Saturday, 12th April 2014: Mansfield Town 3, Rochdale 0

Mansfield Town bagged three goals from set pieces late in the game to stun leaders Rochdale and keep alive their own play-off hopes in the club’s landmark 5,000th competitive game at One Call Stadium this afternoon.

Martin Riley (71 minutes), Matt Rhead (87) and Ryan Tafazolli (90+2) all buried headers to wipe away the misery of that 3-0 Boxing Day defeat at Rochdale and make it four wins on the bounce for the Stags.

Mansfield are now six points off the play-offs in 10th with four games to go and are six unbeaten.

It was only Dale’s second defeat in 14 outings. They did hit a post and have their moments in a tight first half, but Stags defended magnificently with debut keeper, on-loan Lewis price, keeping a clean sheet.

The Mansfield side saw four changes from the win at Morecambe last weekend.

With keeper Alan Marriott missing out with a dislocated finger and deputy Ian Deakin getting hurt in a reserve game this week, the Stags had to bring in Crystal Palace back-up keeper, former Welsh international, Price on an emergency loan.

He came into the side along with Chris Clements, who set up two of the goals, James Jennings, who set up the other, and Junior Daniel, who had a storming game.

Lee Beevers was missing after a shoulder operation yesterday, Jamie McGuire joined Anthony Howell on the suspended list while Lee Stevenson was dropped down to the bench.

On the home bench was 17-year-old youth team star Jack Thomas.

The afternoon, like everywhere else across the country, began with a well-observed silence for the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and a poignant 3.07pm kick-off.

Daniel, playing in the hole, got down the left with a good run in the opening minute and forced Lillis to gather his dangerous low cross.

A low pass from Tafazolli was then intercepted by Rafferty who fed Henderson for a 20 yard shot that he ballooned over the top as both sides made a lively start.

Rafferty then chipped a lovely ball over the top to Vincenti in the box and Jennings had to make a good block to concede the game’s first corner.

After that was cleared Murray stayed down for treatment to a knock.

Rhead’s nod-down then reached Jennings in the box, but his spectacular tumble as Rafferty challenged him was never likely to persuade the referee to point to the spot.

Vincenti was well over with a dipping shot on the turn a minute later.

Tafazolli was rightly booked for halting a Rochdale break on the halfway line with an outstretched hand on 13 minutes.

Two minutes later Westlake got a touch on a low Palmer cross from the left after good work from Rhead only to see the ball fly up and over off his boot.

On 17 minutes the play swung from end to end as Sutton got in a block on a low Lund finish, Stags breaking upfield powerfully through Daniel only to pull a poor finish well wide in the end.

Daniel then tested the keeper with a 20-yard half-volley, but it flew straight to him.

Stags called for a penalty as Dove’s hand hit the ball as he jumped with Rhead, but the home side won only a corner.

From that, Tafazoli had a shot charged down and then Bennett got his chest in the way of a powerful Sutton shot.

Back came Dale and Lund’s flicked header from a Vincenti cross was straight at Price.

Hogan’s low shot from 20 yards on 23 minutes was on target, but lacked any real power or threat to trouble Price, neither did Murray’s shot from the edge of the box a few seconds later at the other end.

Price came for a bouncing ball in the box under intense pressure from the jump of Hogan, but was cool and strong and held onto it well.

Lancashire was booked for a trip on Palmer on the touchline on 27 minutes.

A minute later there was controversy as the visitors again broke quickly and Hogan thought he had won a penalty as he went down under the challenge of Riley from behind him in the box.

However, the referee decided Hogan had been backing in and awarded a free kick to the home side.

Palmer wasted a chance two minutes later when he could have shot with the goal gaping at the far post but delayed and then fed Daniel for a shot that was blocked, Palmer then headed the loose ball onto the roof of the net but was deemed offside by now anyway.

Dale almost broke the deadlock from another powerful counter-attack on 32 minutes.

Henderson’s superbly-weighted ball down the centre released Hogan.

Price was equal to his low, stabbed finish, the ball running loose to Vincenti who, with Price out of position, tried the sublime and sent the deftest of chips towards goal, Stags relieved to see it drop against the post.

The game continued to swing from end to end and Bennett had to stretch to head back to Lillis as Palmer chased a Murray ball down the centre.

On 37 minutes Henderson flashed a shot over the bar from the right from a tight angle with the home side looking for an offside flag.

Dove was late in on Westlake on 40 minutes to see the third yellow card of the afternoon.

Lund’s swerving shot from 20 yards a minute later was well held by Price, diving to his left as the visitors threatened again.

Stags cleared Dale’s third corner on 43 minutes, Cavanagh screwing the loose ball well off target from 25 yards.

Seconds later Cavanagh clattered Daniel to the ground 35 yards from goal, but this time the player escaped with a warning.

Two minutes were added on, Palmer forcing Lillis into a dive to his right to gather a low 20-yard shot as the sides went in all square.

An untidy start to the second half saw Rhead furious with Lancashire as he went down easily under his challenge in the box.

Then Hogan went down holding his face after a challenge by Riley with the officials seeing nothing untoward.

On 52 minutes a still-angry Hogan pushed Tafazolli and was shown a yellow card.

Clements took the free kick long and Tafazolli got in a glancing header which sailed wide of the near post.

Stags attacked again through Rhead down the right, Cavanagh just cutting out his low ball in for Palmer in front of goal for a corner, poorly taken by Jennings and easily cleared at the near post.

Cavanagh’s trip on Daniel after he had beaten him inside out on 61 minutes saw a fourth yellow produced for the visitors, Clements long free kick then bouncing through everyone before going out for a goalkick.

Rochdale took their corner tally to six on 64 minutes, but Sutton was able to head powerfully clear.

Jennings escaped with a final warning for a late challenge on Henderson.

The visitors made a double change on 66 minutes sending on Cummins and Kennedy for Lund and Vincenti.

A great run down the left by Daniel forced Cavanagh to head out his cross for Mansfield’s second corner of the half on 71 minutes. And that produced the afternoon’s opening goal for the home side.

Clements floated the ball in to the near post and Riley flicked a header goalwards which beat Lillis and Dove was unable to keep out on the line.

After they replaced skipper Cavanagh with Donnelly, Dale responded with a pair of corners of their own, the second cleared and sent back in for Lancashire to head over the far angle.

With 10 minutes to go Mansfield made their first change, Clucas replacing the hard-working Palmer to give Stags fresh legs up front.

Rhead headed wide from a decent hanging cross from the right by Westlake.

A miscued shot by Rafferty dropped late and only a combination of Price and Riley on the line prevented it from creeping under the angle.

Bennett nodded a right wing cross well wide soon after as time began to run out on the Lancastrians.

The game erupted as Lancashire went down after jumping for the ball with Rhead, holding a bloody nose. But the referee deemed the challenge fair.

But the game was safe for Mansfield on 87 minutes as Rhead rose at the far post to power home a header from Jennings’ right wing corner.

Just to rub salt in the wounds, the Stags added a third a minute into stoppage time as Tafazolli was afforded a close range header from a Clememtsfree kick wide on the left.

Tempers frayed deeper into stoppage time as players squared up with Donnelly booked.

Youth team player Thomas came on for a stoppage time as Daniel came off to huge applause for a fine afternoon’s work.

STAGS: Price; Sutton, Riley, Tafazolli; Westlake, Murray, Daniel (Thomas 90+2), Clements, Jennings; Rhead, Palmer (Clucas 80). Subs not used: Dempster, Briscoe, Stevenson, Speight, Meikle.

ROCHDALE: Lilis, Rafferty, Bennett, Cavanagh (Donnelly 75), Lancashire, Vincenti (Cummins 66), Hogan, Lund (Kennedy 66), Done, Allen, Henderson. Subs not used: Eastham, Tomson, Rose, Bunney.

REFEREE: Trevor Kettle of Berkshire.

ATTENDANCE: 3,843 (869 away).