Saturday, 1st February 2014: Plymouth Argyle 1, Mansfield Town 1
Mansfield Town saw two precious points slip from their grasp in the sixth minute of stoppage time as they were pegged back to a 1-1 draw at Plymouth Argyle this afternoon.
It did make it four away games unbeaten and stretch their current improved run to one defeat in seven, but Mansfield looked totally in charge before they were stung at the death by Lewis Alessandra’s slow finish.
A poor game, played in strong wind, had seen both keepers have a relatively comfortable afternoon, though the home side did have to change keepers on 64 minutes after Sam Clucas’ challenge on Luke McCormack left him with a hand injury.
The game seemed to have 0-0 stamped all over it with Stags at least trying to play on the floor in the conditions and Argyle under pressure from their own fans for a string of mistakes, Reuben Reid taking much of the flak.
But Mansfield broke the deadlock with a close range Matt Rhead finish and Plymouth rarely looked like they would come back from that until the game’s late twist.
Mansfield made two changes with Clucas back in for his first start since injury, replacing Ross Dyer up front, while Martin Riley took over from Ritchie Sutton in defence.
In the third minute Alessandra beat Riley to a pass that the Stags defender had looked favourite to take control of and fired a low shot at Marriott.
Stags broke from that but were halted by an offside flag.
Rhead needed treatment after a challenge just inside the Argyle half, but the home side broke swiftly from the cleared free kick though Banton and the visitors were grateful to Clements for his interception as Plymouth tried to work a shooting chance.
Tafazolli missed a cross from the left, but Reid had his attempted finish blocked as the pressure remained on Mansfield.
Stags had their first chance on nine minutes when Stevenson was well wide from a Clucas nod-down.
Dempster was booked on 13 minutes for flattening Reid in full flight down the centre and Young was inches wide with his right-footed free kick from 25 yards.
Worryingly, Tafazolli gave away another free kick in a similar position soon afterwards and this time Young slotted his kick through the wall low and straight at Marriott.
McCormick caused palpitations for the home side when he spilled a long free kick pumped in from the right by Jennings, but Stags were quickly crowded out as they looked for a finish.
On 13 minutes Riley almost directed a backpass into his own net, Marriott thankfully able to get across and keep it out.
Stags won their first two corners, Clements forcing the keeper to turn round at his near post from the first and then Rhead heading the second back across goal from the far post only to see Clucas head into the near sidenetting on the other side.
A Clucas cross was deflected for another flag kick, but this time the visitors were pulled up for pushing and failed to threaten the goal.
Westlake was on target from 20 yards but it was easy for McCormack to gather.
Argyle won their first corner of the afternoon on 27 minutes, but, after a few worrying bounces, the ball was safely in the hands of Marriott.
Then a typical Clements through ball almost got Clucas in on goal, the keeper just managing to get there first.
On 34 minutes Dempster gave away an unnecessary corner and, taken short, Young cued up Reid for an unchallenged shot from 12 yards that he miscued over the bar.
It was the best chance so far in a game littered with mistakes from both sides.
Stevenson went down in the home box as he was challenged trying to reach a Rhead pass, but nothing was given.
A minute from the break Trotman was only just over with his header on the end of a Hourihane free kick.
At the other end Tafazolli headed on a long Clements free kick and Rhead lashed a volley over.
In the one minute of stoppage time Argyle forced a couple of corners, Marriott tipping over Nelson’s header from the first over under pressure almost on his goal line and the second, worked short, saw Banton fire just over from 20 yards.
So a half in which Stags had enjoyed slightly the better of the possession and the home side had enjoyed slightly the better of the limited number of chances, ended goalless.
Plymouth kicked off the second half attacking the end where their fans were gathered, though against the wind.
And Clucas could have opened the scoring via route one within two minutes. Marriott cleared a backpass downfield, Rhead flicked on to leave Clucas one on one with the keeper and he chose to try to lob him only to see the ball clear the bar from 12 yards.
Both Howell and Tafazolli had a hack at Alessandra in the box as he twisted and turned in the home side’s next attack. But, as he finally went down, the referee pointed for a goalkick with the home fans cheering what they thought was a penalty award.
Stags won a corner which saw Clements find Dempster at the far post. He headed superbly back into the centre of the six yard box with no one able to get there to finish.
Stevenson conceded a free kick 30 yards out which Hourihane floated in to the back post where Stags had a let-off as an unmarked Alessandra headed down into the turf instead of at goal.
Mansfield cleared another home corner as Plymouth enjoyed a spell of pressure.
McCormick reached up to punch away a Jennings corner on the hour.
Then Clucas caught McCormick with an outstretched foot after he had mishandled the ball and went to apologise.
But that sparked a bizarre row among the home players with Trotman squaring up to his own keeper and the referee eventually booking them both along with home skipper Hourihane.
McCormick needed treatment on his right hand and couldn’t continue, replaced by Cole on 64 minutes with Harvey also sent on for Blizzard.
Mansfield won their sixth corner of the afternoon, but Clements’ kick caught on the wind and drifted tamely onto the roof of the net.
Argyle quickly responded with a corner of their own, which Marriott fisted clear.
Reid wasted a great chance to put Alessandra in on goal with a loose pass that had the home fans groaning.
But on 74 minutes it was the away fans that were celebrating as Rhead broke the deadlock.
Jennings crossed from the left and, with Stevenson making a nuisance of himself as he jumped with a defender, the ball bounced behind him and broke nicely for Rhead who prodded home from five yards across the keeper and inside the far post.
Harvey tried to catch Marriott napping with a vicious shot at the near post that the keeper managed to beat away.
On 83 minutes Reid made space for a decent low shot that Marriott blocked but couldn’t hold onto. The ball ran loose to Alessandra who tried to get it back towards goal from wide on the left only to see Tafazolli take charge almost on the line, controlling and coolly clearing.
Argye won another central free kick 30 yards out which Young tamely curled wide.
At the other end Clucas and Stevenson swapped a series of passes before Clucas disappointingly shot tamely at Cole.
Beevers replaced Jennings in Mansfield’s first change of the day with four minutes left.
Seconds later a scramble in the Stags box ended with Reid lashing the ball wide of the near post.
With two minutes to go, Dyer took over from Rhead.
At this stage Stags were completely comfortable and in charge, unlike many recent grandstand finishes away from home.
The fourth official held up six minutes added time, the first of which saw a clever free kick from Hourihane catch everyone out, including intended target Harvey who was just unable to get there before Marriott.
Stevenson lost possession to offer the home side an opportunity to get forward, but Thomas could only volley Hourihane’s ball across the face of goal.
Stags looked home and dry as we entered the last of those six added minutes only for disaster to strike.
Thomas got to the right by-line and then pulled a ball back for Alessandra who set himself nicely for a firm low strike that found the net from 15 yards.
With eight minutes extra on the watch, Beevers went off injured, Daniel coming in for brief seconds before the whistle finally went.
PLYMOUTH ARGYLE: McCormick (Cole 64), Blanchard, Hourihane, Alessandra, Young, Reid, Blizzard (Harvey 64), Trotman, Nelson, Banton, Purrington (Thomas 81). Subs not used: Boco, Wotton, Richards, Vassell. STAGS: Marriott; Dempster, Tafazolli, Riley; Westlake, Clements, Stevenson, Howell, Jennings (Beevers 86); Clucas, Rhead (Dyer 88). Subs not used: Sutton, Meikle, McGuire, Daniel, Palmer. REFEREE: Peter Bankes of Merseyside.
ATTENDANCE: 6,248 (211 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Chris Clements.