Saturday, 12th October 2013: Mansfield Town 1, Bristol Rovers 1

Lee Stevenson.
Lee Stevenson.

Mansfield Town surrendered two points when visitors Bristol Rovers bagged a deserved 86th minute equaliser at One Call Stadium this afternoon.

The Stags looked well off the pace on a soaking wet afternoon and played second fiddle to a lively Rovers side for much of the game, the visitors belying their lowly position.

Nevertheless, Lee Stevenson’s first Football League goal on 22 minutes gave Paul Cox’s men the advantage.

Had Steve Mildenhall not saved superbly from Matt Rhead’s header on 66 minutes, the home side might then have wrapped up the victory.

But Rovers were well worth at least a point on the day and it came on 86 minutes as Alefe Santos drilled in a low shot from a tight angle on the right, and it found the net off the leg of Keiran Murtagh with keeper Alan Marriott likely to have blocked it otherwise.

But, as the original shot was on target, the goal was given to Santos – his first for his club.

It was a disappointing afternoon for Mansfield who once again looked to be carrying a tired hangover from the midweek derby battle with Chesterfield.

They can take credit from some superb defending on the day and Marriott did his job well, even if most of Rovers’ shots came in from 18 yards or further. But it was still a third home game without victory in eight days.

Anthony Howell came in to replace the suspended Jamie McGuire. Otherwise manager Cox stuck with the side that performed so well in midweek.

With Adam Murray out on loan, McGuire suspended and Chris Clements injured, Cox was also forced to include Godfrey Poku on the bench, who has rarely figured in the squad since joining the Stags two summers ago.

Stags were bidding to avoid a third straight home defeat in eight days and faced a Rovers side that had only won once all season and not won in their last league five games.

The game was slow to catch alight, Rovers having the edge on possession.

On six minutes Brown went down the left and looked set to cross hard and low but, instead chose to try a low shot to beat Marriott at his near post from a tight angle which the keeper easily smothered.

Stevenson then found space in the Rovers box on the left but ended up drilling a low ball wide of the far post with no one remotely near to capitalise.

Howell got his body in the way of Clarke’s attempted effort from just inside the box.

But Brunt was able to get a shot away from the same distance on nine minutes, the ball sailing wide of the right post with Marriott at full stretch in case.

Clucas offered Andrew a ball down the left where the striker chose to check his run and pull it back low to Clucas for a low first time shot wide of goal.

Then Stevenson tried to set Clucas clear, a tight offside decision halting home hopes.

On 14 minutes the visitors were almost gifted an opener as Andrew missed a clearance in the box which gave Clarkson a shooting opportunity which wasn’t far wide of the far post.

Three minutes later Howell did well to win the ball and cue up Stevenson for a low 25 yards effort that skidded wide as the heaven began to open even more.

Then Andrew saw a defender get a leg in as he let fly from 20 yards which dropped wide for a corner that was punched away by Mildenhall.

However, on 22 minutes Mansfield made the breakthrough.

The goal was carved out by Andrew’s approach play wide on the right, and he lifted the perfect cross over into the path of the incoming Stevenson who jumped to place a firm header wide of Mildenhall.

Dempster wasn’t far wide with a header from a Clucas corner on 29 minutes.

A short corner by the visitors caught Mansfield napping but Bond, policed by Howell, was unable to get in a shot so rolled a pass for Clarke who sent the ball straight at Marriott through a crowd of players.

On 33 minutes Dempster lost out in an aerial challenge and the ball ran loose to Clarkson who forced a low save out of Marriott.

Six minutes later, from a throw on the right, Smith’s cross was cleared out as far as Clarkson whose thunderous finish was safely clutched by Marriott.

With two minutes to got to the break Clucas put a header wide from a long Murtagh free kick from the right.

Then a series of passes ended with Smith playing a one-two with Clarkson only to see Marriott spread himself at his feet before he could pull the trigger and the chance was gone.

Rovers ended the half on the offensive with two successive corners, Keary heading wide from the second of them as the visitors went in unlucky to be trailing.

Three minutes into the second half it took a good challenge from Murtagh in the box to put off Clarke as he tried to direct Bond’s low pull-back on goal but fired wide.

Still Rovers were dominating possession and on 59 minutes Rhead came on for Andrew up front for the home side.

Bond’s low 25-yard first time shot failed to trouble Marriott, but Clarke had more time and space on 63 minutes and screwed it wide from 18 yards.

Marriott was also well-placed to get behind a firm Richards shot from 15 yards as the visitors eagerly beavered away for an equaliser.

But on 66 minutes they had Mildenhall to thank for a fine save.

Rhead got his head on the end of a Clucas corner and Mildenhall produced a reaction block.

Riley then had to make two tremendous challenges at the other end as Rovers broke, initially halting Richards’ break as he tried to go clear and then getting in the way of Brunt’s shot.

Clucas called for a penalty as he broke forward and went down under Lockyer’s challenge, but Clucas should probably have got his shot away quicker and a penalty would have been a harsh one on Rovers.

But the visitors finally hauled themselves level six minutes from time with a modicum of deserved fortune.

Santos fired in a low shot from a tight angle towards the near post where Marriott tried to go down to smother, only to see Murtagh slide in with an outstretched leg and lift the ball over him into the empty net.

Now Rovers wanted a winner and Dempster threw his body in the way of an O’Toole effort as the game ended honours even on an absolutely sodden pitch.

STAGS: Marriott, Beevers, Riley, Dempster, Sutton, Murtagh, Stevenson (Meikle 71), Howell, Daniel (Palmer 87), Andrew (Rhead 59), Clucas. Subs not used: Jennings, Hutchinson, Poku, Mitchell.

BRISTOL ROVERS: Mildenhall, Smith, Parkes, Clarkson, Brown (Keary 23), Norburn (Richards 56), Bond (Santos 71), Clarke, Brunt, Lockyer, O’Toole. Subs not used: Gill, Gough, Goddard, Southway.

REFEREE: Scott Duncan of Northumberland.

ATTENDANCE: 3,275 (432 away).