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Match Reports

Report: Stags 2-1 Northampton

14 May 2022

Forwards Rhys Oates and Jordan Bowery fired Mansfield Town to a well-earned 2-1 win in this evening’s play-off semi-final first-leg at home to Northampton Town.

The hosts got off to a perfect start when Oates blasted a venomous strike past stand-in Cobblers' stopper Jonny Maxted on 13 minutes.

The Northampton ‘keeper started between the sticks after Cobblers’ number one Liam Roberts was red carded in the visitors’ clash with Barrow on the final day of the regular season.  

Having assisted Mansfield’s opener, Jordan Bowery doubled Stags lead on 32 minutes after converting Jamie Murphy’s delightful ball across the face of goal. 

Ali Koiki halved the deficit for Northampton ahead of an important second-leg fixture at Sixfields on Wednesday evening.   

Manager Nigel Clough named an unchanged team to the one that battled to a 2-2 draw with champions Forest Green Rovers a week ago.  

A raucous crowd inside One Call Stadium met the referee’s opening whistle with an almighty roar, signalling the beginning of the contest. 

Early on, Stags striker Rhys Oates pressed visitors’ defender Fraser Horsfall with energy and desire. The front man forced a heavy touch from the experienced centre-back before the referee awarded a foul to stifle the hosts inside four minutes. 

Two minutes later Mansfield propelled up the left wing by fans’ player of the season Stephen McLaughlin. The Irishman strode into the Cobblers’ box before whipping a low delivery across the face of goal which narrowly beat the boot of a sliding Oates to lift the Mansfield faithful from their seats. 

Northampton reminded the hosts of their danger when Louis Appéré let fly from outside the box on 11 minutes. However, Stags’ stopper Nathan Bishop alertly scrambled to his near post before palming the stinging effort around the post. 

The following period was evenly contested but Mansfield’s slick attack superbly fired them into the lead on 13 minutes.

After Jordan Bowery retreated from the forward line to receive the ball in midfield, the striker slid it between two Northampton defenders to set Oates through on goal. The dangerous striker blasted the ball between the legs of Maxted from a tight angle inside the box before wheeling away in celebration in front of the ecstatic One Call crowd. 

Stags pressed further when, on 33 minutes, Matty Longstaff expertly lifted the ball from the depths of midfield to Jamie Murphy, who had scampered into space on the left wing. The Scotsman gathered the ball before beating his defender to fire a low cross into the six-yard box which found its way to Bowery at the far post. With Maxted stuck to his near post, Mansfield’s number 9 coolly slotted it into the back of the net with powered control to the delight of a packed-out Quarry Lane end just yards away. 

Stags attacked straight away, and Oates found space to wriggle forward before guiding a driven strike wide of the bottom left corner on 35 minutes. 

Some clever interplay between experienced duo James Perch and Stephen Quinn superbly played the full-back into the box five minutes later but his effort from a tight angle looped off target.

Stags kept it tight in defence during the closing stages of the half to shield their healthy 2-0 lead at the interval. 

Mansfield restarted the second half brightly as Murphy intercepted a loose ball in midfield to slide Quinn down the left wing. However, the midfielder’s squared pass to Oates was quickly gathered by Maxted as the Stags hunted a third goal. 

With the home crowd in good voice, Stags again attacked at pace two minutes later. After Perch’s zipped pass into Oates was excellently knocked beyond his marker to allow the striker to gallop into the Cobblers’ box, Oates’ shot was prevented from nestling into the top left corner by Maxted’s firm parry to his right. 

Northampton remained a threat on the counter-attack and Sam Hoskins demonstrated that on 53 minutes when the forward cut inside from left wing to curl a right-footed shot narrowly around the post from outside the box. 

The visitors equalised on the hour mark when Cobblers’ midfielder Ali Koiki steered the ball from the edge of the area, along the floor and into the bottom left corner of Mansfield’s goal following a swift counter-attack on 61 minutes. 

Northampton enjoyed more possession in the following period but Stags remained resilient defensively.

McLaughlin made a key intervention for the hosts on 79 minutes after Eppiah’s snapshot on the turn from close range was drilled goal wards and crucially flicked over the crossbar by the defender’s boot.  

Five minutes later, Cobblers’ defender Jon Guthrie guided Hoskins’ delivery narrowly over Bishop’s crossbar as Northampton’s pressure built. 

With One Call Stadium in fine voice, the fan-generated atmosphere encouraged Mansfield to defend bravely in the closing stages to seal an important first-leg victory. 

 

STAGS XI: Bishop, Perch, O’Toole, Hawkins, McLaughlin, Maris, Longstaff (Wallace 60’), Quinn (Stirk 77’), Murphy (Akins 86’), Oates, Bowery 

UNUSED SUBS: Stech, Hewitt, Clarke, Lapslie 

 NORTHAMPTON XI: Maxted, Sowerby, Guthrie, Horsfall, Hoskins, Pinnock, Koiki, McWilliams, Kanu (Eppiah 56’), Mills, Appéré (Rose 66’) 

UNUSED SUBS: Woods, Harriman, Pollock, Zimba, Dyche 

REFEREE: Anthony Backhouse 

ATTENDANCE: 7,469 (1,221 away supporters) 


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