Frustration for Mansfield Town as they are held at Hartlepool United

Mansfield Town missed the chance to return to the League Two play-off places after being held to a 2-2 draw at Hartlepool United tonight.

Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 9:53 pm

George Lapslie and James Perch put Nigel Clough’s Stags two goals to the good with a four-minute first-half double.

But the visitors were stunned on the stroke of half-time as Joe Grey and Luke Molyneux levelled proceedings inside less than two minutes before the break at Victoria Park.

After a one-way second half with numerous chances for Stags to win it, Clough's charges then were fortunate substitute Joe White squandered a glaring chance in stoppage time as they escaped with a point at the end.

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Mansfield Town midfielder Stephen Quinn in action at Hartlepool United. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

The Stags, who could have gone fourth had they won, burst out of the blocks early on and had a flurry of early chances.

Ryan Stirk forced a good early save from Ben Killip and a minute later Jamie Murphy was frustrated by the shot-stopper from inside the six-yard box.

The visitors took a deserved lead in the 21st minute as Lapslie completed a fine five-man team move with an equally delightful finish to put the visitors ahead.

And the Stags were in dreamland four minutes later when their lead was doubled.

The team celebrates George Lapslie's opening goal. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

Lapslie turned provider this time around as he produced a back-post cross for Perch to loop a header beyond Killip that dipped under the bar at the far post.

It was almost three on the half-hour mark, but Lucas Akins tamely headed straight at keeper Killip.

The Pools struck just before the break as Grey was in the right place at the right time to fire home the rebound after Nathan Bishop kept out Jamie Sterry’s effort.

And within the blink of an eye the hosts had levelled, much to Clough’s annoyance.

Molyneux picked up possession on the edge of the box and fired home a left-footed effort to drastically change the complexion of the contest heading into the break.

The shaken visitors had an early change to reclaim the lead when Stirk hit his strike over the bar.

Moments later scorer Molyneux was stretchered off after a nasty collision, caught by a fair James Perch tackle that saw the Stags man booed for the rest of the night.

Stephen Quinn sliced an effort wide as the Stags tried to force an opening.

Rhys Oates came on as a Mansfield sub to home boos to face his old club and quickly looked set to sting them as he raced through the hosts’ defence before firing wide of the mark, and he repeated the trick minutes later as another chance went begging.

Chance after chance passed Mansfield by. But with Stags piling on the pressure, they were almost caught by a sucker punch at the death.

Stirk gave the ball away in the middle of the park in stoppage time and Joe White missed a great opportunity to steal the spoils as he put wide from a one on one with Nathan Bishop.

Stags had come from 2-0 down to win at home to Hartlepool on Boxing Day. But on this occasion the spoils ended up shared in a thrilling game.

Whether it is a point gained or two dropped will only be known in five weeks time as Stags stay in eighth, level on points with all the sides placed fourth to seventh, with two games in hand, and three points shy of the top three with two of them to play in the next week.

HARTLEPOOL: Killip, Sterry, Byrne, Odusina, Ferguson, Morris (Shelton, 79), Featherstone, Fletcher (Crawford, 79), Molyneux (White, 53), Bogle, Grey. SUBS NOT USED: Bilokapic, Liddle, Smith, Ogle.

STAGS: Bishop, O’Toole, Hawkins, Stirk, Hewitt, Quinn (Oates, 67), Lapslie, Perch, Murphy (Law, 24), Bowery (McLaughlin, 90), Akins. SUBS NOT USED: Stech, Wallace, Longstaff, Johnson.

REFEREE: Trevor Kettle.