Mansfield Town battled hard for a deserved point against Crewe Alexandra following Andy Cook’s superb finish at Gresty Road on Saturday afternoon.
Chuma Anene had placed the home side in the driving seat early on but the Stags’ No. 19 restored parity just shy of the half-hour mark – his delightful chip finding the back of the net.
The contest in its entirety produced chances aplenty, especially for the amber and blue, yet they were unable to capitalise meaning they would take one point back to Nottinghamshire.
John Dempster made just one alteration from his side’s last outing as youngster James Clarke replaced Jacob Mellis to accommodate a change in formation.
It was the hosts who boasted the majority of possession in the opening exchanges, however, the Stags were unfortunate not to be the ones who took the lead.
Will Jaaskelainen’s weak clearance fell to Neal Bishop who instantly nodded towards Nicky Maynard, but after a brilliant first touch the Crewe ‘keeper atoned for his initial error with a one-on-one save.
And not long after the missed chance proved to be crucial.
In the eighth minute, a low delivery from the left-hand side caused issues at the near post with Anene in the right place to flick home.
Bobby Olejnik then thwarted Tommy Lowery from distance before picking up the loose ball, stopping the opening goalscorer from potentially grabbing his second in quick succession..
Mansfield were attempting to get back on level terms and fashioned a half-chance with some neat play. CJ Hamilton drove forward with intent before finding Conor Shaughnessy whose first-time effort was dragged wide.
On 28 minutes, though, they produced an equaliser courtesy of some brilliant thinking by Cook.
Olejnik directed a long ball in the direction of the striker and after Eddie Nolan’s wayward header, he produced a delightful chip to restore parity.
Soon after, another low cross from the left was not dealt with by the Stags, yet Anene was unable to make any contact as it rolled harmlessly away.
The contest sparked into life after the equaliser with Cook heading wide prior to Lowery’s rising thump from the edge of the area.
Mansfield then pulled out a string of exquisite one-touch passes that almost allowed Shaughnessy his next effort at goal; had it not been for a well-timed challenge by Nolan.
In the dying embers of the first half, Maynard had another glorious opportunity to this time thrust his side into the driving seat. A lovely flick by his strike partner, Cook, set the No. 11 away with pace but his drilled effort was saved by Jaaskelainen.
Into the second period and Mansfield fashioned yet another brilliant chance. Hamilton was set clear via Shaughnessy’s through ball but his subsequent square ball was too far ahead of Maynard at the far post.
The duo linked up again just moments later, although the latter was unable to find the target with a first-time effort that rose above the bar.
Minutes later, Benning’s positioning proved vital as Oliver Finney’s curler looked destined for the far corner before the left-back hooked clear on the goal line.
Substitute James Jones then sought to grab the afternoon’s third goal but came up against an alert shot-stopper in Olejnik, who clawed away. This came to fruition only moments before Maynard’s low, stooping header ricocheted against the upright as Jaaskelainen was left stranded.
Déjà vu quickly ensued as Charlie Kirk proceeded to strike the upright himself after cutting inside and making space from the left flank.
A handful of speculative efforts were soon collected by either goalkeeper with the final 10 minutes on the horizon in Cheshire.
The best chance of the dying embers landed at the feet of substitute Omari Sterling-James but the winger hacked his effort wide from inside the area; a miscue that signalled one point apiece.
Sky Bet League Two action returns on Saturday 21 December as Northampton Town travel to One Call Stadium.
STAGS XI: Olejnik (GK), Benning, Preston, Bishop, MacDonald, Maynard (Khan 88’), Shaughnessy (Sterling-James 67’), Sweeney ©, Cook (Rose 80’), Clarke, Hamilton.
UNUSED SUBS: Logan (GK), Pearce, Mellis, Smith.
CREWE XI: Jaaskelainen (GK), Ng ©, Pickering, Wintle, Nolan, Powell (Dale 80’), Kirk, Finney (Ainley 72’), Hunt, Lowery (Jones 51’), Anene.
UNUSED SUBS: Richards (GK), Green, Johnson, Mbulu.
REFEREE: Kevin Johnson
ASSISTANTS: Steven Plane & David Hunt
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Abbas Khan
ATTENDANCE: 4,060 (312 away)