HALF TIME: Mansfield Town 1-1 Braintree

JOHN Dempster’s first goal for Mansfield Town ensured Stags were level at half-time after visitors Braintree Town had stolen an eight minute lead at Field Mill this afternoon.

Ben Wright had stunned the home side with a goal from depleted Braintree’s first attack.

But Dempster headed home from an Aman Verma corner on 24 minutes.

Verma shook off his thigh injury to take his place in an unchanged Mansfield Town line-up this afternoon to face visitors Braintree Town.

Stags were looking to end a poor run of six winless games, and just one win in seven league matches against a freefalling Braintree side with just one win in 13 matches and having three key players suspended.

Meikle almost edged Stags in front in the second minute with an 18-yard half volley, but saw it clip off team mate Stevenson and pass narrowly wide for a goal kick.

Good work from Green then sent Meikle to the by-line where his excellent cross flew inches in front of the head of the incoming Verma right in front of goal.

Instead it was the Essex side who drew first blood from their first attack on eight minutes.

A low ball along the edge of the box from the right saw Reason beat Verma to it but allowed it run on to Wright who dispatched a crisp, low, first time finish inside the left hand post.

Murray responded with two efforts from distance that both cleared the crossbar.

Then a long Freeman throw reached Green who controlled but saw the ball sit up as he bundled a tame finish wide.

Murray should have levelled on 16 minutes after Green set him up eight yards from goal only to see keeper McDonald valiantly turn his finish aside for a corner from which Dyer flicked a header wide.

Verma conceded a free kick 10 yards into the Mansfield half which Quinton sent in and Stevens headed over.

But seconds later Braintree threatened again as Marks turned Thompson on the right and raced towards goal, Marriott smothering his right foot shot at the near post.

However, Stags were finally on level terms on 24 minutes.

Verma curled in a wicked corner from the left which bounced through a crowd of players almost on the line where Dempster stooped to head it home.

There was some argy bargy immediately afterwards as Murray tried to quickly retrieve the ball from the net but the cards stayed in the referee’s pocket as he calmed things down.

Dempster went down in the box under a challenge as he tried to reach a Murray cross, but the referee waved play on as Mansfield continued to plug away.

Green almost raced clear three minutes from the break but was halted by a great sliding tackle from Wells.

A minute later it took a great block from Marriott to deny Marks after a ill-timed slip from Dempster seemed to have gifted him the ball and a goal on a plate.

Green threatened once more as he wrestled his way goalside of Stevens 12 yards out only for Stevens to recover and do just enough to stop Green shooting and the ball rolled to the keeper.

Reason was straight at Marriott from 25 yards as we entered stoppage time.

Stags were furious when nothing as given as Meikle was held just outside the Braintree box. Then when the visitors broke, Dempster seemed to win his tackle cleanly but a free-kick was given. That provoked fury from Thompson who was booked for his protests.

Wright whistled the 20 yard kick narrowly over the bar with the final kick of the half before the whistle saw Stags boss Paul Cox quickly out to remonstrate with referee Peter Bankes, who was booed from the field.

STAGS: Marriott; Sutton, Dempster, Thompson, Freeman; Murray, Stevenson, Verma; Dyer, Green, Meikle. Subs: Redmond, Briscoe, Bolland, O’Neill, Rodney.

BRAINTREE: McDonald, Thomas, Reason, Symons, Marks, Wright, Quinton, Yiadom, Johnson, Stevens, Wells. Subs: Jones, Peters, O’Connor, Chilaka, Pooley.

REFEREE: Peter Bankes of Merseyside.