to replace midfielder Will Atkinson who dropped to the bench. Atkinson was joined on the bench by Stags’ top ‘scorer Danny Rose on his return from injury and there was also a place for youngster Jordan Graham, a reward for his eye-catching displays in training recently.
The Stags started strongly and in the first two minutes, pacey winger CJ Hamilton got the left flank twice and almost created goal scoring opportunities for the men in amber and blue.
Mansfield had enjoyed the better of the opening five minutes but, with their first attack, Crewe took the lead in seventh minute. James Jones was given time and space to advance on the Mansfield defence and rifle a low shot into the bottom corner, past the dive of Stags’ goalkeeper Conrad Logan.
Things then went from bad to worse as in the tenth minute, Crewe doubled their advantage. Experienced midfielder Paul Green did well to keep the ball in on the right byline and his pullback found Jones, who saw his close ranged effort saved by Logan, before Jordan Bowery forced home the rebound.
Mansfield now needed a quick response and they almost got it when the ball fell kindly for CJ Hamilton on the edge of the area, but his first time effort flew over the bar.
Thankfully, the Stags didn’t have to wait too much longer for their goal as in the 15th minute they made it 2-1. Oxford United loanee Kane Hemmings dinked a ball towards striker partner Lee Angol who turned home the rebound after seeing his initial headed effort saved by Crewe’s Ben Garratt.
The frantic start to the contest continued as Crewe almost restored their two goal advantage. Bowery found space on the right of the Stags area but he was denied his second of the game by a smart save with the legs by Logan.
It was a fascinating, end-to-end affair and Mansfield almost pulled level through creative midfielder Jacob Mellis but his effort from the edge of the box skewed off target.
In the 24th minute, Mellis tried his luck once again but his curling shot from 20 yards out was well held by Garratt.
A minute later, Crewe scored again. Harry Pickering got on the end of a through ball by Charlie Kirk before picking his spot and arrowing the ball into the far corner.
It wasn’t long before it was 4-1. The Stags failed to clear a ball into the area and Crewe managed to work the ball into the path of Charlie Kirk, who finished calmly past Logan.
After half an hour, Mansfield made their first change of the game as captain Zander Diamond was replaced by Krystian Pearce in a like-for-like substitution.
Mansfield nearly got a goal back before half time but a well-struck shot by midfielder Alex MacDonald was deflected wide of the target.
The Stags kept searching for a way back into the game and good combination play by MacDonald and winger Alfie Potter created an opening but the former’s pass across the area was cleared away by a Crewe defender.
There were four minutes added on to the end of the first half and midway through the added time, Mansfield went close again but MacDonald saw powerful strike blocked on its way to goal.
With his side having it all to do in the second half, manager David Flitcroft made an attack-minded, double substitution at the break. Alfie Potter and Lee Angol were taken off with strikers Ricky Miller and Danny Rose introduced.
Despite the changes, it was Crewe who nearly scored next. A cross from the right found Shaun Miller free in space but he was unable to bring the ball under his control and Logan was off his line quickly to claim.
The Stags were looking to get a goal back early and they did just that, scoring their second in the 50th minute. Ricky Miller's cross looped to the back post where Kane Hemmings was on hand to head past Garratt from close range.
There looked to be plenty of goals left in the game and Crewe almost added a fifth in the 53rd minute. Ryan Wintle received the ball 25 yards out and he set himself before releasing an effort that went just past the post.
Mansfield striker Danny Rose is on 17 goals for the campaign and he nearly added to that tally, but in the space of a minute, he headed two good opportunities over the bar.
The wind was now definitely in the sails of Mansfield and right back Hayden White did brilliantly to beat his man before releasing a fierce cross-cum-shot that flew just past the upright.
The Stags almost suffered a sucker punch as Crewe went close to a fifth. Brilliant hold up play by Bowery ended in him releasing Pickering who forced the ball past Logan but the effort lacked power and defender Rhys Bennett was able to get back and clear the ball away.
Before too long Mansfield were back putting Crewe under pressure and Rose capitalised on a defensive mix up to go clear inside the area but his attempted pass for Miller was intercepted by a Crewe defender.
In the 70th minute, Crewe spurned a golden opportunity to kill the game off. Counter-attacking well after a Mansfield corner, the visitors did well to work the ball from right to left and the ball eventually ended up at the feet of Harry McKirdy who saw his effort parried well by Logan. The loose ball then rolled out to Bowery who seemed to have the simple task of firing into the empty net but the front man failed to keep his shot down and, thankfully for Mansfield, it sailed over the bar.
That kept the Stags in the game and they almost got another goal back in the 72nd minute. Rose tried an audacious, lobbed effort from just outside the box and though it had Garratt beaten, it struck the bar.
The Mansfield pressure continued a few minutes later as Hemmings got to a ball over the top before Garratt but the Stags forward saw his attempted pass for Rose intercepted.
In the 77th minute, Mansfield finally got their third to set up an exciting end to the game. Hamilton cut inside from the left and tried his luck but his effort was deflected into the path of Ricky Miller who finished past Garratt for his first Stags goal since arriving on loan from Peterborough United in January.
With the Stags faithful right behind them, the men in amber and blue were giving everything to get that much needed fourth goal. Mansfield were having all of the possession and putting Crewe under some heavy pressure but the visitors looked dangerous on the counter.
In the 87th minute, Kane Hemmings almost drew Mansfield level but after latching onto a ball over the top, his shot was straight at Garratt who dealt with it easily.
It was then the turn of Jacob Mellis to go close for Stags. The former Chelsea youngster charged into the area to meet Rose’s through ball but on the stretch, his shot could only find the side netting.
With five minutes added on, Mansfield threw centre back Krystian Pearce up front to try and cause Crewe some additional problems as the Stags piled on the pressure.
Mansfield heads were then in their hands as they came agonisingly close to grabbing a late equaliser. White received a pass from Mellis near the right byline and he fizzed the ball across the face of goal and it looked for all the world as if it would be turned home but it somehow evaded the sea of Mansfield bodies.
There was to be no more late drama as Crewe managed to just hold on to secure the three points.
STAGS’ XI: Logan (GK), Bennett, Diamond © (Pearce 30’), MacDonald, Mellis, Angol (Rose 45’), White, Potter (Miller 45’), Hunt, Hamilton, Hemmings
SUBS NOT USED: Olejnik (GK), Atkinson, King, Graham
CREWE XI: Garratt (GK), Ray ©, Jones, Bowery, Nolan, Wintle, Pickering, Kirk (Raynes 60’), Green, Miller (McKirdy 65’), Sterry (Ng 80’)
SUBS NOT USED: Richards (GK), Ng, Porter, Dagnall, Ainley
ATTENDANCE: 3480 (258 away)
REFEREE: Richard Clark