Mansfield Town’s home ‘friendly’ with Sheffield Wednesday ended with a mass brawl tonight as tempers finally boiled over following a series of ill-tempered challenges by Owls striker Fernando Forestieri at the One Call Stadium.
The sides squared up just before the end but then it finally erupted after the whistle with stewards trying to separate players amid the flying fists and boots.
It was an unsavoury end to a game that had seen Stags’ excellent pre-season continue with a deserved 2-1 win.
After a win over Derby County last week and a 0-0 draw with Sheffield United on Saturday, this was a third excellent result against Championship opposition as Mal Benning and an Adam Reach own goal put Stags 2-0 up before Reach made amends with a goal back five minutes later.
But it wasn’t enough and, without taking anything away from the home side, Wednesday did not look in the same class at Derby or United and could face a long, hard season on that form.
However, the game will now be remembered more for the infamous brawl than the result.
It took the home side half the first half to grow into this one, looking a little lethargic early on. But over 90 minutes the win was thoroughly deserved.
Mansfield’s starting line-up showed one change from the weekend.
Striker Craig Davies was missing from the squad, assumed injured, so in came Alex MacDonald.
Wednesday, playing their second public pre-season friendly, named a strong line-up with ex-Stags loanee Matt Penney on their bench.
The Owls have been forced to trim costs over the summer and have yet to bring in any new faces.
A quiet opening saw White draw the first applause for stretching into a good tackle on Reach.
A miscued header from Benning on six minutes that was never going to reach Logan then offered Palmer an unexpected shot at goal, but his tame finish was as poor as Benning’s header and easy for the keeper.
Two minutes later another error again offered Wednesday a chance as Bishop stood on the ball just outside the box and was happy to see Nuhiu loop a finish well over.
It took the home side almost 10 minutes to get into the Wednesday half with any purpose when Mellis won a 25 yard free kick that Khan hoisted well over.
On 19 minutes Bishop volleyed wide from 30 yards as Wednesday tried to clear their lines following good work by Walker.
Pearce got away with a short backpass that almost let star man Forestieri in on goal. Pearce seemed to be bundle into him in the box, but the referee decided the Italian had handled and gave Mansfield a free kick.
A lovely diagonal ball from Mellis almost got Hamilton in on the far side of the box. But a defender’s header saw the ball strike the wing back for a goalkick.
On 24 minutes Preston got in a good block to deny Nuhiu from Palmer’s cross after Forestieri had chased and caught what looked a lost cause.
Four minutes later a perfectly flighted through ball from MacDonald sent Hamilton into the box. He controlled well on his chest, but Fox was in quickly to block.
Seconds later Khan floated the ball in and, in trying to beat Walker in the air, Nuhiu only succeeded in sending a header at his own goal and forcing Dawson into his the game’s first serious save.
Mellis needed treatment for a hefty challenge by Hutchinson but was able to continue.
Hamilton showed his tremendous speed in accelerating away onto a long kick by Logan, Van Aken making a crucial tackle in the box.
Sutton made a superb sliding tackle on the edge of his box, Hutchinson then curling the loose ball just over the bar.
The deadlock was broken by the Stags four minutes before the break.
A superb ball down the middle split the Owls defence and Khan was in on goal. Palmer came out of nowhere to make a block as he looked set to finish.
But Stags kept the pressure on and Khan and Hamilton helped the loose ball on to Benning to their left, who cut inside and let fly with a powerful shot that found the net off the inside of the far post for an interval lead.
Stags started the second half on the front foot and, after a stumbling start, White went on a superb run down the middle before finding Walker to his right who pulled a low shot across goal and wide.
However, the Owls almost levelled with the move of the match on 49 minutes.
Forestieri angled a superb low crossfield ball into the path of Palmer’s run and his first time low cross picked out Nuhiu who, with the goal at his mercy, smashed his finish against the crossbar from 12 yards.
After Pearce had needed some treatment and was okay to continue, Stags sent on youngster Gibbens for Preston on 56 minutes.
Soon after Nhuiu shot tamely straight at Logan.
But on 67 minutes the home side were 2-0 up as Wednesday put through their own net.
MacDonald’s ball behind the defence was sublime and perfect for the run of Hamilton, who crossed hard and low to the near post where it came high off the leg of the unlucky Reach and beyond his keeper into his own net.
Reach quickly made up for his own goal misfortune by pulling a goal back five minutes later.
Stags managed to clear a cross to the edge of the box into the path of the incoming Reach who drilled a blockbuster finish inside the right post, the ball skimming the leg of Pearce who was unable to block it.
Worryingly for Stags, White needed treatment and had to be replaced by Digby on 76 minutes.
Bannan sent a great through ball into the box for Forestieri to chase, but he chose to dive instead of shooting and ended up hacking at Digby to give away a free kick to the boos of home fans.
Stags made a triple change with 10 minutes to go as Butcher, Sterling-James and Graham replaced MacDonald, Mellis and Khan.
Walker pulled a disappointing low 20 yard shot wide four minutes from time.
A minute later he forced Dawson into a save with Benning sidefooting an effort narrowly wide soon after as Stags ended the night on the attack.
However, a minute from time the game erupted into a brawl as a frustrated Forestieri continued to kick each of the home defenders in turn with every challenge and finally tempers frayed with Pearce knocking Forestieri over.
Home boss David Flitcroft was quickly on the field to drag his skipper away and sent on Atkinson as a sub, MacDonald helping to usher him down the tunnel.
The final whistle then saw surreal scenes with Forestieri again getting involved with home players and suddenly a mass brawl broke out with fists and boots flying everywhere and stewards having to dive in for a very unsavoury end to the ‘friendly’ and the visitors booed off.
STAGS: Logan, White (Digby 76), Benning, Preston (Gibbens 56), Pearce (Atkinson 88), Bishop, MacDonald (Graham 80), Mellis (Sterling-James 80), Khan (Butcher 80), Walker, Hamilton. Subs not used: Olejnik, Angol.
WEDNESDAY: Dawson, Palmer, Van Aken, Fox, Pelupessy, Bannan, Lees, Nuhiu, Reach, Hutchinson, Forestieri. Subs not used: Wallis, Kirby, Penney, Preston, Lee, Hunt, Stobbs.
REFEREE: John Brooks of Leicestershire.
ATTENDANCE: 3,599 (1,517 away).