Despite a dominant performance by the Stags, they were made to share a point with Port Vale at One Call Stadium this afternoon. Stags took a deserved lead by way of a Kyle Howkins own goal, but striker Tom Pope's late equaliser meant frustration for Mansfield Town.
The first-half ended goalless but Mansfield were on top throughout. The closest they came was in the 12th minute when left-back Mal Benning drilled a ball towards the back post, which narrowly missed the upright and the foot of striker Kane Hemmings.
Mansfield’s dominance continued in the second period and they got their deserved goal in the 72nd minute. A Danny Rose effort led to pinball inside the six-yard box, and despite several Mansfield bodies in and around the action, the ball eventually made its way into the net off Port Vale defender Kyle Howkins. That looked to have given the Stags all three points but it wasn’t to be, as in the 89th minute, Vale captain Tom Pope hooked the ball home to secure a draw for the visitors.
Stags’ manager David Flitcroft made three changes to the team that recorded a famous 1-0 victory against Chesterfield last time out. The versatile Paul Digby came in to replace the injured Hayden White at right-back whilst in central defence, Rhys Bennett took the place of club captain Zander Diamond, who was suffering from a knock. Further forward, flying winger CJ Hamilton was given the nod over Jacob Mellis who dropped to the bench.
The game’s first chance came in the sixth minute and it went the way of the Stags. Top ‘scorer Danny Rose latched on to a loose ball 30 yards out before advancing and releasing a strike that never really tested Vale ‘keeper Sam Hornby.
The Stags then went close again moments later. Rose did really well to hold the ball as Mansfield broke on the Port Vale defence and he played the ball through for Alfie Potter who stung the palms of Hornby from a tight angle.
Port Vale responded with a chance of their own as the veteran Michael Tonge skimmed the top of the Mansfield bar with a well-struck effort from distance.
It had been an entertaining opening ten minutes and Mansfield almost took the lead once again. The ball was teed up nicely for midfielder Alex MacDonald on the edge of the Vale box but his low, curling effort went just wide of the upright.
After writing his name in Stags folklore by scoring the winner in last week’s derby, Benning was involved once again in the 12th minute as he bombed down the left of the Vale box before hitting a cross-cum-shot that went just wide of the far post whilst also agonisingly missing the outstretched foot of striker Kane Hemmings.
The Stags were looking the most likely and they had the ball in the back of the net in the 17th minute, when MacDonald’s header found Hemmings free inside the area, but the on-loan Oxford United man was flagged for offside after he had calmly finished past Hornby.
A silky piece of footwork by MacDonald created a good shooting opportunity for himself in the 24th minute but after jinking past his man, his driven shot was held well by Hornby.
It continued to be all Mansfield as the game reached the half hour mark and in the 31st minute, they went close again to finding the opener. After winning the ball by the left touchline, the Stags counter-attacked with defender Rhys Bennett playing through Danny Rose who saw his low, driven shot saved well by Hornby.
The Mansfield pressure was building and building as the first half neared its end and Benning almost made it two goals in two weeks as he found his way to the edge of the Port Vale area, but his shot was straight at Hornby.
It looked like a matter of when, not if, Mansfield would score and they were nearly gifted the opener just before half time as Port Vale’s Danny Pugh almost headed into his own net when clearing a whipped cross by winger Alfie Potter.
Mansfield were unable to break the deadlock before half-time however and the two sides went into the interval with the score still at 0-0.
The Mansfield onslaught continued early in the second-half as the Stags kept searching for that elusive opener. Brilliant work by Alex MacDonald saw him get down the right flank and his pull back ended up at the feet of Potter but the winger couldn’t connect with the ball cleanly and it rolled wide of the post.
In the 54th minute, a Stags corner caused havoc in the Port Vale area as Bennett won the initial header before Vale captain, Tom Pope, headed onto the roof of his own net when trying to clear the danger.
Port Vale were seriously struggling to deal with the Stags and a rasping drive from right-back Paul Digby forced Hornby into a smart save down to his left.
As Mansfield kept knocking at the door, trying to find the opening goal, they were being cheered on by a boisterous home crowd who created a fantastic atmosphere inside One Call Stadium.
Just after the hour, the Stags made their first change with artful midfielder Jacob Mellis replacing Paul Digby, and Will Atkinson moving to right back.
Mansfield were getting closer and closer and their best chance of the afternoon arrived in the 63rd minute when a fantastic delivery from the left by Benning found the head of Danny Rose, but he was unable to score his 18th of the season, heading over the bar.
Despite being second best for the majority of the game, Port Vale almost took the lead in the 66th minute. A teasing ball from the right found Luke Hannant on the left of the Stags’ area but his low shot was well saved by Mansfield stopper Conrad Logan.
With just under 20 minutes to go, the Stags finally got their goal. Danny Rose’s shot across goal was parried by Hornby and the loose ball ricocheted around the six-yard box, before finally trickling into the back of the net with the final touch appearing to come off Vale defender and ex-Stag, Kyle Howkins.
Now they had the goal they were looking for, Mansfield took their foot off the gas somewhat as Port Vale tried to work a way back into the game.
In the 83rd minute, the Stags made their second substitution as the hard-working Kane Hemmings was replaced by the physical presence of Lee Angol up front, in a like-for-like change.
The visitors had rarely troubled Mansfield all afternoon but in the 89th minute, they snatched an equaliser. A ball in from the right found captain Tom Pope and his hooked effort got the better of Logan and despite the best efforts of defender Krystian Pearce, the ball found the back of the net.
That proved to be vital as the points were shared with Mansfield left reflecting on a game they will feel they should have won.
STAGS’ XI: Logan (GK), Bennett, Benning, Digby (Mellis 62’), Pearce ©, MacDonald, Atkinson, Potter, Hamilton, Hemmings (Angol 83’), Rose
SUBS NOT USED: Olejnik (GK), Angol, Anderson, Hunt, King, Graham
PORT VALE XI: Hornby (GK), Raglan, Kay, Pugh (Turner 74’), Pope ©, Worrall, Gibbons, Smith, Tonge (Whitfield 45’), Howkins, Hannant
SUBS NOT USED: Boot (GK), Howe, Davis, Barnett, Forrester
ATTENDANCE: 4,210 (598 away)
REFEREE: Carl Boyeson