MANSFIELD Town wrapped up the regular season with a 3-0 win at Kidderminster Harriers today – but the win was marred by a what at first appeared to be a bad injury to Harriers’ Anthony Malbon.
Flattened by a challenge from Louis Briscoe on 64 minutes, Malbon was unconscious and stretchered off and had to be rescued by air ambulance at the end of the game.
The game appeared to end two minutes early - after seven minutes of the nine minutes of added-on time - to allow the air ambulance to land on the Aggborough pitch. It was reported that the young striker was suffering from concussion.
Later on Saturday afternoon Kidderminster issued a statement on the club’s official website saying: ”Harriers are pleased to be able to say that striker Anthony Malbon was awake and speaking to those around him as he was airlifted to hospital.”
And on Saturday evening Harriers club doctor Phil Earl, who confirmed that the player had been unconscious for a couple of minutes, added: “I think it looks a lot worse than it actually is. It is all very precautionary. He suffered a significant blow to his head and neck.”
The doctor said it had been paramedics’ decision to airlift the player to hospital for scans.
The club’s official Twitter feed then reported that the player was expected to be released from hospital after being given the all-clear after a scan.
The 3-0 match result ended Harriers’ hopes of sneaking into the final play-off spot while Luton’s 2-0 win at Fleetwood and York’s 1-0 home win Forest Green Rovers left Mansfield facing a two-legged semi-final with York City, starting at Bootham Crescent on Wednesday night.
The score did flatter Mansfield a bit as both sides created a wealth of chances in a superb gamer of football.
But late strikes by Briscoe and Matt Green, his 30th of the season, inside nine minutes near the end, sealed the win after Stags had led through Lee Stevenson’s first goal for the club early in the second half.
With a watchful eye on Wednesday’s play-off semi-final first leg, boss Paul Cox made seven changes.
Cox went 4-4-1-1 with Matt Rhead up front and Lee Stevenson playing just behind him.
Shane Redmond made a sometimes nervous debut in goal, though kept a clean sheet, and Danny Andrew his full debut at left back with John Thompson making a long-awaited return in the centre of defence.
It was the former Irish international’s first appearance since coming on as a substitute on 217th December at Southport.
There were also midfield outings for Andy Todd and Jon Worthington.
Given a breather were Alan Marriott, Ritchie Sutton, Exodus Geohaghon, Lindon Meikle, Adam Murray, Ross Dyer, and Anthony Howell.
Centre half Martin Riley was handed the captain’s armband for the day.
Harriers began on the front foot, forcing a corner after just 40 seconds from which Marshall rose to plant a firm header just wide.
But Rhead almost put Stags ahead on three minutes as he chased a short backpass from Marshall, lifting it over the keeper who was still able to re-adjust and somehow scoop it out as it dipped slowly towards the net.
Soon after Rhead took a nasty elbow in the face with no action taken against the home defender but play held up for treatment.
Todd won a free kick just outside the box which Andrew hit poorly low into the wall.
Stevenson then tested Breeden from 25 yards, the keeper taking it comfortably as it skidded up off the turf.
A knock-down from Worthington then saw Rhead slice wide from a similar distance while Stevenson had a shot blocked as the visitors slowly began to take a grip.
Hankin went on a dangerous run down the right for Harriers and swung in a low cross which, under pressure, O’Neill coolly chested back to his keeper.
On 16 minutes Kidderminster wasted another good chance. Vaughan crossed early from the right and an unmarked Malbon, with only Redmond to beat, volleyed his finish into the ground and saw it bounce tamely to the keeper.
Todd then forced Breeden into a low save with his 20 yard drive from inside the D.
Andrew entered the notebook on 21 minutes. After losing the ball to Hankin, the full back gave chase to retrieve it but his eventual tackle was fractionally mistimed and brought the Harriers man down.
On 23 minutes, the best move so far saw Hankin float the ball in, Rowe lay it neatly back by cushioning it on his heel and Mabon lifting a dipping half-volley over the far angle with Redmond helpless.
From Harriers’ second corner, Storer threw himself into a near post header that zipped just wide of the post.
Todd was booked for bringing down Hankin on 29 minutes.
Rhead got a head onto a Briscoe cross from the right but not enough power to trouble Breeden, then an Andrew cross destined for the head of Stevenson right in front of goal saw a defender just manage to get a head to it to concede a corner.
Stags again came close on 35 minutes. Roberts threaded a great pass through for Todd who, with a great chance to shot, unselfishly squared for Stevenson who forced Breeden into a great stop, clawing up one-handed.
The ball came back out to Rhead who was just wide of the right angle as Harriers survived.
Then Stevenson did well to control, cut inside a defender on the left by-line and play the ball towards Briscoe who whipped it across goal and wide of the far angle.
There was a moment of farce as Redmond made of hash of clearing a backpass and fell onto the ball. With Rowe trying to nick it away and into the net, knowing Redmond could not pick it up, there were a few surreal seconds as the keeper went round in a circle three times on his hands and knees, protecting the ball but trying not to pick it up.
It was finally cleared by O’Neill with Harriers claiming the keeper had picked it up, Storer booked for his protests.
Vincent dragged a long range shot wide soon after, while Stevenson was a boot’s length short of getting a toe onto a through ball into the box as an entertaining game continued to ebb and flow through to the break.
Harriers shot themselves in the foot four minutes into the second half when they found themselves down to 10 men.
For the second time in the game Rhead took an elbow to the farce, this time it was from Vaughan and this time it was spotted as the referee immediately pulled out his yellow card with Rhead on the turf by the halfway line in front of the dug-outs.
Once the big man was back in action, he helped on a long ball towards Stevenson, Breeden just beating him to it.
But Stevenson produced the breakthrough goal on 56 minutes.
Andrew struck a low ball forward which Rhead superbly dummied through his legs to release Stevenson who raced on before tucking away a cool finish under the keeper.
That promoted a flurry of home pressure in which Johnson’s effort from a tight angle on the left by-line was saved by Redmond at his near post, sub Byrne had a shot deflect wide for a corner from which Jones headed wide at the far post.
Johnson was closer with a dipping shot from 25 yards which only just cleared the bar.
Stags then broke quickly with Roberts setting up Rhead for a low shot straight at the keeper.
Briscoe was booked for flattening Malbon with the home fans screaming for a red card to even things up.
However, there was a worry as Malbon stayed down and eventually had an oxygen mask put onto his face and a neck brace applied. He looked in a bad way as he was eventually stretchered off.
While Rhead was being booked for wasting time, a Stags fan in fancy dress ran across the pitch before being ejected.
Briscoe made it 2-0 with 12 minutes to go. Rhead found Stevenson who perfectly lifted the ball over a defender and into the danger zone where Briscoe raced in to beat Breeden with an unstoppable header.
Briscoe then left the field to boos as he was replaced by Hutchinson.
Harriers almost clawed one back as Wright beat Andrew and poked the ball across goal where Stags failed to clear and Redmond had to smother a close range finish by Rowe who then poked the rebound wide.
Redmond was down to his right to keep out a low Johnson shot from distance. Then he half-stopped a low angled drive from Rowe before grabbing it at the second time of asking.
Green came on for Stags and within four minutes had notched his 30th goal of the season.
Rhead put the ball behind the home defence and Green got there first to stretch out a leg and lift the ball over the keeper.
Jones tried to hook clear off the line, but the officials ruled the ball had crossed and it was 3-0.
Jones headed over for Kidderminster at the far post from a stoppage time corner while Rhead fired low at Breeden and Stevenson a 20 yard effort over the bar.
Nine minutes were added on at the end with an announcement that the air ambulance was on its way for the stricken Malbon.
Byrne fired over before the game was ended two minutes prematurely to get the field ready for the emergency services to land as the afternoon ended on a very dark note.
KIDDERMINSTER: Breeden, Vaughan, Williams, Jones, Marshall, Hankin (Byrne 52), Vincent, Rowe, Storer (Bradley 63), Malbon (Wright 70), Johnson. Subs not used: Guinan, Lyness.
STAGS: Redmond; O’Neill (Suton 73), Riley, Thompson, Andrew (Green 83); Briscoe (Hutchinson 79), Roberts, Worthington, Todd; Stevenson; Rhead. Subs not used: Marriott, Meikle.
REFEREE: Jez Simpson of Lancaster.
ATTENDANCE: 3,565 (674 away).
GOALS: Stags – Stevenson 56mins, Briscoe 78mins, Green 87mins.
CAUTIONS: Kidderminster – Storer 40mins, Johnson 58mins. Stags – Andrew 21mins, Todd 29mins, Briscoe 64mins, Rhead 74mins.
DISMISSAL: Kidderminster – Vaughan 49mins.
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Matt Rhead.