Mansfield Town were denied a third successive victory this afternoon as Jonson Clarke-Harris salvaged a point for Coventry City as a match of high drama ended 1-1 at One Call Stadium.
Stags went into the interval ahead after an action-packed minute changed the game. In the 14th minute, Stags ‘keeper Conrad Logan denied Jonson Clarke-Harris with a smart stop before releasing striker Danny Rose with an impressive long ball forward. After going through on goal, Rose was brought down by defender Jordan Willis who was then shown a straight red card by referee Michael Salisbury. From the resulting free-kick, Alex MacDonald’s low effort struck striker Kane Hemmings and rolled past Lee Burge and into the back of the net.
Just as the first half had centred around a refereeing decision, so did the second period. In the 70th minute, Coventry were awarded a penalty after Jonson Clarke-Harris went down under pressure from MacDonald, who appeared to slip when closing down the Coventry forward. Clarke-Harris took the penalty himself and dispatched past Logan with aplomb. Mansfield had chances to take all three points, but they couldn’t find another way past a resolute Coventry defence.
After impressive back-to-back victories and clean sheets against Newport County and Exeter City, Mansfield manager Steve Evans named an unchanged side for the second game in a row.
Coventry started brightly and had two chances inside the opening few minutes. Firstly, Jonson Clarke-Harris met a low corner but saw his flicked effort deflect out off a Mansfield body and from that resulting corner, Rod McDonald rose highest at the back post but saw this thumped header parried away well by Mansfield ‘keeper Conrad Logan.
Mansfield grew into the game and started getting their foot on the ball. The left flank partnership of full-back Mal Benning and winger CJ Hamilton linked up well on more than one occasion but each time, some neat passing came to nothing as Coventry dealt with the danger.
An action-packed period in the 14th minute then changed the game. At one end, Clarke-Harris saw his low shot well saved by Logan and the former Hibernian ‘keeper then got up quickly and sent striker Danny Rose clear with a long, raking ball forward. Through on goal, Mansfield’s top scorer had his ankles clipped by Jordan Willis who was subsequently shown a straight red card.
Mansfield were also awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area after Willis’ foul and from it, they took the lead. Midfielder Alex MacDonald struck a low effort which hit teammate Kane Hemmings, wrong-footed ‘keeper Lee Burge, and rolled into the bottom corner.
Things almost got better for Mansfield a few minutes later. Rose’s flick on sent Hamilton clear down the left of the box and his fizzed pass went through a sea of amber and blue bodies with none of them able to get a touch to send the ball goal bound.
Good work by Mansfield on the right of the Coventry area created an opportunity in the 23rd minute but after being teed up by midfield partner Adam King, MacDonald saw his shot from 25 yards go past the upright.
With a goal and man advantage, Mansfield were in control of the game and they almost doubled their advantage on the half hour mark. A corner by winger Alfie Potter found the head of defender Rhys Bennett who couldn’t keep his header down from a good position.
The Stags were then almost gifted a second as Jack Grimmer failed to deal with King’s long ball forward. Rose was on to the loose ball first and he looked to set up Hemmings but his ball across goal was just in front of the on-loan Oxford United man.
In the 34th minute, Stags’ ‘keeper Conrad Logan got his first touch of the ball for quite a while as he had to be at his best to claw away a hooked effort by Coventry forward Marc McNulty.
The lightning-quick pace of CJ Hamilton had caused Coventry problems all game and it almost got the Stags a second just before half time. Pearce did well to bring the ball out after a Coventry corner and he found Hamilton on the right with the former Sheffield United man racing away from his marker before seeing a shot saved by the legs of Burge.
Mansfield were looking the more likely, creating the better of the chances. In the 43rd minute, Hemmings slightly misread a cross from right-back Paul Anderson and the frontman was unable to net his second, seeing his headed effort loop just wide.
The Stags almost had the ball in the back of the net early in the second with Hemmings rounding Burge and rolling the ball towards goal, but there were to be no celebrations as the linesman had his flag up for offside.
With an hour on the clock, Mansfield were still enjoying the better of proceedings, but they were yet to really test Burge again with a meaningful chance. That changed in the 62nd minute however when Hamilton broke down the left and pulled the ball back from Hemmings who saw his side-footed effort palmed away by the Coventry ‘keeper.
The reverse fixture was settled by a stunning, long range strike by Alex MacDonald and the former Scotland under 21 international almost repeated that feat in the 65th minute. Finding space 25 yards from goal, the in-form midfielder tried his luck and drilled a shot just wide of the Coventry upright.
Coventry were still in the game despite being a man down and they almost drew level in the 69th minute. Ryan Haynes did brilliantly to work some space and he lashed a shot at goal which Logan did well to tip just wide.
A minute later however, the visitors had a penalty. When attempting to close down Clarke-Harris in the area, Alex MacDonald lost his footing and accidentally bundled over the Coventry forward. It was Clarke-Harris who stepped up to take the spot kick and he thundered the ball past Logan to give the Sky Blues an undeserved equaliser.
Mansfield almost hit back straight away as Hamilton met Rose’s header in the area and though he found a way past Burge, his shot from an acute angle was blocked on its way to goal.
Stags’ manager Steve Evans made two changes after seeing his side lose their lead. In the 74th minute, striker Ricky Miller came on in place of Hemmings before in the 80th minute, Adam King was withdrawn with creative midfielder Jacob Mellis being introduced.
The Stags were awarded a dangerous looking free-kick on the edge of the Coventry box and from it, they almost retook the lead. MacDonald almost caught Burge out with a low effort round the wall but the Coventry ‘keeper got down well to his left to beat the ball to safety.
Mansfield broke well in the 87th minute as they searched for a second goal and after Mellis’ cross from the right eventually ran to Miller, the on-loan Peterborough United forward went down under pressure, but the referee booked the Stags’ man for simulation, rather than awarding a penalty.
If any team was going to score a late winner, it looked like it would be the men in amber and blue. Miller did well to hold the ball up in the 90th minute and laid it off for Mellis who hit a curling effort that went comfortably wide of the target.
There was to be no late drama, however, as the two teams had to settle for a share of the points with Coventry no doubt being the happier of the two sides.
STAGS' XI: Logan, Bennett, Benning, Pearce ©, MacDonald, Anderson, Potter, Hamilton, Hemmings (Miller 74’), King (Mellis 80’), Rose
SUBS NOT USED: Olejnik, Diamond, Atkinson, Spencer, Penney
COVENTRY CITY XI: Burge, Grimmer, Willis, McDonald, Kelly (Hyam 21’), Doyle ©, McNulty (Ponticelli 67’), Clarke-Harris (Biamou 81’), Haynes, Shipley, Bayliss
SUBS NOT USED: O’Brien, Stokes, Vincenti, Reid
ATTENDANCE: 6,105 (1,523 away)
REFEREE: Michael Salisbury