Mansfield Town emerged as 1-0 victors over Carlisle United courtesy of a Tyler Walker penalty at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
In a hotly-contested affair in, Mansfield Town extended their unbeaten league run to six games as they held onto a solitary penalty from on-loan striker, Walker.
Despite creating several chances throughout the 90 minutes to put the game beyond doubt, the home side dug deep and secured a clean sheet on top of three points. It was a performance that would no doubt please Stags’ boss David Flitcroft.
There were a total of four changes from the mid-week cup defeat at the Hawthorns. Flitcroft welcomed back Danny Rose into the starting XI for Saturday’s affair – as he took the place of Craig Davies for his first start of the season.
The gaffer also included Alex MacDonald, Matt Preston and Hayden White from the outset as they replaced Calum Butcher, Mal Benning and Will Atkinson, respectively.
Tyler Walker, who was one half of the Stags’ strike force on Saturday afternoon, was called into defensive action early on as he won a smart foul to relieve his team of early pressure from the visiting side.
In the third minute, White then slipped in Otis Khan, but by the time Rose had peeled back for the reverse ball the midfielder had already flashed one across the face of goal.
Walker, down his more favoured end of the pitch this time, opted to shoot from 25 yards – a low, driven effort that was stopped by the outstretched hand of Adam Collin.
Regaining possession in the centre of the park, Rose came away with the ball and drove forward. He in turn found Khan racing through but was stopped by the Cumbrians’ skipper, Gary Liddle.
Minutes later, MacDonald miscued what would have been a spectacular half-volley from the edge of Collin’s box. He ultimately found the visiting supporters in the R.N Surfacing Stand rather than the goal.
On 15 minutes it was Carlisle’s turn to attack through Richie Bennett. The right wing-back made half a yard on White to deliver a cross that was calmly dealt with by the hands of Robert Olejnik.
Seven minutes later signalled the first clear-cut chance of the match.
White charged down the right-flank and his attempted cross was deflected beyond the by-line; whereby the subsequent corner was met by the head of Rose. It looked for all the world that striker had bagged his first league goal of the season, had it not been for Liddle once more who stood firm to deny him on the goal line.
The Stags came close again on the half-hour mark. Ryan Sweeney peeled off at the back-post trying to latch onto a cross from MacDonald but the centre-back couldn’t leap high enough to connect.
Liddle and Rose were the two names in action moments later when the latter was adjudged, by referee Darren Drysdale, to have been bundled over. Khan took the subsequent free-kick but the visitors were able to clear their lines effectively.
The game entered a stop-start phase following Khan’s set-piece delivery with neither side able to muster an attempt at goal until one minute before half-time. Mansfield Town had a sustained spell of possession that should have been rewarded with a goal.
CJ Hamilton was set through by Khan’s intricate pass as the winger struck his effort at the legs of a diving Collin. The ball looked to be trickling in as it continued to spin goalwards but it was hooked away to safety by Liddle.
Seconds before the whistle, Khan curled a shot goalwards that was turned behind for yet another Stags corner. He went over to deliver and Matt Preston’s diving header crashed into the ground and, much to the frustration of the home side, over the bar.
MacDonald carried the Stags’ fighting spirit into the second-half as he crashed into several tackles inside the first five minutes.
Hamilton then looked to drive into the box on 50 minutes and he did so finding a low cross that was launched away by Anthony Gerrard.
Flitcroft looked on from the sidelines as he watched his side spurn another great chance to open the scoring. Walker did well to nick the ball high up the pitch and find his partner, Rose, but he was unable to find the target with an effort from 17 yards out.
He then had another chance less than a minute later when the ball fell kindly to him inside the area. He struck it first time, right-footed, but Collin was there to thwart the Stags once more.
But the home side made their pressure count in the 55th minute. Hamilton looked to break free from the Cumbrians’ back-line, only to win his side a spot-kick after being fouled just inside the area.
Walker stepped up from 12 yards and, as he has done on more than one occasion already this season, slid home straight down the middle to give his side a deserved lead.
Rose was then fouled on the right-hand side of Carlisle’s penalty area as the Stags looked to double their tally. Khan delivered a low cross to the feet of the striker who had been fouled prior, but he saw his shot blocked well.
Olejnik then had his first real test of the afternoon on the hour mark. He dived low to his right in order to stop Jerry Yates’ shot creeping in at the near-post.
MacDonald lined up an effort 22-yards from goal after Khan played a square pass. The midfielder watched his effort go behind for a corner, before winning a free-kick from the subsequent passage of play. Khan took the free-kick but never troubled Collin.
After being brought on in place of Rose, Craig Davies found himself in acres of space behind the visitors’ defence. He had several bites at the cherry but was unable to conjure a second goal that could have ultimately put the game to bed.
And in the 73rd minute the Stags could have been awarded their second spot-kick of the afternoon. Davies looked to have been fouled by Liddle; however, the referee pointed only for a corner-kick.
The game began to turn slightly scrappy as Mansfield held onto their one-goal cushion heading into the final ten minutes of the encounter.
MacDonald did well to win his side a goal kick, and momentary relief, as his clearance cannoned off Carlisle substitute, Ashley Nadesan.
In the 82nd minute the Stags blew a chance to net their second goal. Khan drove forward with purpose, linking up with Davies, and rattling the post with his prodded effort – before Walker ballooned the rebound clear of the crossbar.
Carlisle began to press hard for an equaliser into the final few minutes of normal time at One Call Stadium – but Mansfield were resolute. Time and time again, the likes of Krystian Pearce, Sweeney and Preston were on hand to snuff out any danger from the visiting outfit.
Yates had a great chance to nod his side level in the second minute of added time, but Olejnik reacted well to deny him with a fine save.
And the Stags’ goalkeeper clutched the ball minutes later as it bounced around his penalty area. His subsequent clearance downfield signalled the end of a pulsating match that showed great character from Flitcroft’s men.
The Stags are next in action on Tuesday when they make the short trip to Lincoln City in the Checkatrade Trophy.
STAGS XI: Olejnik (GK), White, Preston, Pearce ©, Bishop, MacDonald, Khan (Butcher 90+3’), Sweeney, Walker, Hamilton, Rose (Davies 62’).
SUBS NOT USED: Logan (GK), Gibbens, Benning, Atkinson, Mellis.
CARLISLE UNITED XI: Collin (GK), Liddle ©, Gerrard, Parkes, Hope, Devitt (Sowerby 60’), Glendon (Nadesan 60’), Gillesphey, Bennett (Campbell 70’), Yates, Etuhu.
SUBS NOT USED: O’Reilly, Miller, Slater, Adewusi.
REFEREE: Darren Drysdale.
ASSISTANTS: Wayne Grunnill & Richard Wigglesworth.
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Matthew Jones.
ATTENDANCE: 4,470 (373 away).