Saturday, 29th March 2014: Mansfield Town 1, AFC Wimbledon 0

They made hard work of it, but Mansfield Town finally achieved back to back wins for the first time since September with a narrow 1-0 home success against AFC Wimbledon this afternoon.

The win was achieved by an Adam Murray free kick was early as the seventh minute and earned the Stags three more precious survival points.

For long spells of the game Stags were in total control, often causing their own problems with sloppy or nervous play against a largely poor Dons side.

The visitors had a couple of great chances either side of the break to level and did have a good spell near the end during which Jamie McGuire was called upon to make a goal line clearance.

But the Stags survived and held on to what they had got.

Mansfield made two changes at the back. James Jennings missed the game with suspension and was replaced by Junior Daniel while John Dempster was rested to the bench to allow the return of Ryan Tafazolli from a foot injury.

McGuire was well off target with a hopeful snapshot from 35 yards in the opening minutes.

Howell’s burst into the box from the right then earned Stags a fifth minute corner which saw the ball come of Tafazolli’s head well wide of goal.

But, with the Dons briefly down to 10 men while Francomb received attention to his head after a clash with McGuire, Stags went ahead on seven minutes from a free kick 30 yards out

Murray swung the ball towards goal and Palmer’s failed attempt at a flicked header in front of keeper Worner proved enough to put the keeper off and the ball flew straight into the far corner.

The visitors suffered a second head injury as Jones took the full force of Howell’s high boot on 11 minutes.

The Dons players protested about the challenge and after an eternity the referee decided to show Howell a yellow card.

Jones remained down and eventually a stretcher was brought on.

Jones departed and Appiah joined the action as a 15th minute substitute.

It had been all Mansfield so far, but the visitors did create a few moments of danger as Stags caused their own problems with some loose passes, though Marriott still remained untested.

Murray over-hit Stags’ second corner as it rolled out for a throw-in on the far touchline.

Riley almost gifted the Dons a goal when he dallied on the ball under pressure from Appiah and then rolled a short backpass towards goal, Marriott racing out quickly to clear before Appiah could pounce.

Rhead committed a foul and then delayed the Dons free kick which saw the referee unnecessarily call over Rhead and skipper Murray for a lecture when a quick word in Rhead’s ear as he ran past him would have sufficed.

The visitors finally fashioned a realistic chance on 42 minutes.

Francomb crossed from the right and Appiah met it on the half-volley. Thankfully his finish lacked real bite and was straight at Marriott when, had he caught it properly, the keeper may have had little chance.

Rhead sent a speculative long range effort before Palmer won Stags a third corner.

Taken by Murray, it curled back in towards goal and Worner decided to tip it over for another corner, from which Beevers powered a header wide of the near post.

The early injuries saw five minutes added at the end od the half in which an outstretched leg by Tafazolli was needed to hook a dangerous low Francombe free kick away from danger.

Then Murray slotted a pass down the centre from which Rhead turned and fired straight at Worner from 18 yards.

Great battling from McGuire against two opponents by the left corner flag saw him get away from both of them to be brought down by Wyke, who earned himself a booking.

The half ended with Murray firing in the free kick from the left straight at Worner.

The Dons should have been level four minutes into the second half, though.

A slip by Sutton allowed Appiah to get free on the left and his inch-perfect cross set up a volleying chance at the far post for Francomb. But, from seven yards with Marriott at his mercy, he sliced it over.

Soon after Francomb was wide of the far post with a hopeful blast from a tight angle.

On 54 minutes Stags went to a 4-4-2 formation with the pace of Clucas and Meikle introduced in place of Howell and Daniel.

A minute later Morris tried his luck from distance and wasn’t too far over the angle.

Then Palmer was wide with a low shot from just inside the box, though had he shot first time he may have had a better chance of beating Worner.

On 64 minutes Speight was thrown on up front for the home side in place of Palmer.

Speight was soon in the action, Worner having to race out his box to kick clear as the sub chased down a poor backpass.

A Rhead through ball sent Speight on the run again, this time sending a tame shot at the keeper.

On 72 minutes Rhead was booked for persistent fouling after going up with Antwi, though it looked a harsh decision by a referee who had won few fans with a string of strange decisions all afternoon.

Another dreadful decision came soon after as Beevers clearly won a tackle on the advancing Saint-Luce just outside the box. Thankfully Francomb’s kick was straight at a team mate in the home wall.

The Dons were still not giving up the fight and Stags had three corners to defend in a short space of time.

On 79 minutes they came as close as they had all day from the last of those corners as McGuire cleared Bennett’s header off the line with Marriott beaten and Morris slotted a low folow-up just wide.

Marriott then had to save an Appiah snapshot as a nervous finish loomed.

On 87 minutes Murray and Morris clashed angrily in the middle of the park and squared up, the referee booking both of them.

Towards the end Meikle was too high from outside the box, Clucas headed a chance straight at Worner and Rhead fired tamely at the keeper too as Mansfield just couldn’t find a killer second which wasn’t needed in the end.

There were more confrontations at the end and the referee flashed a yellow card towards a group of Dons players. But it mattered not.

STAGS: Marriott; Beevers, Sutton, Tafazolli, Riley, Daniel (Meikle 54); Murray, Howell (Clucas 54), McGuire; Rhead, Palmer (Speight 64). Subs not used: Dempster, Stevenson, Clements, Westlake.
AFC WIMBLEDON: Worner, Fuller, Bennett, Francomb, Moore, Antwi, Wyke (Saint-Luce 62), Morris, Jones (Appiah 15), Collins, Richards (Arthur 52). Subs not used: Sweeney, Moore, Pell, Saint-Luce, Brown.
REFEREE: Rob Lewis of Shropshire.

ATTENDANCE: 3,292 (318 away).