FRUSTRATED Stags were once again made to pay for their failure to take their chances as they surrendered the lead to draw 1-1 against Luton on Tuesday night, reports Stephen Thirkill.
It was the second time in two games that Mansfield were unable to turn an impressive performance into a three-point haul.
Luton showed their title credentials early on as their slick passing game carved out a number of openings during a commanding first 15 minutes.
But former Stag Aaron O’Connor and Morgan-Smith were both guilty of missing good chances after getting goal side of the Mansfield back four.
The missed chances seemed to spur Stags on as they significantly upped the tempo with some tenacious tackling and quick closing down to gain a foothold in the game.
And Stags got their deserved reward on 26 minutes when the lively Matt Green unleashed a screamer into the top corner.
It was a deserved lead for Stags who had looked fluid and creative in forward areas with their fast incisive passing game causing bother for their highly-fancied visitors.
As with the Bath and Braintree games, Stags knew that the next goal would be decisive with a second Mansfield goal all but certain to wrap up the three points.
And Mansfield continued to pour forward in numbers during a spell of sustained second half pressure, with the runs of Meikle, Briscoe and the raiding breaks of full-backs Joe Kendrick and Luke O’Neil providing an extra dimension to their attacking game.
The pace and strength of Matt Green was also a constant thorn for the Luton centre-backs as he went in search of his second of the night.
It really should have been two for Mansfield just two minutes into the second-half when the towering Ben Futcher easily outjumped his marker from a peach of a free-kick by Joe Kendrick.
But Futcher, normally so solid in the air, failed to get enough contact on his effort as he glanced his header wide when a firmer contact would surely have found the back of the net.
Set-piece specialist Kendrick came agonisingly close to capping an excelllent individual display when his deflected free-kick spiralled just over the bar with Tyler well beaten.
From the resulting corner Futcher again headed wide when he might have done better.
And it proved to be very costly when Will Antwi headed a leveller for The Hatters on 78 minutes.
It was an undeserved equaliser for Luton, who had been outfought by a passionate Mansfield side, epitomised by the battling Adam Murray.
But, despite dropping two points for the third time in just four games, there were a number of positives to be taken from the draw.
As a team, Stags comfortably lived with, and indeed outplayed for large parts of the 90 minutes, a Luton team highly fancied to go one stage better than last season’s play-off final defeat against AFC Wimbledon.
Paul Cox’s men also displayed a new found spirit of belief and, just like against Braintree, responded well following the equaliser
On an individual note Briscoe, Kendrick, O’Neill, Meikle, Green and Murray all shone, while captain Adam Murray showed he is undoubtedly one of the best central midfielders in the Blue Square Premier with a typically energetic display.
Stags must now improve their concentration levels at the back and stamp out conceding sloppy and costly goals.
Clearly Mansfield will not face many sides as strong as Luton and, with more performances of this calibre, a steady string of goals and wins cannot be too far around the corner.
STAGS: Marriott, Kendrick, Riley, Futcher, O’Neill, Briscoe, Howell, Murray, Meikle, Green, Dyer. Subs not used: Redmond, Worthington, Stevenson, Connor, Wood.
LUTON: Tyler, Beckwith, Morgan-Smith, Crow, O’Connor (Walker 62 mins), Howells, Asafu-Adjaye (Gleeson 57 mins), Antwi, Osano, Dance, Watkins. Subs not used: Pilkington, Barnes-Homer, Poku.
ATTENDANCE: 2,592 (437 away).
REFEREE: Sebastian Stockbridge of Gateshead.,
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Adam Murray.