GOAL king Matt Green kept Mansfield Town’s play-off bid firmly alive as his late goal secured a vital 2-1 against Tamworth, reports Stephen Thirkill.
Green pounced for his 22nd goal of the season with just three minutes remaining after latching on to a pass by Gary Roberts to sink the brave Staffordshire outfit and cap a memorable second-half comeback.
Stags had fallen behind to a thunderous 54th minute strike by Jean-Paul Marna and looked like they were going to fall behind in the play-off race after referee Peter Bankes chalked off two Mansfield Town goals either side of half-time.
But Paul Cox’s men showed their fighting spirit as they levelled on 69 minutes when Adam Smith’s effort took a wicked deflection to leave Jonathan Hedge with no chance.
Green, who looked a handful throughout the entire game, then showed just why Cox was so desperate to bring him to Field Mill when he showed his pace, power and composure to rifle home and wrap up a fine victory.
The vital goal means Stags, who made it five wins from their last seven outing,s are now just two points behind York City in the final play-off place.
Stags, who made it four home wins on the trot for the first time since the 2003/04 season, now have growing momentum as they prepare to face former manager David Holdsworth’s Lincoln City side.
On-form Mansfield made three changes with giant new signing Exodus Geohaghon making a full debut following his arrival from Darlington on Friday.
Influential winger Louis Briscoe also returned to starting line-up, while Lindon Meikle returned to the side at the expense of Adam Smith as Stags looked to make it four home wins on the trot.
The mid-table visitors named former Stags midfielder Kyle Nix on the bench after his contract with Gateshead ended earlier this month.
Stags began the contest well winning three corners in the opening couple of minutes, with O’Neill’s second inswinging corner being neatly turned behind from under his bar by Hedge in the Tamworth goal.
But it was the vistors who should have taken the lead on seven minutes when Jean-Paul Marna got goal-side of Edwards inside the Stags box, before he fluffed his effort high over Marriott’s bar.Moments later Stags came close to opening the scoring when Meikle latched on to a loose ball as The Lambs failed to clear an O’Neill cross.
But Hedge was equal to Meikle’s hammer hit as he turned the ball away for a corner.
Stags were left fuming on 12 minutes when a seemingly perfect goal by Ritchie Sutton was ruled out to the disbelief of the home fans. Sutton beat his man to a wicked long throw by Geohaghon and prodded home from inside the six yard box. But referee Peter Bankes saw an infringement that no-one else witnessed to leave the scores level.
Stags blew a golden chance to take the lead for real on 17 minutes when a floated ball over the top from Roberts saw Hedge racing out of his penalty box. Top-scorer Green beat Hedge to the ball and looked to fire into the empty net.
But he was crowded out by three defenders as Hedge raced back into his box. Green then laid the ball across the face of goal for Ross Dyer who fired wide around 12 yards.
Mansfield then survived a double scare on 25 minutes when Scott Barrow drilled a fierce low effort from 23 yards only to be denied by a superb Alan Marriott save at full-stretch.
Marna showed a true striker’s instinct to pounce on the parried save and fire at goal from close range. But just as he prepared to celebrate big Ritchie Sutton popped up to clear the ball off the line with his chest. Iyseden Christie brought the best out of Marriott three minutes later when he spun well to fire a shot towards the top left corner of the Mansfield goal as the visitor’s continued to turn up the heat.
Stags continued to push at the start of the second half with Dyer going close to bagging his seventh goal of the season after neat work involving O’Neill and Briscoe.
But his effort was well blocked by Paul Green at the expense of Mansfield’s fifth corner.
Against the run of play Tamworth took the lead with a stunning strike by Jean Paul Marna on 54 minutes.A sweet pass by Green played Marna in on the right hand side of the box, who allowed the ball to bounce once before smashing an unstoppable effort into the roof of the net.
Stunned Stags tried gamely to get back on level terms with Gary Roberts and Louis Briscoe the latest home players to fire efforts into the crowd either side of the hour mark.
Boss Paul Cox then brought on Adam Smith and Matt Rhead into the action as he looked to find the cutting edge lacking in the Mansfield starting eleven.
Iyseden continued to look a threat for Tamworth on the break and he came close to making it 2-0 when he fired a dangerous effort from the edge of the box straight at Marriott on 66 minutes.
Marriott then kept Mansfield in the game on 67 minutes when Danny Thomas went clean through on goal after a defence-splitting pass by Christie. But Thomas lacked the necessary composure as his mis-hit finish was turned away for a corner by the veteran goalkeeper.
For the second time in the game the Stags faithful were left fuming after the massive Geohaghon nodded home only to see the referee wipe the goal out for a foul on the goalkeeper.
But Stags were back on level terms just two minutes when Adam Smith’s shot took a wicked deflection past Hedge to trickle over the line and set up a grandstand finish.Stags nearly hit the front for the first time with just eight minutes left on the clock when an inswinging Smith cross was hacked away off the goal line by Barrow.
Edwards showed a cool head with four minutes to go when Christie got goal side of his markers but could not shake off the presence of Edwards as he rounded Marriott and looked to get his shot away. Edwards did enough as Christie could do nothing but hit the ball out for a corner. It was a massive feat of defending which gained its full reward a moment later when Gary Roberts played Green in with a superb pass and Green needed no second invitation as he burst into the box to fire past Hedge and keep their play-off hopes alive.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Marriott, Edwards, Briscoe, Green, Murray (Howell 89mins), Dyer (Rhead 59 mins), O’Neill, Sutton, Meikle (Smith 59 mins), Geohaghon, Roberts. Subs not used: Redmond, Riley.
TAMWORTH: Hedge, Tait, Courtney, Marma (Reece 71 mins), McDonald (Thomas 56 mins), Patterson (St Aimie 90 mins), Green, Isaac, Barrow, Christie, McKoy. Subs not used: Francis, Nix.
ATTENDANCE: 2,221 (134 away)
REFEREE: Peter Bankes (Merseyside).
MAN OF THE MATCH: Gary Roberts.
BOOKINGS: Sutton (34 minutes – foul on Marna); O’Neill (74 mins dissent); Barrow – Tamworth 79 mins unsporting behaviour); Roberts (79 mins unsporting behaviour); Iyseden (93 mins foul); Sutton (94 mins – foul).