DESPITE another decent display, Stags saw the gap to the play-offs stretch to seven points after York’s second half fightback held Mansfield to their 11th draw of the league season at Field Mill today.
In a full-blooded Boxing Day cracker, Matt Green’s 15th goal of the season had given Stags the interval advantage.
He pounced on a poor 10th minute backpass as the home side edged a feisty first half in which York were shown three yellow cards and Mansfield one.
But a moment of fortune for Liam Henderson offered him a brief chance which he buried with aplomb on 63 minutes to give promotion-chasing York a deserved share of the spoils.
Stags dominated the first half hour with Alan Marriott having little to do. But City began to look increasingly dangerous on the break as we neared half-time.
Mansfield then had the wind in their favour in the second half and the hard-working Ross Dyer had two chances to seal a win before York’s equaliser but couldn’t find the net with either.
Once Green had limped off, troubled by a knock he took when scoring the goal, it was York who looked the more capable of winning it with their pace on the break and it took a superb display from the home back four plus a couple of good Alan Marriott saves to deny them all three points.
The sides now meet again at Bootham Crescent on New Year’s Day with Stags desperate to end a frustrating run of one win in 11 games which is leaving them a lot to do in the second half of the season.
With Ritchie Sutton suspended and John Thompson suffering with a neck/shoulder problem, Martin Riley returned to the centre of defence as one of two changes for the home side – and he and John Dempster were superb, outshone only by another great showing from Luke O’Neill at left back
Louis Briscoe dropped back down to the bench with Aman Verma coming back into the midfield of a 4-3-3 line-up.
York included ex-Stag Chris Smith as a holding midfielder in their 5-3-2 formation with another former Stags man, Jon Challinor, on the bench.
Before the game a minute’ silence was held for Stags fans Emma Stamp and Carol Bowskill, who passed away this week.
Mansfield began the afternoon in menacing fashion, pressing York well down the right and winning a corner.
That early momentum was halted when Oyebanjo went through Murray near the halfway line and was shown a yellow card while the midfielder underwent lengthy treatment.
But, once play restarted, York festively gifted Stags a 10th minute lead.
McGurk’s backpass was short and allowed Green to race onto the ball, cut inside helpless keeper Ingham and slotted home, also getting a knock in the process that required treatment.
O’Neill was a third Stag in the wars early on. Once he had recovered from his knock he sent in a free kick which Dyer eventually sent just wide, low on the turn.
Riley was booked on 22 minutes, but Stags quickly turned defence into attack as O’Neill’s searching pass down the left put Meikle on the run.
He fed Green inside but neither he nor Dyer were able to get a clean goal attempt away and Verma eventually chipped the ball into the keeper’s arms.
Marriott finally found himself in action on 24 minutes as McLaughlin’s ball down the centre gave Blair a sniff of a chance, the City striker firing low and straight at the keeper.
A feisty clash then saw Kerr and Murray lectured by the referee.
Still the tackles flew in and, when Smith went in very late to take Freeman’s standing leg as the youngster cleared up the line, out came the yellow card again.
Meikle’s rising shot from 20 yards was always over the far angle as the Stags tried to get back to the football.
York almost sneaked themselves level on 38 minutes as Kerr’s tempting ball curled across the face of goal saw Meikle do just enough at the far post to stop Oyebanjo turning it home.
McGurk’s challenge on Dyer four minutes from the break saw yellow card number three for the visitors.
Blair went on a powerful run that needed a great well-timed tackle from O’Neill to stop him going clear.
But Stags went in a goal to the good as the end of a tough, tight first 45 minutes.
Chambers replaced Fyfield for the second half for York as they went with four at the back.
York came back out with a real spring in their step and took the fight to Mansfield.
But the Stags should have doubled their lead on 53 minutes when Verma sent Green to the right by-line and he pulled the ball back to Dyer who, six yards from goal and centrally placed didn’t connect with it well and turned a low finish wide.
That was Green’s last action as he was replaced by Briscoe two minutes later as his first half dead leg finally got the better of him.
But Dyer was immediately close again as Meikle’s superb run saw him lay the ball to his left in the box and Dyer hammer a low shot at goal which keeper Ingham blocked.
York almost levelled the game with a stroke of luck when Meredith went down the left and crossed to the far post where the ball threatened to sneak inside the far post until Marriott clawed it away.
City then won a free kick 20 yards from goal in a dangerous central position only to see Chambers get his sights well off target.
O’Neill caused problems when he lost the ball to Chambers who then went past Riley before O’Neill recovered superbly to win it back.
But York were level on 63 minutes with a stroke of luck and a good finish.
Oyebanjo’s poor shot from the edge of the box deflected straight to the feet of the unmarked Henderson 15 yards from goal who looked up and curled an immediate perfect finish around Marriott and inside the right hand post with keeper and defence helpless to stop him.
After that the game became more and more stretched with both sides looking for a winner.
York might have snatched it on an 81st minute break down the centre.
Thankfully O’Neill slid in to tackle as Blair prepared to pull the trigger, with only Marriott to beat, and then, when the ball rolled back out to Reed, the sub saw Marriott make a great save to turn his finish over the bar.
Both sides huffed and puffed as we entered four minutes of stoppage time and, although York finished the strongest, they couldn’t find a winner, Smith going close with 94 minutes complete, heading wide from McLaughlin’s long thrown.
It would have been cruel on Mansfield as both sides deserved a point from a good Boxing Day battle.
STAGS: Marriott; O’Neill, Dempster, Riley, Freeman; Verma, Howell, Murray; Dyer, Green (Briscoe 54), Meikle. Subs not used: Redmond, Stevenson, Day, Kelly.
YORK: Ingham; Oyebanjo, McGurk, Parslow, Fyfield (Chambers ht), Meredith; Smith, Kerr, McLaughlin; Henderson (Reed 75), Blair. Subs not used: Potts, Boucaud, Challinor.
REFEREE: Jeremy Simpson of Lancs.
ATTENDANCE: 3551 (931 away).
GOALS: Stags – Green 10mins. York – Henderson 63mins.
CAUTIONS: Stags – Riley 22mins. York – Oyebanjo 7mins, Smith 30mins, McGurk 41mins.
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Luke O’Neill.