Despite another failure to win at home, Mansfield Town boss Adam Murray is right in saying Saturday’s hard-fought 1-1 draw against both the elements and Leyton Orient on Saturday could prove to be a huge point in the end.
This was a game that was lucky to go ahead and even luckier to be finished as the woes of winter dominated at One Call Stadium.
A pre-match pitch inspection deemed the surface just about playable, despite hours of heavy rain. But that rain continued to fall throughout and players were further hampered by a strong, swirling wind.
However, a decent sized crowd for a Christmas shopping Saturday turned out so, despite the difficulty in trying to play anything resembling attractive football in those conditions, at least they got a game and, in the end, something to cheer.
And it was again a game in which Stags proved they can match the top sides in the division, even if that elusive first win over a top 15 side again escaped them.
Orient turned up a place and a point behind Stags. But Adam Murray’s men fought back from behind to keep them at bay and remain in the seventh and final play-off spot.
Mansfield will take great heart from earning the point the hard way after goal ace Jay Simpson had headed Orient into a 12th minute lead.
Reggie Lambe provided the equaliser on 40 minutes and Krystian Pearce headed a great chance wide after the break as the home side piled the pressure on the Londoners, who have only won once in six League games now.
The first half was largely forgettable as the visitors adapted to the conditions quickest and stung Stags with a 12th minute goal.
Again a momentary error proved hugely costly for the Stags as they let the division’s top scorer, Simpson, free of attention for a split second, but enough for him to meet Jodi McAnuff’s left wing cross with a flicked header past Brian Jensen for his 16th of the season.
Thankfully, the Stags fought their way back into the game five minutes from the break.
A throw by Lee Collins on the right set up Craig Westcarr to dink a high cross over from the by-line which Lambe met with a deft, cushioned volley from just left of the penalty spot that guided the ball just wide of the keeper’s dive and in off the inside of the right post; though it seemed to take an age to go in.
At that point home fans were getting frustrated and it was an importantly-timed goal for morale as they may have been booed off instead of cheered at the break.
In the second half the home side stepped up a gear and had the better of the contest, their toilings sparking the home fans into full voice.
But the winner failed to materialise, though should have done on 64 minutes when Pearce met an Adam Chapman corner from about seven yards but, when he should have hit the target, saw his powerful header graze the outside of the post.
Stags might have had a penalty for a handball and Mitch Rose warmed the keeper’s hands from distance while, at the other end, Simpson was too high on the turn.
But in the end two excellent defences dug in deep to avoid making a fatal mistake on a dreadful surface that would cost them the point they had in the bag.
And there were some excellent displays for the home side. Jamie McGuire came in for the suspended Chris Clements and drove Mansfield on with a typical tigerish performance; Blair Adams again shone at left back while sub Matty Blair kick-started his side once more when coming on as a sub with some superb work down the right that also got the crowd going.
Ex-Stags striker Ollie Palmer, who moved to Orient in the summer, was booed as he came on for a cameo but failed to trouble Jensen in a game that will be remembered better by weather enthusiasts than football purists.
STAGS: Jensen, Rose, Pearce, Collins, Chapman (C), Green, Westcarr (Blair 66), Tafazolli, Lambe, McGuire, Adams. Subs not used: Shearer, Marsden, Beardsley, N. Thomas, Yussuf, J. Thomas.
ORIENT: Cisak, Clohessy, Baudry, James, McAnuff, Payne, M’Voto, Turgott (Palmer 63), Kpekawa, Simpson (Kashket 78), Marquis (Pritchard 78). Subs not used: Grainger, Shaw, Essam, Dunne.
REFEREE: Darren England of South Yorkshire.
ATTENDANCE: 2,935 (444 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Blair Adams.