A ding-dong Boxing Day battle saw Mansfield Town held 1-1 by League Two bottom side Hartlepool United in an explosive game that saw three red cards at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
The Stags led 1-0 at half-time through Oxford loanee Junior Brown’s first goal for the club, but they failed to capitalise on their first half superiority and were undone by a gutsy second half fightback from United.
Ryan Tafazolli didn’t help matters when he was sent off for a needless second bookable offence on 72 minutes.
But it was the Stags who ended up with the man advantage at the death as first Marlon Harewood was shown a straight red on 87 minutes after a clash with Jamie McGuire.
Then in the sixth minute of added time a second yellow for Michael Woods, also for a clash with McGuire, saw him head for the tunnel early.
But the dismissals came too late to give Stags any real advantage in a game they nearly lost at the death when Neil Austin almost grabbed a late winner.
United were aggrieved when they didn’t get a penalty for a challenge on Michael Duckworth seconds before Brown stormed away to put Mansfield ahead in a first half dominated by the Stags.
But Mansfield were equally upset when a Matt Rhead header, three minutes after Hartlepool’s equaliser, looked to have crossed the line off the underside of the bar but was ruled not to have gone over by the officials.
Stags must now lick their wounds and quickly prepare for the Bury away trip which comes just 48 hours after their disappointment.
Reggie Lamb returned for the home side. He came in for suspended fellow winger Rob Taylor, who was starting a three-game ban for his red card in last weekend’s 1-0 win at AFC Wimbledon.
Otherwise boss Adam Murray stuck with the players who served him proud in that excellent win last weekend, achieved despite playing with 10 men for an hour, operating a 3-4-1-2 formation.
Hartlepool had lost seven and drawn four of their previous nine League games but, like Stags, have also appointed a new manager with the experienced Ronnie Moore now at the helm.
There was an early hold-up after Woods took the ball full in the face.
The visitors believed they should have had a penalty on 10 minutes after Woods and Harewood set up Duckworth. He was challenged as he shot and the ball flew wide.
The referee waved play on and Stags went straight upfield to grab the lead.
Brown made a powerful run from the left, going inside and working a one-two with Oliver on the edge of the box before evading a tackle and stroking a low finish under Flinders.
Ironside might have levelled it as he turned well to slot a low shot just wide of the far post on 13 minutes.
A minute later Lambe picked out Oliver at the far post with a cross from the right and his acrobatic scissor kick zipped over as the game began to hot up.
After Tafazolli was booked for a foul on Duckworth, Jones was too high with his header from a Franks cross as the action went from end to end.
Lambe laid a ball back to McGuire on the right for a first time cross to the far post where Rhead arrowed his header over the far angle,
Clements then sent Lambe down the right and his far post cross was just too deep, Oliver only able to head into the sidenetting from the tightest of angles.
The visitors by now were struggling to make much impact going forward and there were jeers when former Forest star Harewood ran menacingly the home defence only to pull a tame low shot wide.
Rhead did well to get up and win his header from a Freeman cross, but it was always drifting well wide of goal on 39 minutes.
Under pressure from Oliver, United keeper Flinders threw the ball straight to Brown, but his hurried shot was wild and wayward.
A lunge by Woods on 44 minutes took out both Brown and Sutton which earned the Hartlepool man a yellow card.
In the third minute of stoppage time Mansfield almost grabbed the second goal they deserved. But Holden kicked a Rhead header off the line at the foot of the right post after the big striker had met a Clements corner from the right.
Within the first 30 seconds of the restart Woods pulled a low shot narrowly wide to fire out a warning to Mansfield that this game was far from over.
United then won a free kick on the edge of the D which Jones crashed into the home wall.
The fired-up visitors then did level the game on 52 minutes, albeit with the aid of a deflection.
The ball came in from the right towards Harewood, who chested it down in the box for Duckworth to swing his right foot at it and see a deflection leave Evtimov helpless.
A tricky Freeman cross was turned onto the roof of the net at the last minute by Flinders.
From the corner Rhead’s header hit a defender on the line, shot up and hit the underside of the bar and looked to have dropped beyond the line. However, the officials deemed it hadn’t crossed to the fury of Stags and the home fans.
The thrills continued as Brown burst into the Hartlepool box on the left to drill a powerful low cross in front of goal with Oliver just unable to get to it as he slid in at the far post.
Flinders confidently caught another Mansfield corner as the home side pressed.
Great defending from Waterfall saw him hook away a Franks cross before it could cause danger in the box.
United then won their first corner on 64 minutes which Evtimov fisted away for another.
Brown launched another good cross in from the left which Rhead met with a firm header, but watched the ball zip over the angle.
A Clements free kick then caused problems as it was only cleared to Waterfall near the right post where he sliced an attempt wide.
But on 72 minutes Tafazolli’s needless tug on Ironside just inside the Mansfield half saw the referee produce a second yellow card for him and Stags were again down to 10 men.
Defender Riley came on for Lambe three minutes later.
An Ironside header was always easy for Evtimov a minute later.
Fenwick came on as a sub for United and within two minutes was booked for a lunge at Waterfall.
Mansfield also made a change with Bingham replacing Rhead up front.
Franks did well to get into the left of the home box only to slice a shot wide of the near post.
A powerful run by Bingham saw his powerful low finish deflect just wide of goal only for the officials to give a goalkick.
Duckworth was booked on 83 minutes for a challenge that left Brown holding his face.
McGuire and Harewood clashed on 87 minutes after the striker ended up sat on top of the midfielder in the box, the referee eventually sent off Harewood and booked McGuire, leaving the sides 10 on 10 and the home fans trying to rouse their side.
Flinders clutched an Oliver header from a Freeman cross in the final minute.
In five added minutes Oliver again lifted a shot straight at Flinders, then, from a free kick, the ball dropped for Austin in the home box, which he skied over from six yards.
With six added minutes played Woods tried to prevent McGuire taking a free kick, the pair clashed and Woods bowled McGuire over to earn a second yellow card and leave United with nine men.
STAGS: Evtimov; Sutton, Tafazolli, Waterfall, Freeman; Lambe (Riley 75), Clements, McGuire, Brown; Oliver, Rhead (Bingham 79). Subs not used: Studer, Bell, Palmer, Heslop, Beevers. HARTLEPOOL UNITED: Flinders, Austin, Holden, Bates, Franks, Harewood, Woods, Featherstone, Jones, Duckworth, Ironside (Fenwick 78). Subs not used: Walker, Compton, Lanzoni, Schmeltz, Green, Maxted. REFEREE: Scott Mathieson of Cheshire.
ATTENDANCE: 3,357 (419 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Junior Brown.
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