Crucial win over Stevenage keeps Mansfield Town automatic promotion hopes alive

Mansfield Town kept their automatic promotion hopes alive with a hard-earned 2-0 victory over Steve Evans' Stevenage at the One Call Stadium tonight.
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In a game of few chances George Lapslie struck just after half-time before a stoppage time finish by Matty Longstaff eased nerves and sealed victory in this crucial game in hand and push Stags to fifth, a point off third placed Northampton with both sides having only two games to play in a thrilling climax to the season.

Stags made the one change with veteran Stephen Quinn missing out with a hip injury from the weekend, replaced by George Lapslie.

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Ex-Stags boss Evans was inevitably roundly booed all the way to the dug-out by the home fans before kick-off.

Mansfield Town midfielder John-Joe O'Toole heads clear against Stevenage. Photo by Chris Holloway / The Bigger Picture.mediaMansfield Town midfielder John-Joe O'Toole heads clear against Stevenage. Photo by Chris Holloway / The Bigger
Mansfield Town midfielder John-Joe O'Toole heads clear against Stevenage. Photo by Chris Holloway / The Bigger

But it was the visitors who started on the front foot and from a third minute corner, Read headed well wide.

Three minutes later Akins lifted a header over from a first time Maris cross in Mansfield's first threat.

Maris tried his luck from 30 yards in the 14th minute but the shot dipped over.

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Perch gave the ball away to Taylor on 15 minutes and then immediately halted his attempt to run past him to earn the game's first booking.

Stags were struggling to made inroads through the visitors' compact shape and when they did and it was half-cleared on 20 minutes, Maris' foul halted Read's attempt to launch a counter and out came the yellow card again.

Norris bundled an effort goalwards from a second corner on 24 minutes but it was easy for Bishop to grab.

The game's first real chance came on the half-hour after an error from Mclaughlin saw him robbed by Norris who advanced into the right of the box and fire a low shot across Bishop which the keeper did well to fingertip away at full stretch for a corner.

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When Stags didn't clear the corner the visitors had a big shout for handball in the box turned down and then Taylor had a shot blocked.

There was a worry when Oates stayed down hurt after being fouled just outside the Stevenage box trying to wriggle between two players, but he was eventually able to play on and Longstaff sent the free kick into the wall.

Taylor left a foot in on Maris as he tried to clear which earned him a 43rd minute booking and the half ended with a Stevenage corner as the sides went in goalless and the home side hugely frustrated.

Evans was booed again at half-time and he put his finger to his lips to suggest they should shush.

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Stags came closer than they had all game on 47 minutes as Akins pulled a pass back to Norris, who shot inches wide of the far post.

But on 51 minutes Stags roared into the lead. A short corner from Longstaff to Murphy saw him cross to the near post where Lapslie batted for the ball and finally hooked it past Pym from six yards.

Akins wasn't far wide as Stags broke quickly on 54 minutes, sending a low shot just wide.

Stags continued to probe for the killer second.

But the visitors' subs almost combined for an equaliser on 74 minutes as Lines' free kick into the box was cleared to Andrade 20 yards out only to crash his fierce shot high and wide.

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Stevenage lost Vancooten injured on 82 minutes which, having made all three changes, left them to complete the game with 10 men.

Towards the end Wallace looped a header to Pym, Murphy had a shot blocked and then saw another from the left saved at the near post.

A frustrated Reid was booked for fouling Lapslie on 87 minutes.

Five minutes were added and in the third of them, having kept possession superbly, Stags threaded a string of passes and Longstaff finished it off by poking home low from 10 yards.

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STAGS: Bishop, McLaughlin, Hewitt, Murphy (Bowery 90+1), Maris (Wallace 72), Perch, Oates (Hawins 87), Lapslie, Akins, O'Toole, Longstaff. SUBS NOT USED: Stech, Rawson, Johnson, Stirk.

STEVENAGE: Pym, Wildin, Coker, Cuthbert, List (Andrade 72), Taylor, Norris (Daly 50), Vancooten, Read (Lines 60), Reid, Bostwick. SUBS NOT USED: Walker, Prosser, Upson, Barry.REFEREE: Christopher Sarginson.ATTENDANCE: 5,086 (73 away).