Mixed emotions as Mansfield Town have to settle for a draw in thrilling  promotion showdown at Salford City

Mansfield Town’s automatic promotion hopes were all but ended though at the same time they all but secured a play-off spot as they shared the spoils with Salford City in an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Penisula Stadium.

Monday, 2nd May 2022, 5:09 pm

Before the live Sky TV cameras, the Stags found themselves fall behind inside 90 seconds, but a Stephen McLaughlin double in the first half completed a quick turnaround.

Matty Lund levelled after the interval as a dramatic tie took another twist, but neither side could find a winner as Nigel Clough’s side moved up to fifth ahead of Saturday’s season finale.

Rivals Port Vale later missed out on the chance to leapfrog Mansfield when they lost 2-1 at home to Newport leaving Stags even more thinking ‘what if?’

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Stephen McLaughlin celebrates his equaliser at Salford this afternoon. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media.

Stags will also believe goalscorer Lund should not have still been on the field after a nasty incident with Matty Longstaff was not spotted by the referee.

After fouling Longstaff, TV cameras showed him clearly stand on the midfielder's ankle as he lay on the grass.

Hosts Salford, who entered the fixture with slim play-off hopes of their own, secured a dream start when an unmarked Jordan Turnbull headed in an emphatic opener.

Despite the early setback, the visiting Stags enjoyed the majority of the ball in a frenetic opening period and could have found an immediate leveller through Longstaff.

The Newcastle United youngster’s blushes were saved by McLaughlin, with the latter’s precise free-kick from 20 yards nestling in the corner beyond a despairing Tom King.

Rhys Oates had two opportunities in quick succession to complete a rapid turnaround and Mansfield’s efforts were eventually rewarded moments before the interval.

Goalscorer Turnbull became villain when he handled in the area and McLaughlin obliged to convert the resulting spot-kick – a seventh goal of the season for the 31-year-old as he sent the ball straight down the middle.

The Ammies returned for the restart in the ascendancy and secured a lifeline for their play-off ambitions when Lund ran in to head precisely beyond Nathan Bishop inside 52 minutes.

A flat-footed Bishop was then left thanking his woodwork a few moments later when Lund headed onto the crossbar from close range as Salford rallied in pursuit of a winner.

The visitors, spurred on by a 1,286-strong away end, could have gone third with victory but a George Maris effort that troubled King was the closest to a decider as Salford's play-off hopes were ended.

Third place Northampton Town and fourth-placed Bristol Rovers now look set to fight out the final automatic spot with Rovers having an ‘easy’ home game with relegated Scunthorpe and Northampton away at Barrow.

But should Stags thwart Forest Green in their bid to win the title on Saturday and win the match, Stags could still go up in third if Northampton and Bristol both suffered unlikely defeats.

SALFORD: King; Lowe, Vassell, Turnbull, Touray; Kelly; Lund (Hunter 85), Love (Henderson 76); Watson; Thomas-Asante, Smith. SUBS NOT USED: Torrance, Ndaba, Willock, N’Mai, Shepard.

STAGS: Bishop; Perch (Hewitt 89), O’Toole, Hawkins, McLaughlin; Maris; Lapslie (Wallace 76), Longstaff; Murphy; Oates, Akins (Bowery 71). SUBS NOT USED: Stech, Rawson, Clarke, Stirk.

REFEREE: Sebastian Stockbridge.

ATTENDANCE: 3,765 (1,286 away).