McLaughlin free kick secures point for Mansfield Town against Carlisle United

Mansfield Town 1 Carlisle United 1

By Duncan Browne
Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 9:22 pm
Stephen McLaughlin fired home the leveller. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD
Stephen McLaughlin fired home the leveller. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD

Stephen McLaughlin fired home a late free kick to secure Mansfield Town a share of the spoils against Carlisle United.

His clever 80th-minute finish cancelled out Offrande Zanzala's opener at One Call Stadium as Nigel Clough's side earned a deserved point in a game neither side dominated enough to deservedly win.

The Cumbrians looked like potential champions when they edged out Mansfield 1-0 in December, but with just three wins in the 14 matches since, they have struggled to recapture that early form.

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After a couple of early let-offs Mansfield limited their guests to half chances and could consider themselves unlucky to have gone behind.

Aidan Stone returned between the sticks for the hosts at the expense of Marek Stech while Harry Charsley replaced the rested Ollie Clarke, James Perch taking the captain's armband.

Jon Mellish's cross-shot gave the Stags an early scare before the ball drifted wide of Stone's reach and the far post.

But seconds later Stone made two important saves to keep the scores level.

The returning stopper made sure Zanzala's close-range effort was pushed wide before Rhys Bennett beat the offside trap only to see his volley blocked by the body of Stone.

The Stags defence may have looked static in the opening exchanges but the same couldn't be said for striker Jamie Reid.

Collecting the ball on the edge of the Carlisle box he twisted and turned his way into a shooting opportunity, his effort lacking the power to beat Magnus Norman.

A McLaughlin free kick cleared the visitors' crossbar before Jason Law saw two efforts blocked as he looked for an opening.

The Stags forced Norman into two saves early in the second half.

Law's near-post effort was parried before Charsley's tame header was gathered.

Missed chances again came back to haunt Mansfield as Zanzala but Carlisle ahead in the 66th minute.

Their was a air of fortune as Mellish's strike was deflected off Farrend Rawson and invitingly into the path of the goalscorer, but there was no doubting the finish, driven hard beyond Stone.

Charsley should have levelled when teed up by Jordan Bowery, but just yards from goal he somehow sliced his effort high and wide of the mark.

Stand-in skipper Perch saw a volley smash against the crossbar as Town turned the screw, Reid then firing over from a similar position.

But finally Mansfield found the net courtesy of McLaughlin's clever free kick.

Bending his effort round the wall, McLaughlin wrong-footed Norman with a low strike before reeling off to celebrate with teammates.

At the death Bowery had a chance to nick it, but lashed his effort wide of the mark.

STAGS: Stone, Gordon, Rawson, Perch, Benning, McLaughlin, Quinn (Sarkic 76), Charsley, Law Clarke 89), Reid, Bowery; Subs (not used): Stech, Sweeney, Wright, Ward, Sinclair.

CARLISLE: Norman, Tanner, Riley, Guy, Alessandra (Walker 86), Zanzala, Mellish, McDonald, Dicknson, Armer, Bennett; Subs (not used): Breeze, Anderton, Hayden. Patrick, Charters, Toure.

REF: Trevor Kettle.

MORE STAGS: Play to your potential - Clough