Mansfield Town’s season came to a close this afternoon with a 1-1 draw against Crawley Town, despite dominating much of the game.
Mansfield went into the game knowing they needed to win and hope one of Coventry City or Lincoln City got beat, but the Stags didn’t get off to the best of starts as they fell behind in the seventh minute. Panutche Camara delivered a ball from the left wing and Karlan Ahearne-Grant was on hand to head the ball past ‘keeper Conrad Logan. That was the only goal of the first-half, though Mansfield had several opportunities to draw level which they failed to convert.
In the second-half, the Stags laid siege to the Crawley goal and will feel that they should have scored more than the solitary goal they managed. That goal arrived in the 63rd minute, Kane Hemmings heading home at the near post, squeezing the ball past Crawley ‘keeper Yusuf Mersin. The visitors had Mersin to thank for keeping them in the game as he denied the Stags on more than one occasion, whilst Hemmings and strike partner Lee Angol were both guilty of spurning brilliant chances in that second-half onslaught.
Mansfield manager David Flitcroft made two changes to the team that fought back brilliantly to defeat Yeovil Town 3-2 last time out. Striker Lee Angol, who scored two goals in that victory, came in to replace top goal scorer Danny Rose who was ruled out with a knock. The other change saw flying winger CJ Hamilton come in for Alfie Potter, with Potter dropping to the bench alongside Omari Sterling-James, who came into the matchday squad following his return from loan at Solihull Moors.
The Stags would have been looking for an early goal to settle the nerves and they almost got it inside the second minute. A slick passing move on the edge of the Mansfield box ended in striker Kane Hemmings slipping the ball through for fellow forward Lee Angol but the former Peterborough man was denied well by the legs of Crawley ‘keeper Yusuf Mersin.
Despite being the much better side for the opening five minutes, Mansfield fell behind in the seventh minute. Winning the ball midway inside the Mansfield half, the visitors broke at pace and Panutche Camara’s dinked cross from the left found Karlan Ahearne-Grant and he deftly headed the ball past Stags ‘keeper Conrad Logan.
It was Crawley who went close next in the 15th minute as they looked to extend their lead. Logan had to be at his best to palm the ball away at the near post after Enzio Boldewijn’s first-time drive looked to be heading for the top corner.
Two minutes later and Angol had another chance for the Stags but his effort from 20 yards out lacked the power or placement to beat Mersin as the Crawley stopper easily claimed.
In the 20th minute, Mansfield went close again. They were awarded a free kick by the left touchline and Mal Benning’s brilliant, teasing delivery found the head of centre-half Krystian Pearce but the ball was just slightly behind the Stags’ captain and his effort went wide.
Mansfield manager David Flitcroft obviously felt that something needed to change as in the 27th minute, he made a double substitution. Hayden White came off the bench to replace Paul Digby at right-back whilst Will Atkinson was replaced by Alfie Potter, Alex MacDonald moving into central midfield.
The Stags were beginning to build a period of pressure and in the 34th minute, quick feet by Alex MacDonald saw him get clear of two Crawley defenders and he lashed a shot towards goal but it skipped just wide of the upright.
Mansfield were getting in good positions in and around the Crawley goal but they were unable to take advantage. Left-back Mal Benning saw a well-struck effort blocked by a Crawley defender before Jacob Mellis was crowded out by a sea of visiting bodies before he could get a shot away.
The first-half was almost at an end and the Stags were still looking for their equaliser. Defender Rhys Bennett teed the ball up for Mellis on the edge of the area but his volleyed effort flew over the Crawley goal.
There were three minutes added on at the end of the first-half and they were spent with Crawley having every man behind the ball but despite Mansfield’s best efforts, they were unable to find a way through and the Stags headed into the break a goal behind.
Within seconds of the restart, Mansfield had a chance to draw level. CJ Hamilton sent a cross in from the left and it found Kane Hemmings but he was unable to generate enough power on his header to trouble Mersin.
The early Stags pressure continued as Hayden White brilliantly carried the ball out of defence before playing through Hamilton and the former Sheffield United winger cut inside onto his right foot before drilling an effort straight at Mersin.
It was all Mansfield early on and Crawley just couldn’t cope with them. In the 48th minute, Hamilton slipped in Hemmings who sent a shot across goal but it rolled just wide with many inside One Call Stadium thinking the shot was creeping in at the far post.
The pressure showed no signs of slowing down as Mersin once again denied the Stags. A corner in eventually found its way to Krystian Pearce who flicked a header towards goal only for Mersin to claw the ball away.
Mansfield were producing chance after chance and in the 53rd minute, they produced their best opportunity so far. Potter whipped in a fantastic ball from the right and it found Hemmings in front of goal, but on-loan Oxford United man couldn’t prod the ball goal-bound.
Despite how well Mansfield had started the second-half, they nearly conceded a second goal which would have left them with a mountain to climb. Jimmy Smith found himself one-on-one with Conrad Logan but Stags’ man mountain was off his line quick to spread himself and deny the Crawley captain.
It looked like a matter of when, not if, Mansfield would score as they kept up their second-half onslaught. Just before the hour, it was the turn of Rhys Bennett to try his luck as he latched onto a loose ball in the area to roll the ball just wide of the post.
Crawley remained penned in their own half and Lee Angol went close next for Mansfield as he smashed shot over the bar from around 10 yards out as the ball dropped to him inside the area.
The inevitable finally happened in the 63rd minute as Mansfield drew level. A pin-point delivery from the left found Kane Hemmings waiting in the middle and he squeezed the ball just inside the post to give the Stags a well-deserved equaliser.
The wind was now well and truly in the Mansfield sails but they knew they needed one more goal and kept up their earlier pressure. First Mersin produced another fantastic save to tip Hemmings’ long-range effort wide of the post and from that resulting corner, the Stags had an effort cleared off the line as Josh Doherty headed Hayden White’s effort over the bar.
Crawley were trying to hit Mansfield on the counter-attack and in the 74th minute, Ahearne-Grant raced clear of Bennett in search of his second goal, but Logan got down well to his right to save the ball.
The Stags had the ball in the back of the net again a minute later, but Hemmings was denied a second goal by the offside flag.
The visitors had finally broken out of their own half and Camara hit a poor effort from 25 yards which never came close to testing Logan.
Crawley continued to grow more into the game but the Stags still looked the more likely as they threw everything at the visitors.
Stags continued to pile on the pressure in the closing five minutes, but could not do enough to force a winning goal against a resolute Crawley defence.
STAGS’ XI: Logan (GK), Bennett, Benning, Digby (White 27’), Pearce ©, MacDonald, Mellis, Angol, Atkinson (Potter 27’), Hamilton, Hemmings
SUBS NOT USED: Olejnik (GK), Sterling-James, King, Byrom, Graham
CRAWLEY XI: Mersin (GK), Young, Doherty, Payne (Tajbakhsh 58’), Connolly, Boldewijn, Smith, Ahearne-Grant, Yorwerth, Bulman, Camara
SUBS NOT USED: Moore (GK), McNery, Djalo, Evina, Sanoh
REFEREE: Ben Toner
ATTENDANCE: 4734 (135 away)