MANSFIELD Town let a two-goal lead slip and had to settle for a point in a thrilling New Year’s Day clash at York City today.
The Minstermen left it late, but home sub Jamal Fyfield pounced in stoppage time to sentence Stags to their 12th league draw of the season and more spilled points.
Earlier it had all looked so promising with Matt Green celebrating signing a full-time deal with Mansfield Town with his 16th goal of the season to give Stags a 1-0 half-time advantage.
Green struck on 14 minutes to crown a decent first half showing from the visitors,
When Aman Verma doubled the lead on 72 minutes it seemed like Stags would end their long wait for a win and make the perfect start to 2012.
But they quickly shipped a sloppy goal to Matty Blair on 77 minutes, tarnishing what had been a strong defensive display.
And just when it seemed they had still done just enough to hold on, Fyfield applied the late hammer blow for Gary Mills’ never-say-die side.
It left Stags with just one win in 13 outings and still seven tantalising points off the play-offs spots.
It also followed a 1-1 draw between the sides last week at Field Mill.
New signing Gary Roberts turned in an energetic display on his debut in Stags’ colours. The midfielder’s inclusion was one of two changes. He replaced Verma in a 4-3-3 with Ritchie Sutton back from a one-game ban to replace the suspended John Dempster in the heart of defence.
Stags kicked off on a wet afternoon on a sodden pitch.
Green made a good early run down the right but then pulled back a low ball to no one.
City forced a scramble on 10 minutes in the visitors’ box which saw Freeman in with a good tackle to stop Kerr getting a shot away on goal.
At the other end Green turned a low ball across the six yard box with no one close enough to capitalise after superb approach work from O’Neill.
However, on 14 minutes Stags grabbed the lead. Meikle set up the move with a run on the left, squaring to the overlapping Freeman whose low ball in was turned home first time by Green at the near post.
Marriott was finally given some work to do on 20 minutes as Blair was halted in the box but, as the ball ran loose and Marriott seemed to slip on the wet surface, it ran to Henderson who fired the ball on target where the keeper still managed to turn it up and over.
McLaughlin tried to send Blair through only to see Marriott alert and off his line quickly to smother.
But Stags were still a menace and Green’s crossfield pass picked out Meikle who came inside before lifting a finish well over the York bar.
The usually impeccable O’Neill was a lucky man on 26 minutes as, having intercepted the ball in his own box, he tried to play it out but, instead, gave it straight to Chambers who, with only Marriott to beat, inexplicably rolled the ball wide of the far post.
Three minutes later Green and Meikle were unable to get a shot away after Green had worked his way into the box, but the ball ran to Howell, who lashed a shot wide.
York defender McGurk, who had struggled on from an earlier injury, was finally replaced by Fyfield on 32 minutes.
Another good burst by Meikle saw him get into the box on the left and lay a pass for Green who saw Oyebanjo just nick it of his toe at the vital moment.
Soon after a warning for another late tackle, Howell tried the referee’s patience again with a late challenge on Kerr on 45 minutes and this time a yellow card was produced.
Marriott safely gathered a low Blair cross into the six yard box in stoppage time.
Howell caught Henderson fractionally late but, as York players crowded the referee calling for a red card, thankfully all that was given was the free kick.
That was floated into the box, Parslow headed across goal and Blair was a stud’s length short of turning home from close range as Stags clung onto a deserved interval lead.
Not surprisingly Howell was withdrawn before he was sent off, Verma taking over from him for the second half.
McLaughlin tested Marriott from 18 yards with a low left-footed effort that the keeper watched all the way onto his arms.
Stags continued to impress with some good probing and Dyer and O’Neill worked the ball to Green 20 yards from goal, the hit man turning sharply to whip an effort over the bar.
O’Neill was yellow-carded on 52 minutes for bringing down Chambers, Marriott clawing away the free-kick and then punching clear from the resulting corner.
Freeman’s thunderous tackle on Blair on 63 minutes was fair and well-timed – and he won the ball. But the referee still saw fit to book him.
Boucaud sent the free kick into the box where Parslow headed just wide.
O’Neill pulled a free kick short to Roberts who hit a ferocious shot at goal which, unfortunately struck and knocked over team mate Green en route.
However, Stags did double their lead at last on 72 minutes with a break and goal of the highest quality.
Murray’s astute pass out to Dyer in space on the right was the catalyst.
Dyer quickly ate up the yards before swinging a pass inside to Green. He added a deft backheel touch to Verma supporting in space to his left and Verma’s finish was unstoppable from 15 yards.
But York were far from dead and buried and five minutes later grabbed themselves a lifeline. A long hopeful cross from the left bounced in the box and Blair just managed to guide it over the line in an untidy far post finish.
Roberts was booked on his debut 11 minutes from time as suddenly the heat was on Mansfield.
York almost levelled on 84 minutes after a wild deflection saw the ball loop straight to Reed in front of goal. It would have been dreadful luck on Stags had it gone in, but Marriott somehow kept it out with an outstretched heel and justice was done.
Stags tried to shore things up on 88 minutes with Worthington on for Green. Then Roberts, clearly feeling the strain of his debut, hobbled off on 90 minutes to be replaced by Stevenson.
Four minutes of time were added on and in the first of those City found a heartbreaking equaliser.
As Stags failed to clear a free kick from the right, the ball bounced up invitingly for sub Fyfield who, with Marriott off his line, was just able to lift it over the keeper’s head and into the empty net from 10 yards.
YORK: Ingham, Oyebanjo, Meredith, McGurk (Fyfield 32), Parslow, Kerr, Chambers (Pilkington 66), Henderson (Reed 55), Boucaud, Blair, McLaughlin. Subs not used: Moke, Challinor.
STAGS: Marriott; O’Neill, Sutton, Riley, Freeman; Howell (Verma ht), Murray, Roberts (Stevenson 90); Dyer, Green (Worthington 88), Meikle. Subs not used: Briscoe, Stevenson, Redmond.
REFEREE: Declan Ford of Leicestershire.
ATTENDANCE: 4,284 (498 away).