MATT Green made a timely return to the goals trail with an 85th minute equaliser to earn Mansfield Town a deserved share of the spoils in an absorbing 2-2 home draw with old rivals Luton Town this afternoon.
Green, last year’s 30-goal hero, had been dropped recently after his goals dried up, but he came on as a substitute today to grab his first goal since 4th September.
It was nothing less than the Stags deserved, having dominated much of the afternoon against the side with the best away record in the division and gone ahead after only eight minutes through Ben Hutchinson.
But Luton levelled against the run of play on 26 minutes through Andre Gray, from the tightest of angles, and then went ahead through the same player on a 67th minute break.
However, Stags have the best home record in the division and continued to plug away with arguably their best home display of the season and ended up with a point from a showing that will earn them all three more often than not this season if they can reproduce it.
John Thompson returned to the line-up and a fine display won him the man of the match award.
With John Dempster suspended, Ritchie Sutton was moved across the centre half and Thompson was employed at right back.
A Clements free kick was headed clear by the visitors’ defence in the tense opening stages.
A loose pass from Howell then set Luton on their way in midfield, but Beevers did well to get a block on Gray’s shot, the ball looping tamely to Redmond.
Briscoe drilled in a low ball from the right which passed through everyone as Stags looked hungry.
And they were rewarded on eight minutes with a goal from Hutchinson.
Geohaghon’s trademark long throw from the right picked out the leap of Hutchinson who flicked a superb header out of the reach of Tyler.
Clements was not far wide with a low 20 yard effort, then Mansfield forced two successive corners as Luton found themselves on the back foot.
Clements slipped Wright clear on 18 minutes, but his finish was wide and the offside flag was up anyway.
But it was stirring stuff from the Stags and another low Briscoe ball in from the right again eluded everyone in front of goal.
Another Geohaghon throw was cleared back to him and this time he dinked a delightful ball in towards the near post where the right boot of Wright turned the ball just wide.
Luton had spent most of the half desperately defending.
But they suddenly hauled themselves level out of the blue on 26 minutes.
Gray took on Sutton down the right and was marshalled towards the by-line. But somehow he delivered a superb low finish under Sutton’s challenge from the tightest of angle and across Redmond to find the net inside the far post.
Redmond had to grab a Henry header from Howells’ cross soon after as the visitors finally began to ask questions of the home defence.
Mendy was lucky not to be booked for taking out Howell across the shinpads.
Mansfield forced two more corners, Tyler doing well to punch the first away before Geohaghon’s head could reach it, and Meikle too high with his finish from the second.
The Hatters forced their first corner of the game on 40 minutes from which they caused problems, Mendy seeing a shot blocked, then Howells put it back it, Gray poking inches wide from close range.
Gray also headed wide at the far post as Luton finished the half with a flourish.
Stags came back out with the bit between their teeth and quickly forced a corner.
That was cleared out to Briscoe on the right who floated the ball back into the box where Hutchinson again flicked a header over Tyler into the net with just 75 seconds of the half gone.
However, this time his celebrations were quickly ended by the sight of a raised offside flag against him.
On 49 minutes Tyler ran out his box to kick clear ahead of the chasing Wright.
But his kick was poor and he was left out of position with Hutchinson having the chance of a shy at the empty net from 45 yards but was unable to score what would have been an amazing goal, sidefooting wide.
Hutchinson did appear to be tripped as he tricked his way into the box. It seemed the argument would be if it was in or outside the box, but the referee decided against it being a foul.
Another chance presented itself for Mansfield on 53 minutes as Luton failed to clear a Geohaghon throw, the ball allowed to bounce in the box only for Howell to lift a poor finish over from eight yards.
Lawless saw a free kick from the left cleared back to him and his first attempted follow-up shot was blocked while his second from the rebound passed just wide.
Wright turned well to create himself an opening at the other end only to scuff the finish.
Stags had a great penalty shout on 59 minutes when Howell was pushed squarely in the back, but again the referee played on.
Seconds later Meikle saw his cross hit a Luton player in the box with a cry for handball, but again no penalty was forthcoming.
On 63 minutes Luton almost stung Stags again from a left wing corner which found an unmarked Kovacs to power a header on target which hit the sea of legs on the line.
Green replaced Wright up front on 64 minutes as Stags looked for fresh impteus.
Hutchinson sent in a good deep cross from the right two minutes later which was controlled well by Meikle but sent over as he spun to shoot.
However, it was the Hatters who took the lead for the first time on 67 minutes.
They broke well from a Geohaghon throw, Thompson covered to allow Redmond to kick clear.
But he didn’t get much distance on the kick and Howells was able to thread a lovely ball back down the centre where Gray poked a low finish between the keepers’ legs.
Speight was immediately sent on for Hutchinson in the Mansfield attack.
Soon after Geohaghon was booked for dissent, a fifth booking of the campaign which will see the influential centre half miss Tuesday’s trip to Macclesfield.
When Briscoe flicked on a Clements ball to Speight he could have shot or fed Green, free to his right, but in the end did neither and the chance was gone.
Gray thought he won a penalty for Luton on 73 minutes when he thought he had been bundled over in the box. But, despite his remonstrations with the linesman on that side, nothing was given.
Luton piled on the pressure with two more corners while Beevers was booked for a foul that also sees him out of Tuesday’s game.
Kovacs was too high from 25 yards as Stags sent on Rhead for Meikle in a final shuffle.
With Stags pushing forward 10 minutes from the end, another Luton break almost sealed it as Gray and Smith set up a shooting chance for Howells which Redmond beat away to his right.
Ainge was cautioned for a foul on Rhead on 81 minutes.
But the subs combined on 85 minutes to grab a richly-deserved equaliser.
Clements put a long ball to the far post where Rhead headed across goal for Green to turn it home from close range.
Suddenly the home fans turned up the noise levels as Geohaghon began to bomb in throw after throw with Luton clinging on.
Four minutes of time were added on but neither side were able to conjure up a last gasp winner.
STAGS: Redmond; Thompson, Geohaghon, Sutton, Beevers; Briscoe, Howell, Clements, Meikle (Rhead 76); Hutchinson (Speight 69), Wright (Green 64). Subs not used: Murray, Daniel.
LUTON: Tyler, Rowe-Turner, Kovacs, Lawless, Rendell, Howells, Ainge, Mendy, Smith, Henry, Gray (Fleetwood 90+5). Subs not used: Beckwith, O’Donnell, Robinson, Brill.
REFEREE: Ross Joyce of Billingham
ATTENDANCE: 2,610 (522 away).